There are several ways to install software on Linux Mint. It can be somewhat confusing if you are accustomed to the Windows way, but hopefully you will shortly start appreciating how programs are installed on Linux. The forum is there to help with any doubts
SECTION ONE - THE RECOMMENDED WAY
The recommended way is using the Software Manager as this automatically downloads and installs not only your program, but also the program's dependencies (libraries or other programs needed for the program to run) and recommended programs (like add-ons) [note: Mint 17 no longer automatically installs recommended programs, that's for you to decide on whether to install or not]. The Software Manager calls it "packages". You can also uninstall programs easily from the Software Manager (installed programs have a green checkmark on their icon, in the Software Manager).
Any programs you install from the Software Manager are downloaded from central software repositories (the default repositories for Linux Mint hold well over 60,000 programs), and any security updates or bugfixes to those programs are all handled automatically by the Update Manager.
- apt-get: On the forums you will often see suggestions to run a command like "sudo apt-get install program" from the terminal to install a program. This command is just a terminal version of the Software Manager; any program installed this way also shows up in the Software Manager and will also be updated by the Update Manager. You may also find the shorthand alternative that is available on Linux Mint, which would look like "apt install program", and does the same.
- Synaptic: Another alternative you may be see suggested to use is the Synaptic Package Manager. The Software Manager and Synaptic Package Manager both work in the same way under-the-hood. The Software Manager is more user friendly; the Synaptic Package Manager has advanced functions like repairing broken packages.
SECTION TWO - THE ALTERNATIVE WAYS
Sometimes the Software Manager doesn't have the program or version you need. If this happens you can almost always find a PPA repository that you can add, or download the program you need in several package formats to install manually (if it comes to this try to make sure that you go to the package's official site as even on Linux there are malicious persons out there). The most common package formats are .rpm, .deb, and a tarball (files with an extension of .tgz, .tar.gz, .tar.bz2, or similar). Linux Mint can use .deb and tarballs directly.
- Add a PPA repository: A Personal Package Archive (PPA) is a repository that you can add to your system, so that you can install programs from it with the Software Manager. It is the easiest way to make more programs available on Linux Mint, and you can use all the Ubuntu PPAs on Linux Mint. PPAs are all hosted on Launchpad, which is used by popular software developers to upload their software.
On the forums you will often see suggestions to add a PPA repository, to make some new program, or a newer version of a program, installable. For example, to install the Y PPA Manager, the commands shared would be:
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sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/y-ppa-manager
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install y-ppa-manager
From Linux Mint 15 adding a PPA is even easier: open Software Sources from your menu and click on the PPA button and you can directly add the PPA there without the need to use the terminal for above commands. For example, to add the above PPA you would use the text "ppa:webupd8team/y-ppa-manager".
To find PPAs for the programs you want, you can either do an internet search for "ppa program" which usually gives good results, or you can install the Y PPA Manager. The Y PPA Manager is a GUI program that allows you to search Laucnhpad PPAs directly, and has various other features to manage PPAs. You already know how to install it
Note: PPAs are meant for Linux Mint (e.g., Linux Mint 17), not for Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE). If you are using the Debian Edition, you generally can't use PPAs and shouldn't to avoid problems. Use one of the other ways to get software.
- Install a .deb package: .deb files are like .exe files on Windows. You download them from the Internet yourself, and they install in just a few clicks. To install the package either double-click it, or right-click on it and choose "Open With GDebi Package Installer". Enter your password if prompted. The rest should be automatic.
Usually you will find a .deb package for Ubuntu; those will work with Linux Mint (you can find the Ubuntu release on which your Linux Mint release is based here, in the "Package base" column, or ask on the forums for help on this).
- Install multiple .deb packages: As an alternative to the previous "Install a .deb package" description, if you have multiple .deb files you want to install you can easily install them in one go. To do so, put all the .deb files you want to install in one folder. Then in your file manager (like Nautilus, Caja, Dolphin, or Thunar) browse to that folder and select File > Open Folder in Terminal from the menu. In the terminal type the following command:
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sudo dpkg -i *.deb
You will be asked for your password, so please type it and press enter to continue (no feedback will appear on the screen as you type, that is as expected). This will install all the .deb files inside the folder. If the .deb files have dependencies that are met by other .deb files in that folder, this command will install the .deb files in the correct order to meet those dependencies. If there are unmet dependencies (packages needed but missing from your system and this folder) you will be so informed.
- Tarballs: A tarball is usually the compressed source code of your program, which you need to compile first in order to be able to use it (sometimes it is instead an archive with the already compiled source code, see the next section). These can be trickier to install, but it becomes easier after you have done it a few times. The first thing you need to do is to navigate to the location of the tarball, double-click it, and extract it contents.
Now that the tarball is unpacked you need to go through the contents until you find a file that is called "INSTALL" (alternatively you may need to check the "README" or even the program's website). In this file you should find directions on how to install your particular package. It should also tell you what the dependencies are. First check to see if you have the dependencies installed. If you are missing any check the Software Manager to see if they are there and of the correct versions. If so install them, if not you have another .deb or tarball to download. If you have them all you will now want to continue reading through the file until you find the directions on how to install. The usual way is to browse to the extracted directory and select File > Open in Terminal, and there run:
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sudo make install
If you install it thus, you can't uninstall the program from the Software Manager. Therefore it is highly recommended to first install the program checkinstall (sudo apt-get install checkinstall), which will allow you to uninstall tarballs from the Software Manager. Replace the last "sudo make install" of the instructions with the following to add an uninstallation option in the Software Manager:
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SECTION THREE - PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE AND GAMES
Proprietary software and games, both usually not open source, often come in other ways to install. Two common ways are:
- A single binary file that you download and run to install it. Usually with a filename extension like .run, .sh or .bin. After downloading the file, right-click it, choose Properties, choose Permissions and mark "Allow executing file as program". Then double-click it to start the installer.
- A archive file, like a tarball or a .zip, that your download and extract to your user's home folder. Unlike the tarball discussed in the previous section, this wouldn't contain the source code by the already compiled program. You extract the contents of the archive to a folder in your user's home folder and start it from there (see the "README" file for instructions). Sometimes it includes a script to install it to the system folders so all users on your computer can use it.
Credits: idea and initial text by Luckydog, additional suggestions by sunewbie. Any errors are mine