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On the alternate CD there is the option to install a command-line system. What packages (or meta-packages) are installed when I select this option? What is the easiest way to remove all packages except those and their dependencies (possibly using synaptic or the software centre)?

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The easiest way to do this is certainly to install a new Ubuntu system from the alternate (or minimal) CD, as a command-line only system! However, if you want to know specifically which packages to keep when removing most installed packages to convert a graphical Ubuntu system into a command-line only system, please specify which release of Ubuntu (e.g., 11.10, 11.04) you're interested in doing this on. –  Eliah Kagan Nov 7 '11 at 18:45
    
I hoped it would just be a couple of meta-packages and they would be mostly the same for all releases. If they're not I would be grateful for a list for 11.10. –  user142 Nov 7 '11 at 18:57
    
ssamuel has beat me to the punch with askubuntu.com/questions/76857/…; that answer has my vote.. The page linked to in that answer is for Ubuntu 11.10 (and has links to the corresponding pages for earlier versions of Ubuntu). –  Eliah Kagan Nov 7 '11 at 21:03

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There is information here about how to remove most desktop environments from an Ubuntu installation.

Effectively, that is probably what you want to do: remove all the desktops and X. Once all the desktops are gone, doing a full autoremove should pull all of the dependencies, which should include all of X.

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