The Linux Command Line: A Tale of Two Tools – apt and apt-get

difference between apt and apt get
apt vs apt get
difference between apt and apt get
apt vs apt get

Regardless of your preferred Linux distribution, package management is an important function for every user interacting with the command line. Two similar tools that often come up in this context are ‘apt’ and ‘apt-get’. While they may seem interchangeable, they serve different purposes and have distinct features. This article will look into these two similar commands with very different functions. 

What is Package Management in Linux

Package management is the process of installing, updating, and removing software packages in an operating system. In Debian-based Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, this is handled by the Debian Package Management System, which uses ‘.deb’ files to manage software packages. The system ensures that all software dependencies are met and that packages are installed correctly.

The Role of ‘dpkg’

At the centre of Debian’s package management system is ‘dpkg’, a low-level tool that directly interacts with .deb files. Its main task is to install and uninstall packages as well as giving information about the latter. However, handling of dependencies is not one of its tasks and is done by apt and apt-get. 

apt-get: The Traditional Tool

apt-get is a command-line tool that was introduced as a way to work with the package management system. It works directly with the package management system to provide the ability to perform the following functions: installing and uninstalling software in the system, updating already installed packages and upgrading the entire system. Apt-get is also tasked with automating tasks because it is known to be really stable and predictable. 

apt: A Modern Alternative

apt  on the other hand was added recently to Ubuntu’s package management tools and is designed to be easier to use by combining features from both apt-get and apt-cache. It has a simpler syntax and is equipped with features that make it more accessible like progress bars and colour-coded output.

What are the Difference Between at and apt-get?

While both ‘apt’ and ‘apt-get’ can be used to install, remove, and manage packages, there are some key differences:

  • User Interface: ‘apt’ offers a more modern and user-friendly interface compared to apt-get.
  • Output: ‘apt’ provides colour-coded output and progress bars, while apt-get has a more traditional, plain-text output.
  • Commands: ‘apt’ includes some additional commands that are not available in ‘apt-get’, such as list and search.
  • Scripting: ‘apt-get’ is much more suitable for scripting due to its stable output format.

Here are some of the similarities between apt and apt-get:

  1. Package Management Tools:
  • Both apt and apt-get are package management tools used in Debian-based Linux distributions.
  • They facilitate package installation, update, and removal.
  1. Common Commands:

Many of their options and commands are quite similar. For example: 

  • To install a package: 
sudo apt get install package name
sudo apt install package
  • To remove a package: 
sudo apt-get remove package
sudo apt remove package
  • Other common commands include purge, update, upgrade, and autoremove.
  1. Shared Features:
  • Both tools interact with the Debian Package Manager (dpkg) to install and manage packages.
  • They retrieve data and packages from trusted sources for installation, upgrade, and removal.
  1. Visual Differences:

When using apt instead of apt-get, you’ll notice some visual differences: 

  • apt provides a progress bar during package installations and removals, which is not available in apt-get.
  • Additionally, apt shows the number of upgradable packages when updating.


  • To install the synaptic package:
    • Using apt:
    • sudo apt install synaptic
    • Using apt-get:
    • sudo apt-get install synaptic
  • The progress bar is visible with apt, but not with apt-get.

YouTube Link: Apt vs. Apt-get: What’s the Difference | LinuxSimply 

What are some of the use cases for apt 

1. Updating Package Index (apt update)

The apt update command keeps your system up-to-date on the latest software by refreshing the list of available packages. It’s recommended to run this command regularly to ensure you’re aware of potential updates.

sudo apt update

2. Upgrading Installed Packages (apt upgrade)

It is important to keep your system up-to-date so as to improve it’s security and stability. By using the apt upgrade command, the installed packages can be updated to their latest versions. This results in improved performance and security. It also fixes bugs in the installed packages. 

sudo apt upgrade

3. Full Upgrading (apt full-upgrade)

The apt full-upgrade command goes beyond a simple upgrade. The command also removes packages which are no longer required in the system. It should be used carefully because it may lead to the removal of packages which the user may need in the future. 

sudo apt full upgrade

4. Installing Packages (apt install)

‘apt’ install is used to install new software to the system. The command plus the name of the package results in direct installation of the latter.

sudo apt install package

You can also install multiple packages at once:

sudo apt install package1 package2

5. Removing Packages (apt remove)

To uninstall a package, use the apt remove command:

For multiple packages:

sudo apt remove package1 package2

6. Removing Unused Packages (apt autoremove)

Over time, unused dependencies accumulate. The apt autoremove command removes unneeded packages that were installed as dependencies but are no longer required:

sudo apt autoremove

7. Searching for Packages (apt search)

The apt search command is used when searching for packages by the use of specific keywords 

apt search keyword

8. Cleaning Up (apt clean)

To free up disk space by removing downloaded package files, use:

sudo apt clean

Here Are Some of the Key apt-get Commands and Their Use Case

1. Update the Package Database:

It is vital to ensure that the package index is up to date before installing new packages to the system. This is done by running:

sudo apt-get update

This ensures that the system is aware of the latest available packages. 

2. Upgrade Installed Packages:

After updating the package database, upgrade all installed packages to their latest versions:

sudo apt get upgrade

To upgrade a specific package, use:

sudo apt-get upgrade package

3. Search for Dependencies and Perform Upgrades:

The following command is used to search for dependencies, install new packages, and remove old ones automatically. 

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

You should be careful with dist-upgrade as it may remove some packages you still need.

4. Install New Packages:

To install a package, use:

sudo apt-get install package

Typing a few letters from the package name and pressing TAB will bring suggestions if you are not sure of the package name.

5. Remove Installed Packages:

In order to uninstall a package while keeping the configuration files, run the following command:


For a complete removal (including configuration files), use:

sudo-apt-get-purge package

6. Clean Your System:

Clear out local repository files to free up disk space:

sudo apt get clean

Remove package files that can no longer be downloaded:

sudo apt-get autoclean

Youtube Link: Stop Using APT 

Table comparing apt and apt get commands.

There is no doubt that both apt and apt-go have their strengths and weaknesses. If you’re looking for a reliable, and stable package manager, stick with apt. However, if you want better performance and are willing to explore a novel tool, give apt-go a try. 

External References: 

apt vs apt get. Difference Between Package Management.

How to Manage Packages in Ubuntu and Debian 

Internal Links: