dselect(1) — Linux manual page


dselect(1)                     dpkg suite                     dselect(1)

NAME         top

       dselect - Debian package management frontend

SYNOPSIS         top

       dselect [option...] [command...]

DESCRIPTION         top

       dselect is one of the primary user interfaces for managing
       packages on a Debian system. At the dselect main menu, the system
       administrator can:

       •   Update the list of available package versions,

       •   View the status of installed and available packages,

       •   Alter package selections and manage dependencies,

       •   Install new packages or upgrade to newer versions.

       dselect operates as a front-end to dpkg(1), the low-level Debian
       package handling tool. It features a full-screen package
       selections manager with package depends and conflicts resolver.
       When run with administrator privileges, packages can be
       installed, upgraded and removed. Various access methods can be
       configured to retrieve available package version information and
       installable packages from package repositories.  Depending on the
       used access method, these repositories can be public archive
       servers on the internet, local archive servers or media discs.
       The recommended access method is apt, which is provided by the
       package apt(8).

       Normally dselect is invoked without parameters. An interactive
       menu is presented, offering the user a list of commands. If a
       command is given as argument, then that command is started
       immediately. Several command line parameters are still available
       to modify the running behaviour of dselect or show additional
       information about the program.

OPTIONS         top

       All options can be specified both on the command line and in the
       dselect configuration file /usr/local/etc/dpkg/dselect.cfg or the
       files on the configuration directory
       /usr/local/etc/dpkg/dselect.cfg.d/. Each line in the
       configuration file is either an option (exactly the same as the
       command line option but without leading hyphens) or a comment (if
       it starts with a ‘#’).

       --admindir directory
           Changes the directory where the dpkg ‘status’, ‘available’
           and similar files are located.  Defaults to
           /usr/local/var/lib/dpkg if DPKG_ADMINDIR has not been set.

       --instdir directory
           Set the installation directory, which refers to the directory
           where packages get installed (since dpkg 1.21.2).  Defaults
           to «/» if DPKG_ROOT has not been set.

       --root directory
           Set the root directory to directory, which sets the
           installation directory to «directory» and the administrative
           directory to «directory/usr/local/var/lib/dpkg» (since dpkg

       -Dfile, --debug file
           Turn on debugging. Debugging information is sent to file.

           Turns on expert mode, i.e. doesn't display possibly annoying
           help messages.

       --color screenpart:[foreground],[background][:attr[+attr]...]
       --colour screenpart:[foreground],[background][:attr[+attr]...]
           Configures screen colors. This works only if your display
           supports colors.  This option may be used multiple times (and
           is best used in dselect.cfg). Each use changes the color (and
           optionally, other attributes) of one part of the screen.  The
           parts of the screen (from top to bottom) are:

               The screen title.

               The header line above the list of packages.

               The scrolling list of packages (and also some help text).

               The selected item in the list.

               In the list of packages, the text indicating the current
               state of each package.

               In the list of packages, the text indicating the current
               state of the currently selected package.

               The header line that displays the state of the currently
               selected package.

               The package's short description.

               Used to display package info such as the package's

               The last line of the screen when selecting packages.

               Used to display query lines

               Color of help screens.

           After the part of the screen comes a colon and the color
           specification. You can specify either the foreground color,
           the background color, or both, overriding the compiled-in
           colors. Use standard curses color names.

           Optionally, after the color specification is another colon,
           and an attribute specification. This is a list of one or more
           attributes, separated by plus (‘+’) characters.  Available
           attributes include (not all of these will work on all
           terminals): normal, standout, underline, reverse, blink,
           bright, dim, bold

       -?, --help
           Print a brief help text and exit successfully.

           Print version information and exit successfully.

COMMANDS         top

       When dselect is started it can perform the following commands,
       either directly if it was specified on the command line or by
       prompting the user with a menu of available commands if running

       Choose and configure an access method to access package

       By default, dselect provides several methods such as media, file
       or ftp, but other packages may provide additional methods, for
       example the apt access method provided by the apt(8) package.

       The use of the apt access method is strongly recommended.

       Refresh the available packages database.

       Retrieves a list of available package versions from the package
       repository, configured for the current access method, and update
       the dpkg database. The package lists are commonly provided by the
       repository as files named Packages or Packages.gz.  These files
       can be generated by repository maintainers, using the program

       Details of the update command depend on the access method's
       implementation.  Normally the process is straightforward and
       requires no user interaction.

       View or manage package selections and dependencies.

       This is the main function of dselect. In the select screen, the
       user can review a list of all available and installed packages.
       When run with administrator privileges, it is also possible to
       interactively change packages selection state. dselect tracks the
       implications of these changes to other depending or conflicting

       When a conflict or failed depends is detected, a dependency
       resolution subscreen is prompted to the user. In this screen, a
       list of conflicting or depending packages is shown, and for each
       package listed, the reason for its listing is shown. The user may
       apply the suggestions proposed by dselect, override them, or back
       out all the changes, including the ones that created the
       unresolved depends or conflicts.

       The use of the interactive package selections management screen
       is explained in more detail below.

       Installs selected packages.

       The configured access method will fetch installable or upgradable
       packages from the relevant repositories and install these using
       dpkg.  Depending on the implementation of the access method, all
       packages can be prefetched before installation, or fetched when
       needed.  Some access methods may also remove packages that were
       marked for removal.

       If an error occurred during install, it is usually advisable to
       run install again. In most cases, the problems will disappear or
       be solved.  If problems persist or the installation performed was
       incorrect, please investigate into the causes and circumstances,
       and file a bug in the Debian bug tracking system. Instructions on
       how to do this can be found at <https://bugs.debian.org/> or by
       reading the documentation for bug(1) or reportbug(1), if these
       are installed.

       Details of the install command depend on the access method's
       implementation.  The user's attention and input may be required
       during installation, configuration or removal of packages. This
       depends on the maintainer scripts in the package. Some packages
       make use of the debconf(1) library, allowing for more flexible or
       even automated installation setups.

       Configures any previously installed, but not fully configured

       Removes or purges installed packages, that are marked for

       Quit dselect.

       Exits the program with zero (successful) error code.


       dselect directly exposes the administrator to some of the
       complexities involved with managing large sets of packages with
       many interdependencies. For a user who is unfamiliar with the
       concepts and the ways of the Debian package management system, it
       can be quite overwhelming. Although dselect is aimed at easing
       package management and administration, it is only instrumental in
       doing so and cannot be assumed to be a sufficient substitute for
       administrator skill and understanding. The user is required to be
       familiar with the concepts underlying the Debian packaging
       system.  In case of doubt, consult the dpkg(1) manual page and
       the distribution policy.

       Unless dselect is run in expert or immediate mode, a help screen
       is first displayed when choosing this command from the menu. The
       user is strongly advised to study all of the information
       presented in the online help screens, when one pops up.  The
       online help screens can at any time be invoked with the ‘?’ key.

   Screen layout
       The select screen is by default split in a top and a bottom half.
       The top half shows a list of packages. A cursor bar can select an
       individual package, or a group of packages, if applicable, by
       selecting the group header. The bottom half of the screen shows
       some details about the package currently selected in the top half
       of the screen.  The type of detail that is displayed can be

       Pressing the ‘I’ key toggles a full-screen display of the
       packages list, an enlarged view of the package details, or the
       equally split screen.

   Package details view
       The package details view by default shows the extended package
       description for the package that is currently selected in the
       packages status list.  The type of detail can be toggled by
       pressing the ‘i’ key.  This alternates between:

       •   the extended description

       •   the control information for the installed version

       •   the control information for the available version

       In a dependency resolution screen, there is also the possibility
       of viewing the specific unresolved depends or conflicts related
       to the package and causing it to be listed.

   Packages status list
       The main select screen displays a list of all packages known to
       the Debian package management system. This includes packages
       installed on the system and packages known from the available
       packages database.

       For every package, the list shows the package's status, priority,
       section, installed and available architecture, installed and
       available versions, the package name and its short description,
       all in one line.  By pressing the ‘A’ key, the display of the
       installed and available architecture can be toggled between on an
       off.  By pressing the ‘V’ key, the display of the installed and
       available version can be toggled between on an off.  By pressing
       the ‘v’ key, the package status display is toggled between
       verbose and shorthand.  Shorthand display is the default.

       The shorthand status indication consists of four parts: an error
       flag, which should normally be clear, the current status, the
       last selection state and the current selection state.  The first
       two relate to the actual state of the package, the second pair
       are about the selections set by the user.

       These are the meanings of the shorthand package status indicator

           Error flag:

           empty   no error
           R       serious error, needs reinstallation;

           Installed state:

           empty   not installed;
           *       fully installed and configured;
           -       not installed but some config files may remain;
           U       unpacked but not yet configured;
           C       half-configured (an error happened);
           I       half-installed (an error happened).

           Current and requested selections:

           *       marked for installation or upgrade;
           -       marked for removal, configuration files remain;
           =       on hold: package will not be processed at all;
           _       marked for purge, also remove configuration;
           n       package is new and has yet to be marked.

   Cursor and screen movement
       The package selection list and the dependency conflict resolution
       screens can be navigated using motion commands mapped to the
       following keys:

           p, Up, k           move cursor bar up
           n, Down, j         move cursor bar down
           P, Pgup, Backspace scroll list 1 page up
           N, Pgdn, Space     scroll list 1 page down
           ^p                 scroll list 1 line up
           ^n                 scroll list 1 line down
           t, Home            jump to top of list
           e, End             jump to end of list
           u                  scroll info 1 page up
           d                  scroll info 1 page down
           ^u                 scroll info 1 line up
           ^d                 scroll info 1 line down
           B, Left-arrow      pan display 1/3 screen left
           F, Right-arrow     pan display 1/3 screen right
           ^b                 pan display 1 character left
           ^f                 pan display 1 character right

   Searching and sorting
       The list of packages can be searched by package name. This is
       done by pressing ‘/’, and typing a simple search string. The
       string is interpreted as a regex(7) regular expression.  If you
       add ‘/d’ to the search expression, dselect will also search in
       descriptions.  If you add ‘/i’ the search will be case
       insensitive.  You may combine these two suffixes like this:
       ‘/id’.  Repeated searching is accomplished by repeatedly pressing
       the ‘n’ or ‘\’ keys, until the wanted package is found.  If the
       search reaches the bottom of the list, it wraps to the top and
       continues searching from there.

       The list sort order can be varied by pressing the ‘o’ and ‘O’
       keys repeatedly.  The following nine sort orderings can be


       Where not listed above explicitly, alphabetic order is used as
       the final subordering sort key.

   Altering selections
       The requested selection state of individual packages may be
       altered with the following commands:

           +, Insert    install or upgrade
           =, H         hold in present state and version
           :, G         unhold: upgrade or leave uninstalled
           -, Delete    remove, but leave configuration
           _            remove & purge configuration

       When the change request results in one or more unsatisfied
       depends or conflicts, dselect prompts the user with a dependency
       resolution screen. This will be further explained below.

       It is also possible to apply these commands to groups of package
       selections, by pointing the cursor bar onto a group header. The
       exact grouping of packages is dependent on the current list
       ordering settings.

       Proper care should be taken when altering large groups of
       selections, because this can instantaneously create large numbers
       of unresolved depends or conflicts, all of which will be listed
       in one dependency resolution screen, making them very hard to
       handle. In practice, only hold and unhold operations are useful
       when applied to groups.

   Resolving depends and conflicts
       When the change request results in one or more unsatisfied
       depends or conflicts, dselect prompts the user with a dependency
       resolution screen. First however, an informative help screen is

       The top half of this screen lists all the packages that will have
       unresolved depends or conflicts, as a result of the requested
       change, and all the packages whose installation can resolve any
       of these depends or whose removal can resolve any of the
       conflicts.  The bottom half defaults to show the depends or
       conflicts that cause the currently selected package to be listed.

       When the sublist of packages is displayed initially, dselect may
       have already set the requested selection status of some of the
       listed packages, in order to resolve the depends or conflicts
       that caused the dependency resolution screen to be displayed.
       Usually, it is best to follow up the suggestions made by dselect.

       The listed packages' selection state may be reverted to the
       original settings, as they were before the unresolved depends or
       conflicts were created, by pressing the ‘R’ key.  By pressing the
       ‘D’ key, the automatic suggestions are reset, but the change that
       caused the dependency resolution screen to be prompted is kept as
       requested.  Finally, by pressing ‘U’, the selections are again
       set to the automatic suggestion values.

   Establishing the requested selections
       By pressing enter, the currently displayed set of selections is
       accepted. If dselect detects no unresolved depends as a result of
       the requested selections, the new selections will be set.
       However, if there are any unresolved depends, dselect will again
       prompt the user with a dependency resolution screen.

       To alter a set of selections that creates unresolved depends or
       conflicts and forcing dselect to accept it, press the ‘Q’ key.
       This sets the selections as specified by the user,
       unconditionally. Generally, don't do this unless you've read the
       fine print.

       The opposite effect, to back out any selections change requests
       and go back to the previous list of selections, is attained by
       pressing the ‘X’ or escape keys. By repeatedly pressing these
       keys, any possibly detrimental changes to the requested package
       selections can be backed out completely to the last established

       If you mistakenly establish some settings and wish to revert all
       the selections to what is currently installed on the system,
       press the ‘C’ key.  This is somewhat similar to using the unhold
       command on all packages, but provides a more obvious panic button
       in cases where the user pressed enter by accident.

EXIT STATUS         top

       0   The requested command was successfully performed.

       2   Fatal or unrecoverable error due to invalid command-line
           usage, or interactions with the system, such as accesses to
           the database, memory allocations, etc.

ENVIRONMENT         top

           If set and the --instdir or --root options have not been
           specified, it will be used as the filesystem root directory
           (since dpkg 1.21.0).

           If set and the --admindir or --root option have not been
           specified, it will be used as the dpkg database directory
           (since dpkg 1.21.0).

           If set, dselect will use it as the directory from which to
           read the user specific configuration file.

BUGS         top

       The dselect package selection interface is confusing to some new
       users.  Reportedly, it even makes seasoned kernel developers cry.

       The documentation is lacking.

       There is no help option in the main menu.

       The visible list of available packages cannot be reduced.

       The built in access methods can no longer stand up to current
       quality standards. Use the access method provided by apt(8), it
       is not only not broken, it is also much more flexible than the
       built in access methods.

SEE ALSO         top

       dpkg(1), apt(8), sources.list(5), deb(5).

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of the dpkg (Debian Package Manager) project.
       Information about the project can be found at 
       ⟨https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/Dpkg/⟩.  If you have a bug report
       for this manual page, see
       ⟨http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?src=dpkg⟩.  This
       page was obtained from the project's upstream Git repository ⟨git
       clone https://git.dpkg.org/git/dpkg/dpkg.git⟩ on 2023-12-22.  (At
       that time, the date of the most recent commit that was found in
       the repository was 2023-12-18.)  If you discover any rendering
       problems in this HTML version of the page, or you believe there
       is a better or more up-to-date source for the page, or you have
       corrections or improvements to the information in this COLOPHON
       (which is not part of the original manual page), send a mail to

1.22.1-2-gddb42                2023-10-30                     dselect(1)

Pages that refer to this page: dpkg(1)dpkg-deb(1)dpkg-name(1)dpkg-scanpackages(1)dselect.cfg(5)