I'd like to get a list of packages installed manually by apt or aptitude and be able to find out whether a foobar package was installed manually or automatically. Is there any neat way of doing that from the command line?

15 Answers 15


You can use either of these two one-liners. Both yield the exact same output on my machine and are more precise than all solutions proposed up until now (July 6, 2014) in this question.

Using apt-mark:

comm -23 <(apt-mark showmanual | sort -u) <(gzip -dc /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz | sed -n 's/^Package: //p' | sort -u)

Using aptitude:

comm -23 <(aptitude search '~i !~M' -F '%p' | sed "s/ *$//" | sort -u) <(gzip -dc /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz | sed -n 's/^Package: //p' | sort -u)

Very few packages still fall through the cracks, although I suspect these are actually installed by the user, either right after the installation through the language localization setup or e.g. through the Totem codec installer. Also, the linux-header versions also seem to accumulate, even though I've only installed the non version-specific metapackage. Examples:


How does it work:

  1. Get the list of manually installed packages. For aptitude, the additional sed strips out remaining whitespace at the end of the line.
  2. Get the list of packages installed right after a fresh install.
  3. Compare the files, only output the lines in file 1 that are not present in file 2.

Other possibilities don't work as well:

  • Using the ubuntu-14.04-desktop-amd64.manifest file (here for Ubuntu 14.04) instead of /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz. More packages are shown as manually installed even though they are not.
  • Using apt-mark showauto instead of /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz. apt-mark for example doesn't include the xserver-xorg package, while the other file does.

I used various other StackExchange posts as references, however none work as well as the above solution:

Both list more packages than the above solution.

EDIT: What to do if you've upgraded from a previous release:

If you've upgraded Ubuntu from one release to the next, you will probably need to adjust this process. In that case, I would check the manifest file of the newer release (see above) in addition to the initial-status.gz file from the current release. You can easily do that by just adding another comparison. Using just the manifest file will not work, as the manifest file unfortunately does not contain everything that the initial_status.gz file does (I checked).

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  • 8
    This didn't work for me because /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz is missing. Also I want to know if this is depending on apts marking of manual or not? – Anwar Oct 29 '16 at 8:20
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    Alas there is no manifest for server versions. – Antti Haapala Apr 10 '17 at 13:22
  • I ran the showmanual command (below). And use comm to compare the two(sorted) lists. The showmanual result gave me 1,840 more unique packages from apt-mark showmanual not shown by this method. NO packages were unique to the output of this comm-command. I think it is more interesting to record that for my PC, 894 packages are listed in Both results. Not sure why there's such a Vast discrepancy. Some (many?) packages seem to be release specific. Others like XOrg, GTK components and lib* things could be updates. Anyway this answer is a very good start. – will Jun 24 '18 at 12:45
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    And today I learned about 'comm -23'! Thanks for that! – David Ljung Madison Stellar Jan 29 at 20:08
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    Manifest files can be downloaded from releases.ubuntu.com – darkdragon Apr 6 at 21:34

In newer versions of the package apt, there is also the apt-mark command

apt-mark showmanual
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    This shows way more packages than I have installed manually. – Umang Jul 7 '14 at 11:05
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    @Umang You are right. I would say this wasn't like this when I wrote this answer. There is no reason on my system to consider linux-image-3.11.0-*-generic etc as manual – Daniel Alder Jul 8 '14 at 11:23
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    @Umang maybe this will help you askubuntu.com/questions/432743/…, but the answer is not accepted. Fact is, that many packages of a fresh installation are already marked as manual. But there are still some strange things. To stay with my example: linux-image-3.13.0-24-generic is manual but the current linux-image-3.13.0-27-generic is automatic. It seems that an upgrade of a referencing package (in this case linux-image-generic, which changed the dependencies), the manual mark is automatically set – Daniel Alder Jul 8 '14 at 11:42
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    @DanielAlder some packages of a fresh installation should be marked as manual. If no packages marked as manual, the entire system could be deleted with apt-get autoremove. This is definitely not what you want. – Anton K Dec 2 '16 at 10:57
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    If "manually installed" means "installed by the user after initial OS installation", this is not a correct answer. – Seamus Apr 6 '19 at 16:37

For Ubuntu 16.04, check out the log file /var/log/apt/history.log.

For example:

zgrep 'Commandline: apt' /var/log/apt/history.log /var/log/apt/history.log.*.gz

It's not perfect, but it's pretty good at making it clear exactly what I installed by hand. Put a -B 1 on the grep to see when it was installed.

Example output

Commandline: apt install postgresql-9.5-plv8
Commandline: aptdaemon role='role-install-file' sender=':1.85'
Commandline: apt install task
Commandline: apt autoremove
Commandline: apt install atom
Commandline: apt upgrade
Commandline: apt-get install asciinema
Commandline: apt install iperf3
Commandline: apt upgrade
Commandline: apt-get install chromium-browser
Commandline: apt install joe cpanminus build-essential postgresql libdbd-pg-perl libcrypt-openssl-bignum-perl libcrypt-openssl-rsa-perl libio-socket-ssl-perl libnet-ssleay-perl libssl-dev
Commandline: aptdaemon role='role-commit-packages' sender=':1.2314'
Commandline: apt install git
Commandline: apt install sqlite
Commandline: apt install whois
Commandline: apt install libdbd-pg-perl
Commandline: apt install perl-doc
Commandline: apt upgrade

Not sure if this picks up aptitude or not. It doesn't seem to pick up installs from the Ubuntu Software desktop app.

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  • 3
    Of all the answers over the years, this is the only one that even comes close in 18.04 server. – Quentin Skousen Feb 6 '19 at 16:48
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    Don't forget that logs get deleted from time to time... – Daniel Alder Oct 23 '19 at 8:19

apt-mark showauto | grep -iE '^foobar$' will output "foobar" if the package was installed automatically, nothing otherwise.

aptitude search '!~M ~i' will list the packages that were not installed automatically. It's a pity aptitude won't be part of the default install on Ubuntu Desktop starting from 10.10.

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  • aptitude search shows ALL packages not just the ones that are manually installed (I assume that's what the OP wanted) – Oli Aug 16 '10 at 17:42
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    @Oli: look into aptitude search patterns; the pattern I'm using there should do exactly what the OP wants. – Li Lo Aug 16 '10 at 17:44
  • I ran it. It shows a whole load of packages that aren't installed. – Oli Aug 16 '10 at 17:46
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    Something isn't right with this, I'm using aptitude search '!~M ~i' and it lists 1043 packages. There is no way I installed that many packages manually. – ThatGraemeGuy Sep 16 '10 at 7:42
  • This definitely doesn't work as requested, prints pre-installed packages as well. – Irfy Nov 1 '12 at 2:55

To get a list of all packages (not installed, installed by user or installed by default, across all PPAs), apt employs the following method:

apt list [option]

The possible options useful for this are:

--installed to display only the packages that are installed on the system (out of some 50,000+)

--manual-installed to list the packages that were explicitly installed by a command, either directly, or as dependencies.

Alternatively, you could do:

apt list --manual-installed | grep -F \[installed\] to get a list of packages that resulted from user commands and their dependencies only, and to get additional information on them such as version and architecture supported (x86, x86_64, amd64, all, etc.)

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The following script will print out all the packages that are not set to automatic install and hence were installed manually:


    import apt_pkg
except ImportError:
    print "Error importing apt_pkg, is python-apt installed?"

STATE_FILE = apt_pkg.config.find_dir("Dir::State") + "extended_states"
auto = set()
tagfile = apt_pkg.TagFile(open(STATE_FILE))
while tagfile.step():
    pkgname = tagfile.section.get("Package")
    autoInst = tagfile.section.get("Auto-Installed")
    if not int(autoInst):
print "\n".join(sorted(auto))

it is based on how apt-mark prints out the automatically installed packages.

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  • Kudos to you fine sir. This actually works, in contrast to the accepted answer. – Irfy Nov 1 '12 at 2:53
  • show just a couple of package for me --- definitely missing a lot of them. – Rmano Jan 23 '14 at 17:36
  • Same here, definitely missing manually installed packages, right after I installed them. – David Ljung Madison Stellar Mar 2 '16 at 1:23
  • Using sys.exit(1) without import sys might result in an error in newer versions of python. Either import sys or use exit(1). – Videonauth Nov 26 '17 at 14:40

As several people have commented, apt-mark showmanual seems to be a bit buggy (and I reported it as bug 727799). When I'm using it, it actually reports a lot of stuff that isn't even logged in /var/lib/apt/extended_states (where this is supposed to be stored) and apt-get isn't logging things as installed in /var/lib/apt/extended_states (just in /var/lib/dpkg/status). The python script by txwikinger above draws from /var/lib/apt/extended_states directly but if you're using it today the syntax might not work (mine just started generating errors with Kubuntu 13.10). Updated syntax is:

import sys

    import apt_pkg
except ImportError:
    print "Error importing apt_pkg, is python-apt installed?"

STATE_FILE = apt_pkg.config.find_dir("Dir::State") + "extended_states"
auto = set()
tagfile = apt_pkg.TagFile(open(STATE_FILE))
while tagfile.step():
    pkgname = tagfile.section.get("Package")
    autoInst = tagfile.section.get("Auto-Installed")
    if not int(autoInst):
print "\n".join(sorted(auto))

For me this was a very short list of 5 items which doesn't seem to be accurate either.

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    Using sys.exit(1) without import sys might result in an error in newer versions of python. Either import sys or use exit(1). – Videonauth Nov 26 '17 at 14:40

I would like to give a GUI solution.

enter image description here

  1. Open Synaptic Package Manager

  2. Go to Status

  3. Click Installed (manual)

It will give the list of packages installed manually by apt or aptitude.

Unfortunately I could not find any option in Custom Filters to find out whether a foobar package was installed manually or automatically.

If the package is under Installed but not under Installed (manual) then it was Installed automatically. If the package is under Installed (manual) then it was installed manually.

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If no one gives you a nice answer using a apr-something command you can do it the hard way. Apt-get stores its info in /var/lib/apt/extended_states. Any file that is installed automatically will be added to this file. If you install a package already in this file manually, the package will remain in this file but with Auto-installed: 0 in the second line. It's not deleted.

Note: As expected better answers that are likely to work if file placement changes have appeared. I keep mine just in case the info on the file location is useful.

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  • 1
    No. I took a quick look at that file to find that liferea was marked as auto-installed. I did an apt-get install liferea and it didn't install but I got output that was something to the effect of "marked as manually installed". Now liferea is still in the file, except the next line has a 0 instead of a 1. Also, you should change your regex pattern to " foobar$" instead of just foobar. – Umang Aug 17 '10 at 13:21
  • That's true. My fault, in my system there is no line with 0, but it should be a rare happening. I update the answer just in case. – Javier Rivera Aug 17 '10 at 16:14

After googling a lot, I've managed to assemble this script. It works alright for me:

# List of all packages currently installed
current=$(dpkg -l | awk '{print $2}' | sort | uniq)

# List of all packages that were installed with the system
pre=$(gzip -dc /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz | sed -n 's/^Package: //p' | sort | uniq)

# List of packages that don't depend on any other package
manual=$(apt-mark showmanual | sort | uniq)

# (Current - Pre) ∩ (Manual)
packages=$(comm -12 <(comm -23 <(echo "$current") <(echo "$pre")) <(echo "$manual") )

for pack in $packages; do
    packname=$(echo $pack | cut -f 1 -d ":")
    desc=$(apt-cache search "^$packname$" | sed -E 's/.* - (.*)/\1/')
    date=$(date -r /var/lib/dpkg/info/$pack.list)

    echo "# $desc"
    echo "# $date"
    echo "sudo apt-get install $pack"
    echo -e ""
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  • You could use sort -u instead of sort | unique. As apt-markdoes not display architecture, you should strip it from dpkg's output before the set operations (or use dpkg-query -W -f='${Package}\n'). Besides, dpkg may list some packages that are not installed currently. As for "desc", you could use `dpkg-query -W -f='# ${binary:Summary}\n' $pack, which is faster. – jarno Dec 20 '15 at 15:54
  • Oh, apt-markmay display architecture for some packages, but not for so many as dpkg -l. – jarno Dec 20 '15 at 23:47
  • apt-cache search is slow. Getting a list of installed dates in advance using something like help.ubuntu.com/community/ListInstalledPackagesByDate might be more efficient – opticyclic Aug 24 '17 at 3:37

As Li Lo said, apt-mark showauto should get you a fat list of things automatically installed.

Now to show the things that are installed manually, it turns out there's a lovely simple search modifier for aptitude. But you don't want to to do that. You want to write a huge bash command that does some rocket science.

Note: This is more an illustration of how cool you'll look busting out massive bash commands to all your friends.

comm -3  <(dpkg-query --show -f '${Package} ${Status}\n' | \n
grep "install ok installed" | cut --delimiter=' ' -f 1) <(apt-mark showauto)

I broke it onto two lines for readability. What does this do?

  • First we query dpkg for a list of packages that are installed.
  • We filter those for the ones that are actually installed (not just residual config)
  • We chop off the status
  • We compare that list with the automated list from apt-mark
  • We rock out because we can.
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  • I doubt this is accurate, since dpkg often shows packages that are not installed – txwikinger Aug 16 '10 at 17:47
  • I know what you mean but my bash-fu isn't strong enough. I know you could show the status from dpkg-query, grep that down and then slice off the status. I'll have a go. – Oli Aug 16 '10 at 17:49
  • comm -3 <(dpkg -l | grep '^ii' | cut -d \ -f 3|sort) <(apt-mark showauto|sort) is properly better ;) – LassePoulsen Aug 16 '10 at 17:54

Not sure if this is helpful, but to find packages that were recently installed manually by the current user, search the history. E.g., for bash:

$ history | egrep '\bapt\b'

Modify the grep to check for specific packages.

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If you installed all your packages from the terminal using apt, you could throw a simple regex searching for apt install * at the contents of /var/log/apt/history.log and see what it gobbles up. The regex might be as simple as: Commandline: apt install [\w -]+ (following the log syntax of apt on Ubuntu 16.04)

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An updated version of @jmiserez' answer:

comm -23 \
    <(apt-mark showmanual | sort -u) \
    <(grep -oP '^(?:Package|Depends):\s+\K.*' /var/log/installer/status \
        | grep -oP '[^\s,()]+?(?=(?:\s+\([^)]+\))?+(?:,|$))' \
        | sort -u)

The log is no longer stored at /var/log/installer/initial-status.gz and the original did not omit dependent packages. The list it produces will include packages you didn't manually install, but it's a more manageable length and still very useful.

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This will list all manually installed packages without: dependencies, uninstalled packages, packages installed during system installation.

unopts() {
  echo "$in" | sed -r 's/ --[^ ]+//g;s/ -[^ ]+//g'

list() {
  cat '/var/log/apt/history.log' |
  grep --color=never -v '\-o APT::Status-Fd=4 \-o APT::Keep-Fds::=5 \-o APT::Keep-Fds::=6' |
  egrep --color=never "Commandline: apt-get.* $1" |
  sed -r "s/Commandline: apt-get//;s/ $1//" |
  unopts |
  tr ' ' '\n' |
  sed '/^$/d'

hapt() {
  tmp=`mktemp -d`
  list 'install' > $installed
  list '(remove|purge|autoremove)' > $deleted
  dpkg --get-selections |
  grep -v 'deinstall' |
  cut -f 1 > $dpkg
  while read package
    sed -i "0,/$package/{//d;}" $installed
  done < $deleted
  while read package
    if [ -z "`grep --color=never "^$package$" $dpkg`" ]
      sed -i "0,/$package/{//d;}" $installed
  done < $installed
  cat $installed
  rm -r $tmp
| improve this answer | |

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