I'm learning the CLI interface of Advanced Packaging Tool. From the output of apt(8) when its stdout isn't a terminal, it isn't suitable for "scripts expecting stable programming interface", so I'm taking a look at apt-get(8).

One difference between apt update and apt-get update is that the latter is missing a final line after all cache has been updated:

8 packages can be upgraded. Run 'apt list --upgradable' to see them.

I want to know how I can get this exact line displayed with apt-get(8).

  • As far as I knew, apt (Advanced Packaging Tool) and apt-get are different things. They're designed to run differently from what I understood. If one gives you what you want, perhaps make the habit to use that command instead. – Brenden McFarling Mar 30 at 0:49

man apt-get shows:

   -s, --simulate, --just-print, --dry-run, --recon, --no-act
       No action; perform a simulation of events that would occur based on
       the current system state but do not actually change the system.
       Locking will be disabled (Debug::NoLocking) so the system state
       could change while apt-get is running. Simulations can also be
       executed by non-root users which might not have read access to all
       apt configuration distorting the simulation. A notice expressing
       this warning is also shown by default for non-root users
       (APT::Get::Show-User-Simulation-Note). Configuration Item:

So if you just do:

apt-get upgrade --dry-run

it will output:

4 to upgrade, 0 to newly install, 0 to remove and 0 not to upgrade.
  • Yeah, I went through man 8 apt-get and found that option, but the output was different from apt. – iBug Mar 25 at 6:35
  • Different how? I just checked on my system and it's identical. I thought it was identical because apt is really a programmatic wrapper around apt-get and that's the reason why the warning exists. – tudor Mar 25 at 6:38
  • apt shows 8 packages can be upgraded. Run 'apt list --upgradable' to see them., while your answer shows 4 to upgrade, 0 to newly install, 0 to remove and 0 not to upgrade. – iBug Mar 25 at 6:40
  • 1
    Yes, that's because you have 8 to upgrade where I have 4. Or are you referring to the text being different? – tudor Mar 25 at 6:41
  • 4
    Yes, that's exactly what the warning is about. apt will not guarantee you that text, and they may not even guarantee you that number. apt-get however has a strict output requirement because it's used by other softwares (like UIs and daemons) to process it in various ways. So you can either change your code to accept apt-get's output or you can | sed 's/to upgrade/packages can be upgraded/g', for example (and risk your code breaking later). – tudor Mar 25 at 6:51

Guessing you need to handle the number of available updates, here is a suggestion:

# With no option, returns two numbers, no CR nor LF

# With --human-readable, returns numbers, locale LANG text & CR/LF
/usr/lib/update-notifier/apt-check  --human-readable

No need to sudo
The output is easy to work with

More options:

> /usr/lib/update-notifier/apt-check  --help
Usage: apt-check [options]

  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -p, --package-names   Show the packages that are going to be
  --human-readable      Show human readable output on stdout
                        Return the time in days when security updates are
                        installed unattended (0 means disabled)
  • Is this the exact thing used to generate motd on SSH login? – iBug Mar 25 at 7:02
  • yes it looks like the same output, but i dunno how does motd – cmak.fr Mar 25 at 7:07

From man 8 apt:

... enables some options ...

Then I went through /usr/share/doc/apt/examples/configure-index.gz (using zcat(1) to show text content) and noticed this option:


So I worked out the following command that did exactly what I wanted:

# apt-get -o apt::cmd::show-update-stats=true update

Tested to be working on Xenial and Bionic.

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