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I have a text file with lots of package names.

package1
package2

# comment
# installing package3 because it was needed for...
package 3

package 4

How can I mass install all packages inside the text file without removing the comments?

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

Something along these lines ought to do the trick.

apt-get install $(grep -vE "^\s*#" filename  | tr "\n" " ")

The $(something) construction runs the something command, inserting its output in the command line.

The grep command will exclude any line beginning with a #, optionally allowing for whitespace before it. Then the tr command replaces newlines with spaces.

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Very useful, thank you. – mikewhatever Dec 5 '13 at 16:01
    
Very slick. Great job. – Cerin Jul 1 '14 at 0:05
2  
tr will fail with multi-byte end-of-line sequences (think \r\n), why don't you use xargs? – Ivan Anishchuk Feb 17 at 16:20

The following command is a (slight) improvement over the alternative because sudo apt-get install is not executed when the package list is empty.

xargs -a <(awk '/^\s*[^#]/' "$packagelist") -r -- sudo apt-get install

Note that the -a option reads items directly from a file instead of standard input. We don't want to pipe a file into xargs because stdin must remain unchanged for use by apt-get.

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xargs is the right way to do this. Trick with <() is neat. – Ivan Anishchuk Feb 17 at 16:19
1  
That's indeed the better solution because xargs makes sure ARG_MAX is not reached. – phk Jun 12 at 11:45
    
It has to be xargs -a $(awk '/^\s*[^#]/' "$packagelist") -r -- sudo apt-get -y install, not "<(" but "$(" and the option -y for apt-get would be a good idea. – thomas Jul 11 at 20:19
    
Process substitution redirects the output of awk into a file descriptor for xargs -a to read from. So you definitely want <( and not $(. Just try it and you'll see what I mean. If the command is to be running unattended and you already know exactly what's going to be installed then sure, they -y flag is a good idea. – Six Jul 12 at 3:01

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