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I installed a package and pacman spit out a message like this:

looking for conflicting packages...
:: packageX and packageY are in conflict. Remove packageY? [y/N]

I already managed to install the package but this got me thinking: What does it mean when packages are in conflict and how does pacman detect these conflicts?

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That means the maintainer thinks that the two packages cannot be installed together. The two packages probably install one or more equally named files. Mostly they install the same command: /usr/bin/package.

For that reason the maintainer puts that file to the 'conflicts array' of the PKGBUILD which is matched against the 'provides array' of other packages. Have a look here: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PKGBUILD#conflicts

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