Ubuntu – Generating list of manually installed packages and querying individual packages

aptaptitudepackage-management

I'd like to get a list of packages installed manually by apt or aptitude and be able to find out whether a foobar package was installed manually or automatically. Is there any neat way of doing that from the command line?

Best Answer

  • You can use either of these two one-liners. Both yield the exact same output on my machine and are more precise than all solutions proposed up until now (July 6, 2014) in this question.

    Using apt-mark:

    comm -23 <(apt-mark showmanual | sort -u) <(gzip -dc /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz | sed -n 's/^Package: //p' | sort -u)
    

    Using aptitude:

    comm -23 <(aptitude search '~i !~M' -F '%p' | sed "s/ *$//" | sort -u) <(gzip -dc /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz | sed -n 's/^Package: //p' | sort -u)
    

    Very few packages still fall through the cracks, although I suspect these are actually installed by the user, either right after the installation through the language localization setup or e.g. through the Totem codec installer. Also, the linux-header versions also seem to accumulate, even though I've only installed the non version-specific metapackage. Examples:

    libreoffice-help-en-gb
    openoffice.org-hyphenation
    gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mp3
    linux-headers-3.13.0-29    
    

    How does it work:

    1. Get the list of manually installed packages. For aptitude, the additional sed strips out remaining whitespace at the end of the line.
    2. Get the list of packages installed right after a fresh install.
    3. Compare the files, only output the lines in file 1 that are not present in file 2.

    Other possibilities don't work as well:

    • Using the ubuntu-14.04-desktop-amd64.manifest file (here for Ubuntu 14.04) instead of /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz. More packages are shown as manually installed even though they are not.
    • Using apt-mark showauto instead of /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz. apt-mark for example doesn't include the xserver-xorg package, while the other file does.

    I used various other StackExchange posts as references, however none work as well as the above solution:

    Both list more packages than the above solution.

    EDIT: What to do if you've upgraded from a previous release:

    If you've upgraded Ubuntu from one release to the next, you will probably need to adjust this process. In that case, I would check the manifest file of the newer release (see above) in addition to the initial-status.gz file from the current release. You can easily do that by just adding another comparison. Using just the manifest file will not work, as the manifest file unfortunately does not contain everything that the initial_status.gz file does (I checked).