For those of you who like a little more power behind your tools you will certainly appreciate the Aptitude front-end for the apt package management system. Aptitude is based on the ncurses computer terminal library so you know it's a pseudo-hybrid between console and gui. Aptitude has a powerful search system as well as an outstanding ncurses-based menu system that allows you to move around selections with the tab key and the arrow keys.
But don't think, when you fire up Aptitude, you are going to be greeted with a sexy graphical front end. No. When you start up this application you are going to be teleported back into the mid-90s when front-end applications were just arriving onto the scene. But Aptitude is so much more than that. Aptitude is a powerful tool to help you use the apt package management system.
To open Aptitude you need to first open a terminal emulator (such as aterm, gnome-terminal, or konsole). I will warn you, if you are like me and use Aterm in full-blown transparency Aptitude might look at little strange. So instead you should fire up another terminal or use Aterm without transparency.
To start up aptitude you will need root or sudo access. Using sudo you would start Aptitude like so: sudo aptitude.
There are two main sections to focus on. First is the main window. This is where you will see a listing of the what is available. As you can see from the image above there are upgradable packages, new packages, etc. What you don't see is the Aptitude menu. To access this menu you have to hit the Ctrl-T combination (that is the Control key plus the "t" key at the same time.) When you open up the Aptitude menu you navigate this menu using the arrow keys.
Before you actually get into installing packages with Aptitude, you have to select packages to install. You do this outside of the menu in the main window. Without the menu open you can move up and down the window entries with the arrow keys. When you land on an entry you want to expand you hit the Enter key. Let's install something.
Using the arrow keys move down to the "Not Installed Packages" entry and hit Enter. This will expand to reveal a number of sub-menus. Now scroll down to the Net sub-menu and hit Enter. Yet another sub-menu will appear containing three entries. Move to the "main" main entry and hit Enter to reveal all of the possible applications to install.
Let's install Gobby (a text editor/source editor that can do online collaboration). With the arrow keys move down until you see the Gobby entry. When you find Gobby hit the Enter key which will reveal all of the gory details behind Gobby.
This should tell you everything you need to help you make the decision to install or not to install Gobby. Let's install it.
To select an application for installation hit the "+" key (you do have to use the Shift key for this) to mark the package for installation. Now hit the "g" key and the installation process should begin. Don't be fooled when it seems as if Aptitude has dropped out of ncurses mode and is in full console mode, it will return to it's ncurses glory when after you hit the Enter key when prompted (after installation is complete.)
When installation is complete you will return to the description of the package you just installed. To go back to the main window you can open up the menu (Ctrl-t) and then using the right arrow key go to the View entry. Using the down key select "Prev" to go to the previous screen. You can also hit F7 for this same action.
And there you are, you have just installed an application with Aptitude. Of course Aptitude is much more powerful than this. In later articles we'll discuss searching, upgrading, removing, and much more with Aptitude.
In the mean time, have fun installing with Aptitude!
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.