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I am often interested in the installation triggers (postinst, postrm) or certain parts of packages (like /usr/share and /etc). Currently, I am running the next command to retrieve the source code:

apt-get source [package-name]

The downside is, this file is often much bigger than the binary package and does not reflect the installation tree.

Right now, I am downloading the packages through http://packages.ubuntu.com/:

  1. Search for [package-name]
  2. Select the package
  3. Click on amd64/i386 for download
  4. Download the actual file

This takes too long for me and as someone who really likes the shell, I would like to do something like the next (imaginary) command:

apt-get get-deb-file [package-name]

I could not find something like this in the apt-get manual page. The most close I found was the --download-only switch, but this puts the package in /var/cache/apt/archives (which requires root permissions) and not in the current directory.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The "aptitude" program provides this feature. For example, if $PKG is the package you want:

aptitude download $PKG

This doesn't require root privileges. And, in case you don't have aptitude installed, the same can also be approximated using "apt-get" and "wget":

wget $(apt-get install --reinstall --print-uris -qq $PKG | cut -d"'" -f2)

This will, however, fetch all packages required to install the package, so you can attempt to limit it instead:

wget $(apt-get install --reinstall --print-uris -qq $PKG | cut -d"'" -f2 | grep "/${PKG}_")

You can also put a wget line into a function, to be able to use it as a command apt-download with the package name as a parameter:

function apt-download { wget -c $(apt-get install --reinstall --print-uris -qq $1 | cut -d"'" -f2); }

Note the modifications: The $PKG is replaced with $1 and the -c parameter enables continuing interrupted downloads.

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Excellent, this is what I'm looking for. Another reason to keep aptitude on my system, the other useful command that is not provided by apt is aptitude changelog $PKG. –  Lekensteyn Mar 16 '11 at 12:27
Update: from Natty (apt version 0.8.11 to be precise), the aptitude download feature is available in apt as well: apt-get download $PKG. –  Lekensteyn Apr 29 '11 at 19:22
sweet, works despite my ancient apt v0.8.10 –  rogerdpack Dec 12 '13 at 23:29
it seems they did away with the --print-urls option –  user84207 Apr 29 '14 at 4:06
The --print-urls option is still there –  kumar_harsh Sep 16 '14 at 10:32
sudo apt-get -o dir::cache::archives="/path/to/folder/" -d install package


You need to create an folder named partial in destination folder.

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Doesn't sound that bad. The options seems to be described by man apt.conf. I would like to avoid the creation of the folder. –  Lekensteyn Mar 15 '11 at 15:02
I'm just curious, why would you avoid creating the folder? –  mount.cifs Mar 16 '11 at 7:44
I do not need to store the package forever and avoid creating the folder saves time too. –  Lekensteyn Mar 16 '11 at 12:26
Just wanted to note that this solution will also insist on package removal (e.g. if you change version via /etc/apt/sources.list to a newer one, with the intent to download later packages) - in such a case, the wget method above may be more useful, if you don't want to remove anything... –  sdaau Feb 17 '14 at 18:45

/var/cache/apt/archives is world readable. After apt-get -d, just extract it from there to your home directory. Run dpkg -e /var/cache/apt/archives/foo_version.deb foo while in your home directory and the control files will be dumped into foo/.

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I think the problem with this method is that the download still requires administrative privileges. It seems silly to go to such extremes just to get a file into your home directory. –  ændrük Mar 15 '11 at 14:56
Opening the .debs is not the problem, downloading it is. It might be a bug or not, but the packages in /var/cache/apt/archives` are affected by umask too. I've set an umask of 027 and therefore, the packages in /var/cache/apt/archives cannot be read by me. As I need just to examine the package contents, I just need to download it once: to /tmp. –  Lekensteyn Mar 15 '11 at 15:01

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