Automatix is very possibly the best program you’ll only use one time. Seriously. Maybe twice.
Automatix, as opposed to a word processor or music player, only does one thing: install and delete programs. Why would I need something like that? you’re probably asking yourself. Well, the easy answer is: you don’t.
So… why should you install it? Well, as the website for Automatix says:
“Automatix2 is a free graphical package manager for the installation, uninstallation and configuration of the most commonly requested applications in Debian based Linux operating systems. Our list of supported applications include a whole range of multimedia codecs, burning and ripping software, file sharing software, email clients, VoIP enabled chat clients, browsers, encryption software and a lot more!”
Got that? Automatix, for the most part, doesn’t do anything you couldn’t otherwise do with your Linux setup… it just makes it easier.
Kind of like BASF, I suppose… they don’t make many of the products we use… they just make them better.
Okay… enough with the hyperbole and ad-speak… what, really, does Automatix DO?
For one, it installs a bunch of applications, in a bunch of different categories, and some of them would otherwise not be available to easily install. That right there makes Automatix a great program. Using Automatix, a user can install 83 different applications. Many of them (most, if my count was accurate), are already available from Ubuntu’s official software repositories, but using Automatix is no more difficult a process, and is perhaps a bit easier, since Automatix shows only (what it feels to be) the most popular software choices.
So… what software can I download?
Well, software from the following categories:
Burning and Ripping
Codecs and Plugins
Media Players and Editors
More specifically, and perhaps of interest to many users, Automatix allows the computer user to install the following applications, which would – in many cases – need to be downloaded directly from the software’s webpage:
Adobe PDF Reader and Browser Plugin
Opera Web Browser
As well, Automatix is able to install an incredible amount of “tiny” libraries that might otherwise be confusing or hard to find. Among the most desired of this type are multimedia codecs and DVD access. Linux distributions often come with only the barest of support for multimedia, meaning that entire libraries of mp3 and Divx files are inaccessible without help. Automatix makes installing support for those file formats a snap. As well, it is technically illegal for Linux users to play commercial DVDs on their computers, since Linux has no license from the powers-that-be for support of the CSS encryption on all DVDs, even though nearly all Linux users at one time purchased Windows or Mac OS X, which include a license. For this reason, Linux distributions are typically unable to read store-purchased DVDs, but Automatix allows users to install the correct software to enable their viewing, but only after warning the user that doing so may make them a criminal in the eyes of the law.
Finally, Automatix just makes it easy to install… stuff. Programs that are available through the user’s distribution, certainly, but Automatix’s goal is to put together a list of the “good stuff,” all in one place, and make it easy to find and easy to install.
Does it work well? Absolutely. In my testing, everything went as it should have. The first time I started up Automatix, it added the extra software repositories (and encryption keys I would need to access the libraries), then went about updating my software sources list. After that, I could see every program that Automatix supports, and install them, just as with the “Add/Delete…” option already provided by Ubuntu, with a series of two clicks.
Automatix is mainly filled with Gnome or GTK programs, which will work perfectly fine under KDE, but will need the addition of Gnome libraries, if none are present. This can turn what would otherwise have been a fairly small installation of 5-6 megabytes into something approaching 80-90 megabytes. To better show KDE users programs native to that desktop environment, an option is available which can either show or hide KDE programs. If the option is not selected, the KDE programs are simply not shown, while if the option is selected, the KDE programs are highlighted to be more obvious. Even though a vast number of Linux users have both Gnome and KDE programs installed already. For those who want their system to be completely one or the other, however, it is a nice touch indeed.
There has been, in the past, some rather negative “press” regarding Automatix, most of it from Ubuntu users. This came about because Automatix does install additional software repositories, and should those repositories make available a newer version of an installed program, the automatic update system will try to install it, but there is a potential for that to cause conflicts with officially supported packages. My recommendation is to use Automatix to install programs, then go into your sources list and simply don’t use the additional software repositories Automatix added, at least until you wish to add more programs.
All in all, I think Automatix is a great program. At first glance it seems to do pretty much what you can already do, but in reality it makes things a lot easier. Great program!