A snap is a bundle of one or more applications (“apps”) and their dependencies that works without modification across many different Linux distributions. Snaps are discoverable and installable from the Snap Store, an app store with an audience of millions.
This is a long tutorial, but it doesn’t need to be completed in a single session. We’d suggest going through the first few steps and then playing with what you’ve learnt, then come back when you feel comfortable to further your knowledge.
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a good understanding of how to use snaps, from installing your favourite desktop applications, or tightly confined services, to controlling their access to your system, making backups, reverting to previous versions and even running two versions of the same application at the same time.
This tutorial is suitable for anyone running Ubuntu (or any other system that supports snaps).
Snaps have been designed to be as accessible as possible, and while they can be easily installed and removed via a graphical package manager, such as Ubuntu Software Centre, you do need to use the terminal to get the most out of them.
As a result, it might help to be familiar with basic command line commands, but even if you’re not, this tutorial itself might be the perfect introduction to get you started.
First, find a snap
There are snaps for many popular applications, including Spotify, Slack and the Chromium web browser.
The best way to find new snaps is to use the online Snap Store, and either search for apps and words you’re interested in, such as “music” or “maths”, or use the category lists.
The Snap Store frontend is also installed by default on Ubuntu, and can itself be installed as a snap on other systems. It offers the same user experience as the online store.
snap terminal command, however, is the primary interface to all of snap’s packaging features. It’s easily run by first opening a terminal and typing snap followed by a command. Typing snap on its own will show some brief help text and list of example commands to try, including the find command.
To search for snaps with ‘media player’ in either their names or descriptions, type
snap find "media player" into your terminal:
$ snap find "media player" Name Version Developer Notes Summary (...) vlc 3.0.4 videolan✓ - The ultimate media player. mpv 0.26.0 casept - a free, open source, and cross-platform media player. (...)
✓ alongside videolan in the above output indicates that the snap publisher has been verified.
The find output can be limited to snaps from specific categories, such as
music-and-audio, with the additional `–section=’ argument:
$ snap find "media player" --section="featured" Name Version Publisher Notes Summary foobar2000 1.6.12 mmtrt - foobar2000 is an advanced freeware audio player. vlc 3.0.16 videolan✓ - The ultimate media player
snap find without any arguments will return a list of suggested snaps and those suggestions can also be filtered to a category with the same
--section= argument. The following section names are valid:
Learn about your snap
snap info command makes it easy to find more details about a specific snap. These details include what a snap does, who publishes it, the command(s) it provides and which channel versions are available for installation:
$ snap info vlc name: vlc summary: The ultimate media player publisher: VideoLAN✓ contact: https://www.videolan.org/support/ description: | VLC is the VideoLAN project's media player. --- snap-id: RT9mcUhVsRYrDLG8qnvGiy26NKvv6Qkd commands: - vlc channels: latest/stable: 3.0.16 2021-06-28 (2344) 310MB - latest/candidate: 3.0.16 2021-06-28 (2344) 310MB - latest/beta: 3.0.18-rc-38-gcc4c37ebb3 2022-09-20 (3021) 335MB - latest/edge: 4.0.0-dev-20763-g15bf12a0f3 2022-09-20 (3022) 659MB -
--verbose option to info to retrieve more details on the snap, including expanded notes and details on which base the snap uses.
The final part of the above output lists the channels for the snap. Channels are an important snap concept because they define which release of a snap is installed and tracked for updates. The latest/stable channel is used by default, but opting to install from a different channel is easily accomplished.
Install the snap
Installing a snap is straightforward. Type
snap install followed by the name of the snap you wish to install:
sudo snap install vlc
As mentioned in the previous step, a channel can be specified to install a version of the snap that follows a different build and release cycle, such as the
latest/beta to trade some stability for the latest cutting edge features:
channels can be used to install a version of the snap that follows a more cutting edge feature release, such as a beta or edge channel,
sudo snap install --channel=edge vlc
After installation, the channel being tracked can be changed with:
sudo snap switch --channel=stable vlc
Which snaps are released to which channels is entirely up to the snap publisher.
The sudo command ensures the command following it is executed as the root administrative user.
While not a requirement for using snaps, creating an Ubuntu One/SSO account, and authenticating once with
snap login <email-address>, removes the need to use sudo with snap commands.
Run apps and commands from the snap
A snap’s installed applications can be found under
/snap/bin, and subsequently, often added to $PATH. This makes commands directly accessible from the command line.
For example, the command installed via the VLC snap is simply vlc:
$ which vlc /snap/bin/vlc
If executing a command directly doesn’t work, try prefixing it with the /snap/bin path:
Connect an interface
Interfaces are one of snaps best features because they allow (or deny) access to a resource outside of a snap’s confinement.
An interface is most commonly used to enable a snap to access a webcam, sound playback or recording, your network, and your $HOME directory. But which interfaces a snap requires, and provides, is very much dependent on the type of snap and its own requirements.
To see which interfaces a snap is using, and which interfaces it could use but isn’t, type
snap connections <snapname>:
$ snap connections vlc Interface Plug Slot Notes audio-playback vlc:audio-playback :audio-playback manual audio-record vlc:audio-record - - camera vlc:camera - - desktop vlc:desktop :desktop - home vlc:home :home - (...)
In the above output, the
camera interface is not connected because its slot is empty. This means VLC cannot access any connected cameras.
VLC can access the user’s /home directory because the
home interface is connected to the system
$HOME directory (denoted by the
:home slot name).
Where snaps store data
Most snaps use strict confinement to isolate both their execution environments and their data from your system (see Snap Confinement for further details). A confined snap that needs user-access to files will most likely use the home interface to bridge this confinement gap, allowing you to save and load files from your home directory automatically.
You can see whether the home interface is being used in the output to
snap connections <snap name>:
$ snap connections nethack Interface Plug Slot Notes home nethack:home :home -
Regardless of whether the home interface is used or not, a snap can also store user data, such as a database or configuration files, within its own directory under $HOME/snap. Data within this snap-specific directory is stored in one of two further directories, depending on whether the data needs to be tied to a specific release, or whether it can be used across multiple releases.
Data for a specific release is stored within a directory named after the revision of a release. This is a numeric value, such as
56. The data for each specific revision is often copied from one release to the next, so that reverting from one revision to a previous revision will restore a working configuration, for instance. The snap directory also contains a symbolic link called
current that points to the snap revision currently active.
Data that can be shared across releases is stored in a directory called
common, and might include image or audio caches, or a database. This data is not copied between releases.
For more details on where snaps store their data, see Data locations.
List installed snaps
snap list to show a list of snaps installed on your system:
$ snap list Name Version Rev Tracking Publisher Notes core 16-2.35.1 5419 beta canonical✓ core spotify 126.96.36.1993 19 stable spotify✓ - vlc 3.0.4 555 stable videolan✓ -
Some snaps, such as core listed above, are installed by automatically by snapd to satisfy the requirements of other snaps.
Update an installed snap
Snaps are updated automatically. However, to manually check for updates, use the following command:
sudo snap refresh vlc
The above will check the channel being tracked by the snap. If a newer version of the snap is available, it will be downloaded and installed.
Changing the channel being tracked and refreshing the snap can be accomplished with a single command:
sudo snap refresh --channel=beta vlc
Updates are automatically installed within 6 hours of a revision being made to a tracked channel, keeping most systems up-to-date. This schedule can be tuned via configuration options.
Versions and revisions
Versions and revisions convey different details about one specific release of a snap:
- Version : the version of the software being packaged, as assigned by the developers
- Revision: the sequence number assigned by the store when the snap file was uploaded
The version is a string that was assigned to a project by its developers, according to their development practices. It tells the user what content to expect from a snap. The revision is an automatic number assigned by the Snap store, giving the snap a unique identity within the channel.
Neither the version nor the revision enforce an order of release. The local system will simply attempt to install whatever snap is recommended by the publisher in the channel being tracked.
Revert to a previously used snap
A snap may be reverted to a previously used revision with the
snap revert command:
$ sudo snap revert vlc vlc reverted to 3.0.5-1
This operation will revert both the snap revision and the configuration data associated with the software. If the previously used revision of the snap is from a different channel, that snap will be installed but the channel being tracked won’t change.
User data, such as data generated by the snap and stored in a database, is often stored in a common directory and will not be reverted. See Data locations for more details on what information is stored and where.
A snap won’t automatically update to a version previously reverted from, and the output from
snap refresh will continue to state All snaps up to date. A reverted snap will be automatically updated when a new and different revision is made available by the publisher.
However, explicitly adding the snap name to
snap refresh will update the snap, regardless of whether the latest revision was previously reverted from or not:
$ snap list --all vlc Name Version Rev Tracking Publisher Notes vlc 3.0.5-1 768 stable videolan✓ - vlc 3.0.6 770 stable videolan✓ disabled $ sudo snap refresh All snaps up to date. $ sudo snap refresh vlc vlc 3.0.6 from VideoLAN✓ refreshed
On an Ubuntu Core system, such as Ubuntu Core 18 and Ubuntu Core 16, reverting twice will work too. This is because snapd attempts to keep three revisions of a snap: the most recently installed plus the two previous installations. On classic systems like Ubuntu 18.04 LTS or Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, two revisions are retained by default. This behaviour can be modified with the refresh.retain system option.
List all available revisions
The following command lists all revisions available for all installed snaps, and also highlights which particular revisions are disabled at the moment:
$ snap list --all Name Version Rev Tracking Publisher Notes alacritty 0.8.0 46 latest/stable snapcrafters classic ascii-patrol 1.7 152 latest/stable mr-gumix disabled ascii-patrol 1.7 159 latest/stable mr-gumix - asciinema 2.1.0 32 latest/stable asciinema classic asciinema 2.0.2 16 latest/stable asciinema disabled,classic [...]
Adding a snap name to the snap list --all command will return results only for that snap:
$ snap list --all vlc Name Version Rev Tracking Publisher Notes vlc 4.0.0-dev-4620 560 edge videolan✓ disabled vlc 3.0.4 555 edge videolan✓ -
A previously used snap that was reverted from will display disabled in the Notes column of the output.
Manually keeping track of which snap revisions available is generally unnecessary. A single revision will only ever be in use at a time, and snapd will remove old revisions automatically.
Create and restore a snapshot
A snapshot is a copy of the user, system and configuration data stored by snapd for one or more snaps on your system. This data can be found in
/var/snap/<snap-name> (see Data locations for more details).
Snapshots are generated manually with the
snap save command and automatically when a snap is removed. A snapshot can be used to backup the state of your snaps, revert snaps to a previous state and to restore a fresh snapd installation to a previously saved state.
snap save command creates a snapshot for all installed snaps, or if declared individually, specific snaps:
$ sudo snap save Set Snap Age Version Rev Size Notes 30 core 1.00s 16-2.37~pre1 6229 250B - 30 core18 886ms 18 543 123B - 30 go 483ms 1.10.7 3092 387B - 30 vlc 529ms 3.0.6 770 882kB -
restore command replaces the current user, system and configuration data with the corresponding data from the specified snapshot:
$ sudo snap restore 30 Restored snapshot #30.
By default, this command restores all the data for all the snaps in a snapshot. You can restore data for specific snaps by simply listing them after the command, and for specific users with the
Excluding a snap’s system and configuration data from snap restore is not currently possible.
See Snapshots for further details on creating, exporting, importing and validating snapshots.
Disable and enable snaps
If a snaps is temporarily undesired, it can be disabled and later enabled again. This avoids having to remove and reinstall them in the system:
$ sudo snap disable vlc vlc disabled $ sudo snap enable vlc vlc enabled
Remove a snap
To remove a snap from your system, along with its internal user, system and configuration data, use the remove command:
$ sudo snap remove vlc vlc removed
--no-wait option to return immediately to the command prompt and run the removal in the background.
By default, all of a snap’s revisions are also removed. To remove a specific revision, add the
--revision=<revision-number> argument to the remove command.
Prior to removal (except on Ubuntu Core systems), a snap’s internal user, system, and configuration data is saved as a snapshot (snapd 2.39+), and retained for 31 days.
To remove a snap without generating a snapshot, use the additional
$ sudo snap remove vlc --purge vlc removed
However, a snapshot can be used to restore the state of your snap upon reinstallation. See Snapshots for further details.