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Is there a convention that says where I should put programs I download if I want to make them available to all users? Blender, for example, appears to have a compiled executable, but also other directories and files that it (presumably) depends on.

The answer to To which directory should I install a program from a bash script? recommended /opt, but it isn't in my $PATH by default, and my /opt happens to be empty despite installing a lot of stuff from Ubuntu Software Center.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

The preferred method for that is /opt, although some people are known to put them in /usr/local/bin

As for your other question related to the Ubuntu Software center, not all packages in the Ubuntu Software Center are set to install to /opt - in fact, most of them don't follow that "standard".

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So why isn't /opt included in $PATH "out of the box"? – Evan Jan 24 '12 at 15:59
@Evan I'm not sure. I'll update my answer if I find anything though. – James Jan 24 '12 at 16:12

You will get varied opinions on this, even in the documentation.

On the second link, scroll down to /opt and /usr

As pointed out, I personally tend to use /usr/local as it is on the $PATH

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