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Home / Tips and Tricks / How to install Signal Desktop on Linux

How to install Signal Desktop on Linux



A welcome screen from the Signal app on an iPhone.
Eliseu Geisler / Shutterstock.com

Signal is the privacy-focused smartphone messaging app that everyone seems to be using. You can also use Signal on a Windows PC, Mac or Linux computer. It is easy to set up and register with your Signal account.

Privacy by design

Signal is published by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. These two nonprofits ̵

1; based in Mountain View, California – were founded by Matthew Rosenfeld (aka “Moxie Marlinspike”) and Brian Acton. Together they continue the work that started at Open Whisper Systems, one of Rosenfeld’s earlier start-ups.

The Signal application is free and open source. Anyone can view the source code. The source code for the Signal Messenging Protocol (SMP) was reviewed by a joint team from the German CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security, the Swiss ETH Zurich University, Cisco and the Canadian University of Waterloo. They declared the code clean, the motifs clean and the encryption tough. Signal is certainly safe.

But there is a difference between security and privacy.

RELATED: What is signal and why is everyone using it?

The difference between privacy and security

Privacy is about managing your information and data, choosing who can access it and deciding what to do with it. Security is one of the techniques you can use to maintain your privacy.

The security of the SMP is so strong that other apps, such as WhatsApp, have adopted the Signal protocol to provide end-to-end encryption for their own products. But although WhatsApp may be safe as far as the transmission of your messages goes, that is not the case privacy concerns. The security of the protocol is completely separate from WhatsApp’s data collection and data exchange policies. It’s those activities that compromise your privacy, and it’s the trap that has catapulted WhatsApp out into the open, catapulting the worst PR storm of its 11-year history.

WhatsApp collects and records information about you and your use of their app. The company stores this information – including your contact list, whom you contacted, details of purchases you made through the app, and your location when you use the app – on their servers. So while the delivery of your messages is secure, WhatsApp keeps a lot of private information about you. And WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.

Signal, on the other hand, is virtually nothing to you. It stores the smartphone number you registered with, when you signed up to use Signal, and when you last used the service. That is it. A phone number and two timestamps. So even if they are hit with a subpoena, that’s all they can hand over to the authorities. Nothing about your posts, your location or anything else.

Signal starts to make a lot of sense when you surface how your data is often used as a commodity by other companies.

Install Signal on Linux

There is only one way to sign up for Signal and that is through your smartphone. It works on Android phones and iPhones. So if you don’t have Signal installed on your smartphone, go ahead and do that first. It must work on your smartphone before you can use it on your computer.

Signal is available in the repositories for some Linux distributions. It is also available as a flat pack and a snap. We install the module on Ubuntu.

sudo snap install signal-desktop

sudo snap install signal-desktop in a terminal window

You can also use the module on Fedora, but to cover all the bases, we’ll demonstrate how to install the flatpak.

sudo flatpak install https://dl.flathub.org/repo/appstream/org.signal.Signal.flatpakref

sudo flatpak install https://dl.flathub.org/repo/appstream/org.signal.Signal.flatpakref in a terminal window

On Manjaro you can do it directly from pacman.

sudo pacman -Sy signal-desktop

sudo pacman -Sy signal-desktop in a terminal window

Start signal on the desktop

Press the “Super” key on your keyboard. This is usually located between the “Control” and “Alt” keys at the bottom left of the keyboard. Type “signal” in the search bar. You will see the signal icon.

Search for signal on the GNOME desktop

Click the icon to start Signal.

Before you can use Signal on your computer, you need to pair it with the Signal app on your smartphone. The desktop client displays a QR code. You need to scan this code with your smartphone from the Signal app. (The QR code in the screenshot below is not an actual Signal QR code.)

Signal client displaying the QR code for sync

Below the QR code are brief instructions for Android phones and iPhones.

Open the Signal app on your smartphone and tap the menu button.

Signal the app with the menu button highlighted

Tap the “Settings” item in the menu.

Sigal app with the settings menu option highlighted

Tap the option “Paired devices”.

Signal app with the Paired devices option highlighted

You will see a list of the devices you have already linked to this Signal account.
Tap the blue “+” button to add a new device.

Signal app with the paired devices, with the Add button highlighted

The Signal QR code scanner appears.

The QR code scanner of the Signal app

Scan the QR code in the desktop client. When the QR code has been read and decoded, you will be asked if you are sure you want to link the device to your Signal account.

Signal app asking to pair the new device

Tap the blue text “Pair device”. The desktop client will prompt you to provide a name for the device.

Enter a name for the Signal desktop client

Click on the “Finish Linking Phone” button when you have typed the name as you want the client to be known. This is the name mentioned in the “Paired devices” list on your smartphone. It has no effect on your identity within Signal.

Signal syncs your contacts and message groups from your smartphone. Note that it doesn’t pull through existing chats and messages. Only messages that arrive after the desktop client has been linked to your Signal account will appear in the client.

Signal synchronization of contacts and groups

When it is done, they will be displayed in the main window of the client. If you prefer dark mode, click File> Preferences> Dark.

Dark mode option in Signal Preferences

Now Signal is ready to send private and secure messages straight from your computer.

Main window signal in dark mode

Unlink the desktop client

If you wish, you can remove the desktop client from your Signal account. You can do that from your smartphone or from the desktop.

On your smartphone, tap the menu button> Settings> Paired devices, then tap the paired device you want to remove. Tap “OK” in the small popup box.

Confirm that you want to unpair a device in the signal app

If you’d rather break the desktop client link, click File> Preferences> Clear Data.

Security and privacy from the desktop

Messaging apps are great. But if you’re in front of a computer, it may be more convenient to have the app on your desktop so you don’t switch back and forth between your computer and your smartphone.

Now you can enjoy the security and guaranteed privacy of Signal and a real keyboard.




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