How to Use the apt command to Search for a Package in Ubuntu?

How To Use The Apt Command To

In our last article, we learned how to list packages in Ubuntu with the apt command. Today, let’s learn to use the apt command to search for a package in Ubuntu.

Linux relies on packages to deliver or install applications on a system. These packages are essentially compressed file archives. These archives are used when the user wishes to install a new application or service on their system. The packages are stored in a ‘repository’ and accessed by a package management service when required. This package management service enables the user to access, modify, and install the required packages.

Getting started

The package management service for Ubuntu and Debian based systems is called the Advanced Package Tool. Or ‘APT’ for short. If you have been using Linux for a while, you must have seen the apt command. APT was designed to provide a user-friendly, interactive front-end for the users to manage packages.

The major reason behind the development of APT was to save new users from the complexity of using the dpkg command. APT is responsible for installing, removing, updating and managing packages of Ubuntu and Debian based systems.

APT was noticed by the majority in Ubuntu 16.04 and it immediately soared off in popularity. You use APT in the command line with the help of the ‘apt’ command. While apt command offers a wide range of functionality, in this tutorial we will focus on one aspect: searching a package using the apt command.

Different ways to Use the apt Command to Search for a Package

There are instances when we need to use the apt command to search for a package to identify the package name. In such an instance, we need to take the help of the ‘search’ function of the apt tool. The apt utility provides us with three commonly used methods to check if you have a specific package in your repository. Let us go through each of these in order.

Using apt-cache search

The apt-cache search command is very common when you want to use the apt command to search for a package. It is designed to search the package name along with its metadata such as the description, dependencies, source, and version. The command returns all the packages whose name or metadata matches the specified search keyword. Following is the syntax for searching a package using the apt-cache search command.

apt-cache search [keyword]
Apt Cache Search Sudo
Apt Cache Search Sudo

This is the older version of the search command. The newer version is the one next.

Using apt search

Another method to search for available packages in your repository is to use the apt search command. This command is designed to search all the available packages in our local repository. If found, it will return the names for all the packages whose name matches our specified search keyword. This is how the syntax for this command looks.

apt search [keyword]
Apt Search Sudo 1
Apt Search Sudo

As you can see, the above screenshot shows that the data is a little more organized and visually pleasing compared to the apt-cache search output. Also it’s alphabetically arranged allowing us to see all the packages that match. The sudo package is listed close to the end of this list.

Using apt-file search

Alternatively, you can use the apt-file command. This is a command-line tool which is a part of the APT package manager. It is specifically designed to search for packages and the files stored in them as part of your repository. This command will return all the packages where the package name or any file name stored in it matches the specified search keyword. This is the syntax for using the apt-file search command on Ubuntu.

apt-file search [keyword]
Apt File Search Sudo 1
Apt File Search Sudo 1

If you get an error while using this utility, you can run apt install apt-file and then do an apt-file update before beginning your search.

Wrapping up

Linux based systems utilize packages for installing and running all kinds of applications and services. This makes it essential for a Linux user to be able to manage and keep a note of all the available packages in their local repository. Keeping a mental note of all the packages available in your repository is beyond human capacity. So thankfully, we can use the apt command to search for a package in Ubuntu. 

We hope this tutorial was able to help you understand how to search for a package on Ubuntu. If you have any feedback, queries or suggestions, feel free to reach out to us in the comments below.