Package management and the repositories of software in distributions like Debian GNU/Linux are one of the great features of GNU/Linux. For most individuals and organizations, installing and updating packages from the repositories will be the best way to manage IT. Most of the work is done by the package managers and the end-user can do periodic or instant updates according to his needs.
There are times when this system is not optimal for some users. One of them is when a particular application or a few applications acquires some must-have feature that the end-user wants immediately. Some packages like browsers and office suites have hundreds of millions of installations and are so well tested globally that there is less need for a distro to test and filter the package. One example is Google’s Chrome Browser which is one of the best browsers in terms of features and performance, supported by a powerful and competent business, Google, and widely used with integrated feedback to developers.
Google’s browser works very well with package management systems. It comes with suitable packaging to integrate with several package management systems so that updating the software with the package management system updates directly from Google’s repository rather than the distro’s repository. That allows faster security patches and access to new features sooner. This means, to the end-user, that there is no extra work required to stay up to date. Google even has stable, and unstable versions depending on how well developed features the user wants to use or test. With the Debian package, Google’s scripting makes an entry in the package manager’s configuration to do the job:
pogson@nb:/etc/apt/sources.list.d$ cat google-chrome.list
### THIS FILE IS AUTOMATICALLY CONFIGURED ###
# You may comment out this entry, but any other modifications may be lost.
deb http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main
LibreOffice is a bit different. Their download is a .tgz archive which unpacks to a mess of .deb or .rpm files.
dpkg -i *.deb installs the packages and a further package then integrates the executables with the menuing system:
root@nb:~/LibO_3.3.2rc2_Linux_x86_install-deb_en-US/DEBS# ls -d */
root@nb:~/LibO_3.3.2rc2_Linux_x86_install-deb_en-US/DEBS# ls desktop-integration/
That’s a bit less automatic but it does the job of staying current. It helped me get .SVG and .PDF importation on my desktop sooner.
With a distro like Debian which takes about two years of testing and development to bring forth goodness, having a few packages out of the repository can be useful. Debian has an experimental and testing flavour which helps but for such well-tested packages it is not really that helpful. One can install more recent versions from other flavours but it requires more detailed knowledge of APT. For the 1000+ other packages in your desktop system, APT and the Debian repositories are a gold mine.