How to find and install applications on the Nokia N800 and N810

The Nokia N800 and N810 come with lots of on-board software that lets you do things like surf the web, write emails, listen to internet radio etc.

However, the tablets are also pocket computers running on a software platform called Maemo, which is an "open platform". This means that anyone who wants to can write additional software for it, and you can install this software onto the tablet yourself. What's more, most of the software available for the tablets is totally free as it's mostly written by teams of open source volunteers.

Finding and installing software can be quite tricky, but this tutorial is going to look at the very easiest methods.


[edit] Getting to know the Application Manager

The tablets have a built-in program called Application Manager, which uses a system of "catalogues", which are also known as "repositories" or "repos". The idea of a catalogue is to greatly simplify the process of finding and installing new software.

New software often needs additional files to be installed on the tablet before it can work properly, and catalogues automatically add these files if you don't already have them. This need for additional files is called "dependency", because the software depends on the presence of these files in order to work.

To access the App Manager, click on the Applications icon (the green squares on the left), select Settings, then select Application Manager.

Here's what all the bits of the App Manager do:

  • Application Manager Menu (the bar at the top): This contains various advanced tools and settings to do with installing and using applications and catalogues. You probably won't need to use this but it's good to know where it is.
  • Show Installed Applications: This displays all the software you've installed so far, along with various additional files that some of the software requires in order to work properly. You can remove installed software by selecting the relevant application and clicking on "Uninstall" at the bottom of the screen (the blue "i" icon gives you more information about the selected application). Be careful when you uninstall software as it may be needed by other applications. The App Manager should tell you if this is the case and warn you, and it may even prevent you uninstalling needed software.
  • Browse Installable Applications: As the name suggests, this lets you view and install new software from all the catalogues added to the App Manager. You may have to click on "All" to see the complete list. If you select a particular item and click on "Install" it will install the software, while clicking on "i" gives you more information about the software. Some of the software listed may sound a bit strange and technical, don't worry about this as it may be intended only for the use of advanced users. When you first use your tablet, the App Manager will probably only has one or two catalogues installed, both of which are owned by Nokia and only have Nokia-approved software available on them. If you add software from other catalogues, the catalogue addresses are added to the App Manager, and all of the compatible software in these catalogues will automatically become available in the Browse Installable Applications section. We'll discuss adding software from other catalogues later in this tutorial.
  • Check For Updates: Most of the time this page will probably be blank, but don't worry, this is perfectly normal. The purpose of the Check For Updates section is to tell you when updated versions are available of software which you've already installed. For example if you've installed Skype internet phone software on your tablet you may see an updated version of Skype appear in the Check For Updates section. If there are any updates available, select the update you want and click on the "Update" link at the bottom of the page. As with the other sections, the "i" logo gives you more information about the update.

[edit] Installing software from

Nokia's Internet Tablets run on a software platform called Maemo, which is based on the Linux operating system. The version of Maemo used by the N800 and N810 is called OS 2008.

The official website for the Maemo platform is at, and it includes a section called "Downloads" which is full of third party software which you can install on your tablet.

On your tablet, click on the globe in the top left, open a new browser window and go to the site Click on the Downloads link at the top of the site, and it should automatically take you to the "OS 2008" section which contains software that your N800 or N810 can run. Ignore the sections marked "OS 2007" and "OS 2006", the software there will not run on your tablet.

To find some interesting software, try clicking on one of the categories on the right of the screen. Note that some categories contain many pages, and you should click on the page numbers at the bottom of the screen to see all the applications available in that category.

When you find an app or game you're interested in, click on its title to find out more information and see reviews posted by users. If you want to install it, click on the green arrow next to its name.

Clicking on this arrow will automatically start up your tablet's App Manager, install the selected software onto the tablet, and add the catalogue it came from to the App Manager. During the installation process, it will ask you where you want to put the application's icon in the Applications menu. By default it will put it in the section labelled "Extras", but you can change this if you want.

After the new catalogue is added to the App Manager, you will see a wider range of software available in the App Manager's "Browse Installable Applications" section.

If an app or game has a grey arrow instead of a green one, it means they can't be installed automatically. Because of this, their installation can be very complicated, and we're not going to cover it in this tutorial.

[edit] Security & Reliability

The advantage of an open platform like Maemo (or Windows, or Macintosh) is that it receives a lot of software support from both enthusiasts and commercial companies because literally anyone is allowed to write and release software without having to get anyone's permission. The disadvantage of this is that a small minority of software may do bad things, either intentionally or unintentionally.

The only catalogues guaranteed to be free of problems are Nokia's, but these only have a small range of applications. To install a wider range of software on your tablet you will have to install software from third party non-Nokia sources, and none of this third party software is guaranteed to be safe and reliable. Just like Windows and Macintosh, third party Maemo software carries a small risk of either causing problems or doing deliberate damage. If you wish to reduce this risk to a minimum, try to only install software which has received good ratings and comments in's downloads section (to see an app's ratings and comments in detail, click on its title).

It's worth pointing out that the risk of software causing deliberate damage is particularly small on Maemo and Nokia's internet tablets. Almost all of the software available to the tablets is "open source". Open source software means that the inner workings of the software are freely available on the internet to anyone who wants to take a look, so anything that's dangerous or malevolent usually gets spotted much more quickly than on closed source software.

[edit] Broken catalogue trouble - "Unable to refresh list."

Catalogues make it very easy to install new software and keep it up to date, but they have a drawback: they're all hosted on various computers around the internet, and if one catalogue's computer breaks down it prevents the Application Manager from working properly.

If a catalogue does break down, you may see the error message "Unable to refresh list." and find that you can't install any new software. Don't panic.

The way to fix this problem is to disable whichever catalogue is causing the problem. This can be done by clicking on the App Manager menu at the top of the screen, then click on Tools, then Application Catalogue, then select the catalogue causing the problems and click on Details. Tick the Disabled box and click OK, which will disable the broken catalogue and restore the App Manager to full working order.

However, you may be wondering how you can find out which catalogue is broken. A very good question.

The hard way to do this is through trial and error, by disabling each catalogue one by one until the App Manager starts working again.

The easier way is to look at the App Manager's log, which tells you the recent activity of the App Manager. The log can be accessed by clicking on the App Manager menu at the top, then Tools, then Log. To find a broken catalogue try to look for the phrase "Failed to fetch", which should be next to the website address of the broken catalogue. The address of each catalogue is available from the Details button described in the paragraph above, so it's simply a case of comparing the "Failed to fetch" address in the log with the addresses of the catalogues in the Application Catalogue section. When the addresses match, you've found the broken catalogue and you can disable it.

You can try reactivating the broken catalogue later to see if it's been fixed by unticking the "Disabled" box, but if it still doesn't work you'll have to retick the box.