From the project README: "Flatpak is a system for building, distributing and running sandboxed desktop applications on Linux."
- Flatpak is a tool for managing applications and the runtimes they use. In the Flatpak model, applications can be built and distributed independently from the host system they are used on, and they are isolated from the host system ('sandboxed') to some degree, at runtime.
- Flatpak uses OSTree to distribute and deploy data. The repositories it uses are OSTree repositories and can be manipulated with the ostree utility. Installed runtimes and applications are OSTree checkouts.
- Flatpak applications are not effectively sandboxed by default, even when the package comes from flathub. Flatpak applications allow access to user files in
$HOMEand sandbox escape through X11 is trivial.  Therefore, rather than a sandbox, Flatpak is more accurately described as a container runtime environment.
- Running untrusted code is never safe; not even sandboxing can change this.
flatpak-builderyou will need to install the optional dependencies of elfutils and patch.
For flatpak applications to interact with your desktop (i.e. allow applications to open URLs, share your screen and more), make sure to set up the xdg-desktop-portal. Depending on the implementation for your desktop, there is a confirmation dialog before the application is able to access some portals.
--userto each command. If you want, for example, to add a repository only visible to you, you should run
$ flatpak remote-add --user name location. To install a package visible only to you, run
$ flatpak install --user package-name.
Add a repository
To add a remote flatpak repository do:
$ flatpak remote-add name location
where name is the name for the new remote, and location is the path or URL for the repository.
The installation of flatpak will, by default, add the official Flathub repository as a system-wide installation. To add the official repo with a per-user configuration:
$ flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists --user flathub https://dl.flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
Delete a repository
To delete a remote flatpak repository do:
$ flatpak remote-delete name
where name is the name of the remote repository to be deleted.
To list all the added repositories do:
$ flatpak remotes
Managing runtimes and applications
Search for a remote runtime or application
Before being able to search for a runtime or application in a newly added remote repository, we need to retrieve the appstream data for it:
$ flatpak update
Looking for updates... Updating appstream data for remote name
Then we can proceed to search for a package with
flatpak search packagename, e.g. to look for the package
libreoffice with the
flathub remote configured:
$ flatpak search libreoffice
Application ID Version Branch Remotes Description org.libreoffice.LibreOffice stable flathub The LibreOffice productivity suite
List all available runtimes and applications
To list all available runtimes and applications in a remote repository named remote do:
$ flatpak remote-ls remote
Install a runtime or application
To install a runtime or application do:
$ flatpak install remote name
where remote is the name of the remote repository, and name is the name of the application or runtime to install.
flatpak install partial-name(for example
flatpak install libreoffice).
List installed runtimes and applications
To list installed runtimes and applications do:
$ flatpak list
Binaries are available in
/var/lib/flatpak/exports/bin, which is automatically added to $PATH by
/etc/profile.d/flatpak-bindir.sh. You may have to re-login to apply the change.
Flatpak applications can also be run with the command line:
$ flatpak run name
Update a runtime or application
To update a runtime or application named name do:
$ flatpak update name
Automatic updates via systemd
To update your system runtimes and applications automatically, create the following files:
[Unit] Description=Update Flatpak After=network-online.target Wants=network-online.target [Service] Type=oneshot ExecStart=/usr/bin/flatpak update --noninteractive --assumeyes [Install] WantedBy=multi-user.target
[Unit] Description=Update Flatpak [Timer] OnBootSec=2m OnActiveSec=2m OnUnitInactiveSec=24h OnUnitActiveSec=24h AccuracySec=1h RandomizedDelaySec=10m [Install] WantedBy=timers.target
Afterwards, do a daemon-reload and enable/start the
flatpak-update.timer user unit.
- This guide is for system flatpak installations which are the default in flatpak. For user flatpak installations:
- Create the below files in the
- Add the
- Run the
systemctlcommands without the
- Create the below files in the
Uninstall a runtime or application
To uninstall a runtime or application named name do:
$ flatpak uninstall name
To delete app data from
~/.var/app and from the permission store while uninstalling, use:
$ flatpak uninstall --delete-data name
flatpak uninstall --unused.
Downgrade a runtime or application
To downgrade a runtime or application, first look for the associated commit ID:
$ flatpak remote-info --log remote name
Where remote is the repository (such as flathub), and name is the name of the application or runtime. Then, deploy the commit:
$ flatpak update --commit=commit name
where commit is the commit for the desired version, and name is as before.
This procedure can also be used to selectively upgrade a package to a desired version that is not the latest version.
flatpak update from updating this package, see #Prevent updates to a runtime or application.
Prevent updates to a runtime or application
To prevent automatic and manual updates to a runtime or application, use the
flatpak mask command:
$ flatpak mask name
This also prevents selective upgrades and downgrades.
To reverse the mask and re-enable updates, use
flatpak mask --remove:
$ flatpak mask --remove name
Flatpak expects window managers to respect the XDG_DATA_DIRS environment variable to discover applications. This variable is set by the script
/etc/profile.d/flatpak.sh. Updating the environment may require restarting the session. If the launcher does not support
XDG_DATA_DIRS, you can edit the list of directories scanned and add these to it:
This is known to be necessary in Awesome.
View sandbox permissions of application
Flatpak applications come with predefined sandbox rules which define the resources and file system paths the application is allowed to access. To view the specific application permissions do:
$ flatpak info --show-permissions name
The reference of the sandbox permission names can be found on official flatpak documentation.
Override sandbox permissions of applications
If you find the predefined permissions of the application too lax or too restrictive you can change to anything you want using
flatpak override command.
flatpak override --nofilesystem=home name
This will prevent the application access to your home folder.
Every type of permission, such as device, filesystem or socket, has a command line option that allows that particular permission and a separate option that denies permission. For example, in case of device access
--device=device_name allows access,
--nodevice=device_name denies the permission to access device.
For all permission types commands consult the manual page: flatpak-override(1)
Permission overrides can be reset to defaults with command:
$ flatpak override --reset name
Flatseal is a GUI permissions manager which offers simple point-and-click permissions operations.
Creating a custom base runtime
- You may want to use an untrusted, unprivileged user account for bundling untrusted software because the software is not sandboxed during app and runtime creation.
- When distributing bundles to others, you may be legally obliged to provide the source code of some of the bundled software upon request. You may want to use ABS to build these packages from source.
You can create a custom Arch-based base runtime and base SDK for Flatpak using pacman. You can then use it for building and packaging applications. This is an alternative for personal use to the default
In addition to flatpak, you need to have installed fakeroot and for pacman hooks support also fakechroot.
First, start by creating a directory for building the runtime and possibly applications.
$ mkdir myflatpakbuilddir $ cd myflatpakbuilddir
You can then prepare a directory for building the runtime base platform. The files subdirectory will contain what will later be the
/usr directory in the sandbox. Therefore you will need to create symbolic links so the default
/usr/share etc. from Arch can still be accessed at the usual path.
$ mkdir -p myruntime/files/var/lib/pacman $ touch myruntime/files/.ref $ ln -s /usr/usr/share myruntime/files/share $ ln -s /usr/usr/include myruntime/files/include $ ln -s /usr/usr/local myruntime/files/local
Make your host OS fonts available to the Arch runtime:
$ mkdir -p myruntime/files/usr/share/fonts $ ln -s /run/host/fonts myruntime/files/usr/share/fonts/flatpakhostfonts
You need and may want to adapt your
pacman.conf before installing packages to the runtime. Copy
/etc/pacman.conf to your build directory and then make the following changes:
- Remove the
CheckSpaceoption so pacman will not complain about errors finding the root filesystem for checking disk space.
- Remove any undesired custom repositories and
NoExtractsettings that are needed only for the host system.
Now install the packages for the runtime.
$ fakechroot fakeroot pacman -Syu --root myruntime/files --dbpath myruntime/files/var/lib/pacman --config pacman.conf base $ mv pacman.conf myruntime/files/etc/pacman.conf
Set up the locales to be used by editing
myruntime/files/etc/locale.gen. Then regenerate the runtime’s locales.
$ fakechroot chroot myruntime/files locale-gen
The base SDK can be created from the base runtime with added applications needed for building packages and running pacman.
$ cp -r myruntime mysdk $ fakechroot fakeroot pacman -S --root mysdk/files --dbpath mysdk/files/var/lib/pacman --config mysdk/files/etc/pacman.conf base-devel fakeroot fakechroot --needed
Insert metadata about runtime and SDK.
[Runtime] name=org.mydomain.BasePlatform runtime=org.mydomain.BasePlatform/x86_64/2016-06-26 sdk=org.mydomain.BaseSdk/x86_64/2016-06-26
[Runtime] name=org.mydomain.BaseSdk runtime=org.mydomain.BasePlatform/x86_64/2016-06-26 sdk=org.mydomain.BaseSdk/x86_64/2016-06-26
Add base runtime and SDK to a local repository in the current directory. You may want to give them appropriate commit messages such as “My Arch base runtime” and “My Arch base SDK”.
$ ostree init --mode archive-z2 --repo=. $ EDITOR="nano -w" ostree commit -b runtime/org.mydomain.BasePlatform/x86_64/2016-06-26 --tree=dir=myruntime $ EDITOR="nano -w" ostree commit -b runtime/org.mydomain.BaseSdk/x86_64/2016-06-26 --tree=dir=mysdk $ ostree summary -u
Install the runtime and SDK.
$ flatpak remote-add --user --no-gpg-verify myarchos file://$(pwd) $ flatpak install --user myarchos org.mydomain.BasePlatform 2016-06-26 $ flatpak install --user myarchos org.mydomain.BaseSdk 2016-06-26
Creating apps with pacman
As an alternative to building applications the usual way, we can use pacman to create a containerized version of the regular Arch packages. Note that
/usr is read-only when creating apps, so we can not use Arch’s packages when building an app. To create a real app with pacman, we can either
- use pacman to create a runtime containing all dependencies
- and compile the app ourselves as usual or perhaps using pacman with a custom PKGBUILD tailored to Flatpak which uses
or we can
- use pacman to create a runtime containing the app installed with pacman
- and create a dummy app to launch it.
For doing the latter, first create a runtime using pacman such as this one for gedit. The runtime is first initialized and prepared for use with pacman.
$ flatpak build-init -w geditruntime org.mydomain.geditruntime org.mydomain.BaseSdk org.mydomain.BasePlatform 2016-06-26 $ flatpak build geditruntime sed -i "s/^#Server/Server/g" /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist $ flatpak build geditruntime ln -s /usr/var/lib /var/lib $ flatpak build geditruntime fakeroot pacman-key --init $ flatpak build geditruntime fakeroot pacman-key --populate
Then the package is installed. The host’s network connection must be made available to pacman.
$ flatpak build --share=network geditruntime fakechroot fakeroot pacman --root /usr -S gedit
You can test the installation before finishing the runtime (without proper sandboxing).
$ flatpak build --socket=x11 geditruntime gedit
Now finish building the runtime and export it to a new local repository. pacman’s GnuPG keys have permissions that may interfere and need to be removed first.
$ flatpak build geditruntime rm -r /etc/pacman.d/gnupg $ flatpak build-finish geditruntime $ sed -i "s/\[Application\]/\[Runtime\]/;s/runtime=org.mydomain.BasePlatform/runtime=org.mydomain.geditruntime/" geditruntime/metadata $ flatpak build-export -r geditrepo geditruntime
Then create a dummy app.
$ flatpak build-init geditapp org.gnome.gedit org.mydomain.BaseSdk org.mydomain.geditruntime
Now finish the dummy app. You can fine-tune the app’s access permissions when sandboxed by giving additional options when finishing the build. For possible options see the Flatpak documentation and the GNOME manifest files. Alternatively, adapt
geditapp/metadata to your needs after finishing the build but before exporting. When the metadata file is complete, export the app to the repository.
$ flatpak build-finish geditapp --socket=x11 [possibly other options] --command=gedit $ flatpak build-export geditrepo geditapp
Install it along with the runtime.
$ flatpak --user remote-add --no-gpg-verify geditrepo geditrepo $ flatpak install --user geditrepo org.mydomain.geditruntime $ flatpak install --user geditrepo org.gnome.gedit $ flatpak run org.gnome.gedit
Flatpak does not run on the linux-hardened kernel
The linux-hardened kernel sets
0, so only privileged users can create new user namespaces.
One method to fix this is to install bubblewrap-suid. This package provides a version of bwrap(1) with the
setuid bit enabled, allowing bubblewrap elevate itself and create new namespaces.
1 using sysctl(8), allowing unprivileged users to create new user namespaces:
# sysctl kernel.unprivileged_userns_clone=1
To make this change persist across reboots, add a configuration file to sysctl.d(5):
For more information, see the note in Bubblewrap#Installation.
xdg-desktop-portal is failing to start
If you are starting X with manually-configured run commands, ensure you are including all essential components of the reference `xinitrc`. One of which sources a script which runs an update of the environment used for D-Bus session services.
systemctl --user import-environment DISPLAY XAUTHORITY if command -v dbus-update-activation-environment >/dev/null 2>&1; then dbus-update-activation-environment DISPLAY XAUTHORITY fi
Flatpak applications not picking up the default system theme
There is no ideal way to apply system themes in flatpak apps as mentioned in the flatpak documentation  . However there is a workaround which can be used to apply themes to your flatpak apps.
"File not found" error when Open local HTML pages in Firefox
By default, the Flatpak version of Firefox will display a "File not found" error page when opening a local HTML. This is because permission must be granted to the app for accessing the folder containing the file.
However, note that when granting permission to access the entire Home folder, Firefox will then check for an existing profile in
~/.mozilla and load it instead of those previously in use from the sandboxed folder
~/.var/app/org.mozilla.firefox/cache/mozilla/. If your previous session's tabs and browsing history is missing after changing a permission (e.g. with Flatseal), either modify the permission to exclude access to
~/.mozilla, or consider copying the profile from
Links fail to open on wlroots-based compositors
Flatpak applications that attempt to open URIs make use of the
org.freedesktop.portal.OpenURI.OpenURI D-Bus interface exposed by xdg-desktop-portal. The xdg-desktop-portal-wlr backend does not support this call and therefore you will need an additional backend to fill the gap, for example xdg-desktop-portal-gtk.