I'm wandering if there is a universal way to find docs for apt installed packages, or at least find out what they do. Sometimes I run into packages of which I have no idea at all, but I cannot figure out what they do either locally or online.

For instance, what does the package libaccounts-glib0 do? If it is for web account plugins, I'll simply remove it. If it is for core accounts services, removing it will get me into trouble, I guess. There is not even a one-line description to help me decide.


That's one of the beauties with FOSS. There isn't a central documentation for every piece of software (that is if the documentation exists in the first place).

Normally when looking for documentation, people rely on the man pages, info and, if the application is a GUI, the yelp help files. That's normally with applications that users can interact with/configure/use directly (the frontend). This includes the .conf files, and almost any text configuration file. Then some applications don't do this and rely on the --help switch. Ubuntu (and Debian) has a policy for software documentation, that all documentation gets dumped in /usr/share/doc/packagename:

ls -l /usr/share/doc/ | grep <package_name>

So, for the specific case of libraries, some of them includes -doc:

libetsf-io-doc - Developer documentation API and tutorials for ETSF_IO

Or in the specific case of your package libaccounts-glib0:

libaccounts-glib-doc - library for single signon - documentation

For finding this documentation you have to look for the source package libaccounts-glib.

Then, there are some packages that don't include the documentation in the repositories for legal reasons, or just don't have any.

In any case, for finding any documentation, you should look for the -doc of the packages, that normally are suggested (like ntp suggest ntp-doc), or look for the content of a specific packages to see if it includes some info, man or README file:

dpkg -L <package> | grep -P '/man|info|README|doc/'
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  • Also have a look at /usr/share/doc/packagename - this is the location of the documentation as per the Debian/Ubuntu packaging guidelines. – gertvdijk Aug 14 '13 at 19:28

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