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I'm learning about Unix and as part of that, I'd like to have some idea of what all these packages I've been told to install are. I've found that Googling the package name doesn't always reveal anything useful (at least not immediately). Is there a command that would display any documentation or summary of a package, given its name?

EDIT - The distribution is Ubuntu 11.10.

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It depends on the package manager, and so on the Linux distribution you are using (I suppose you talk about Linux, right?) – enzotib Jan 13 '12 at 8:48
@enzotib Yeah. Good point, I edited the question to include that – Mirov Jan 13 '12 at 8:50
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You can get a package description with one of these commands (the APT command for installable packages, the dpkg command for installed packages):

apt-cache show package-name
dpkg -s package-name

You can get the list of installed files with

apt-file list package-name
dpkg -L package-name

In particular grepping this command for /man/ or /bin/ can give you information about available man pages and binaries.

The package documentation should be in

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This is perfect. Thanks! – Mirov Jan 13 '12 at 9:15


dpkg --list | grep 'package name'

you get a (very) brief description (one-liner, in case apt-cache show is to elaborate).

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