Chocolatey Package Manager: The Alternative Windows Store
For a long time Windows operating system lacked any proper application manager also known as a package manager. A central hub so you can manage all installed applications, get new ones and keep them updated. Mainly, Linux distributions had some form of a package manager. Apple came up with Mac App Store from where users can buy Mac apps, install them and keep them up to date. Having a package manager always made the job easy. It automatically installs all dependencies in case the operating system missed them. With the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft came up with Windows Store but it wasn’t that good in managing your desktop apps. It did let users easily manage Modern UI Applications, made to run in the new Modern UI (user interface) only. Filling the gap, many package managers emerged which were developed by enthusiastic developers or companies trying to profit from it. Here, we are going to look into one such package manager that sounds very sweet when anyone hears it, Chocolatey.
A package manager is important and Microsoft knows it very well now. Although little late but its good to know that Windows 10 is coming up with an official package manager of its own, titled OneGet. If you are testing the current build of Windows 10 Technical Preview, you can test it out. Launch PowerShell and type simple commands such as
Find-Package VLC and
Install-Package Firefox and see OneGet work out its magic.
Chocolatey Package Manager: Brief Introduction
Okay, lets now come back to the present situation. As we were saying, many third-party developers and software companies came up with package managers to manage this unmanaged situation. Chocolatey is one of the promising candidate to become a popular Windows package manager. May be that’s why it’s very aptly called “the alternative Windows Store” by many. Before we go deeper, here’s how the developers introduces Chocolatey Package Manager to the world:
Chocolatey is a global PowerShell execution engine using the NuGet packaging infrastructure. Think of it as the ultimate automation tool for Windows.
Chocolatey is like apt-get, but built with Windows in mind (there are differences and limitations). For those unfamiliar with APT/Debian, think about Chocolatey as a global silent installer for applications and tools. It can also do configuration tasks and anything that you can do with PowerShell. The power you hold with a tool like Chocolatey is only limited by your imagination!
You can develop your tools and applications with NuGet, and release them with Chocolatey! But Chocolatey is not just for .NET tools. It’s for nearly any Windows application/tool!
How to Install Chocolatey Package Manager?
There are multiple ways to install Chocolatey Package Manager on your Windows PC as described on the official wiki page at Github. For simplicity we here are showing you the most easy method as curated on the wiki. You just need to open the Command Prompt as Administrator, paste the command and press Enter.
Common Chocolatey Commands
Search Programs: Lets you easily find if your favorite program is available for install through Chocolatey. Type
choco search <search-term> in the command prompt. For instance when you type
choco search vlc, you will get all the matching packages available for install. You now just need to use the next command in the list to install VLC Media Player on your computer.
Install Programs (or Applications): Lets you install programs available through Chocolatey. You just need to use the simple command
choco install . For instance, you need to type
choco install vlc to install VLC Media Player on your Windows computer.
As you can see in the screenshot, you can even skip the search method if the program is a popular one. You also don’t need to specify the full package name, for popular programs like VLC Media Player, you just need to type vlc instead of
vlc 126.96.36.19940811 (as returned by the search function). Chocolatey is intelligent to know what you mean even when multiple packages are found when we performed a search.
Update Installed Packages (Programs or Apps): Keeping your favorite program updated is important. Updates help keeping your computer secure by fixing bugs and security issues. Some programs have internal update functions but many don’t have. Those that don’t have any kind of internal update system are never updated. That’s where Chocolatey Package Manager comes in. It helps you keep your programs up to date. You simply need to type
choco update or better you can type
choco update all to update all packages installed using the package manager. As simple as that. Now, you can go and grab a cup of coffee and let Chocolatey update all your programs.
Uninstall Programs: As easy as installing new programs, to uninstall a programs type choco uninstall . You can use the list command as described below to find the package name.
List all installed packages: To list all programs and applications installed using Chocolatey, simply type choco list -lo. If you remove -lo, Chocolatey will display all available packages available for install (and that’s a huge list). You can better visit this page to see all the available packages.
You can also go ahead and install a Windows feature like IIS using Chocolatey Package Manager. You need to type the command
choco install IIS -source windowsfeatures.
You should try Chocolatey Package Manager even if you are just a regular Windows user. If you are not too comfortable using the command prompt, you can use ChocolateyGUI.
It’s a simple program that does mostly the package manager offers but comes with a user interface.
To install ChocolateyGUI, type
choco install chocolateygui and press Enter in the command prompt.
Chocolatey offers many more than the few commands we have shared here. As this was just an introduction post, we think we should stop here. Hopefully, we will try to cover more advance functions offered by it soon.
Imagine doing all these activities without Chocolatey. It will be a nightmare and we know that. Chocolatey Package Manager is a good step towards making life easy for end users as well as system administrators. We will love to hear what you think of this amazing program. And don’t forget to share your experience with us through comments below.