After doing a man apt-get and cursory Google search it's not clear how I find new programs to install (from the internet) using apt-get (which is amazingly powerful and simple coming from another Linux distro).

I'm using Ubuntu Server 8.04 LTS (an inherited system used for some random work), so no GUI.

Anyone have quick advice here?


9 Answers 9


I always use packages.ubuntu.com

Also you can use apt-cache search for command-line searching. Or you can use the GUI package manager (Ubuntu Software Center / Synaptic) for searching software.

  • How do I "import" a package from packages.ubuntu.com?
    – Adi Shavit
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 7:50
  • 3
    Also there is just apt search ... Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 1:16

If you search for "nvidia settings".

apt-cache search nvidia settings

The output is:

nvidia-settings - Werkzeug für die Konfiguration des NVIDIA-Grafiktreibers
nvidia-settings-updates - Tool of configuring the NVIDIA graphics driver

You see 2 packages nvidia-settings and nvidia-settings-updates.

To find the related binary to the package nvidia-settings.

dpkg -L nvidia-settings | grep bin

The output is:


nvidia-settings is the binary name to start the program.


With binaries in particular there is an application that is automatically run if you run a command that is not installed. For example,

$ bonnie++
The program 'bonnie++' is currently not installed.  You can install it by typing:
sudo apt-get install bonnie++

Other than that, there are searches: apt-cache search <query> or aptitude search <query> which can be preferable if you want to get really involved with filters.


You can try the program 'aptitude' from the command line. It is a graphical package manager. Remember to append sudo to the program to do any real installations. 'sudo aptitude'. You can also use aptitude just like apt-get; "sudo aptitude install". I prefer apt-get for single packages that I know the names for.

Also, are you just on a command line? If you have a desktop you can use System -> Preferences -Synaptic, or the Ubuntu Software Center. They function nearly the same however they have a simpler package search.

  • 1
    I find the Software Center most useful with Google a close second when I know what I want but don't know a package name. (And the Meerkat Software Center is new, improved and more Googly).
    – msw
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 6:11
  • Is the software center new to Lucid Lynx? I have an older image I inherited (Ubuntu Server 8.04 LTS)
    – r00fus
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 21:30
  • r00fus - It became included in Ubuntu 9.10 I believe. Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 21:38

I think, you are referring to the binary program name included in the package. I use this technique to find this:

simply type dpkg -L <package-name> in a terminal, it will display all files installed by that package, then you can recognize the binary program names by looking at their location. Usually programs are installed in /usr/bin directory or /sbin directory.

Let's see an example:

anwar@edubuntu-lenovo:~$ dpkg -L gnome-screenshot 

Note that, the program name of gnome-screenshot package is gnome-screenshot.

You asked

Is there any standard way to know the <packageName> for the desired program?

Sometimes the terminal can tell your the package name required to be installed to have a desired program. It happens when the program is in Standard repository and you have enabled those repository.

For example, If I type gnome-documents when no such package is installed, the terminal will tell be this:

anwar@edubuntu-lenovo:~$ gnome-documents
The program 'gnome-documents' is currently not installed.  You can install it by typing:
sudo apt-get install gnome-documents

But, in this case, I should at least know the program name

  • Yah it is similar but not same Because he just wants to find new programs/packages... While in my case I know the package names and I want to know there apt-get names...i.e. as in the example I know the package name: "NVIDIA X Server Settings"(actual name) And want to know apt-get name: "nvidia-settings"
    – Sam
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 19:42

You can get a (long) list of installable packages by typing apt-get install and then hitting TAB twice (for autocomplete). This is limited because it doesn't tell you what the packages do (Synaptic or Software Centre would be better for this) but it can be useful when you can't remember the exact name of a package. You can also type the first part of the package name (eg openoffice) to get a shorter list of more relevant packages.

  • Hmm.. just tested this doesn't seem to work, when I double tab, it seems to want to complete the command with a local file (ex: i see .aptitude .bashrc .bash_history ... )
    – r00fus
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 21:31
  • That's strange, I get Display all 39603 possibilities? (y or n) which gives a list of packages.
    – dv3500ea
    Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 22:00

you can run (preferably in your ~/.bashrc)

. /etc/bash_completion

when you type:

sudo apt-get in<hit tab twice here>

it will propose install then start typing part of the name - for example nvidia

and you will see the available choices starting with nvidia


Use command-line tool if you know the package name you want. I you don't, use software center. You can get the package name via software center and use it in the terminal, if you really need to use apt-get tool from command line. And usually package name is the same as program name.


Adding more info to the answer above which suggests using apt-cache search ....

Since apt-cache search uses regex, it will print all the packages that have words match the input. Also by default apt-cache searches both the package names and their descriptions to match the input.

So for an exact package_name search, use --names-only flag and wrap your package_name between ^ and $

apt-cache --names-only search "^package_name$"

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