Debian aptitude

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Debian offers you tree servings of package management:

  • aptitude (high level)
  • apt-get and apt-cache (middle layer)
  • dpkg (low layer)
handles simply installing and removing of packages
keeps track of dependencies, and (since Debian 6) of manually or automatic installed packages
a high level interface to apt-get.

Manually installed items

A list of packages manually selected with aptitude:

aptitude search "~i\!~M"
aptitude search '?installed ?not(?automatic)'  # longer, but more readable

A list of packages installed due to a dependency:

aptitude search "~i~M"

For more search pattern, see the aptitute reference guide

Find unused packages

apt-get (and aptitude) can automatically remove packages with no reverse dependencies, but only if they are marked as "automatically installed".

To mark a package as "manually installed", either:

aptitude unmarkauto package
apt-get unmarkauto package

To mark a package as "automatically installed" (due to dependency), either:

aptitude markauto package
apt-get markauto package

To remove packages that are marked as "automatically installed", but are not required by other packages:

apt-get autoremove

A list of packages that are no dependency of others (no reverse dependencies):


A list of installed configuration files, without the program:

dpkg -l | grep "rc "

Search for a package

List installed package by reg exp:

dpkg -l apache2*
apt-cache search apache2*
aptitude search "apache2*"

List of Files

From the APT FAQ (version 2 of the FAQ).

List of files in a package:

apt-file list packagename

Find with package a file belongs to:

apt-file search filename

Note that, like apt, you need to keep apt-file up-to-date:

apt-file update


To display the dependencies of a package (whatever is needed by the package):

apt-cache depends packagename

To display which other package depends on a given package (the reverse dependencies):

apt-cache rdepends packagename

For even more detail (including version numbers for the dependencies), try one of these:

aptitude show packagename
apt-cache showpkg packagename

See Dependency Graph Debian Packages to see how to visualize dependencies.


Of course, you must keep your system up-to-date with the latest security updates:

sudo apt-get update
sudo aptitude upgrade