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Installing software


At the root of all package goodness lies dpkg. This is a low-level command-line tool that can be used to install (and remove, list etc) Debian packages (basically .deb files).

The apt family of tools are medium-level command-line tools that use dpkg as the real workhorse. They provide a front-end to dpkg which is consequently called the back-end. Being command-line tools they may not always be very easy to use but apt commands can be fast and they are of course scriptable. Their biggest advantage over dpkg is that they can resolve dependencies (ie identify, download and install other packages needed by the package to be installed).

aptitude is a high-level tool that builds on apt (ie it is a front-end to the apt tools). It can be used as a command-line tool but it also has an easier interactive text-based interface (via ncurses) that incorporates elements of GUI-based applications. synaptic is, like aptitude, a high-level tool that also builds on apt. However, it is a GUI-based application.

The general method for new users of MX Linux is to use Synaptic, see the MX Users Manual, Section 5. This document discusses other methods.


  • Update the list of packages available from all defined repositories with this command:
    • apt-get update
  • Upgrade your current packages–after updating the list–with this command:
    • apt-get upgrade
  • Find all available versions (and the defined/cached repository containing) a given package:
    • apt-cache policy packagename
  • Install (or upgrade) a specified package with this command:
    • apt-get install packagename
  • (hit TAB once to autocomplete the name, hit TAB twice to display a list of alternatives)
  • you can install multiple packages:
    • apt-get install packagename1 packagename2
  • Remove installed packages with this command:
    • apt-get remove packagename
  • To see other available commands, type:
    • man apt-get


Aptitude is another frontend for apt, which can have some advantages over apt-get. See aptitude for a full discussion


  • Install downloaded programs with dpkg. Navigate to the folder containing the program, open a root terminal, and type:
    • dpkg -i <packagename>
  • If the folder contains many deb files that need to be installed, often in a particular order, then use a wildcard by typing:
    • dpkg -i *.deb
  • If you get a message that dependencies for that package have not been satisfied, type (make sure you read the prompts):
    • apt-get -f install

Other formats

  • if the package is available in .rpm format, you can install it with alien.
  • if the package is a .jar Java file, install it with
    • java -jar packagename.jar
  • if the package is a .bin run it with
    • sh packagename.bin
  • If that doesn’t work, make it executable by right-clicking the package in Thunar or another file manager, select Permissions tab and check “Is executable.” In a terminal:
    • chmod +x packagename.bin
  • Then run it with
    • ./packagename.bin

Use the same procedure for .sh and .run packages.

  • if the package is available in a tarball tar.gz or .tar.bz2 or .tbz: untar it and look for Install script (read INSTALL and/or README files provided with the tarball)
    • if the tarball contains only source code, read Compiling.

v. 20150719

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