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Search for Install Packages from the Ubuntu Command Line

When you are trying to install software on Ubuntu or Debian linux using the apt-get package system, quite often you’ll forget the exact name of the package you are trying to install. Here’s how you can get a little help figuring out what the name is.

Syntax:

apt-cache search SearchTerm

Example:

> apt-cache search monodevelop

monodevelop – C#/Boo/Java/Nemerle/ILasm Development Environment
monodevelop-boo – Boo plugin for MonoDevelop
monodevelop-java – Java plugin for MonoDevelop
monodevelop-nunit – NUnit plugin for MonoDevelop
monodevelop-query – MonoQuery plugin for MonoDevelop
monodevelop-versioncontrol – VersionControl plugin for MonoDevelop

Rather useful, no? I’ve found it very useful even when I know the name of the package I’m trying to install, you can figure out what the names of extra plugins are, as in the above example. I had initially installed monodevelop, but didn’t realize there was nunit and version control plugins for it.

You may also want to run the results through a more, or even a grep. For instance:

> apt-cache search firefox | grep plugin

libflash-mozplugin – GPL Flash (SWF) Library – Mozilla-compatible plugin
mozilla-helix-player – the helix audio and video player (browser plugin)
j2re1.4-mozilla-plugin – Java plugin for mozilla/firefox
mozilla-acroread – Adobe Acrobat(R) Reader plugin for mozilla / konqueror
totem-gstreamer-firefox-plugin – Totem Firefox Plugin – gstreamer version
totem-xine-firefox-plugin – Totem Firefox Plugin – xine version

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/16/06

Comments (8)

  1. beza1e1

    If you do “apt-cache show monodevelop”, you see a line:

    Suggests: monodevelop-boo, monodevelop-java, monodevelop-nunit, monodevelop-versioncontrol, monodevelop-query, nemerle

    You can use “aptitude”, which is an improved “apt-get” and install via “aptitude install -r monodevelop”. The “-r” will cause it to install all suggestions.

  2. The Geek

    Thanks, that’s very helpful. I was thinking of posting a how-to for aptitude as well.

  3. cazacu pavel

    does anyone know where i can comand some cd’s with UBUNTU because i heard they’re free

  4. The Geek

    You can download ubuntu from the Ubuntu website. You can also order them from there as well.

  5. pbj

    apt-cache is great for a number of things, but I think aptitude has a better search function in this instance;
    aptitude search

    mostly because it’ll also return status of the package.

  6. Ashiq

    i have found a problem about the lack (gstreamer) all plugin .so please help me to give me all plugin through my mail.
    Thanks.

  7. nubitol

    hi, i am having curious to install packages found by “apt-cache search”. please help me how to install all the packages without typing the name of the packages one by one. thankyou.

  8. Matt

    @nubitol, this will work to install all the packages found by “apt-cache search [query]“:

    apt-get install $(apt-cache search SEARCH_STRING | awk ‘{print $1}’)

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