For a long time, Ubuntu users have had a great option for managing the software on their computer, and for searching and installing software from the official Ubuntu software repositories. First was the Add/Remove Software program, and now the Ubuntu Software Repository. There has also been Synaptic, a powerful piece of software (although probably a bit intimidating for new users, compared to the other two options). Finally, there were commandline programs that ran in the Terminal, programs like apt-get and aptitude, which operated by text commands. Over the past few weeks, however, users have been treated to two new programs that making adding new repositories housed in the Launchpad PPA environment, very easy. One, named Introduce PPA, I’ve previously written about. The subject of today’s article, called Y PPA Manager, also makes it easy to add new software sources, plus it does just a little more.
What can you do with Y PPA Manager? Besides simply adding a PPA, you can delete a PPA. This feature allows you to get rid of any PPA currently active on your system. This is nice for me, because as I test different programs, I’ll add their repositories to my list, to make installing and deleting each program a little bit easier. Unfortunately, when I later get rid of the program, the repository listing itself isn’t removed. This isn’t generally a problem, except sometimes a PPA will include a special version of a library that it needs, which is also needed on the rest of the system, and if I don’t need to the library for a program I’ve already deleted, my system certainly doesn’t need the modified version either. So being able to get rid of a PPA listing is a nice option. And that brings me to the next feature…
Purge PPA. This feature (which uses the commandline ppa-purge tool to do the actual work), along with getting rid of a PPA listing and any programs or libraries installed from the PPA, actually downgrades any files from the PPA which were on the system already and replaced by the versions in the PPA. To make it clearer, it’s like this: before installing a program from a PPA, your computer had File_A, File_B and File_C already installed. The PPA included File_D, but also updated versions of File_B and File_C. When you use the Purge PPA tool, File_D is removed completely, and File_B and File_C from the PPA are returned to the versions installed from the standard repositories, which leaves your computer the way it used to be, before anything was installed from the PPA (which is then also disabled).
The other “big” feature as I used Y PPA Manager was the ability to perform searches. Launchpad currently has thousands of individual PPAs, and those repositories can be searched via the website. If you use Y PPA Manager, on the other hand, you can search them right from your desktop. Simply click the “Search All Launchpad PPAs” button, type what program you want to search for, and Y PPA Manager will perform the search for you, and present you with the results, which are PPAs on Launchpad which currently contain the program you want. Clicking on the results then shows you all the programs in the repository which are available for the version of Ubuntu you currently have installed. This isn’t quite “perfect” yet, unfortunately, as the initial search results show every PPA which has that program in it, even if the program in it isn’t for your particular Ubuntu. For instance, if one of the PPAs that shows up has VLC 1.15 in it for Ubuntu 10.10, but not 10.04 (which is what you’re using right now in this example), it will appear in your list, but then when you click it, there will be no results, since there aren’t any versions of VLC in that repository for your version of Ubuntu. Still, it’s a lot quicker than searching the Launchpad site in a web browser.
All in all, I’m really impressed with Y PPA Manager. It’s fast, user-friendly, and has a lot of really nice features that are not only logical, but in many cases quicker than previously-existing options. It’s very, very new at the moment (its first version was only released within the last day or so, as I’m writing this on November 15), but it’s already quite useful. And judging by the response the author has gotten on his website, I can only feel it will continue to improve, and I know that I, for one, will be watching.