AppImages are increasingly popular among developers, but it’s important to understand the security and usability trade-offs they bring. This article discusses the many reasons to avoid using AppImages on Linux.
A note from the author
When I first started using Linux, I was really excited about the idea of AppImages. They seemed like a great way to distribute software without having to worry about all of the dependencies and such. However, I quickly learned that they are not all they’re cracked up to be. Here are a few of the many reasons why you should avoid using AppImages on Linux – Their installation process is difficult for new users.
- You can’t update them easily from within the application.
- Software may require different packages than what are available in your distribution’s repositories, so updates will have no effect if there is an error in any of those packages.
- There’s often no support for things like file type associations or icons (making it hard to launch an app) unless you install another package manually or edit some configuration files yourself.
- Apps may conflict with each other or break when upgrading their system library versions (e.g., GTK+).
Reason 1 – It’s unprofessional
As a professional developer, you should always strive to ship your software in the most professional way possible. This means packaging it up in a format that is easy for your users to install and use. AppImages are neither of those things. They are difficult for users to install, and often don’t include all the necessary dependencies. This makes them a poor choice for professional software development.
Reason 2 – You need root access
If you want to use an AppImage, you need root access. That means giving the AppImage file executable permissions and then running it with sudo. This is a security risk since any vulnerabilities in the AppImage could be exploited to gain root access to your system. It also makes troubleshooting difficult if something goes wrong.
Reason 3 – Test it!
If you’re distributing your software in an AppImage, you’re essentially saying I tested this on my machine and it worked. Good luck! That’s not good enough. You need to test your software on as many different machines and configurations as possible. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble.
Reason 4 – Minor software updates are difficult
When a new version of an AppImage is released, users have to manually download the new file and replace the old one. This is not only inconvenient, but it can also lead to data loss if the user accidentally overwrites the wrong file. To make things worse, major updates are even more difficult because there is no clear way to upgrade from one version of an app to another.
Reason 5 – Sideloading can make you vulnerable
When you sideload an application, you’re essentially bypassing any security checks that your Linux distribution might have in place. This can leave you vulnerable to all sorts of attacks, both from malicious software and from hackers who might exploit vulnerabilities in the code. Sideloading is also a risk for people with shared devices or accounts. Apps downloaded from the web or installed from sources other than their vendor’s site should be treated with caution.
In some cases it may not be possible to remove an app once it has been installed as root, even if there are problems with it or if its use is unintended.
Reason 6 – Updates for any software bundled in your appimage require an update of the appimage itself
Whenever a new version of the software you’re packaging into an AppImage is released, you have to update the AppImage itself. That means that your users have to download a new, potentially large file, just to get a small update to the software they’re using.
Reasons 7-10 (TBD)
- AppImages are often not updated regularly, which can leave you vulnerable to security exploits.
- They can be difficult to integrate with your system, and may not work correctly with all of your other software.
- AppImages are usually larger than other package formats, which can take up more space on your hard drive.
- Finally, AppImages are often not as well-tested as other software packages, so you may encounter bugs that have not been fixed yet.