Flatpak apps are gaining serious popularity on Linux distributions but managing the permissions of those apps can be a challenge. But with this handy GUI tool, those permissions are simple to deal with.

Young computer science student developing with his computer on a Linux System over double screen system
Image: Esteban Martinena/Adobe Stock

Flatpak is quickly becoming the universal package format of choice for Linux users. One reason why so many are choosing Flatpak over Snap packages is that Flatpaks are significantly faster than Snaps. Flatpak apps are also run in a sandbox by default, which isolates each app from one another to make them a bit more secure. Because of this, changes to permissions for Flatpaks can only be made by the user.

You’d be surprised at how many permissions are available to a Flatpak. Network, inter-process communications, X11 and Wayland windowing system, PulseAudio sound server (or PipeWire), D-Bus session and system, SSH agent, smart-cards, printing – the list goes on and on.

SEE: 40+ open source and Linux terms you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)

But how do users manage those permissions? Typically, a user would have to manage the permissions of Flatpak apps from the command line. For example, if you wanted to give a Flatpak app permission to access the host filesystem, the command for this would be:

sudo flatpak override APPID --filesystem=host

Where APPID is the ID of the Flatpak app in question.

But there’s an easier way.

Said new way comes in the form of a Flatpak app named Flatseal, and anyone looking to manage the permissions of their installed Flatpak apps should consider this a must-use.

Let’s find out how to install and use this handy Flatpak permissions tool.

What you’ll need

To use Flatseal, you’ll need a Linux desktop distribution that supports Flatpak (which includes the likes of elementary OS, Endless OS, Fedora, Linux Mint, PureOS and Zorin OS). That’s it. Let’s manage some permissions.

How to install Flatseal

On the off-chance you’re working with a Ubuntu-based distribution and Flatpak isn’t installed by default, you can take care of that with the following commands:

sudo apt-get install flatpak -y
flatpak remote-add --user --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

After the install completes, restart your machine and log back in.

Once Flatpak is ready, install Flatseal with the command:

flatpak install flatseal

Once the app is installed, it’s ready to launch.

How to use Flatseal

Open Flatseal from your desktop menu and you’ll see the app with all of your installed Flatpak apps listed (Figure A).

Figure A

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. The Flatseal UI is quite easy to use.

Select an app from the list and you’ll see all of the permissions it has access to. If there’s a particular permission you want to either enable or disable, simply toggle the ON/OFF switch and it’s done.

Some of the permissions (such as Other Files in Figure B) allow you to select which directories or other options the application can access.

Figure B

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. Giving a Flatpak app access to a specific directory is simple with Flatseal.

Scroll through the entire list of permissions and customize them exactly how you need them. You’ll find sections for Shares, Sockets, Devices, Features, Filesystem, Persistence, Variables, System Bus, Session Bus and Portals.

As you go through each section, make sure you know what a permission option does before you disable or enable it. Some of them are self-explanatory, while others might need a bit of help from Google or DuckDuckGo.

In the end, anyone who uses Flatpak applications should consider Flatseal a must-have to ensure permissions are exactly how you want them. Otherwise, you’re either stuck with the defaults, or you’ll be learning even more commands.

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