Debian spices up APT package manager with a dash of color, squishes ancient bug

2.9 gives a taste of what's to come

Major updates to Debian's Advanced Packaging Tool don't come along very often, but APT 2.9 is here with a significant facelift.

APT version 2.9 has just been accepted into Debian's unstable development channel. This is an unfinished development version, which should lead to APT 3 in time for Debian 13, which will probably appear around mid-2025.

The pace of development of APT seems to be accelerating. It's only just over a year since we reported on APT 2.6, development of which was spurred by the inclusion of soft-loadable firmware in the default installation media for Debian 12.

There are several changes in APT 3, but they are primarily cosmetic rather than functional. It will list packages in columns, rather than full-terminal-width, comma-separated lists, which should make the output easier to read. It also lists the important section of packages to be removed last so they don't scroll off the top of the screen during large operations.

This change finally closes a decade-old bug that has been open since the year that APT 1.0 was released.

Most notably, the new version uses colored output. Packages to be installed or upgraded are listed in green by default, and ones to be removed are listed in red. This will make the distinction clearer for those of us with working color vision, but it's not the best choice for those who suffer from daltonism, or red/green color blindness – the most common form, affecting some 8 or 9 percent of men.

The Reg FOSS desk suspects that the changes are in part aimed at catching up with two other packaging tools. The DNF packaging tool used in Fedora, Red Hat and the RHELatives has attractively formatted output like this … but closer to home, Nala, an alternative command-line package-management tool for Debian and Ubuntu, brings some of the DNF look and feel to .deb-based distros.

We have recommended Nala previously and Teejeetech's Snap and Flatpak-free Ubuntu remix Zinc – now renamed Asmi – includes it as standard.

APT 2.9 isn't available to try just yet unless you build it from source, and indeed since the announcement, version 2.9.1 has already shown up on GitHub. It's too late for inclusion in Ubuntu Noble, but it might make it into 24.10 later this year. ®

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