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Ubuntu: Package search tools [Guide]

Are you an Ubuntu user? Trying to figure out how to search for packages on your system? Don’t know how the Ubuntu package search tools work? We can help! Follow along as we show you how to use the Ubuntu package search tools!

Ubuntu package search – Synaptic Package Manager

Perhaps the best way to search for packages on Ubuntu is with the Synaptic Package Manager. Synaptic is a graphical tool that Linux users can use to search for packages in the Ubuntu software repos and any added PPAs. It’s powerful and effortless to use, especially for new users.

Unfortunately, it has been at least a decade since Ubuntu has shipped Synaptic Package Manager as a default program. As a result, you will need to install the software on your Ubuntu system before continuing.

Install Synaptic Package Manager

The fastest way to install the Synaptic Package Manager tool on Ubuntu is with the terminal. To open up a terminal window on your Ubuntu Linux PC, press Ctrl + Alt + T, or search for “Terminal” in the app menu if the keyboard combo doesn’t work.

When the terminal window is open, enter the following command into the terminal. When the command completes, Synaptic Package Manager will be installed.

sudo apt install synaptic -y

Once Synaptic is installed on your Ubuntu Linux PC, launch it on the desktop by doing the following. First, press the Win key on the keyboard to open up the “Activities” area in Ubuntu. Then, type out “Synaptic” in the search box.

As you type “Synaptic” in the search box, the Synaptic Package Manager should appear on the screen. Click on the icon to launch the program. Once the program is launched, enter your Ubuntu password to continue.

With your password entered, Synaptic is ready to use. From here, follow the step-by-step instructions below to learn how to use it to search for packages.

Step 1: Find the “Search” button in the app’s top-right corner and click on it to access the search function. Once you’ve selected the search button, a pop-up window will appear.

In the pop-up window, locate the “Look in” drop-down menu. Set it to “Name and Description.”

Step 2: After setting the “Look in” drop-down menu, find the “Search” box, and click on it with the mouse. From there, type in the name of the package you wish to find. In this example, we will search for “firefox.”

Step 3: Click on the “Search” button in the search pop-up window to perform a package search with Synaptic Package Manager.

Step 4: When you click on the “Search” button in Synaptic Package Manager, search results will appear. However, the list is pretty long. To filter the search results, locate the “Quick Filter” search box and click on it with the mouse.

Type in your search term again, and press Enter on the keyboard to have the quick filter to sort through the search results. 

If you’d like to install a package you’ve found by searching with Synaptic Package Manager, do the following.

First, right-click on the package you wish to install via the search results. Then, select the “Mark for Installation” option. After choosing the “Mark for Installation” option, find the “Apply” button in Synaptic and click it to install the package on Ubuntu.

Ubuntu package search – Apt

If the terminal is more your speed, you’ll be happy to know that it is possible to search for packages using the Apt package manager. To start the search process, open up a terminal window on the Ubuntu desktop.

Opening up a terminal window on the Ubuntu desktop is relatively easy. To launch it, press the Ctrl + Alt + T keyboard combination on the keyboard. Alternatively, look through the app menu for “Terminal” and launch it there.

Once in the terminal app, you can use the apt search feature to look for packages in the Apt repository. In this example, we will search for the “Firefox” package.

apt search firefox

If you would like to save the Apt search results, you can export the search to a text file using redirection. Using the command below, export the search results.

apt search MY_PACKAGE_SEARCH_TERM > ~/package-search.txt

Once saved, you can view the search results file with the cat command.

cat ~/package-search.txt

Ubuntu package search – Ubuntu Software Center

If you want a straightforward, easy way of searching for Ubuntu packages, try the Ubuntu Software Center. To search for packages in the Ubuntu Software Center, do the following.

First, open up Ubuntu Software Center on your computer by searching for “Ubuntu Software” in the app menu. Once the app is open, do the following to search for packages.

Step 1: Find the search icon in the app’s top-left corner and click on it with the mouse. After selecting the search icon, a search box will appear.

Step 2: Use the search box to search for any package you wish. In this example, we will search for Firefox.

Look through the search results for the package you want. If you’d like to install it, click on the “Install” button with the mouse and enter your password.

Need to update packages on Ubuntu? Check out our guide.

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