How to list installed packages in Linux

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With thousands of free Linux apps, it’s easy to lose track of what you once installed but no longer use. Here’s how to list installed applications in the major Linux families.

The app graveyard

The choice of free and open source applications available to Linux users is staggering. For a newcomer to Linux it can be overwhelming. But it’s also part of the fun. If you have a particular need, you look for a piece of software to address that need. If you don’t get along with the one you meet, no problem. There are probably dozens more that you can try until you find one that meets all your requirements.

If you’re not scrupulous about uninstalling the ones you know you won’t use, they’ll sit on your system taking up hard drive space. If you’re a programmer, you’ll also have unused toolkits and libraries scattered around your computer. On a desktop, with today’s reasonably cheap high-capacity drives, that might not be much of a problem in and of itself. In laptops, it is more of a concern due to their smaller storage capacities.

But whether or not you have free hard drive space, accumulating unused software means software updates will take longer because you’re updating all those unused apps along with the ones you actually use. System images and other backups will be larger than necessary, take longer to complete, and consume more backup media.

There is also the possibility of incompatibilities between the components of the installed and forgotten applications and the new ones that you try to install.

To handle the situation, the obvious first step is to find out what is installed. Once you know what, you can go through the list and decide what stays and what goes. The way to find out what has been installed varies from one Linux distribution to another. RedHat-derived distributions use the dnf package manager, use of distributions derived from Debian apt and Arch-based distributions use pacman.

Other distribution-independent installation methods exist, such as snap Y flatpak that we should also consider.

List of applications installed with dnf

Fedora is the most successful of the RedHat-derived desktop distributions. We’ll use that to discuss the list of installed apps with the dnf packaging manager.

Listing installed packages is very simple.

dnf list installed

list of installed applications with dnf

This produces an avalanche of information.

List of applications installed from dnf

To see how many packages were listed, we can pass the output through wcwith the -l (lines) option.

counting installed apps with dnf and wc

this tells us dnf found 1,968 packages installed. To make the output more manageable, you can pipe it to grepand search for packages of interest.

dnf list installed | grep terminal

Using grep to search for specific entries in the dnf output

You can also pipe the output to less and use the search function inside less to find what you are looking for.

If you see a package in the list that you want more information about, which is a good idea if you’re considering removing it, you can use the dnf info domain.

You must provide the package name without the platform architecture details. For example, to see the details of the “gnome-terminal.x86_64” package, you would type:

dnf info gnome-terminal

get the details of a single app with dnf

RELATED: What’s New in Fedora 36

List of applications installed with apt

the apt command is the replacement for the above apt-get domain. It is the command line tool for the Debian distribution and the many distributions that have sprung from it, like the entire Ubuntu family of distributions.

To see the list of installed packages, use this command:

apt list --installed

list of applications installed with apt

As expected, the output is long and passes quickly.

The output of the apt list command

To see how many inputs there are, we can pipe wclike we did before.

apt list --installed | wc -l

counting installed apps with apt and wc

To find packages of interest, we can use grep and part of the name or subject that interests us.

apt list --installed | grep xfonts

Using grep to search for specific entries in apt output

To investigate a single packet, use the apt show command with the package name.

apt show xml-core

Get the details of a single app with apt

RELATED: apt vs apt-get: What’s the difference in Linux?

List of applications installed with pacman

the pacman The package manager is used in Arch Linux and its derivatives, such as Manjaro and EndeavourOS. To list packages using pacman we need to use the -Q (query) option.

pacman -Q

List of applications installed with pacman

The list of packages is displayed in the terminal window.

List of installed pacman applications

Installing a single application is likely to cause multiple packages to be installed due to unsatisfied dependencies. If the application requires a particular library and it is not present on your computer, the installation will provide it. Similarly, uninstalling an app can cause multiple packages to be removed. So the number of apps is not the same as the number of packages.

To count installed packages, we pipe the output through wc and use the -l (lines) option, as before.

pacman -Q | wc -l

counting installed apps with pacman and wc

the -i The (info) option allows us to see the details of a package.

pacman -Qi bash

Get information about a single application with pacman

Adding the -i The twice option may provide a bit more information, if any is available.

pacman -Qii bash

Using the -i option twice with pacman

In this case, there are some extra lines at the bottom of the list that show where the “.bash_profile” and “.bash_logout” template files are located.

additional information provided by using the -i option twice with pacman

RELATED: Why I switched from Ubuntu to Manjaro Linux

List of applications installed with flatpak

There are ways to install applications that are distribution-independent. They are designed to be universal package managers. They install sandboxed versions of applications, including any dependencies they have. This makes it easy to install different versions of an application without having to worry about incompatibilities or cross-contamination from one version to another.

From a software developer’s perspective, using a universal package manager means they only have to package their app once and have all distributions covered.

the flatpak system is one of the two most popular universal installers. if you have used flatpak on your computer, you can still list installed applications.

flatpak list

list of apps installed with flatpak

This lists the installed applications and the associated runtimes that have been installed to satisfy those applications’ dependencies. To view only apps, add the --app option.

flatpak list --app

list apps but excluding runtimes using flatpak

To view the details of an individual application, use the info command and the Application ID of the package, not the name of the application.

flatpak info org.blender.Blender

View the details of a single flatpak app

List of applications installed with plugin

The other popular universal package manager is called snap. It is a canon initiative. It is used by default in the Ubuntu software application in recent versions of Ubuntu and snap It can also be installed on other distributions.

To list the applications that have been installed using snapuse this command.

snap list

list of apps installed with snap

To view details for a single app, use the snapshot info command and the app name.

snap info firefox

get the details of a single instant app

RELATED: How to work with Snap packages on Linux

Make informed decisions

dnf, aptY pacman has options that automatically find and remove orphaned and unneeded packages. But they won’t find old packages that you don’t use anymore. That requires human intervention and the knowledge of what requires uninstall. That’s where these helpful commands come in.

After freeing up some space, you may be interested in learning how to install Android apps on your Linux device.