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September 29, 2010 / dantti

Open the package, get your Application!

Most computer users don’t understand very well the “package” concept, others don’t even know what they are, and some other get scared when hearing this word. When a user wants to install Amarok for example, he or she sees lots of amarok’s package names (ie amarok, amorok-common, amarok-dbg, amarok-utils) and of course dependencies :D

Thinking on that some distributors decided to create easier to use tools, PackageKit it self aimed that but still “Package” on it’s name :P, Ubuntu Software Center is one of the most known well succeed Application Installer cases. But it still Ubuntu specific tied to apt.

PackageKit on the other hand provides basic package management in a cross distro way supporting the most popular distros. So to build a cross distribution application manager what would be needed is application data available in a standard form. The Packagekit author created app-install which manages a database containing application data, like Name, Summary, Icon. App-Install is similar to app-install-data package but instead of containing lots of .desktop files it contains a pre built sqlite database.

Now the key piece of integrating Application Data vs Package Data is that one Package can contain 0 or many applications, while an Application is contained in one package. As KPackageKit is already capable of managing packages, reading that database and them matching Applications -> Package was quite simple, the only problem was that with more data we also need to optimize the classes otherwise it get very sloooow…

Thanks to Tomasz Dudzik and Nuno Pinheiro who helped me out on doing another big rework on the user interface KPackageKit got a new look, this new version should be named AppGet since it’s less geek than KPackageKit, doesn’t have the K prefix, and the so feared Package word :P but someone on IRC was better than I on googling and found an application with that name. Thanks again to Tomasz the next release will probably be renamed to Apper (hope google does not read this post :P ).

Right now KPackageKit 0.6.2 will only have the “Applications” feature on Kubuntu (and maybe on Debian when it gets packaged), since app-install is not available on other distros, there is an effort to bring this to Fedora soon, but it seems they are having some resistance.

KPackageKit revamp included a different group on the first page which is Categories instead of Groups, these categories is provided by an XML that contains the search parameters, and is again about applications so Games does not bring packages related to games, only the Applications.

Main Ui

When clicking on a Category (eg Games), it might contain sub-categories like Cards Games, Simulation, so for that a thin list at the top can be scrolled to refine the search. The old inline description view was also removed, it was nice but in reality the is no great benefit to see several packages description at once. Animations! Unfortunately screenshots are not videos :P if there were you would see the bottom growing up, and the text fading in, and when you switch packages it fades out and fade in again with the new text. Pretty cool :D

When you click on the screenshot thumbnail it will show a new window that loads the bigger screenshot.

Another cool feature is the Application Launcher, you know when you install a package and you think “What now?”, after and application is installed KPackageKit check it’s files and show you a (still ugly) dialog with the new installed app, clicking on it starts the application.

And of course if you miss this dialog you can always check for it’s menu path at the description bottom. Also if you do a text search you will still see packages, but applications comes first! You can get rid of them by clicking on Filter -> Hide Packages, just don’t forget to turn it on if you want packages.

The tray icon was also ported to the new systray, meaning cooler tooltips and bigger icons. The update view has no buttons now, the history moved to the main ui, and to refresh the list you can right click on it, Ah! and if you want to see versions you can right click on the list and check “Show Versions”.

Now let’s wait for more distributions to support app-install and hopefully increase our KDE users :D

Best.

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21 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. zayed / Sep 29 2010 02:22

    That is impressing :) good work and well done. Can I check which application I do not use, so I can just uninstall it?

    • Ximion / Sep 29 2010 08:33

      Do you mean something like USC will get with its new Zeitgeist-Integration?

  2. Cypher / Sep 29 2010 03:07

    I am sorry to say this, but I find the GUI very… messy… New widget concepts, buttons all over the place, lack of proper spacing… Sorry, but I find it scarry.

    • dantti / Sep 29 2010 09:02

      There are no new widget concepts, and it even has less buttons than the last version.
      Lack of proper spacing is something that netbook users are really concerned about, since the default spacing wastes too much space.

  3. Shafqat Bhuiyan / Sep 29 2010 04:44

    Great work! It’s great to now have a software manager that everyone can use. Just a couple of questions though:

    - Will it be possible to install any package using this? Eg packages that are not applications or do not fit into any category? Maybe have a ‘All’ category where the user can search and install any package. Because then you wouldn’t need to use the terminal or synaptic.

    - Is it still a kcm module? The problem with having it as a kcm is that only one kcm module can be active at a time. Since package downloading/installation can take a long time, Apper should be a standalone app so that the user can still modify his system settings while Apper is running.

    - How about showing the menu path of the applications on the post install dialog? If the user doesn’t want to launch the application immediately then it will be easier for them to remember where it is located rather than opening up the package manager at a later date to see where it is.

    Anyway it’s a great start and there are many things that can be added to Apper in the future like: ratings, comments, what’s new, import/export, similar/suggested applications, though these are outside the realm of package management.

    • dantti / Sep 29 2010 09:05

      - Yes, the search functionality is still the same, you will get packages, but Applications will be listed first.
      - Yes, it’s still a KCM module so new users can find it in system settings. The user can do other tasks while installing/downloading.. just click “Hide” on the progress dialog.
      - Sure that’s intended but no so trivial to do that’s why isn’t already available…
      yes, this first version doesn’t have all USC fancy things, but for the next version it’s planned.

  4. Michael / Sep 29 2010 05:36

    This is awesome to see! This is one area that has held me back from recommending Kubuntu to beginners, but now it’s getting some great work.

    you know when you install a package and you think “What now?”,

    I like that you can run the app right then and there by clicking a button… very nice. Does it also tell you where to find it in the K menu too?

    • dantti / Sep 29 2010 09:06

      No yet on that dialog, but when you reopen the App description you will see it.

  5. DanaKil / Sep 29 2010 08:59

    As for the features, it looks very great ! (about the UI, IMveryHO it looks a bit messy with all those scrollbars, arrows, “floating” toolbars… but well…)

    Do you plan to do add some kind of voting system for apps (I’m not sure but I think it exists in the Ubuntu Software Center). If so, maybe an old kde-brainstorm idea that I posted will give you some idea. Not sure if this is related to your work or something so just ignore this if it is not :-) :

    http://kde-look.org/content/show.php/Voting+applet+for+recent+stuff+from+GHNS?content=124974

    And thank you, KPackageKit was great and Apper looks even greater now :)

    • dantti / Sep 29 2010 13:51

      I’m not so sure about the voting thing, but I plan to display the popularity thing.

  6. TheBlackCat / Sep 29 2010 10:19

    Nice! It looks similar to the openSUSE gamestore, but more general.

  7. jamboarder / Sep 29 2010 12:15

    Thanks for sharing your hard work and congrats on the improvements!

  8. Lionel Chauvin / Sep 29 2010 12:15

    The UI is far better than the previous version.
    Moreover some parts are still ugly:
    - the column at right containing “install” buttons is too large, (I prefer small + and – buttons in a collumn at left)
    - the widget of sub-categories (I like the idea, not the widget).
    - grayed items are not readable (it is perhaps better with a darker gray).

    On ubuntu, the search is very slow. Is the support of instant search planned (ie. results instantly actualized when the user types something in the search field) ?

    • dantti / Sep 29 2010 13:41

      Which Ubuntu version are you using? It’s pretty fast with the aptcc backend which is the default in maverick, some large searches are still a bit slow but the not much to improve since string matching is not very fast.
      And no, there won’t be instant search, some packagekit backend are too slow for that.

  9. j-b-m / Sep 29 2010 12:52

    Overall, I like the new design, but I have two concerns:

    1) When you look for a package, the list displays installed packages with a normal font and the not yet installed packages with a grey font. This way, the not installed packages look like if they are disabled and not installable. When looking for a package, you are usally trying to find one that is not installed, so in my opinion, the not installed packages should be visually highlighted, while the already installed ones should be slightly faded, which is the opposite of current behaviour.

    2) No button in the software updates. This is very puzzling to have an empty view with no visible action when entering the “Software updates” zone. Also, having an action only available through right click is not a good idea, especially with touch screens that becom more and more common where right click is often a problem…

    By the way, I really appreciated the “Run the installed app” feature!

    Just my thoughts, keep on the good work.

    • dantti / Sep 29 2010 13:47

      1. I’m not so sure, when something is not available in you machine makes sense it be grey imo. Also the text on the buttons makes you be sure about that.
      2. well the button is still somehow a problem I don’t know yet in what to think about it, since one button alone is not nice, the ui was strange with it.. I had to think on something better.

  10. JMiahMan / Sep 30 2010 19:12

    This is great now does anyone want to work on the Smart Backend when using RPM5? Until then I will just look in longing anguish.

  11. BajK / Nov 26 2010 04:42

    The nee interface was *the* feature that made me replace kubuntu 10.04 with 10.10 as soon as it was released. I love it! Just one thing: How do I close the package info thing that popps out when clicking on a package? I don’t see a close button and you cannot unhighlight a package. It is annoying since it reduces the size of the package list

    • dantti / Nov 26 2010 09:36

      The only way is redoing the search, some users have complained about it so next version will probably have an (x) button.

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