Aptitude is an Ncurses and command-line based front-end to numerous Apt libraries, which are also used by Apt, the default Debian package manager. Aptitude is text based and run from a terminal.
Aptitude has a number of useful features, including:
a mutt-like syntax for matching packages in a flexible manner
mark packages as “automatically installed” or “manually installed” so that packages can be auto-removed when no longer required (feature available in Apt, too, since quite a few Debian release)
apt-like (i.e. apt-get and apt-cache) command line mode (“aptitude install foo”)
Score-based dependency resolver which is more suitable for interactive dependency resolution with additional hints from the user like “I don’t want that part of the solution but keep that other part of the solution for your next try”. Apt’s dependency resolver on the other hand is optimized for good “one shot” solutions.
The primary command is “aptitude”, as is the name of its primary Debian package.
Aptitude User Manual
Online: The manual for the latest version of aptitude is usually available (in English) on the Debian website.
On your local system:
If you have the package aptitude-doc-en installed (other languages are available), you can find an HTML manual for your installed version /usr/share/doc/aptitude/html/en/index.html (change path for other languages as appropriate).
If you have just aptitude installed (e.g. for disk space reasons), a plain text variant of the user manual is still available at /usr/share/doc/aptitude/README.
To run interactively, enter the following from a terminal:
After running it, use:
- F10 or Ctrl-T to access the menu.
- ‘?’ for help
- The ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘left’, ‘right’ keys to navigate.
- The ‘Enter’ key to select or open and close a single level
- The bracket keys (‘[‘ and ‘]’) to open and close levels recursively
- The ‘+’ or ‘-‘ key to install/update or remove a package
- The ‘g’ key to preview/confirm actions
- ‘q’ to quit – this also closes the currently open window (‘g’ goes forward, ‘q’ goes back)
- Forward and backward slash (‘/’ and ‘\’) for searching forward or backward.
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 dependency resolutions (shown after pressing ‘e’), press:
- cursor keys or vi style j/k to select actions or action groups,
- ‘a’ to explicitly insist on an action (use again to go back to no specific decision)
- ‘r’ to reject an action (use again to go back to no specific decision)
- dot (‘.’) to show the next proposed dependency resolution
- comma (‘,’) to show the previous proposed dependency resolution
- exclamation mark (‘!’) to accept the currently shown dependency resolution
When reviewing pending actions, press:
- ‘g’ again to go ahead and execute the pending actions
- ‘q’ to go back to the previous view
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.)
Functions only useful as root
You can also use aptitude in the same manner as apt-get:
Update the packages list :
Upgrade the packages :
Functions useful for every user
Search for packaging containing 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 :
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.)