Linux Package Manager Comparison

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:

Package Pros Cons
deb
  • Available version tracking and reach metadata package.
  • Being old software, it has a mature community, making many developers use it.
  • New features are not as many as other distributions provide.
  • As it is for developers for that reason it is not user-friendly.
  • Can not resolve dependencies automatically.
rpm
  • Besides straightforward installation and uninstallation, it provides automatic installation.
  • Administrators and users can install, remove, and update software.
  • Automatic dependency handling is not present.
  • It has one functionality problem.

As you can see both of the package managers are used for two different operating systems. So, both are important for a specific operating system. As a Ubuntu user, I prefer the Debian package manager.

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:

Package Manager Pros Cons
APT
  • High-level package management tool.
  • Invoke the dpkg backend.
  • Adding an extra repository can make the Apt complex.
  • Lack of customizability.
  • No versatility for command.
YUM
  • Packages can be managed over other distributions.
  • During installation, it provides dependency resolution.
  • Simple syntax.
  • Excess memory usage.
  • API is not documented.

 

Pacman
  • Unique Package Manager.
  • Failed downloads are retried automatically.
  • Install, build, and remove packages.
  • Arch Linux is necessary.
  • No officially supported GUI.
DNF
  • API is fully documented.
  • With improvement, YUM is replaced by it.
  • Dictionary approach for store dependency and package information.
  • Small supportive community.

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.

Conclusion

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.

People Also Ask

Which Linux package manager (and distro) is right for you?
All of them are right. It depends on your needs and preferences. Apt with Ubuntu, Debian, and Linux Mint is best. RPM, YUM, and DNF with CentOS and Fedora are best and Pacman for Arch Linux.
What is the most common package in Linux?
APT is the most common package in Debian-based Linux distribution. You can use this command manager for installation, update, upgrade, and removal of any software package.
Can I use DNF instead of YUM?
Yes, you can use DNF instead of YUM because DNF has replaced the older YUM tool and also provides better resolution and performance.
Is DNF better than APT?
The command lines for these two are quite similar but DNF shows some unique features than APT. It can install dependencies from multiple repositories and also can track the packages.

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Afia Zahin Oishi

Assalamualaikum, I am Afia Zahin, completed my graduation in Biomedical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, currently working as a Linux Content Developer Executive at SOFTEKO. A high achieving professional with a strong work ethic and able to work in a team in order to consistently achieve my goal and build my skillset. Able to handle difficult problems with patience and swift decision-making. Read Full Bio

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