Debian Package Management, Part 1: A User's Guide

A HOWTO for Debian package management.

Gnome-apt is a GUI package manager for Debian built around Gnome. It is incredibly intuitive and can be quite useful. Gnome-apt displays package sizes, dependencies and just about any other relevant information in a well laid-out interface. The packages are presented in a sorted tree (see Figure 2), and gnome-apt can display packages broken down alphabetically or by section, status or priority. It also has easy and powerful search functionality. Gnome-apt is included in Debian 2.2 (Potato) and the current unstable distribution (Woody).

Figure 2. Gnome-apt: A Package Tool


KPackage is the KDE package front end for both RPM and Deb. It uses a combination of tabbed and tree interfaces (see Figure 3), and the functionality is similar to gnome-apt. One of the cool features of Kpackage is that the dependencies are hyperlinks to the packages they reference. Kpackage also lists the files included in each installed archive and checks to make sure they all exist. It can be found at

Figure 3: Kpackage: Building Package Tree


console-apt is a new front end just for APT. Currently, it is only available in the unstable distribution of Debian; as it is still in development, I won't say too much about it. Console-apt does have some nice features, though, including a much more intuitive and usable interface, progress indicators for downloads, selective upgrades and the ability to search, sort and filter the package listings.

The End

Using these options and features, you should now be able to maintain and manage your Debian package system with ease. Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it actually is. I've tried to provide as many options as Debian offers but had to leave some out; I have not yet been able to pry myself away from APT. In conclusion, I haven't seen any RPM front end that I feel is on the same level as APT.

David Blackman is a student system administrator at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. He has recently fallen in love with Helix Code Gnome. He enjoys pointer arithmetic in C and the evils of Perl.