How to Install Software from Third-Party PPAs in Ubuntu

PPAs, or “Personal Package Archives”, offer software that isn’t available in Ubuntu’s software repositories. Some PPAs offer newer versions of software packages that hasn’t made it to Ubuntu’s repositories yet. Installing software from a PPA is easier than compiling the software from its source code, so it’s good to know how to do it.

PPAs, Explained

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Ubuntu hosts its own package repositories, which it enables by default. When you open the Ubuntu Software Center or run the apt command to install software, Ubuntu downloads and installs packages from the official package repositories.

But the official package repositories aren’t always good enough. In some cases, you may want a software package that isn’t available in the official package repositories. Or, you may want a newer version of software than the one offered in the official package repositories.

Rather than compiling and installing the software yourself, you can instead add a PPA to your system and install it from there, just like you would any other Ubuntu app.

Personal Package Archives are so-named because they’re created by individuals—or teams—and hosted on Ubuntu’s Launchpad service. These packages are not officially supported, endorsed, or even checked by Ubuntu. You should be careful to only install Linux packages and other software from sources you trust.

Once you’ve added a PPA to your system, the packages available in it can be accessed like any other available software. You can install them using the Ubuntu Software Center or apt command, for example. Updated packages from the PPA will be offered as normal software updates.

How to Add a PPA With Ubuntu’s Graphical Tools

To add a PPA, you’ll first need to find the name of the PPA. You may find this while searching the web for how to install a particular software package on Ubuntu. Once you have it, you can continue.

Open Ubuntu’s Dash, search for “Software & Updates”, and launch the “Software & Updates” tool.

Click the “Other Software” tab at the top of the Software & Updates window and click the “Add” button.

Enter the address of the PPA in the form:

ppa:NAME/ppa

For example, if we want to add the Graphics Drivers team PPA that provides the latest NVIDIA graphics drivers, we’d enter the following line:

ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa

Click the “Add Source” button to continue.

Click the “Close” button in the Software & Sources window. Ubuntu will say it needs to download information about the new software in the PPA. Click “Reload” and Ubuntu will download the latest package lists.

The Software & Sources window will close. To install software from the PPA, you can now use the Ubuntu Software application or any other tool.

Just launch your tool of choice, search for the name of the package, and install it. If the PPA contains updated versions of software already on your system, just install the software updates normally to get the PPA’s version.

While the Ubuntu Software application doesn’t provide much advanced information, the classic Synaptic tool does. Synaptic is no longer included with Ubuntu, so you must install it separately if you want to use it. You’ll find it in the Ubuntu Software application. You can also run the sudo apt install synaptic command in a terminal window to install it.

Click the “Origin” tab in synaptic and you’ll see the PPAs you’ve added listed here. Click the name of a PPA to see the software available from that PPA and view which packages you’ve installed from the PPA.

How to Add a PPA from the Command Line

You can also add PPAs and install software from them from the terminal using the following commands. You’ll need to prefix all the commands with sudo to run them with root permissions.

To add a PPA, run the following command in a terminal, replacing “name” with the name of the PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:name/ppa

So, if we wanted to add the Graphics Team PPA, we’d run the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa

Press “Enter” again to add the PPA when prompted.

To download updated information about available packages after adding a PPA, run the following command:

sudo apt update

To install a package from the PPA, run the following command:

sudo apt install name-of-package

If you’re not sure of the name of the package, look at the PPA’s description page on the Launchpad website. For example, to install the NVIDIA graphics driver version 375 from the Graphics Team PPA, we’d run the following command:

sudo apt install nvidia-375

Type “y” and press Enter to continue when prompted.

Or, if you wanted to update your system to the latest available packages—including newer versions from any PPAs you’ve added—run the following command:

sudo apt upgrade

Type “y” and press Enter to continue when prompted.

Update your system in the future and you’ll get the latest software from both Ubuntu’s official software repositories and any PPAs you’ve added.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.