What Is a Package Manager?

April 18, 2024

A package manager automates installing, upgrading, configuring, and removing software packages from a computer's operating system. It simplifies software management by handling package dependencies and installing all application components.

What Is Package Management?

Package management refers to managing software tools and libraries on a system through standard formats and tools. This process includes everything from the initial installation and configuration to upgrades and removal of software applications. Effective package management also ensures that software is maintained without file conflicts or missing dependencies.

What Is a Package Manager?

A package manager is a software tool that automates the process of installing, upgrading, managing, and removing computer programs for an operating system in a consistent manner. It maintains a database of software components and their dependencies, ensuring that all parts of the software can be installed and function properly together without conflicts. Package managers typically handle tasks such as retrieving packages from a remote server, installing them on the local system, managing upgrades to existing software, and handling dependencies so that all required components are in place.

Package managers come in different forms depending on the operating system and the needs they address. For example, Windows uses package managers like Chocolatey and Winget, which are designed to facilitate software installation and management in an environment traditionally reliant on manual installation processes. On the other hand, Linux distributions often come with package managers like APT for Ubuntu or YUM for CentOS, which are deeply integrated into the system for managing software from vast repositories through command-line tools. MacOS users typically use Homebrew, which adapts the UNIX-style package management system to Mac's environment, allowing users to install software that is not available through the official Apple App Store.

Linux Package Managers

Linux offers a variety of package managers tailored to different distributions and requirements. Here is a list of some of the most common ones:

  • APT (Advanced Package Tool). Used by Debian and its derivatives like Ubuntu.
  • YUM (Yellowdog Updater Modified). Used by Red Hat and its derivatives like CentOS.
  • Pacman. Used by Arch Linux and its derivatives.
  • DPKG. The lower-level package manager for Debian.
  • RPM (Red Hat Package Manager). Used by Red Hat and its derivatives.
  • Zypper. Used by openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise.
  • Portage. Used by Gentoo.
  • Snap. A package management system that allows installing snaps.
  • Flatpak. System for building, distributing, and running sandboxed desktop applications on Linux.
  • DNF (Dandified YUM).The next-generation version of YUM, used by Fedora.

APT Package Manager

The APT Package Manager, primarily used in Debian and Ubuntu distributions, streamlines the software management process. It is renowned for its robust dependency management and automatic update capabilities, making it an indispensable tool for these systems.


  • Efficient handling of package dependencies.
  • Automatic updates for installed packages.
  • Large repository of software packages.
  • Simple configuration and easy-to-use command-line interface.

Common APT Commands - Examples

  • sudo apt update. Updates the list of available packages and their versions, but it does not install or upgrade any packages.
  • sudo apt install [package]. Installs a new package and its dependencies.
  • sudo apt upgrade. Upgrades all installed packages to the newest available versions.
  • sudo apt remove [package]. Removes a package from the system.

YUM (Yellowdog Updater Modified)

The YUM Package Manager simplifies the management of RPM packages by automating updates and managing dependencies.


  • Automated resolution of package dependencies.
  • Easy-to-use command-line interface.
  • Supports multiple repositories.
  • Automatic synchronization of repository metadata and packages.

Common YUM Commands

  • sudo yum check-update. Checks the repository for available updates.
  • sudo yum install [package]. Installs a package along with its dependencies.
  • sudo yum update [package]. Updates a specific package to the latest version.
  • sudo yum remove [package]. Removes a package from the system.


Pacman combines a simple binary package format with an easy-to-use build system.


  • Tracks installed packages with a local database.
  • Simple binary package format and easy build system.
  • Dependency resolution.
  • Efficient syncing of packages from mirrors.

Common Pacman Commands

  • sudo pacman -Syu. Synchronizes the repository databases and updates the system’s packages.
  • sudo pacman -S [package]. Installs a new package.
  • sudo pacman -R [package]. Removes a package from the system.
  • sudo pacman -Q. Lists all installed packages.


DPKG handles the installation, removal, and building of Debian software packages.


  • Direct handling of package files.
  • Supports package hooks for additional configuration.
  • Detailed query options for installed or available packages.
  • Low-level configuration options.

Common DPKG Commands

  • sudo dpkg -i [package.deb]. Installs or upgrades a .deb package.
  • sudo dpkg -r [package]. Removes a package from the system.
  • sudo dpkg -l. Lists all installed packages.
  • sudo dpkg --configure [package]. Configures an unpacked package.

RPM (Red Hat Package Manager)

Used by Red Hat and its derivatives, Red Hat Package Manager focuses on .rpm package management.


  • Robust package handling.
  • Detailed query features.
  • Scriptlet support (pre-install, post-install scripts).
  • Strong verification features (checksums, signatures).

Common RPM Commands

  • rpm -i [package.rpm]. Installs an RPM package.
  • rpm -e [package]. Removes an installed RPM package.
  • rpm -q [package]. Checks if a package is installed.
  • rpm -U [package.rpm]. Upgrades an RPM package.


Zypper is the command-line interface of ZYpp package manager, used by openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise.


  • Dependency resolution.
  • Prioritization of package repositories.
  • Vendor change updates.
  • Supports one-click install (OCI).

Common Zypper Commands

  • zypper install [package]. Installs new packages.
  • zypper update [package]. Updates an installed package.
  • zypper remove [package]. Removes an installed package.
  • zypper repos. Lists all configured repositories.


Portage is the package management system used by Gentoo. It is known for its flexibility and the control it offers over package building and management.


  • Highly customizable build options.
  • Clean, dependency-aware package management.
  • Extensive use of USE flags for feature management.
  • Ebuild system facilitates building from source.

Common Portage Commands

  • emerge [package]. Installs or updates packages.
  • emerge –sync. Syncs the portage tree with the remote server.
  • emerge --unmerge [package]. Removes packages.
  • emerge --search [package]. Searches for packages.


Snap is a modern package management system developed by Canonical for Ubuntu but usable across different Linux distributions.


  • Apps are packaged with all their dependencies.
  • Automatic updates.
  • Strong security through application sandboxing.
  • Cross-distribution platform.

Common Snap Commands

  • sudo snap install [snap]. Installs a snap package.
  • sudo snap remove [snap]. Removes a snap package.
  • sudo snap find [search-query]. Searches for snaps.
  • sudo snap refresh. Updates all installed snaps.


Flatpak is a system for building, distributing, and running sandboxed desktop applications on Linux.


  • Sandboxing for improved security.
  • Cross-distribution compatibility.
  • Consistent environments for application development and testing.
  • Easy runtime and application bundling.

Common Flatpak Commands

  • flatpak install [application]. Installs applications.
  • flatpak update [application]. Updates installed applications.
  • flatpak uninstall [application]. Removes applications.
  • flatpak list. Lists installed Flatpak applications.

DNF (Dandified YUM)

DNF is the next-generation version of YUM, used by Fedora. It offers several improvements over its predecessor.


  • Improved performance.
  • Better dependency management.
  • Automatic weekly cache updates.
  • Cleaner syntax and better default options.

Common DNF Commands

  • sudo dnf install [package]. Installs packages.
  • sudo dnf install [package]. Updates all packages to the latest version.
  • sudo dnf remove [package]. Removes packages.
  • sudo dnf list installed. Lists all installed packages.

Nikola is a seasoned writer with a passion for all things high-tech. After earning a degree in journalism and political science, he worked in the telecommunication and online banking industries. Currently writing for phoenixNAP, he specializes in breaking down complex issues about the digital economy, E-commerce, and information technology.