Debian's Next Generation Package Manager


© Lead Image © videst,

© Lead Image © videst,

Article from Issue 281/2024

The latest iteration of Debian's package manager makes it easier to manage packages from the command line with more readable feedback, parallel downloads, the ability to find the fastest mirrors, and an updated history list.

Debian's modern package manager got its start in 1994 when dpkg became the front end for libapt-pkg. Since then, it has evolved over several generations of front ends. Apt-get provides more detailed feedback than dpkg. The subsequent apt concentrates on apt-get's most common use cases, as well as the most often used apt utilities, and adds a progress bar to installations. Along with these changes, graphical installations have evolved from the original nearly impenetrable app to countless user-friendly tools. In the past three years, Nala [1] has become the next generation in this evolution, making package management from the command line even easier than before by reorganizing feedback and adding new features such as parallel downloads, selecting the fastest mirrors, and a history that can be used to repeat commands.

Named for a developer's cat named after a character in The Lion King, Nala is a work in progress. Currently, some of its features work only in distributions that use the standard Debian or Ubuntu package repositories, but that is likely to change as Nala gains popularity, as it almost certainly will. Moreover, the improvement in feedback alone is enough to make Nala a useful option.

Although Nala is a recent project, it can already be found in the repositories of many Debian derivatives. If it is not yet in yours, the project has a page with download instructions [2]. If you use Debian, the Nala project page advises that "Updates from this repo are slightly faster than the Debian repos, but usually only about a day sooner." In addition, Nala will not work on Ubuntu 18.04 or Debian 10 or earlier because they use earlier versions of Python. Users of these releases who want to use Nala can try installing Python 3 or else installing from source.


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