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It doesn't matter which Linux distribution you are using, you need to be able to install new software onto the system. Each distribution has its own package format (combination of metadata, configuration, and software), as well as a built-in package manager that allows you to install, update, and remove the software.
There are also third-party package managers that are designed to make life easier for the user. Each package manager has its own unique way of downloading and installing software, maintaining the system, handling dependencies, and uninstalling software.
Sometimes the ability to work with one or another package manager or its ease of use can be a decisive factor in choosing a Linux distribution to use. In this article, we'll take a look at five package managers that, in our opinion, deserve your attention.
Before we look at popular package managers, let's look at the problem of installing various packages and distributions on all computers in an organization, from servers to desktops, laptops, and even mobile devices. Many people who are considering using specialized versions of Linux distributions in their organization will encounter this problem.
Packagecloud is a cloud-based service for distributing different software packages in a unified, reliable, and scalable way, without owning any infrastructure. You can keep all of the packages that need to be distributed across your organization's machines in one repo, regardless of OS or programming language. Then, you can efficiently distribute your packages to your devices in a secure way, without having to own any of the infrastructure involved in doing so.
This enables users to save time and money on setting up servers for hosting packages for each OS. Packagecloud allows users to set up and update machines faster and with less overhead than ever before.
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APT package manager
APT (Advanced Package Tool) is a more advanced front-end for dpkg (Debian Package), the lowest-level package management system for Debian-based Linux distributions. APT is a powerful command-line package management tool providing an interface for better interactive usage. As with dpkg, APT can install, remove, and build packages.
The advanced functionality of APT is that it can update your packages and automatically install dependencies. It is able to automatically install and configure programs for UNIX-like operating systems from both pre-compiled packages and source codes. It also provides command-line tools for searching, managing, and querying information about packages.
Packages are taken from online repositories, or they can be installed from local media. The list of package sources is stored in the /etc/apt/sources.list file and the /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ directory.
APT can be called a user-friendly package manager as it has a fairly simple syntax.
YUM package manager
Just as APT is a more advanced front-end for dpkg, YUM (Yellow Dog Updater) is the most popular choice as front-end for RPM, the basic package management software for RHEL operating systems.
YUM was designed to make it easier to work with distribution updates by keeping track of dependencies between packages. The command-line interface is used to work with YUM, but there are tools that provide a graphical interface for the YUM functionality.
YUM allows users to configure automated software updates and dependency resolution. The YUM manager works with package repositories from the distribution manufacturer or third-party authors. It is possible to create local or offline copies of the repositories or access them via the Internet.
YUM can perform such operations as searching for packages in repositories, installing packages from repositories, installing packages from .rpm files, updating the system, removing packages, and downgrading packages.
ZYpp package manager
ZYpp is the package management engine for OpenSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise. It is another dependency resolver for the RPM package management system. ZYpp is written in C++ and therefore is faster than YUM, which is written in Python.
Using ZYpp, you can use short commands that can be used instead of the full commands. For example, to update and upgrade all packages, you can enter the short command “sudo zypper up” instead of the full command “sudo zypper update”. This makes working with packages very easy and fast. To further increase the speed of working with packages, ZYpp offers an efficient caching mechanism: Zypp can keep a copy of all the RPM packages it grabs from the Internet in a specific location. Any time you ask zypper to install the same package, it first looks into the cache.
Zypper is ZYpp's own command-line interface for installing, uninstalling, updating, and requesting software packages from local or remote (network) media. Its graphical equivalent is the YaST Package Manager module.
ZYpp can also handle repository extensions such as patterns, patches, and products. In addition, Zypper has an interesting feature that allows installing and removing packages at the same time.
DNF package manager
DNF (Dandified Packaging Tool) is a package manager that installs, updates, and removes packages on RPM-based Linux distributions. It is a more advanced version of the YUM manager and intended to be the replacement for YUM in RPM-based systems.
DNF was created to improve YUM in terms of performance, quality of resolving dependency conflicts, and simplified integration with other applications. DNF was introduced in Fedora 18. Now, it is the default package manager of Fedora 22, CentOS8, and RHEL8.
DNF is able to automatically compute dependencies and determine the actions required to install packages. DNF also makes it easier to maintain groups of machines by eliminating the need to manually update each one with RPM. DNF provides a strict API for extensions and plugins that can modify or extend features of DNF or provide additional CLI commands on top of standard commands.
It supports multiple repositories and package groups, including multiple-repository groups. DNF has a simple interface and configuration, and it provides dependency calculation based on modern dep solving technology.
Packagecloud package manager
When you need to manage packages on many machines with different distributions or different versions of distributions, you need to look for a comprehensive solution to solve this problem. In this case, you should pay attention to multi-platform package managers such as the packagecloud package manager.
Packagecloud is a cloud-based service for distributing different software packages. With it, you can store all of the packages that are required by your organization, regardless of OS or programming language, and repeatedly distribute them to their destination machines.
Packagecloud currently supports RPM, DEB, Debian source, Java, Python, and Node.js packages and RubyGems. The development team is actively working on support for additional package formats.
Using packagecloud, users create packagecloud repos. These are repos that can contain packages of any supported types. For example, Debian, RPM, RubyGem, and Python packages can all coexist in the same packagecloud repo. In addition, one packagecloud repo can have packages for multiple Linux distributions.
Packagecloud can be deployed easily on any cloud provider that you currently use or on physical infrastructure in your existing data center. It provides a user-friendly GUI which helps users to install and use the repos in a very simple way in no time.
All these features enable users to efficiently, reliably, and securely set up and update machines without owning any of the infrastructures that is typically required to do that.
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As you can see, most package managers were developed to perform the same tasks. Many of them have similar functionality. The developers try to make the commands for working with package managers clear and easy to remember. At the same time, they add the maximum number of automatic actions to them too. Any package manager can install, uninstall, and update software and handle dependencies. Most of them can work with online repositories and local packages.
For example, packagecloud supports many types of packages. Its repositories can contain all supported types of packages or have packages for multiple Linux distributions simultaneously. This enables users to keep all of the packages that need to be distributed across their organization's machines in one repository, regardless of OS or programming language. It makes it possible, without the need to own any of the infrastructure involved, to efficiently and securely distribute your packages to your devices.
Sign up for the packagecloud free trial to easily set up and update your machines!