One thing a new Linux user will get to know as he/she progresses in using it is the existence of several Linux distributions and the different ways they manage packages.
Package management is very important in Linux, and knowing how to use multiple package managers can prove life-saving for a power user, since downloading or installing software from repositories, plus updating, handling dependencies and uninstalling software is very vital and a critical section in Linux System Administration.
Therefore to become a Linux power user, it is significant to understand how the major Linux distributions actually handle packages and in this article, we shall take a look at some of the best package managers you can find in Linux.
Here, our main focus is on relevant information about some of the best package managers, but not how to use them, that is left to you to discover more. But I will provide meaningful links that point out usage guides and many more.
1. DPKG – Debian Package Management System
Dpkg is a base package management system for the Debian Linux family, it is used to install, remove, store, and provide information about
It is a low-level tool and there are front-end tools that help users to obtain packages from remote repositories and/or handle complex package relations these include:
APT (Advanced Packaging Tool)
It is a very popular, free, powerful, and more so, useful command line package management system that is a front end for the dpkg package management system.
Users of Debian or its derivatives such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint should be familiar with this package management tool.
To understand how it actually works, you can go over these how-to guides:
Aptitude Package Manager
This is also a popular command line front-end package management tool for the Debian Linux family, it works similarly to APT and there have been a lot of comparisons between the two, but above all, testing out both can make you understand which one actually works better.
It was initially built for Debian and its derivatives but now its functionality stretches to the RHEL family as well. You can refer to this guide for more understanding of APT and Aptitude:
Synaptic Package Manager
Synaptic is a GUI package management tool for APT based on GTK+ and it works fine for users who may not want to get their hands dirty on a command line. It implements the same features as the apt-get command line tool.
2. RPM (Red Hat Package Manager)
This is the Linux Standard Base packing format and a base package management system created by RedHat. Being the underlying system, there are several front-end package management tools that you can use with it and but we shall only look at the best and that is:
YUM (Yellowdog Updater, Modified)
It is an open-source and popular command line package manager that works as an interface for users to RPM. You can compare it to APT under Debian Linux systems, it incorporates the common functionalities that APT has. You can get a clear understanding of YUM with examples from this how-to guide:
DNF – Dandified Yum
It is also a package manager for RPM-based distributions, introduced in Fedora 18 and it is the next generation of the version of YUM.
If you have been using Fedora 22 onwards, you must have realized that it is the default package manager. Here are some links that will provide you with more information about DNF and how to use it:
3. Pacman Package Manager – Arch Linux
It is a popular and powerful yet simple package manager for Arch Linux and some little-known Linux distributions, it provides some of the fundamental functionalities that other common package managers provide including installing, automatic dependency resolution, upgrading, uninstalling, and also downgrading software.
But most effectively, it is built to be simple for easy package management by Arch users. You can read this Pacman overview which explains in detail some of its functions mentioned above.
4. Zypper Package Manager – openSUSE
It is a command line package manager on OpenSUSE Linux and makes use of the libzypp library, its common functionalities include repository access, package installation, resolution of dependencies issues, and many more.
Importantly, it can also handle repository extensions such as patterns, patches, and products. New OpenSUSE users can refer to the following guide to master it.
5. Portage Package Manager – Gentoo
It is a package manager for Gentoo, a less popular Linux distribution as of now, but this won’t limit it as one of the best package managers in Linux.
The main aim of the Portage project is to make a simple and trouble-free package management system to include functionalities such as backward compatibility, automation plus many more.
For better understanding, try reading the Portage project page.
As I already hinted at the beginning, the main purpose of this guide was to provide Linux users a list of the best package managers but knowing how to use them can be done by following the necessary links provided and trying to test them out.
Users of the different Linux distributions will have to learn more on their own to better understand the different package managers mentioned above.