The backbone of the Linux distributions like Debian, Ubuntu, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the package manager. The package managers handle the installation, upgradation, configuration, and removal of a package efficiently and resolve dependencies automatically. By doing this, package managers mainly secure the system and maintain stability. In this article, I will show the comparison of different Linux package managers.
What is a Package?
When you give some work, a set of files perform that task. This set of files is called a package. While installing a program, packages show you the crucial metadata in a small file. As Windows uses a .exe installer, for Linux distros you can also use packages to install and maintain software.
Why Are Packages Used?
For the Linux developer, it is difficult to ensure that Linux program will run on all devices because all Linux device has different software with different kernel size. To resolve this problem, within the package for the application, there are various dependencies, meaning prerequisites mainly a list of which you need to install before.
How Do Package Managers Work?
Sometimes packages need resources to function which is called dependency. To resolve the dependencies, the modern package manager will give you a solution that when you install a program it will automatically install its dependencies.
Backend Package Management System
The backend package manager is a low-level package manager. Mainly for software installation, upgradation, and removal, the backend package manager is used. There are two commonly used backend package managers:
A. Debian Package Manager
For effective package management in Debian-based distribution, the Debian Package Manager is used. Here, you can see some key modules and conceptions related to Debian Package Manager below:
- Format: Used by Debian and Debian-based distributions like Ubuntu.
- Tool: Install, upgrade, and remove packages with low-level package manager dpkg, three major components which are compressed source code and files, metadata, and binary text file.
- Key Features: Supports a rich set of metadata, scripts for pre and post-installation actions, and version tracking.
- Dependency Handling: dpkg doesn’t handle dependency resolution automatically, for handling dependency it needs higher-level tools like apt. It can handle resolution automatically.
B. Redhat Package Manager
For installing, removing, and updating packages on Red Hat-based distribution, the Red hat package manager is used. Below, you can see some modules and conceptions related to Red hat Package Manager:
- Format: Used by Red Hat-based distributions like RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora.
- Tool: Manage rpm packages, two major components compressed source code, and metadata.
- Key Features: Automatic dependency evaluation, cryptographic verification, pre and post-installation action.
- Dependency Handling: External tools like yum and dnf are necessary for handling dependencies.
These two backend package managers have some pros and cons which are shown below:
Frontend Package Management System
The frontend package manager operates over the backend package manager. It is a high-level package manager and more user-friendly than the backend package manager. This can also resolve the dependencies automatically. Some frontend package managers are shown below:
A. Advanced Packaging Tool (APT)
In Debian-based distributions, the installation, and removal of software are generally managed through the package management system known as the Advanced Package Tool (APT). Here I have shown some APT-related key components and concepts:
- Usage: Primarily used in Debian and Ubuntu, front end for low-level dpkg packages.
- File extension: The file extension for the APT package manager is .deb.
- Tools: apt-get, apt, and other APT-related commands.
- Key Features: Dependency resolution, Easy automatic package management and upgrade repository handling, Invoke the dpkg backend.
- Dependency Handling: Resolving dependencies automatically and installing required packages.
B. YUM Package Manager
In RedHat-based Linux distribution, a primary package for managing software packages is YUM which refers to Yellowdog Updater Modifier. Below I have shown some YUM-related key components and concepts:
- Usage: frontend system for lower-level RPM which is a backend system.
- File extension: The file extension for the YUM package manager is .rpm.
- Key Features: Installation and removal, Automated updates, dependency resolution, and repository management.
- Dependency Handling: Check the dependencies with header files and package metadata and resolve dependencies while installing or updating packages
- Verification tool: Build-in verification tool that ensures correct sign-in package installation.
C. DNF Package Manager
Besides the successor of YUM, DNF is the package, management tool that simplifies the management of the software which includes installing, updating, and removing several packages. Here I have shown a few of the DNF-related key components and concepts:
- Usage: Used in modern Red Hat-based distributions, default package management tool in Fedora.
- File extension: The file extension for the dnf package manager is .rpm.
- Key Features: Faster performance, Parallel downloading, rich command line interface, Enhanced dependency resolution.
- Dependency handling: Third-party dependency solver, dnf calculates and resolves dependencies and also resolves conflict resolution.
D. Pacman Package Manager
In Arch Linux distribution, you can use Packman is a utility for managing software packages. Using simple compressed files, it maintains a text-based database. Here below are some pacman related key modules and concepts, I have shown:
- Usage: Used in Arch Linux and its derivatives KaOS and Frugalware.
- File extension: The file extension for the Pacman package manager is .pkg.tar.xz.
- Key Features: Lightweight, fast, High-speed packaging, two types of repository, Automatically upgrade package.
- Dependency Handling: Dependency resolution, install the specific program with all other needed dependencies.
Here, I will show the pros and cons of these package managers in a table:
You can use different packages according to your distributions. For me, APT is preferable for the Debian Linux distribution and for the Red Hat distribution, I prefer DNF over YUM.
Benefits of Package Manager
Package manager makes the installation, upgradation, and software maintenance more efficient and easier. For managing software effectively, package management systems come with several significant advantages. Below, You can see the key advantages:
1. Efficient Software Setup
By handling all the dependencies, the package manager installs all the required packages and sets up the software. You do not have to search and install any dependencies manually.
2. Management of Dependencies
By ensuring compatibility with each other of the software versions and managing dependencies, the package manager reduces potential errors and conflicts.
3. Centralized Repository
Users can install, download thousands of libraries and easily as the package managers provide a central repository of software packages.
4. Version Management
The package manager will help you to install the desired version. It allows you to choose a specific version of the software and also automatically update the software.
5. Installation Removal and Cleaning
Package managers provide commands that you can use to remove a package and clean up all the unnecessary packages. It removes all the files with the remove command, reduces the possibility of leftover files, and makes the process simple.
6. Confidence and Security
The majority of the time, package managers provide signed packages, ensuring the software’s legitimacy and lowering the possibility of downloading and installing dangerous malware.
7. Automatic Conflict Resolution
When you need to install multiple packages and also multiple versions with the same dependency the package manager mainly solves to maintain the particular function.
8. Easy Update and Upgrade
The update and upgradation are important for the installed software which you can do with a single simple command and make easier through the package managers.
9. Package Searching
The package manager has many functions. Such a function is search. By using this function you can easily search a specific library or software which saves time.
10. Distribution Management
Package manager smooths the distribution of software for the software developers and also makes it accessible for users over different operation systems.
In the article, I have tried to explain the basic differences between package managers. Each package manager comes with its own tools and usages. According to your preference, you can choose a package manager.
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