I already know that I can check if multiple dependencies required to install a package in Debian or Ubuntu exist in my repositories by running the following command:

apt policy first-package second-package ... last-package  

This command also tells me if I have each package currently installed or not.

My question is how to quickly check if multiple dependency packages exist in a supported version of Debian or Ubuntu that I do not currently have installed. Because I do not have that OS currently installed I can't check if the dependency packages exist locally and offline, but I want to check if the required dependency packages exist in the default repositories from the terminal.

One possible use for this information is to check if an application that is installed in Ubuntu can also be installed in the latest version of Ubuntu before installing the latest version of Ubuntu or upgrading the existing OS to the latest version.

2 Answers 2


The ideal tool for this is rmadison, which is a simple Perl script with few dependencies (the URI module and wget or curl), so it can run pretty much everywhere. It interrogates the Madison services hosted by Debian and Ubuntu to determine the availability of packages:

rmadison gcc-7

tells you which versions of GCC 7 are available in the various Debian suites,

rmadison -u ubuntu gcc-7

does the same for Ubuntu.

You can restrict the output to a specific version:

rmadison -u ubuntu -s bionic gcc-7
  • @karel notice that the parameter after -u is not a package name, but a distro (or probably repo) name
    – GnP
    Apr 29, 2018 at 13:26
  • You're right, it was the missing ubuntu and it does work on my example file. In fact it works better than my script because it also returns results for packages for precise which is an end of life release.
    – karel
    Apr 29, 2018 at 13:48

rmadison can search for both Debian and Ubuntu packages at the same time, and it also searches for packages in both End Of Life (12.04) and unreleased (18.10) Ubuntu versions. These are great features, but rmadison can't do partial keyword searching on my computer. Sometimes I can't remember the whole package name that I am searching for. I can only remember part of it, and the following instructions also work in this situation. Otherwise use rmadison which can be installed by the command sudo apt-get install devscripts in Ubuntu and Debian.

  1. Create a shell script to query if the multiple packages exist named Open-multiple-URLs-in-Firefox.sh. The script contains the following code:

    while read line; do
        firefox --new-tab "https://packages.ubuntu.com/$line"
    done < packages.txt
  2. Make the script executable.

    chmod +x Open-multiple-URLs-in-Firefox.sh
  3. Create a file named packages.txt that contains the names of all the required dependency packages, each package on a separate line. Save packages.txt in the same directory as Open-multiple-URLs-in-Firefox.sh.

  4. Run the script.


The webpage that has information about each required dependency package will open in a separate tab in Firefox.

In order to search for multiple packages in Debian replace https://packages.ubuntu.com/ in the shell script with https://packages.debian.org/search?keywords=

This command is simpler alternative to the above shell script for use when you are only searching for 1 or 2 packages.

firefox --new-tab https://packages.ubuntu.com/first-package https://packages.ubuntu.com/next-package https://packages.ubuntu.com/last-package

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