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PC-BSD® provides a unique file format known as a PBI (push button installer). PBI files end with the .pbi extension and are self-contained installation programs. When a PBI is installed using AppCafe®, even novice users are protected from the risk of inadvertently overwriting or deleting files needed by the operating system or other applications.
Figure 7.1a: Browsing for Software Using AppCafe®

A PBI file includes all the runtime and library dependencies required by the application. This means that the initial download of a PBI is a large file; but this does not necessarily mean that same amount of space will be used. During installation, the PBI system compares the currently installed libraries and files with the ones contained within the PBI file and only installs the ones that are not already installed on the system. A hash database is used to eliminate dependency problems while allowing the computer to share libraries between different programs. Subsequent downloads to upgrade a PBI are significantly smaller as only what has changed in the new version will be downloaded.

AppCafe® provides an intuitive, graphical method for installing and managing PBI software. AppCafe® does not require the root password to install software. This means that you do not have to give out the root password on multi-user systems. However, server applications, such as web servers or databases, will prompt for the user's password and will fail if that user is not a member of the wheel group. This allows you to control which users are able to install server software.

NOTE: At this time, AppCafe® does not keep a copy of the downloaded .pbi file. If you would like to retain a copy of this file on disk, use pbi_add -R which will download the PBI file to the current directory.

When a regular user installs an application, they have the option to "Install Menu Icons (All Users)", meaning that an application only needs to be installed once on a multi-user system.

If you prefer to install PBIs from the command line, see the section on using pbi_add.

PBIs are the recommended software installation method on PC-BSD®. Update Manager will automatically notify you when newer versions of software installed through the PBI system are available. PBIs will also be preserved over system upgrades and system meta-package changes.

Installing and Managing PBI Software

To install a PBI, start AppCafe® by double-clicking its icon on the Desktop, going to Control PanelAppCafe®, or by typing appcafe from a command prompt. The "Browse for Apps" tab in AppCafe® can be used to browse for available software, as seen in Figure 7.1a. In the example shown in Figure 7.1a, 1153 PBIs are currently available. The most recently added PBIs and their versions are listed in the “View Recent Additions” pane.

If you know the name of the application you would like to install, type its name into the "Search Here" bar. Alternately, you can click on a software category (for example, "Archivers") to browse for available software. Use the home icon to return to the main screen. In the example shown in Figure 7.1b, the user searched for the "gimp" application. The search has found that PBI as well as two others that may match the search term.

Figure 7.1b: Browsing the Information Available for a PBI

In Figure 7.1c, the user has clicked on the "gimp" PBI and can now view the following information:

  • Name and icon of the application.
  • A hyperlink to the application's website. In this example, clicking "The GIMP Team" will open gimp.org in the user's default web browser.
  • An "Installed Now" icon.
  • The version of the application.
  • The size of the initial download of the PBI.
  • The platform (i386 for 32-bit applications and amd64 for 64-bit applications). If you are on a 64-bit system and there is only a 32-bit application, AppCafe® will install the 32-bit application and PC-BSD® will still be able to run the program.
  • The license used by the software.
  • The type will indicate whether the application is graphical or text (command line).
  • A description of the application.

AppCafe® will also suggest other applications which may meet the user's needs.

Figure 7.1c: Details for a Selected PBI

Once you find a PBI that you would like to install, click on its “Install Now” icon. AppCafe® will switch focus to the "Installed" tab so that you can watch the status of the download and installation. Figure 7.1d shows a screenshot of this tab after “gimp” is successfully installed.

Figure 7.1d: Viewing an Installed PBI in AppCafe®
Figure 7.1f: AppCafe® Preferences
Figure 7.1e: Using the Installed Tab to Upgrade Installed PBIs

If you highlight an installed PBI and click the “Actions”button, the following actions become available:

  • Update:
  • Desktop Icons: used to add or remove a shortcut to the application on the user's desktop.
  • Menu Icons: used to add or remove an entry for the application to the supported desktop's application menu. Menu icons can be for that user only or for all users. Adding for all users requires you to be in the wheel group and to input your password.
  • Path Links: used to add or remove the command's location to your $PATH or to the $PATH of all users. Adding for all users requires you to be in the wheel group and to input your password. This option is useful if users will be starting the application from the command line.
  • File Associations:
  • Uninstall: will uninstall the PBI. Once the PBI removal is complete, it will be removed from the Installed list.
  • Cancel Actions:

Updating Installed PBIs

The "Installed" tab will also indicate if there are any newer versions available for the PBIs that you have installed. PBIs are created from the original FreeBSD package and automatically become available as an upgrade whenever the underlying package version changes. Figure 7.1e provides an example of a PBI that has a newer version available:

In this example, the currently installed version of Firefox is 16.0.1_1 and version 16.0.2 is available. To upgrade this PBI, highlight its entry and click the "Update" button. Alternately, if updates are available for multiple PBIs and you wish to upgrade them all, click the "Update All" button. If the PBI "Requires Root", it will prompt for your password before starting the upgrade.

A status bar will indicate the progress of the download and upgrade process. When the upgrade is complete, the entry will be updated to show the new version. The upgrade process will save all of the current version's settings. For example, when you upgrade Firefox, it will keep all of your bookmarks, history, and cache.
Figure 7.1g: Managing Available Repositories

File Menu

The File menu contains the following options:

  • Import PBI List:
  • Export PBI List:
  • Quit:

Configure Menu

Figure 7.1f shows the screen that opens when you click Configure ➜ "AppCafe Settings.

Figure 7.1f: Appcafe Settings Menu

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