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Synaptic is a graphical front-end to apt, the package management system in Ubuntu.

synaptic01aSynaptic is a graphical front-end to apt, the package management system in Ubuntu. It combines the point-and-click simplicity of the graphical user interface with the power of the apt-get command line tool.

You can install, remove, configure, or upgrade software packages, browse, sort and search the list of available software packages, manage repositories, or upgrade the whole system.

You can queue up a number of actions before you execute them. Synaptic will inform you about dependencies (additional packages required by the software package you have chosen) as well as conflicts with other packages that are already installed on your system.

Synaptic's sibling on the Kubuntu desktop is Adept. If you prefer to use the command line instead of a graphical user interface, apt-get and aptitude are available. For information on these alternatives see InstallingSoftware.

Note for 11.10 release and above.
Synaptic is no longer installed by default in Ubuntu 11.10, however it is still useful in some situations.

Installing with software-center.
You can install it by searching in the software-center for synaptic and clicking on Synaptic Package Manager

Installing with CLI.
Or, alternatively, open a terminal, and enter: 
sudo apt-get install synaptic

Getting Started

To launch Synaptic, choose

  • System > Administration > "Synaptic Package Manager"
Or if you are using the Unity interface, open the dash and search for synaptic.

The main window is divided into three sections: a package browser on the left, the package list on the upper right, and package details on the lower right. The status bar shows you the system state at a glance. Synaptic-Package-Manager.png

And if you would like to see more details about a package, use a mouse right-click on a package and choose Properties


Browsing the package database.

To browse the (very large) list of available packages by category, section, package status, custom filters, or recent searches. Click on the corresponding button at the bottom of the left window pane. You can also create your own filters. See the Filters section for details.

To search for packages by name or description, click on the Search button in the toolbar:

or use the "Quick search" field in the toolbar:


You can examine a number of package details in the lower right window pane such as its size, its dependencies, recommended or suggested additional packages, and a short description.

How to apply filters.
  • To be added

Repositories are like shops (currently almost always free), warehouses or archives full of almost all the software, drivers, codecs, libraries and other packages that are available for the release of Ubuntu (or whichever distro) you are using.

It is up to the package project's team to get their package into the repositories for the various releases of the various distros. Also it is up to the team developing a release to make sure that the repositories have plenty of the right sort of packages to meet people's needs. Think of a shop. Companies need to get their product onto shelves and shops need to show they have plenty to sell. This saves individual users from having to identify the 'correct' website for a product and assess whether or not the site has been compromised and whether they are getting a genuine product or something stuffed full of malware.

The standard repositories are all free as are the Medibuntu repositories and most others that are easily found and added. Theoretically there is nothing stopping a games manufacturer (for example) setting up a one-off or monthly charge for accessing a specialist repository. The ethics and licensing agreements would have to be looked into if people or companies chose this route.

Adding or removing repositories is fairly easy.

Managing Repositories.

Either from the top taskbar

System - Administrator - "Software Sources"

or from inside Synaptic using the Settings menu, select Repositories

The first tab of the pop-up is where Cd/Dvds can be added (or removed) as repositories to search. Usually the various online "repos" are already included so you might be installing a more recent version of something that is listed on the Cd/dvd and also in the online repos. The package manager will automatically choose the most recent by default although one of the other tabs in the pop-up can change the priorities, or in the Preferences pop-up from the Setttings menu.
As a front-end to apt, Synaptic uses the system-wide list of software repositories file located at

    Updating the Package List
Click Reload or press Ctrl + R to make Synaptic aware of te latest updates and any changes to the list of repositories.

Although this is done automatically when you open Synaptic it can be a good idea to update the database from time to time while running Synaptic. The database is a list of packages on your system to keep track of installed software. All the package managers share the same list and the same list of repositories but each one presents the information slightly differently. The main time you will need to update the lists is when/if you have made changes to the list of software channels or if you have made changes to Synaptic's configuration.

Adding or Removing Software

Adding Packages

Mark the Chosen Packages

  • Right-click on each chosen package and choose Mark for Installation from the context menu, or press Ctrl + I. If the package requires the installation of another package, a dialog box appears:


    Synaptic will warn you if your choices conflict with packages that are already installed on your system. If this is the case, the dialog box will show you any packages that need to be removed. If you are not sure you don't need the package(s) that will be removed, make sure you look up its function and use before you apply the changes you've made.

  • Click Mark to allow the installation of the additional package(s).

Installing Packages.

Without an Internet Connection.
Search for and "Mark" all the applications that you want to install/upgrade in the usual way but don't click the "Apply" button. Instead use the File menu to "Generate a download Script".

With no internet connection at all of course you wont be able to Update the Package List and so packages may be older versions. An intermittent, occasional or slow connection could usefully update the list and then use the Script method to get updates via a 2nd machine which would not have to be running Ubuntu. The Script is designed to work on Windows or Mac machines too.

There are a few guides
or use apt-get instead of Synaptic

or an alternative approach, 'simply' download the entire repository!

With a Broadband Connection

  • Once you are satisfied with your choices, click on Apply in the toolbar or press Ctrl + P.

  • A dialog box appears with a summary of changes that will be made. synaptic-confirm-install.png

  • Confirm the changes by clicking on Apply.

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About Hugo Repetto

Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that offers an operating system predominantly focused on desktop computers but also provides support for servers. Based on Debian GNU / Linux, Ubuntu focuses on ease of use, freedom in usage restriction, regular releases (every 6 months) and ease of installation.
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