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Aptitude is an Ncurses based Front-end to Apt, the debian package manager. Since it is text based, it is run from a terminal or a CLI (command line interface). Aptitude has a number of useful features, including:

The name of its primary command is aptitude, as is the name of its primary Debian package. The manual for the latest aptitude version is usually available here (in English). If you have package=aptitude-doc-en installed (other languages are available), you can find an HTML manual for your current version here (change path for other languages as appropriate).

Interactive Use

To run interactively, enter the following from a terminal:


After running it, use:

The common use of aptitude in TUI (text user interface) is; run aptitude; press 'u' (update the lists of available packages); press 'U' (Mark all upgradable packages to be upgraded); (search/select some stuff to install, is optional); press 'g' (to see the pending actions and modify if needed); press 'g' (again, to start the download).

Some time when you need to resolve conflicts, you discover that you made a mistake; you can easily use 'Cancel pending actions' in the 'Actions' menu so that you can re-select.

When reviewing pending actions:

See Accessing package information for understanding the letters in the package synopsis line (e.g., 'i' means "will be installed", 'p' means "not installed", etc.)

Manual use as root

You can also use aptitude in the same manner as apt-get:

Update the packages list :

# aptitude update

Upgrade the packages :

# aptitude safe-upgrade

Install foo :

# aptitude install foo

Remove bar :

# aptitude remove bar

Purge foo :

# aptitude purge foo

Functions for every user

Search for packaging containing foo :

$ aptitude search foo

Personally, I still use apt-cache search foo to perform a search – aptitude search foo is slower. But you should try the aptitude search foo way. You should discover that the output is a bit different from apt-cache, in some cases, it may be useful to search for a package to see if it is already installed.

showing if a specific package is installed :

$ aptitude show foo

How to upgrade your distribution

Upgrading from one stable release to the next (e.g. Lenny to Squeeze) is done by following the release notes for your architecture. For most people with 32 bit systems that means the Release Notes for Intel x86. For most with 64 bit systems that means the Release Notes for AMD64.

Using full-upgrade in the regular course of events is no longer the recommended practice (unless you are running sid, in which case you should not need to be reading this.)

Minor release upgrades (e.g. from lenny 5.0.1 to 5.0.2) and security updates are done with safe-upgrade.

$ cat /etc/debian_version

Example for upgrading from, e.g., etch 4.0r1 to 4.0r2 ...etc., or applying security upgrades:

# aptitude update
# aptitude safe-upgrade

apt-get to aptitude


apt-get command

aptitude command

Install foo

apt-get install foo

aptitude install foo

Search foo

apt-cache search foo

aptitude search foo

Remove foo

apt-get remove foo

aptitude remove foo

List reverse dependencies

apt-cache rdepends foo

aptitude search ~Dfoo

Print information on priorities for foo

apt-cache policy foo

aptitude versions foo

Download foo's sources and build a binary .deb package

apt-get source --compile foo


Advanced search patterns

Looking for packages installed from anything else than stable:

aptitude search '?narrow(?installed, !?archive(stable))'

Looking for packages installed from testing (assuming you have sources lists with stable and testing repositories):

aptitude search '?narrow(?installed, ?archive(testing) !?archive(stable))'

See Also

and ... apt.conf, preferences, sources.list, Aptitude::Parse-Description-Bullets=true, AptitudeTodo