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This page provides a brief introduction to the the software available for the stable version of the Debian operating system. More detail is available at the links given below.
The Software Available for Debian's Stable Release
The default Debian install makes a vast amount of software available, all of it easily installable from within Debian itself using the package management tools.1 Historically Debian has more software available than any other Linux Distribution.
Never the less, for various reasons, Debian's stable version does not include all the software that people find important and many have come to expect. To remedy this there is quite a bit of additional software available for Debian stable, from both official and unofficial sources. This page provides an overview of the most commonly used sources and/or those sources with substantial breadth or depth. More narrowly focused or obscure sources of Debian software may be found on the page of UnofficialRepositories.
- The Software Available for Debian's Stable Release
Notes Regarding Security
The Debian project provides the highest level of security support to the free software included in the Debian stable release. The official, semi-official, and non-official software sources listed herein may or may not receive this level of security support.
Security Updates of Existing Software
It is worth mentioning that Debian provides timely security updates, but that the default install does not automatically install these updates on a regular basis. An essential part of administering a Debian system is ensuring that security updates happen.
A Debian system is pre-configured to receive regular security updates. The default desktop (gnome) provides a button in the menu bar which installs security updates. Others may need to run (as root)
on a regular basis.
Software That Addresses Installation Problems
Because Debian's stable release changes minimally after release the stock version may not install on the newest hardware. For that situation see http://kmuto.jp/debian/d-i/ for installers with up-to-date kernels.2
Note also that some hardware requires non-free firmware to work; firmware that is not included as part of the stock Debian installer. See the details in the installation instructions, particularly the official installation guide, and obtain help via IRC or other support channels.
Newer Software For Debian Stable
Because Debian's stable release changes minimally after release, and has few changes in months prior to release, the software included is not always the latest and greatest. Those who need newer software but still need to run stable can often satisfy their wants with software from http://backports.debian.org.
Backports provide not only newer applications but also newer kernels. Installing a newer kernel is often the best way to solve problematic hardware issues because the newer kernel contains many newer drivers and bug fixes.
Fast Moving Software for Debian Stable
Some software, such as spam scanners, must be very up-to-date to work. http://volatile.debian.org/ provides Debian stable with the very latest versions, or backports of the important parts, of such software.
Audio and Video Software
Much software related to multi-media, particularly software allowing the playback and manipulation of music, video, and the like, cannot be included in Debian itself for legal reasons. http://debian-multimedia.org/ contains unofficial Debian stable packages of such software.
Non-Free Software (e.g. Adobe Flash)
In accordance with Debian's core principals, those codified in The Debian Social Contract, the default Debian install is configured to install only Free Software. Non-free software is made available to those who wish to risk its ills. Before blindly installing non-free software it may be prudent to ask if there is a Free replacement.
Access to non-free software distributed by the Debian project is done by modifying the /etc/apt/sources.list file.3 The sources.list man page contains explanations and examples. The basic idea is have the text contrib and non-free appear as components, along with the main component, at the end of each line so that non-free and contributed software can also be downloaded from each software archive.
Software for Embedded Devices
A version of Debian is available for embedded devices, devices with ultra-low capabilities.
Running Debian Without Installing
A computer can run Debian without installing it onto a hard drive; running instead from, say, a CD or a USB stick. The Debian-Live project provides this capability.
New Debian users should obtain all their software from the Debian repositories. The Debian maintainers have gone to a lot of work to ensure that the software in the Debian repositories works well together and is secure. Getting software from non-Debian sources voids the (non-existent) warranty! (1)
The kernel, the core of the system, mediates between the rest of the system and most of the hardware. Consequently a newer kernel often is all that's required to support newer hardware. (2)
Those afraid of typing text into a document can instead use checkboxes found in the graphical interface of the Synaptic package manager. (3)