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Debian tends to prefer more finely grained packages than some other Linux distributions, but that can lead to there being a lot of packages installed. For example, on one reasonably simple server we have almost 2000 packages installed. On my workstation, I have over 3000. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly why any given package is installed.

aptitude why

The aptitude why command can help with that question:

Here we can see that xfce4-panel is installed because xfce4 requires it, and xfce4 is installed because task-xfce-desktop requires it.

In this next example, we can see that exim4 is installed because rt4-clients requires either exim4 or some other MTA:

But why is rt4-clients installed? We can check:

Answer: it was manually installed.

aptitude why-not

Certain packages will conflict, and aptitude why-not will show us why a given package cannot be installed:

The example above shows why postfix cannot be installed on this system. We get similar information if we try to install it:

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