Creating application shortcuts and converting .deb and .rpm packages – Chapter 6.6
This is the eight of the free articles directly taken from the Manjaro Linux User Guide book, available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C4PSWRQS/. The full list of freely available articles is here: Manjaro Linux User Guide – For newbies, fans, and mid users. More information at the end of the article.
Read time: 4 minutes. Previous article: 5.4 Office Tools, Calendars, And Mail Clients. Next article: 8.1 Dependencies In Linux.
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Creating application shortcuts
KDE Plasma and GNOME support a two-click way to create links / shortcuts. For KDE, you open the main menu, find your program, right-click on it, then click + Add to Panel (Widget) or + Add to Desktop – and there it is. For GNOME, again right-click and select Pin to Dash.
For Xfce, selecting +Add to Panel adds an icon for the application at the end of the list of elements in the given panel. This isn’t ideal, but it’s easily solved by right-clicking the application icon and selecting ->Move to move it on the panel. The other option is to click anywhere on the panel, select the Panel option at the bottom of the right-click panel, select Panel Preferences, then go to the third menu tab, Items, and reorder all elements the way you want. The only problem is that you will see the application icon twice – once as a launcher and one more time if the application is running (the ancient Windows style). I find this annoying – space is precious on small screens, and it is already solved on other graphical environments.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to switch to another standard panel or dash on Xfce. The reason is that such panels or dash bar SW are often made explicitly for a given environment (Xfce, KDE Plasma, Gnome, Cinnamon, etc.) and so tightly related to it. There are currently two potential external SW alternatives for an Xfce dock menu, Plank and Cairo Dock, both available from Official repositories. However, you will have to play with their options and edit the default Manjaro menu bar preferences to make it comfortable for you. I hope that in the future, more such options will be added to the default Xfce panel.
For an AppImage, you may want to create a launcher, easily done on KDE and Xfce by right-clicking on the desktop. For Xfce, select the first option, Create Launcher, and fill in the top two fields as you wish. For Command, give the location of the executable file. For Working Directory, I provided the dedicated directory I created for AppImages called Installed. Finally, click Create, and you will have it. The filled fields are shown in Figure 6.1:
Figure 6.1 – Xfce Create Launcher window fill for AppImage
On KDE, right-click on the desktop and choose Create New | Link to Application. In General, name the launcher as you wish. In the Permissions tab, mark Is executable. In Application, for Command provide the executable file path, and for Work path provide the directory containing the AppImage. Finally click OK. An example is shown in Figure 6.2:
Figure 6.2 – KDE Plasma – Create a new link to an AppImage application
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Converting .deb and .rpm packages
Before continuing, remember that .deb packages are created for Debian and .rpm for Fedora. They are often natively supported on their respective child distributions only. As a result, if you try installing an .rpm package created for Fedora on SUSE Linux, or vice versa, this typically results in issues. The reason is that apart from the package format, the given distributions differ in file structure, settings, and many others. Hence, the information inside the package of where to install configuration, executable, and .so files differs.
Arch and Manjaro use a format designated with the extension .pkg.tar.zst. Conversion to it is theoretically possible if the converted package or its target have no peculiarities or specifics. After all, a simple application typically comes with one or a few executables, shared libraries, and config files. If an installer puts them in the correct locations and creates an entry in the applications list of the target OS, everything shall work. The problem is in the word shall – no converter can guarantee 100% correct operation.
That’s why, if you find an application available only as an .rpm or .deb package, always try to find alternatives in the following way: a Flatpak version, an AppImage, an AUR version, and finally, if you are using Snap – a Snap version.
Apart from this, to try converting .deb packages, you can use debtap. Remember – converting a .deb package to the .pkg.tar.zst package format will allow you to attempt installing it on Manjaro without granting success. Still, it is worth trying if you have no other option, as enough times, this might succeed. So, open Pamac, enable AUR in Preferences | Third Party, find the debtap package, and install it. Then, open a Terminal and, to update the debtap pkgfile database, run the following:
$ sudo debtap –u
Then, to convert somePackage.deb, call the following:
$ debtap -Q somePackage.deb
The conversion (depending on your machine and the package size) can take from a few tens of seconds up to tens of minutes, so be patient. If successful, you will have a similarly named file with the .pkg.tar.zst extension. Double-clicking it in your file manager will automatically open the Pamac GUI installer, and once it finishes, you will have the application in your main menu.
Option two is deb2appimage; however, it requires an additional JSON configuration file and is not trivial at all.
The name of the .rpm extension comes from Red Hat Package Manager. While there are ways to extract the .rpm contents and then pack them as .pkg.tar.zst, avoiding this is strongly advised.
Red Hat- and Fedora-based SW is quite different from Arch.
In the book we continue in the next sections with Web Browsers, and then Photo, image, video, and graphics SW.
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Next article: 8.1 Dependencies In Linux.
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