Difference Between apt and apt-get Explained

Brief: This article explains the difference between apt and apt-get commands of Linux. It also lists some of the most commonly used apt commands that replace the older apt-get commands.

One of the noticeable new features of Ubuntu 16.04 was the ‘introduction’ of apt command. The reality is that the first stable version of apt was released in the year 2014 but people started noticing it in 2016 with the release of Ubuntu 16.04.

It became common to see apt install package instead of the usual apt-get install package. Eventually, many other distributions followed Ubuntu’s footsteps and started to encourage users to use apt instead of apt-get.

You might be wondering what’s the difference between apt-get and apt? And if they have a similar command structure, what was the need for the new apt command? You might also be thinking if apt is better than apt-get? Should you be using the new apt command or stick with the good old apt-get commands?

I’ll explain all these questions in this article and I hope that by the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer picture.

apt vs apt-get

What's the difference between apt vs apt-get

Just a quick word for Linux Mint users. A few years ago, Linux Mint implemented a python wrapper called apt that actually uses apt-get but provides more friendly options. This apt which we are discussing here is not the same as the one in Linux Mint.

Before we see the difference between apt and apt-get, let’s go into the backdrop of these commands and what exactly they try to achieve.

Why apt was introduced in the first place?

Debian, mother Linux of distributions like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, elementary OS etc, has a robust packaging system and every component and application is built into a package that is installed on your system. Debian uses a set of tools called Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) to manage this packaging system. Don’t confuse it with the command apt, it’s not the same.

There are various tools that interact with APT and allow you to install, remove and manage packages in Debian based Linux distributions. apt-get is one such command-line tool which is widely popular. Another popular tool is Aptitude with both GUI and command-line options.

If you have read my guide on apt-get commands, you might have come across a number of similar commands such as apt-cache. And this is where the problem arises.

You see, these commands are way too low level and they have so many functionalities which are perhaps never used by an average Linux user. On the other hand, the most commonly used package management commands are scattered across apt-get and apt-cache.

The apt commands have been introduced to solve this problem. apt consists some of the most widely used features from apt-get and apt-cache leaving aside obscure and seldom used features. It can also manage apt.conf file.

With apt, you don’t have to fiddle your way from apt-get commands to apt-cache. apt is more structured and provides you with necessary options needed to manage packages.

Bottom line: apt=most common used command options from apt-get and apt-cache.

Difference between apt and apt-get

So with apt, you get all the necessary tools in one place. You won’t be lost under tons of command options. The main aim of apt is to provide an efficient way of handling package in a way “pleasant for end users”.

When Debian says “pleasant for end users”, it actually means that. It has fewer but sufficient command options but in a more organized way. On top of that, it enables a few options by default that is actually helpful for the end users.

For example, you get to see the progress bar while installing or removing a program in apt.

apt vs apt-get difference
apt shows the progress bar

apt also prompts you with the number of packages that can be upgraded when you update the repository database.

difference apt and apt-get
apt shows the number of packages that can be upgraded

You can achieve the same with apt-get as well if you use additional command options. apt enables them by default and takes the pain away.

Difference between apt and apt-get commands

While apt does have some similar command options as apt-get, it’s not backward compatible with apt-get. That means it won’t always work if you just replace the apt-get part of an apt-get command with apt.

Let’s see which apt command replaces which apt-get and apt-cache command options.

apt commandthe command it replacesfunction of the command
apt installapt-get installInstalls a package
apt removeapt-get removeRemoves a package
apt purgeapt-get purgeRemoves package with configuration
apt updateapt-get updateRefreshes repository index
apt upgradeapt-get upgradeUpgrades all upgradable packages
apt autoremoveapt-get autoremoveRemoves unwanted packages
apt full-upgradeapt-get dist-upgradeUpgrades packages with auto-handling of dependencies
apt searchapt-cache searchSearches for the program
apt showapt-cache showShows package details

apt has a few commands of its own as well.

new apt commandfunction of the command
apt listLists packages with criteria (installed, upgradable etc)
apt edit-sourcesEdits sources list

One point to note here is that apt is under continuous development. So you may see a few new options added to the command in the future versions.

If you are interested in learning more, I recommend reading my guide that shows how to use apt commands with examples.

Is apt-get deprecated?

I didn’t find any information that says that apt-get will be discontinued. And it actually shouldn’t be. It still has a lot more functionalities to offer than apt.

For low-level operations, in scripting etc, apt-get will still be used.

Should I use apt or apt-get?

You might be thinking if you should use apt or apt-get. And as a regular Linux user, my answer is to go with apt.

apt is the command that is being recommended by the Linux distributions. It provides the necessary option to manage the packages. Most important of all, it is easier to use with its fewer but easy to remember options.

I see no reason to stick with apt-get unless you are going to do specific operations that utilize more features of apt-get.

Conclusion

I hope I was able to explain the difference between apt and apt-get. In the end, to summarize the apt vs apt-get debate:

  • apt is a subset of apt-get and apt-cache commands providing necessary commands for package management
  • while apt-get won’t be deprecated, as a regular user, you should start using apt more often
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So what do you think? Are you already using apt or do you want to stick with the good old apt-get? Share your views in the comment section below.

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  • I am more used to “apt-get” and I didn’t even know about “apt” until very recently, so I think I will stick with “apt-get” (as long as it does the same thing).

  • One of the great value for me, in ubuntu 20.04 appeared new feature since apt v11.9.11. Now it waits for dpkg locks by default, apt-get(8) needs to be
    passed -o dpkg::lock::timeout=$seconds, where $seconds is either the
    seconds to wait or -1 to wait indefinitely.

  • I am a new Linux user and I am using ubuntu 18.04 and 22.04. In both, I encounter the problem that apt update does not do what apt-get update does. Moreover, if I stick to only apt my OS starts to bug and not open programs. Can you help me to understand how come that happens, if apt is supposed to replace apt-get?