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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 PC-BSD's AppCafe®, even novice users can safely install and uninstall PBIs without inadvertently overwriting or deleting files needed by the operating system or other applications.
A PBI file includes all the runtime and library dependencies required by the application. This means that a PBI is a large file, but this does not necessarily mean that the installed PBI will be that large. 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.
AppCafe® provides an intuitive, graphical method for installing and managing PBI software. AppCafe® does not require the root password to install most of the applications that users require, such as web browsers, games, mail clients, and productivity software. This means that you don't have to give out the root password on multi-user systems. However, server applications, such as web servers or databases, will prompt for the superuser password. This is to prevent a regular user from installing server software.
When a regular user installs an application, they have the option to "add to desktop for all users", meaning that an application only needs to be installed once on a multi-user system.
PBI's can be installed at the command line using pbi_add or from the GUI using AppCafe®.
NOTE: PBIs are the recommended software installation method on PC-BSD. Update Manager will automatically notify you when newer versions of software installed as a PBI are available. PBIs will also be preserved over system upgrades and system meta package changes.
Installing and Uninstalling PBI Software
To install a PBI, start AppCafe® by double-clicking its icon on the Desktop, going to Control Panel ➜ AppCafe®, or by typing appcafe from a command prompt. The Browse tab in AppCafe® can be used to browse for available software, as seen in Figure 6.1a:
Figure 6.1a: Browsing for Software Using PC-BSD's AppCafe®
In the example shown in Figure 6.1a, 771 PBIs are available and 7 are currently installed on this system.
If you know the name of the application you would like to install, type its name into the Search bar. Alternately, you can click on a software category (for example, Archivers) to browse for available software. Use the back arrow or home icon to navigate within the browser. In the example shown in Figure 6.1b, the user searched for the "gimp" application then clicked on the Gimp search result.
Figure 6.1b: Browsing the Information Available for a PBI
Figure 6.1b shows an example of the type of information that is available for each application:
- name and icon of the application (in this example, it is Gimp)
- a hyperlink to the application's website (in this example, clicking on The GIMP Team will open gimp.org in the user's default web browser)
- either a Download icon (if the application is not currently installed) or an Installed icon if it is
- an Automatic Updating checkbox; by default, Update Manager will notify you when a new version is available so that you can start the update at your leisure. If you check this box, Update Manager will automatically update the application for you when a newer version becomes available.
- the version of the application
- 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
- whether or not the installation requires the root (administrative) password
- the license used by the software
- the size of the PBI
- a description of the application
Once you find a PBI that you would like to install, click on its Download icon. AppCafe® will automatically detect your PC-BSD version and architecture and install the correct PBI for you. When the installation is complete, the new PBI will be displayed in the Installed tab. Figure 6.1c shows a screenshot of this tab from a system with several PBIs installed.
Figure 6.1c: Viewing the List of Installed PBIs in AppCafe®
If you right-click an installed PBI or highlight it and click the More button, you can:
- View details: Figure 6.1d shows an example of a PBI's details. In addition to the information usually available for a PBI in the Browse tab, the details will indicate that the PBI is installed and a checkbox is added for Automatic Updating. Check this box if you would like Update Manager to automatically update this PBI, rather than just notify you that a newer version is available.
- Install Desktop Icons: will create a shortcut to the application on the user's desktop.
- Install Menu Icons: will add an entry for the application to the supported desktop's application menu.
- Install Menu Icons (All Users): will add an entry for the application to the application menu of every user.
- Uninstall: will uninstall the PBI. Once the PBI removal is complete, it will be removed from the Installed list.
Figure 6.1d: Viewing an Installed PBI's Details
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 are automatically available as an upgrade whenever the underlying package version changes. Figure 6.1e provides an example of a PBI that has a newer version available:
Figure 6.1e: Using the Installed Tab to Upgrade Installed PBIs:
In this example, the currently installed version of Firefox is 7.0.1 and version 8.0 is available. To upgrade this PBI, highlight its entry and click the Update button. The status of the update will be displayed next to the entry, indicating the status of the download. 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.
If you click File -> Preferences, you'll see the screen shown in Figure 6.1f.
Figure 6.1f: AppCafe® Preferences
By default, an icon is added to the desktop (for window managers that support icons) whenever you install a PBI. Uncheck the box "Create desktop icons at install" to disable desktop icon creation. You can still elect to install a desktop icon on a per-PBI basis by right-clicking the PBI and selecting "Install Desktop Icons" as shown in Figure 6.1c.
If you click Repositories ➜ Configure Repository from within AppCafe®, you will see the screen shown in Figure 6.1g:
Figure 6.1g: Managing Available Repositories
This screen will list the known available repositories. AppCafe® reads this list in order when connecting to the software repository. You can use the up and down arrows to reorder the list. If you have created your own software repository of PBIs, use the Add button to add the URL of the repository.
If you have created your own .rpo file using the pbi_makerepo command, you can use Repositories ➜ Add Repository to browse to the location of the .rpo file. This is the equivalent of manually running the pbi_addrepo command.