Coming from Linux land, I assumed that pkgin is some sort of higher-level frontend for pkg_add et al, something like what apt is to dpkg or yum/dnf to rpm. But pkg_add appears to handle installation from network, dependencies, as well as automatic updates (the things that on Linux would be the responsibility of the front-ends rather than the underlying package tool), so now the roles of pkgin and (what I gather are the more traditional) pkg_ tools seem a bit unclear to me. The only difference that I'm presently aware of is that pkgin does not handle installation from sources.

  • What is the job of each, and how are they different?

  • When / why should I prefer one over the other?

  • Are there any issues with mixing the two, or using one to update software acquired using the other?

  • Are these differences likely to hold across the different BSDs? I'm getting my feet wet with NetBSD, for example, but the pkg_ tools and pkgin appear to be part of FreeBSD as well.

  • 2
    I don't know the other BSDs, but on FreeBSD you use pkg to install packages. Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 17:59
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    And FreeBSD doesn't have anything called pkgin. You should read the Handbook
    – Rob
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


They are two different tools that have evolved independently from each other. The pkg* tools are the native NetBSD tools for package management, while pkgin wants to be a tool similar to apt-get or yum. Neither handle installation from sources. That's the job of pkgsrc, but both can install binaries built from pkgsrc.

"man 1 pkgin" and "man 1 pkg_add" is all you need.

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