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Introducing AppImages to TROMjaro

introducing appimages to tromjaro

Installing apps on TROMjaro is very easy. There are two ways of doing it:

1. The recommended way is to go to our APPS section where we curate trade-free applications. Click any, then simply click install. You will see a window showcasing what it will be installed and it will ask you to accept that or to cancel it. Click Apply then add your administrator password, and the application will install. As simple as that: click, apply, add password.

2. The “software center” way: open “Add/Remove Software” in TROMjaro and search for any app you want. Select it, then click apply, then apply again, add your password and voila! Simple. The only downside is that the “software center” hosts thousands of apps, some of which that are not trade-free. So selecting what to install may be a hassle.

But in the Linux scene there are plenty of “types of installers” for different distributions. In the same way that for Windows there is the .exe installer, for Linux there are several of. We chose TROMjaro to be based on Arch with the Manjaro’s flavor, since both provide (through their repositories) perhaps the largest library of applications in the Linux world. Thus, pretty much every application available on Linux, will be available in TROMjaro’s “software center”. However, here’s the new new: contained applications.
 

Non-contained applications.

An application is a piece of software that does things. Say TROMLA is an dictionary like app. TROMLA uses the LALA dictionary database and the DADA module to translate the application in different languages. TROMLA, thus, needs the LALA and the DADA packages. These packages are independent since other applications can use them for various purposes.

For example, the translation module can be used by a game or any other application. This way, creating these packages, you can combine them like lego pieces and create a lot of applications with different functions. It works. It is great!
So say you want to install TROMLA from our APPS section. You click Install and it will install it alongside LALA and DADA packages. it “requests” them form the library of applications that Manjaro and Arch has. If you already have one or both of the LALA and DADA packages already installed on your system, then they don’t have to be installed anymore. This is the way that apps work on Linux. The upside is that apps take way less space on your hard drive since they share the needed packages with other apps. The downside is that if say the LALA package updates, then the entire TROMLA app may break since it depends on it. Rarely this happens. Also, if say you want to install TROMLA on a Linux distribution that is not updated, then TROMLA will use an old version of the LALA and DADA packages, and it may not work properly or at all. However, this system works most of the time. And only rarely, from our tests, it fails to work well. Very rarely!
 
Contained applications.
 

Welcome to the new way! Contained apps. What we see now is the rise of these apps that contain all that they need in one package. TROMLA is packaged with the LALA and DADA packages into one single “thing”.

This is indeed better in terms of compatibility. One such packaging system is AppImage. TROMLA can now be downloaded on any Linux distribution and simply “double click it” and it works. No need for any install. It is a “download and use” case. Want to remove it? Just delete it! The huge advantage is that the app will work. Almost 100% of the time, since all it needs is in that one file. The downside is the fact that TROMLA may be 100MB in size compared to say 10MB in size with the other system. But today disk space is something people have in abundance, so this is not the biggest downside. The biggest downside is that AppImages do not update automatically and if you want to update to a new version of TROMLA you have to somehow keep an eye on the TROMLA releases and when you see a new release, delete the old AppImage and download the new one. In the long run and with many AppImages this cannot work well. We had a look at other such packaging methods but AppImage seems the most trade-free of them all and one that is the simplest for anyone to use.

So, why are we interested in such packaging systems when we have hundreds of thousands of apps in TROMjaro’s library? Because more and more of the newer apps ship in this new format. We have tried to convert them to “our” format (the non-contained one) but this means a lot of work and maintenance. So we either put a lot of work in converting these new  contained apps into the TROMjaro non-contained format, or accept the contained format. And we think is better for now to accept the contained format in the form of AppImages that TROMjaro already supports. Thus, from now on we will recommend AppImages too in our APPS section of the website. They won’t update automatically like the other apps, but we can work around this. So. This is how such apps look in our APPS section:

So the only difference is the button’s color (blue now) and the fact that we add the version of the AppImage to the button itself. This helps users keep track of the version. Underneath the button there’s a text reminding people that this is a different kind of packaging and a link to this article. In short, one has to click the blue button and open with AppImageLauncher (default in TROMjaro) – then, after the download is done, simply click “integrate and run”. The app will be now integrated into your system. You can find them where you can find any other apps in your TROMjaro. To remove it, right click any of such apps from your apps section, and then “remove appimage form system”.
 
How about the updates? It is great that in TROMjaro all updates are handled at once via the Add/Remove Software for the “normal” apps- But not for AppImages. In order to make it easy for people to handle AppImage updates we will keep an eye on every AppImage that we post in the APPS section and update the download button to the new version. If anyone wants to get an email every time an update is pushed to any AppImage from our APPS section, simply go to the comments section of the app and click “subscribe”. Add your email and that’s it. You will get en email every time there is a new AppImage for that particular app since we will leave a comment with that. It is not the perfect solution, but is something….

AppImages will look and function the same way that any other apps do on TROMjaro. Adopting this contained packaging system allows us to recommend even more trade-free applications. But we would like to stop at this, since we do not want to create a monster out of TROMjaro. We think that a centralized way of installing and updating apps is the best and easiest. AppImages are disturbing a bit the TROMjaro waters, but it is a “compromise” we can accept. Maybe in the future we will find a way to only rely on the core “software center” in TROMjaro for installing applications. In any case, only a tiny percentage of the recommended apps will be AppImages.

So, embrace AppImages! They are great. They work. It is easy to install and remove them. And we keep an eye on the “updates” part and notify you about that.

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