Linux Mint – Advanced package management

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As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the graphical tools available for package management in various distributions are merely frontends to the underlying package commands specific to that distribution. These graphical tools take care of the logic for you. In fact, you could completely skip learning the underlying commands and work entirely within the easy-to-use graphical tools to manage your installed software. However, it’s very useful to understand how the internals of package management work in case you find yourself in a situation where the GUI tools fail to function.

Here’s an example that can help clear up the relationship between package management commands and graphical tools such as the Software Manager. Take the following command, for example:

sudo apt-get install filezilla

When the preceding command is run in the terminal, it will instruct your system to fetch the FileZilla application from Mint’s repositories and install it. Your system will also install any and all dependencies required to make FileZilla function. Sounds familiar? It should. That’s exactly the same thing that occurs if you were to instruct the Software Manager or Synaptic to install the FileZilla application. The graphical tools are simply using the underlying command to install the application. In the case of Mint, the Software Manager (when instructed by you to install a new application) is simply calling the apt-get command in the background and using it to install the package you asked for.

Similarly, the apt-get command, shown as follows, can be used to remove packages as well:

sudo apt-get remove filezilla

If you don’t think you’ll need to use an application again and don’t feel you need to retain its configuration, you can remove the application as well as its configuration at the same time:

sudo apt-get remove --purge filezilla

In addition, you can also search via a terminal command to see if an application is available for installation. For example, we can run the following command to determine if Eclipse (an application for development) is available:

apt-cache search eclipse


Package names in Linux are usually lowercase, though this is not always the case. When in doubt, search for package names in lowercase first.

With the preceding command, we’re searching for any package that includes eclipse in the name. You may have noticed that we didn’t use “ sudo” in the preceding command. That’s because unlike installing or removing packages, elevated permissions are not required to merely search the package database in order to see what’s available.

There are many different apt commands available for other purposes. Feel free to check the man page for apt-get to learn even more.

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