Canonical Helps Push Snap Universal Linux Package To Other Distros

Canonical announced that it has helped to push out the Snap universal software package to numerous other Linux distros to ease the spread of Linux software.

Snap first debuted on Canonical’s Ubuntu 16.04 LTS distro back in April. Canonical pushed Snap into Ubuntu, because it is a lightweight software framework that enabled software developed for desktop Ubuntu systems to also work on low-power IoT devices running Ubuntu.

“Most vendors target Ubuntu because of its popularity” said Mark Shuttleworth in a briefing. “Snaps bring those apps to every Linux desktop, server, device or cloud machine, giving users freedom to choose any Linux distribution while retaining access to the best apps.”

Snap is also secure, because all the software essentially runs in a sandbox. In other words, it runs completely separately from everything else on the PC. This makes it inherently secure against viruses and malware, but it also helps to avoid compatibility issues with other software on the system.

Security is particularly important when running third-party software,” said Steve Langasek, a Debian developer. “Snaps meet that challenge with robust confinement, neatly addressing many of the risks of apps in sensitive environments.”

This aspect of Snap made it easy for other developers to port it to several other Linux distros, including Arch, Debian, Fedora, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Unity and Xubuntu. Developers are also working to port the software to CentOS, Elementary, Gentoo, Mint, OpenSUSE, OpenWRT and RHEL.

In addition to individual developers and the teams working on the distros mentioned above, several companies and organizations are also involved in distributing Snap to new distros and creating applications with it. These include Dell, Samsung, the Linux Foundation, The Document Foundation, Krita, Mycroft, Horizon Computing and others.

The Document Foundation has already ported its LibreOffice suite to Snap.

Because Snap can run separately from all other software on the system, any Snap programs that are created on any Linux distro can be ported to any other distro as is--that is, without any modification to the software code. This is a key point, as it makes creating software that works on all Linux distros easier than ever before.

“Snaps are much easier to create than traditional Linux packages, and allow us to evolve dependencies independent of the base operating system, so we can easily provide the very best and latest Chinese Linux apps to users across all distributions,” said Jack Yu, leader of the popular Chinese Kylin team.

There are other software packages that allow developers to easily port programs between Linux distros, but they are often far less secure, may require some amount of software modification, and the underlying package may have limited upgradability or long term support. Snap, however, is designed to be upgradable as well, and it will see regular updates from Canonical as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu 16.04 LTS support.

If Snap can indeed make the creation of universal Linux apps easier than ever, it is likely we will see a richer and more user-friendly computing experience on Linux than we’ve seen before. If you want to try Snap, it is available now on the distros mentioned above with a wide range of applications.

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Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.
  • lighteater12
    So this is basically the google play store and the dalvik of Ubuntu and other Linux distros.
  • General-Mayhem
    No, this is a distribution package, not an app store. This is more akin to microsoft installer, or instalshield on windows.
  • IInuyasha74
    Yes or Microsoft's dotNET framework is a good comparison as well.

    Essentially, Snap itself is just a framework. It is a package that needs to be installed, but unlike some other frameworks it is not reliant on any other software to actually function. I suppose it is probably reliant on some for the installation of Snap itself, otherwise it would be an OS, but after that it is completely self contained.
  • bloodroses
    This is what I found out about what snap is:

    'A snap package is a single binary that contains all its dependencies. That means developers no longer have to build a package for each Linux distribution and each version, and instead, they can use a single, unmodified package, and distribute it across all the platforms that support snaps.'

    Anyone that remembers the days of Red Hat's RPM hell will definitely appreciate this. I've had dependency hell issues on occasion with Debian based distros as well. I'm actually kind of surprised they took this long to implement something like this as the only downside I can see to going this route is a larger download and more space on the hard drive; which high speed internet and TB+ drives handle with ease anymore.
  • captaincharisma
    18124450 said:
    No, this is a distribution package, not an app store. This is more akin to microsoft installer, or instalshield on windows.

    well then, i guess there is hope now that you don't have to go into terminal most of the time to install an app that isn't in software manager

  • ddpruitt
    So basically Ubuntu is back at it again. They break the existing package systems, then claim to "Fix" their own mess, and finally push this disaster on others.

    I've used every other distro there is, this isn't a problem for anyone else. This is a problem with Ubuntu because of the fact they can't follow the standards. There are other systems that will maintain the dependencies, won't download extra junk to install one program, and will maintain separate versions of libraries. The module system, alternatives system, etc.

    These all work I can't see why everyone is praising Canonical for once again creating bugs and security problems in a system that, for the most part, just works.
  • Micheal Ethan
    Open source software vendor Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu distribution of Linux, is to push its Snap packaging system to other distributions of Linux. The shift will enable developers to build applications that can run seamlessly across different distributions of Linux. Canonical developed the Snap package format for its Snappy Ubuntu Core build of Linux, along with an accompanying "Snappy" mechanism for delivering updates to the operating system and application code. A key feature of the mechanism is that it is transaction, meaning that updates can be applied easily and just as easily rolled back if required.