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Synaptic Package Manager

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Title: Synaptic Package Manager  
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Subject: Package management system, Xandros, Advanced Packaging Tool, LabVIEW, Cooperative Linux, PCLinuxOS, Kurumin, Xming, Debconf (software package), Xubuntu
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Synaptic Package Manager

Synaptic Package Manager
Developer(s) Alfredo Kojima, Gustavo Niemeyer and Michael Vogt
Initial release November 13, 2001; 12 years ago (2001-11-13)
Stable release 0.75.12 / June 12, 2012; 2 years ago (2012-06-12)
Written in C, C++ and Python
Operating system Debian and other distributions using APT
Type Package manager
License GNU GPL

Synaptic is a computer program which is a GTK+ graphical user interface front-end to the Advanced Packaging Tool for the Debian package management system. Synaptic is usually used on systems based on deb packages but can also be used on systems based on RPM packages. It can be used to install, remove and upgrade software packages and to add repositories.


  • Install, remove, upgrade and downgrade single and multiple packages
  • System-wide upgrade
  • Package search utility
  • Manage package repositories
  • Find packages by name, description and several other attributes
  • Select packages by status, section, name or a custom filter
  • Sort packages by name, status, size or version
  • Browse available online documentation related to a package
  • Download the latest changelog of a package
  • Lock packages to the current version
  • Force the installation of a specific package version
  • Undo/Redo of selections
  • Built-in terminal emulator for the package manager
  • Allows creation of download scripts (see Usage for more details)

It also has the following features for Debian and Ubuntu only:

  • Configure packages through the debconf system
  • Xapian-based fast search
  • Get screenshots from


The package manager enables the user to install, to upgrade or to remove software packages. To install a package a user must search for the program they want and mark it for installation. Changes are not applied instantly; the user must first mark all changes and then apply them.

Download scripts are lists of the URLs of the files which must be downloaded in order to install a particular application. This list is the difference between the list of all files required by the application, which is found in the "Apt Package Index" (which is stored in /var/lib/apt/lists and should be updated with "sudo apt-get update" before creating a download script), and the list of files required by the application which are already available on the system. Download scripts are useful for those with slow internet connections who want to download large software packages using computers with high-speed internet connections, such as typical public library computers. Scripts for multiple packages can also be generated by simply marking one package, searching for another, marking it, etc., and then generating a download script. These scripts are executed by programs such as wget or Wassail by "Cortman," which causes the files in the script to be downloaded. The advantage of Wassail is that it doesn't have to be installed, but can be simply run from your flash drive on any Windows 7 (or higher) system, whereas wget has to be installed, and is unlikely to be installed on the typical public library computer. After Wassail is launched, it is "pointed" at the download script of interest. It then downloads the software package and places it in the folder where IT (Wassail) is located, so it should be placed in a folder specifically for the package being downloaded. The flash drive is then plugged into the computer where the package is to be installed. Synaptic is then launched, and in the menu at the top, File/"Add downloaded packages" is selected. The rest should be obvious.

If significant time has passed since the package was installed (even in the unlikely case that you haven't made any other changes), and you want to re-install the package, you might want to generate a new download script and use it to get a fresh download to ensure that you have the latest version.

The Synaptic download is in this writer's experience less than 4MB (the size depends on what dependencies have to be installed at the same time), so if your Linux distro doesn't have it, it can be installed with whatever package manager is installed, even over a slow connection, in a reasonable amount of time.

Backing up and re-installing downloaded packages

To avoid having to re-download any installed packages, such as if a flash-drive installation dies without warning (which would effectively destroy any data saved on it – so save data, including web-browser bookmarks, on a separate flash drive or two, and perhaps encrypt them), this section's writer (using the term loosely) suggests installing Synaptic first, and backing up the files which are downloaded in the process (which are automatically placed in "File System"/var/cache/apt/archives during installation) on a couple of backup flash drives, IN FOLDERS RESERVED FOR Synaptic. (The idea is to isolate the files required to install Synaptic, so it can be installed on the replacement Linux installation first without having to download Synaptic again, and then used to install any other backup-packages as if they were a multiple-package download. There are other approaches to installing Synaptic first on the replacement Linux installation, but they're not as easy, or they require another Synaptic download.) Once the files required for installing Synaptic are isolated and backed up, the entire apt/archives directory would be saved to the same backup flash drives (but not to the folders reserved for Synaptic), each time another package is installed.

To install these backup-packages on the replacement Linux installation (which would have to be the same version as the original installation in order to use this method), Synaptic would be installed first, beginning by copying and pasting the contents of its backup folder into the /var/cache/apt/archives directory. Pasting to this folder requires root privileges, which can be obtained by entering 'gksudo nautilus' on the command line. This opens Nautilus, the file browser/manager, but without the usual protections against destroying the system, so be careful.

Once the Synaptic package is pasted into /var/cache/apt/archives, the folder whose name begins with "synaptic", which was just copied to the apt/archives directory, would be right-clicked and opened with the default package manager (this option, which also requires root privileges, appears in a menu after right-clicking). Synaptic could then be installed. (An internet connection might be required, and installation can take a while, even though no packages would be downloaded.) Once Synaptic is installed, Nautilus should be closed to protect the system.

Now, Synaptic can be used for installing the rest of the backup-packages by using one of the apt/archive's backup folders as if it were a multiple-package download. Others might suggest using Apt On CD, but this would require an approximately 8 MB download (performed by entering "sudo apt-get install aptoncd," etc.), and it would be redundant if one already has Synaptic.


Synaptic development was funded by Conectiva, which asked Alfredo Kojima, then an employee, to write a graphical frontend for APT, continuing the work initiated with the creation of the APT RPM backend, apt-rpm. Eventually Synaptic became used in Conectiva's install process.


In October 2009, when the Ubuntu Software Center became available, Synaptic and other utilities were to be replaced by the Ubuntu Software Center in an unspecified future version of Ubuntu.[1] In Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, Synaptic has been removed from the default installation, but remains available as a package in the repository.[2]

When one installs a new package, Aptitude, like Synaptic, automatically installs required packages (called dependencies). But when one removes a manually installed package, Aptitude also has the ability to remove the no-longer-used packages that were automatically installed. The same effect, however, can be achieved through a terminal with an apt command: apt-get autoremove.

See also

Free software portal


External links

  • Synaptic in, including the improvements.
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