How to Install the Ubuntu Software Center in Linux Mint 17

June 10, 2014
usc02Linux Mint 17 was released a few days ago, and it is proving, yet again, to be a worthy successor in a line of fine Linux distributions.

One extremely minor item on the Linux Mint wishlist would be an improved software manager similar to what Ubuntu offers with its Software Center.

This is more of a matter of personal preference, but the Ubuntu Software Center offers more polish and professionalism than what is offered by Linux Mint’s Software Manager. Since Linux Mint is an Ubuntu derivative, can we run the Ubuntu Software Center in Linux Mint and enjoy the best of both worlds?

Well, it turns out that we can! The Ubuntu Software Center will run in Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon and MATE (and Linux Mint 17.1), and this article shows you how.

First, this will not replace the existing Linux Mint Software Manager. It only adds the Ubuntu Software Center to the system, so you may choose which to use.

We want to use this:


Linux Mint 17 Software Manager.

or this:


Ubuntu Software Center running in Linux Mint 17.

Install Synaptic

For best results, I recommend using Synaptic so most dependencies will be resolved automatically. I experienced dependency issues when installing the Ubuntu Software Center from the terminal, and installation was trickier since full package names are needed. Synaptic provides those names. To begin, install Synaptic if it is not already installed:

sudo apt-get install synaptic

Yes, Synaptic installs fine from the terminal.

Install xapian

The program software-center installs some dependencies, but not all of them. Even though Ubuntu Software Center appears in the menus (if installed), it will not open yet due to errors. If opening from the GUI, nothing seems to happen, but if you run software-center from a terminal, you should see an error message similar to this:

xapian.DatabaseOpeningError: Couldn't stat '/var/cache/software-center/xapian' (No such file or directory)

Xapian is a search engine required by the Ubuntu Software Center, but it is not installed with Linux Mint. Hence, this error. In Synaptic, search for xapian. Mark xapian-tools for installation and apply.


Synaptic showing xapian-tools installed. Ubuntu Software Center requires xapian and its dependencies. Installing from Synaptic should install all needed packages automatically, but if not, install them manually.

If the “No such file or directory” error persists, manually create the directory:

sudo mkdir /var/cache/software-center/xapian

Oddly, Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon seemed to automatically set up the xapian directory structure, but Linux Mint 17 MATE needed the manual directory creation.

Update: Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon also needs the manual directory creation. Even then, Software Center still did not run. The solution was to uninstall software-center and then reinstall it.

Install software-center

Open Synaptic and search for software-center, which is the name for the Ubuntu Software Center. Find software-center, mark for installation, and apply.


Synaptic Package Manager showing software-center already installed. Associated screenshot is also shown.


Edit /etc/lsb-release

We are not finished yet! We have one more issue to resolve. If you try to open the Ubuntu Software Center at this point, you will likely encounter another error at the terminal:

  File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/distro/", line 174, in _get_distro
    module = __import__(distro_module_name, globals(), locals(), [], -1)
ImportError: No module named linuxmint

The line reading “No module named linuxmint” is the clue. To resolve this, we need to edit a file named lsb-release.

sudo gedit /etc/lsb-release

(Use any text editor you prefer.)

By default, there are four lines in this file:


Change the line,




DISTRIB_ID must be set to Ubuntu, not LinuxMint. Ubuntu Software Center has no idea what to do with a line reading LinuxMint, but Ubuntu will work. In theory, DISTRIB_ID=Xubuntu should also work, but I had no success.

Running Ubuntu Software Center

Now, we are ready to see if our efforts yield results! From the menu, choose Administration > Ubuntu Software Center (or run software-center from a terminal to see any possible error messages).

The Ubuntu Software Center should appear, and you should be able to use it like you normally would in Ubuntu.


Browsing through programs using the Ubuntu Software Center running in Linux Mint 17. When connected to the Internet, ratings, user comments, and screenshots will appear.


Ubuntu Software Center running in Linux Mint 17 and installing Stellarium.


Stellarium installed successfully using the Ubuntu Software Center. The program runs well.

Strangely, the Ubuntu Software Center did not always run the first time. It took a few tries to set up, but once set up, Ubuntu Software Center would run reliably. If the program does not appear upon opening it from the menu, then run it from the terminal and read the error messages for clues. I had to twiddle with xapian in Synaptic a few times before it would run. In another system, Ubuntu Software Center worked right away. This might have been due to what was already installed.

Linux Mint 17 MATE Issue

With MATE, a new error appeared:

xapian.DatabaseOpeningError: Couldn't detect type of database

Unexpected errors might occur across various Linux distributions, so run software-center from the terminal to see them. I resolved this issue by completely removing software-center from the terminal. Leave all xapian installations intact.

sudo apt-get remove software-center
sudo apt-get autoclean
sudo apt-get clean
sudo apt-get update  
sudo apt-get upgrade

I performed the update and upgrade just in case something was outdated, but it had no effect. The Linux Mint 17 MATE system was already updated. Nothing updated.

Then, I reinstalled software-center from the terminal.

sudo apt-get install software-center

Now, running Software Center from the terminal or from the Linux Mint 17 MATE menu opened the Ubuntu Software Center properly. It ran fine, and programs installed normally. Not sure what the issue might have been. One theory might be that xapian needs to be installed first so the software-center installation will set up properly.

Update November 29, 2014: After installing the Ubuntu Software Center in Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon, I encountered the same issue of a nonworking Software Center as experienced in Linux Mint MATE. I had installed the Ubuntu Software Center first and then xapian. The installation order seems to be important.

After performing the uninstallation as outlined above, I reinstalled the Ubuntu Software Center from the command line. This produced some text regarding a catalog update. Once the catalog database updated, the program worked correctly. Apparently, xapian must be installed first, and then the Ubuntu Software Center.

/etc/lsb-release Resetting After Reboot

Usually, Linux Mint will update /etc/lsb-release at each boot and change the edited DISTRIB_ID line back to LinuxMint. This means /etc/lsb-release must be edited again or else the Ubuntu Software Center will not load.

One quick method (out of many) to resolve this is to fix /etc/lsb-release so it cannot be edited by the system. Change DISTRIB_ID to Ubuntu, and then set the file’s immutable flag.

sudo chattr +i /etc/lsb-release


Now, DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu persists across reboots. Ubuntu Software Center, Synaptic, and the Linux Mint Software Manager run fine, and I have not experienced any problems by doing this. To revert the file to an editable mode,

sudo chattr -i /etc/lsb-release



After a little tweaking, Ubuntu Software Center runs great in Linux Mint 17. You can browse for programs, install them, read user comments, interact with the online repository, and grab screenshots. Purchasing software was not tested, so I cannot report on how well that works, but, in theory, it might.


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