How to check package dependencies on Ubuntu or Debian

Last updated on September 15, 2020 by Dan Nanni

A typical .deb package relies on other packages to install and operate properly. With package managers such as apt-get and aptitude, you can resolve package dependencies, and have all prerequisites installed automatically. Tools like gdebi allows you to detect any dependencies in a .deb file and install all dependent packages along with the .deb file.

Suppose for whatever reason, you want to manually resolve package dependencies of a particular package, in which case you need to identify all its dependent packages first.

In the following, I will explain how to check package dependencies on Ubuntu or Debian.

Check Deb Package Dependencies with apt-rdepends

A command-line tool called apt-rdepends can help you in this case. This tool can recursively check dependencies of .deb package, and list all found package dependencies.

To install apt-rdepends on Ubuntu or Debian:

$ sudo apt-get install apt-rdepends

To show package dependency information of a particular package (e.g., tcpdump), run the command with package name:

$ apt-rdepends tcpdump
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
  Depends: libc6 (>= 2.14)
  Depends: libpcap0.8 (>= 1.2.1)
  Depends: libssl1.0.0 (>= 1.0.0)
  Depends: libc-bin (= 2.15-0ubuntu20)
  Depends: libgcc1
  Depends: tzdata
  Depends: gcc-4.7-base (= 4.7.2-2ubuntu1)
  Depends: libc6 (>= 2.14)
  PreDepends: multiarch-support
. . . .

Visualization of Package Dependencies

The text output of apt-rdepends can be difficult to read due to many recursively defined dependency relationships. That is when visualization can help. apt-rdepends can export package dependency information into a dot file, which can be used by a GUI-based graph editor called dotty to visualize package dependencies in a graph format.

For visualization, first install dotty graph editor tool:

$ sudo apt-get install graphviz

Finally, run the following commands to visualize package dependencies with dotty:

$ apt-rdepends -d tcpdump | dot >
$ dotty

The visualization result of tcpdump package looks like the following.

So far in this tutorial, we check package dependencies on Debian-based systems. If you want to know more about package dependencies on RPM-based systems such as Fedora or CentOS, please refer to this tutorial.

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