This question already has an answer here:

When viewing a package on the Ubuntu repositories (e.g. launchpad), there is usually only a sentence or two describing the package contents. Is there a place online to see more detail about package contents? Often, downloading a separate docs package is the only way I can get any more info.

Responding to a comment (and other posted answers): I would like something different from listing the file names, since my question is about understanding the technical functionality provided by various packages, for example, what versions of various standards the package implements or where to find the corresponding documentation.

marked as duplicate by muru, karel, Fabby, Eric Carvalho, Thomas Nov 17 at 9:37

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • At the moment, I am looking at the jhdf5 family of packages and trying to figure out what versions of the various libraries and classes are implemented in the packages. Eventually, I did go down to the source, but this is not a very efficient way to go about things... – Zach Boyd Nov 13 at 17:00
  • Packages are only compiled code, aren't they? But you're looking for source code? – wjandrea Nov 13 at 19:48
  • Not the source, just documentation of things like versions, functionalities implemented, and overall purpose. Ideally something beyond the one-liners I have found so far. – Zach Boyd Nov 13 at 20:51
  • 2
    Most packages have a full description as well as their one-line summary. e.g. apt-cache show bash will show you the 3-paragraph description (as well as a bunch of metadata). You can see the same thing from inside any decent package manager, like aptitude. – Peter Cordes Nov 13 at 21:24
  • @PeterCordes your suggestion is helpful--the full description is more than I could find before. I would ideally like something even more informative, a middle ground between that and the full source. – Zach Boyd Nov 14 at 1:57

If the package is listed in one of the official Ubuntu repositories, you can search for it on https://packages.ubuntu.com/. For example, searching for aptitude will get you this page:

https://packages.ubuntu.com/bionic/aptitude

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click "list of files" for the appropriate architecture (probably amd64 or all). This will give you a list of the files contained by the package, e.g.

https://packages.ubuntu.com/bionic/amd64/aptitude/filelist

  • This is helpful, as it at least saves me from downloading and extracting the deb file. I am still hoping that there will be a more detailed description of the package functionality somewhere. – Zach Boyd Nov 13 at 20:53

Install the apt-file package:

sudo apt-get install apt-file

Update its database:

apt-file update

Now you may use the following to list the contents of a package:

apt-file list <pkgname>

Other commands, like:

apt-file search <filename>

will inform you of what package(s) contain the filename file.

  • This is helpful, as it at least saves me from downloading and extracting the deb file. I am still hoping that there will be a more detailed description of the package functionality somewhere. – Zach Boyd Nov 13 at 20:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.