I am looking to get a text file with a list of some available packages and their latest version. I need to have the package name and its latest version on the same line.


Currently, I can get a version number for a single package:

example 1:

apt-cache show python-numpy | grep Version

This gives me 1 line of output:

Version: 1:1.8.2-2

example 2:

apt-cache show mysql-server | grep Version

This gives me 1 line of output:

Version: 5.5.44-0+deb8ul


There is more than one package that I am interested in.


What I am looking for is the package name and the version - I would want this format:

python-numpy 1.8.2-2
mysql-server 5.5.44-0
python-six 1.8.0-1
python-wheel 0.24.0-1
apache2 2.4.10-10
python-urllib3 1.9.1-3
python-setuptools 5.5.1-1

If possible, I would like these 6 lines to be written to 'Output.txt'. If it is not possible to get all these lines in the same file, then I would like to only get the 1st line above - python-numpy 1.8.2-2 - in the output file.


Currently, I can get the name and version of each of these packages individually. However, is there a way to automate this process and get all at once?


The only packages I am looking for are:

  • 2
    What is "some available packages"?
    – A.B.
    Jan 3, 2016 at 19:16
  • Sorry, missed that. I added the list to the OP. Thanks.
    – edesz
    Jan 3, 2016 at 19:33
  • You're missing the STDIN / STDOUT redirections: done < input > Output.txt.
    – kos
    Jan 3, 2016 at 20:30
  • I rolled back your question to the previous version since it doesn't really make sense to edit for a copy-paste error, the fix is just copying muru's script exactly as it's written.
    – kos
    Jan 3, 2016 at 20:33
  • The apt-show-versions command seems to come close to what you want Jan 3, 2016 at 21:46

2 Answers 2


If you have a list of packages (say, in a file named input, one per line), then you can do:

while read package
    echo $package "$(apt-cache show $package | awk '/Version/{print $2}')"
done < input > Output.txt
  • I have 2 questions: a. Is the above run from the terminal, or from a separate script? b. So, input.txt would like python-wheel apache2 etc. etc....each on a new line?
    – edesz
    Jan 3, 2016 at 19:35
  • @WR a. you can do it either way b. input would have python-wheel on one line, mysql-server on the next, etc.
    – muru
    Jan 3, 2016 at 19:36
  • Thanks. I tried this both from a bash script file and directly from the terminal but I am getting an error message. I added this to the original post (Attempt 2) - all the error messages and output is there. Any thoughts about what might be causing this?
    – edesz
    Jan 3, 2016 at 20:30
  • @WR Have a closer look at my code. You'll notice you're missing a < and a >.
    – muru
    Jan 3, 2016 at 20:32
  • Sorry, just want to clarify: Did you mean < input.txt >? Also, the echo line - should that be indented if I'm putting this in a *.txt file?
    – edesz
    Jan 3, 2016 at 20:35

After some wrangling with the aptitude documentation, including this Debian aptitude search term reference, I managed to come up with this ugly one-liner

aptitude -F '%p %V' --group-by=none --sort=name,~version versions \
  ?exact-name\({python-numpy,mysql-server,python-six,python-wheel,apache2,python-urllib3,python-setuptools}\) \
  | sort -uk1,1
  • -F '%p %V' formats the output as package name and then candidate version
  • --sort=name,~version sorts by package name and version descending so that we can use sort -u to skim off the newest
  • ?exact-name() prevents the search from being expanded to include things like mysql-server-5.5 for mysql-server

Note the ugly brace expansion for the list of packages to check: there doesn't seem to be an option like -oAptitude::Some::Param=true to enforce ?exact-name() globally.

FWIW the apt-show-versions utility seems to get 90% of the way there with 10% of the effort: here are the results for the packages you mention on my 14.04.3 system:

$ aptitude -F '%p %V' --group-by=none --sort=name,~version versions \
  ?exact-name\({python-numpy,mysql-server,python-six,python-wheel,apache2,python-urllib3,python-setuptools}\) \
  | sort -uk1,1
apache2 2.4.7-1ubuntu4.8                                                        
mysql-server 5.5.46-0ubuntu0.14.04.2                                            
python-numpy 1:1.8.2-0ubuntu0.1                                                 
python-setuptools 3.3-1ubuntu2                                                  
python-six 1.5.2-1ubuntu1                                                       
python-urllib3 1.7.1-1ubuntu4                                                   
python-wheel 0.24.0-1~ubuntu1                                                   


$ apt-show-versions python-numpy mysql-server python-six python-wheel apache2 python-urllib3 python-setuptools
apache2 not installed
mysql-server:all/trusty-security 5.5.46-0ubuntu0.14.04.2 uptodate
python-numpy:amd64/trusty-updates 1:1.8.2-0ubuntu0.1 uptodate
python-setuptools:all/trusty-updates 3.3-1ubuntu2 uptodate
python-six:all/trusty-updates 1.5.2-1ubuntu1 uptodate
python-urllib3:all/trusty-updates 1.7.1-1ubuntu4 uptodate
python-wheel:all/trusty-updates 0.24.0-1~ubuntu1 uptodate

The most obvious difference is it apparently doesn't include packages that are not currently installed.

  • Thank you! My main concern is that it works. The aptitude approach would be the better option here then. Why do you have sort -uk1,1 rather than just sort-u?
    – edesz
    Jan 3, 2016 at 22:38
  • @WR the k1,1 is so that sort only looks at the first field (i.e. the package name) when eliminating duplicates. At least I think that's how it works. Jan 3, 2016 at 22:44
  • You could use ?or() instead of shell expansion, but that tends to make aptitude slow, so using regexes is prefered.
    – Braiam
    Jan 4, 2016 at 4:28
  • @Braiam thanks - do you know what the syntax of an ?or() version would be? I tried that but couldn't seem to get it right Jan 4, 2016 at 5:35

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