People often ask about the state of Flatpak in Discover, so today I’m going to write about that. Thew good news is that Discover’s Flatpak support is very good and getting better all the time. It’s fully production ready and we encourage you to use it!
To download Flatpak apps in Discover, you need to have the Flatpak backend installed. In many distros, it’s a separate package that doesn’t come installed by default. In Ubuntu-based distros, you can install it by running sudo apt install plasma-discover-flatpak-backend. in Discover 5.12, you’ll even be able to install different backends from within Discover itself, by searching for “Flatpak” or “Snap”. If you want faster Flatpak adoption, please petition your distros to install the Flatpak backend by default!
Once the Flatpak backend is installed, you need to add at least one Flatpak repo. Distros can provision this with default entries, but most don’t. Bug your distro if you want a better experience here! Until then, you can go to Discover’s Settings page and click the “Add Flathub” button to add Flathub as a source. After that, you can access Flatpak apps by browsing or searching through the app lists as normal. You can also go to the settings page and click on the Flatpak entry, which will show you just the Flatpak apps from that repo:
You can add multiple Flatpak repos; to do so, go to the Settings page, click the Hamburger menu button next to the text “Flatpak”, and click “Add Source…” Then enter the URL of the Flatpak repo you want to add. Discover also handles this properly when you click on a repo URL in your web browser.
Multiple Flatpak repos enable users to effortlessly switch between stable and up-to-date versions of apps, each version provided by a different repo. Right now, we’re generally stuck with one or the other, according to our distro’s packaging policy: Arch and other rolling distros say that you always get the latest version; Debian and Ubuntu and other stable release distros say that you always get a specific version that’s frozen in time. Sometimes that’s not right for you, because maybe the latest version has a bad bug, or an old stable version is missing features you want that were implemented in a later version.
Flatpak liberates us from this. You could add Flathub (https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo) and also KDE’s nightly testing repo (https://distribute.kde.org/kdeapps.flatpakrepo). Then when you go to install a KDE app that’s present in both, you can choose the source! Maybe you want to live on the bleeding edge, but if you run into an issue, you can easily revert your installation to the stable version. It’s pretty awesome.
If any of this seems cool and useful, please don’t hesitate to join our team or make a donation to KDE. My next post shares some specific things you can do to help push Flatpak adoption, even without being a programmer.