Package manager

A package manager or package-management system is a collection of software tools that automates the process of installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing computer programs for a computer in a consistent manner.[1]

Synaptic, example of a full-featured package manager

Early package managers, like from 1994, had no automatic dependency resolution[2] but could already drastically simplify the process of adding and removing software from a running system.[3] By around 1995, beginning with CPAN, package managers began doing the work of downloading packages from a repository, automatically resolving its dependencies and installing them as needed, making it much easier to install, uninstall and update software from a system.[4]

A package manager deals with packages, distributions of software and data in archive files. Packages contain metadata, such as the software's name, description of its purpose, version number, vendor, checksum (preferably a cryptographic hash function), and a list of dependencies necessary for the software to run properly. Upon installation, metadata is stored in a local package database. Package managers typically maintain a database of software dependencies and version information to prevent software mismatches and missing prerequisites. They work closely with software repositories, binary repository managers, and app stores.

Package managers are designed to eliminate the need for manual installs and updates. This can be particularly useful for large enterprises whose operating systems are typically consisting of hundreds or even tens of thousands of distinct software packages.[5]

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