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Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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6.1.1 Main package management tools

     dpkg      – Debian package file installer
     apt-get   – Command line front end for APT
     aptitude  – Advanced text and command line front end for APT
     synaptic  – Gtk GUI front end for APT
     dselect   – Menu-driven package manager
     tasksel   – Task installer

These tools aren't all alternatives to one another. For example, dselect uses both APT and dpkg.

APT uses /var/lib/apt/lists/* for tracking available packages while dpkg uses /var/lib/dpkg/available. If you have installed packages using aptitude or other APT front ends and you want to use dselect to install packages then the first thing you should do is update /var/lib/dpkg/available by selecting [U]pdate from dselect's menu (or by running "dselect update").

apt-get automatically installs all packages upon which a requested package Depends. It does not install the packages that a requested package merely Recommends or Suggests.

aptitude, in contrast, can be configured to install packages that a requested package Recommends or Suggests.

dselect presents the user with a list of packages that a selected package Recommends or Suggests and allows these to be selected or deselected individually. See Package dependencies, Section 2.2.8.

Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire