Package Management on Linux Distributions

Published: 2022-01-12 | Last Updated: 2022-01-12 | ~5 Minute Read

Table of Contents

What is Package Management?

If you are familiar with GNU / Linux distributions you have surely come across these words at one point or another. For some users, usually more technically inclined, this is a factor that can “make or break” their decision of whether they will use a given Linux distribution or not.

Package management is simply a way to manage the many different software tools that are present on a Linux system.

We’ll be taking a look at an overview of package management today.

Why is Package Management Important?

This is not always obvious to the new Linux user, precisely because package management does its job so well, but package management plays a central role in keeping a Linux system operational over time.

The main job of a package management tool is to ensure that software installation, update and removal occurs in a user friendly manner. A proper package manager will aid the user throughout their use of a Linux distribution when trying to customize their system to fit their needs.

Major Package Management Systems

There are two main package management systems in use by Linux distributions today, those are the rpm (Red Had Package Manager) and the dpkg package management system crated by the Debian project.


The rpm package system was created by Red Hat and uses the .rpm suffix. Some of the distributions that support this package management system are Red Hat, Fedora, OpenSUSE and distributions based off these.

Some of the (basic) common commands used by this system are the following:

Installing an rpm package:

# rpm -i package.rpm

Upgrading an rpm package:

# rpm -U package.rpm

Removing an rpm package:

# rpm -e package.rpm


The dpkg package system was created by Debian and used the .deb suffix. Some of the distributions that support this package management system are Debian, Ubuntu, Mint and distributions based off these.

Some of the (basic) common commands used by this system are the following:

Installing a deb package:

# dpkg -i package.deb

Upgrading a deb package:

# dpkg -i package.deb

Removing a deb package:

# dpkg -r package.deb

Slackware Package Management

Slackware manages packages a bit differently from these two major package managers, Slackware uses the .tgz or .txz suffix. Slackware Linux is the main distribution that uses this type of package management but other distributions have also adopted this style of package management, FatDog64 for example.

Some of the (basic) common commands used by this system are the following:

Installing a Slackware package:

# installpkg package.tgz

Upgrading a Slackware package:

# upgradepkg package.tgz

Removing a Slackware package:

# removepkg package.tgz

Dependency Resolution

One of the commonly included features in package managers is dependency resolution. This feature enables the package manager to know which packages are required in order to successfully install and execute other packages. This is often accompanied with a way for the package manager to keep track of all the software that is installed on your system along with details about it like its version.

This allows for distributions to be easily updated and maintained by users of all technical backgrounds. Whether they’re technically advanced users or not they can easily execute one of the commands above in their Ubuntu system for example and the distribution will take care of all the technical requirements for them in order to ensure that the package they’re installing is able to run after installation is complete.

Both of the major package managers listed above provide automated dependency resolution. Slackware on the other hand does not, and instead allows the administrator to be in control of dependency resolution for their system. This is the intended behavior as stated in the Slackware philosophy and is seen as a positive by some and as a negative by others.


This brief look into package management shows that within the GNU/Linux ecosystem there are many different options that cater to different requirements and preferences alike. Which one you choose is up to you since you have the freedom to choose based on your own criteria.

Have a comment on one of my posts? Start a discussion in my public inbox by sending an email to ~grokkingnix/ [mailing list etiquette] [mailing list archive]

Posts from blogs I follow:

Introducing a Falkon extension RSS Finder

This weekend I decided to semi automate the process of searching for RSS feeds on websites while using Falkon web brosers. Many websites provide RSS feeds but do not provide any visible link or icon to access them (eg. many Wordpress based sites) and I ha…

via My land January 23, 2022
Help Chile write free software values, privacy, and digital sovereignty into their constitution

For those out of the loop, a group which included myself up until recently,1 Chile is in the midst of a revolution. They’re fighting against the increased cost of living, privatization of essential services, and worsening inequality — problems facing everyon…

via Drew DeVault's blog January 19, 2022
A warning to business owners and managers, you are a big part of the problem!

In my last couple of articles, mainly So-called modern web developers are the culprits and Is the madness ever going to end? I have written about some of the major problems with so-called modern web development and I have addressed the issues to the devel…

via January 13, 2022

Generated by openring