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Synaptic 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.

IconsPage/info.png 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.


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:

  • synaptic-find.png

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

  • synaptic-quicksearch.png

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.

IconsPage/info.png 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 the 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:


    IconsPage/note.png 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.


  • Confirm the changes by clicking on Apply.

How to force the installation of a package version

IconsPage/note.png To be added: Why you would (and would not) want to force a specific version

  • To force the installation of a package different from the one chosen by Synaptic, do the following:
    • Click Reload or press Ctrl + R to make Synaptic aware of the latest updates.

    • Select the package. Choose Force Version from the Package menu.

    • Select the version you would like to use. To confirm your decision, click Force.

    • Click Apply on the toolbar or press Ctrl + P. A dialog appears with a summary of the changes that will be made to your system. To confirm, press Apply.

  • Open Preferences from the menu
    • On the General tab, unmark "Consider recommended packages as dependencies"
  • Restart Synaptic, and Install the package normally.

Remove or Uninstall Packages

  • To remove or 'completely remove' a package

    • Right-click on the package and choose Mark for Removal from the context menu

    • Once you're 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. Confirm the changes by clicking on Apply.

    IconsPage/note.png The Mark for Complete Removal option instructs Synaptic to remove any configuration files associated with the package as well.

To Upgrade a Package

  • Click Reload or press Ctrl + R to make Synaptic aware of the latest updates.

  • Right-click on the package and choose Mark for Upgrade from the context menu, or press Ctrl + U.

  • Once you're satisfied with your choices, click on Apply in the toolbar or press Ctrl + P. If the machine has no internet access then generate a download script instead of using "Apply"

  • A dialog box appears with a summary of changes that will be made. Confirm the changes by clicking on Apply.

How to keep your system up-to-date, including the Kernel

Synaptic provides two methods for upgrading your system:

  • Smart Upgrade (Dist-Upgrade) -- recommended
    The smart upgrade method tries to resolve package conflicts. This includes installing additional dependencies (required packages) if needed and preferring packages with higher priority. Smart Upgrade has the same effect as the apt-get dist-upgrade tool on the command line.

  • Default Upgrade
    The default upgrade method marks upgrades of installed packages only. If the new version of a package depends on not installed packages or coflicts with an already installed package, it will not be upgraded.

    IconsPage/info.png Dist-upgrade is the default upgrade method used by Synaptic. To change the upgrade method, choose Preferences from the Settings menu, then click on the General tab and adjust the System upgrade entry.

  • To upgrade your system with Synaptic:
    • Click Reload or press Ctrl + R to make Synaptic aware of the latest updates.

    • Click Mark all Upgrades or press Ctrl + G.

    • Click Apply on the toolbar or press Ctrl + P. A dialog appears with a summary of the changes that will be made to your system.

    • Click Apply to confirm the changes and go ahead with the upgrade.

IconsPage/info.png Synaptic works hand-in-hand with Update-Notifier and Update-Manager to inform you about updates to the software installed on your system.

Update-Notifier displays an icon in the notification area when updates are available. It will display a pop-up message and an icon in the notification area on your GNOME desktop.


If you right click on the icon you see all the functions available, including what I think is a sensible default, Show Updates. This option runs another new program, Upgrade-Manager. The upgrade manager shows what packages the system wants to upgrade, which you can deselect from being upgraded if you wish.

To update your system, click on the notification icon, enter your password and click OK.

Once all the packages are downloaded, the dpkg system installs the packages in the hidden terminal. Questions that previously required interaction with the terminal now provide a Debconf interface using the GNOME frontend. The upgrade process never requires the user to access a terminal, which helps new users become comfortable with upgrading their system.

Ubuntu also makes basic APT configuration much easier for new users. It offers an interface to add or edit the entries in /etc/apt/sources.list which can be accessed through Synaptic or the preferences menu of the update-notifier. It shows the repositories that are currently listed, and provides an interface to edit them or add new repositories.

  • IconsPage/info.png You can change the frequency of update checks in the Software Preferences panel. Choose Repositories from the Settings menu, then click on the Internet Updates tab and adjust the Check for updates entry.


The only function that is somewhat lacking with the new Synaptic frontend is application installation. There is a new program called gnome-app-install that shows a simple list of common GNOME programs with a checkbox for installation or removal. gnome-app-install will list every package that provides a .desktop icon in the GNOME application menu. In other words, basically every major gui program will be listed.

Information Gathering

Locating software on your system

Synaptic can tell you about every file that belongs to a software package it knows about and show you where it is located on your system. Search the database for the software package you are interested in and select it in Synaptic's main window. Next, click on the Installed Files tab to see a list of all files and where they are.

View the Changelog of a Package

IconsPage/note.png Applies to native Debian (.deb) packages only

You can view the changelog of a package with Synaptic. Select a package, then choose Download Changelog from the Package menu.

View History

You can easily keep track of all changes made to your system's software configuration. To view the history log file, choose History from the File menu.

IconsPage/note.png The history log only shows changes made with Synaptic.

Status Icons

The following icons are used to indicate the status of a package in the package list:

  • synaptic-icon-legend.png

Keyboard shortcuts for Synaptic

  • Command

    Key Combination

    Update the list of available packages

    Ctrl + R

    Open the package search dialog

    Ctrl + F

    Show the Properties window for the selected package

    Ctrl + O

    Mark the selected package(s) for installation

    Ctrl + I

    Mark the selected package(s) for upgrade

    Ctrl + U

    Mark the selected package(s) for removal


    Mark the selected package(s) for complete removal

    Shift + Delete

    Unmark any changes to packages

    Ctrl + N

    Mark all possible upgrades

    Ctrl + G

    Force the installation of a specific version of the package

    Ctrl + E

    Undo the last change

    Ctrl + Z

    Redo the last change

    Ctrl + Shift + Z

    Apply all marked changes

    Ctrl + P

    Quit Synaptic

    Ctrl + Q


How to fix broken packages

IconsPage/warning.png 'Broken packages' are packages that have unsatisfied dependencies. If broken packages are detected, Synaptic will not allow any further changes to the system until all broken packages have been fixed.

  • To fix broken packages

    • Choose Edit > Fix Broken Packages from the menu.

    • Choose Apply Marked Changes from the Edit menu or press Ctrl + P.

    • Confirm the summary of changes and click Apply.

If that does not help, then please follow this procedure:

How to free disk space

Settings -> Preferences -> Files -> Delete downloaded packages after installation then click Delete Cached Package Files.

Broken Upgrade or Installation

  • What to do if an installation process fails and you find it is no longer possible to install or remove packages:
    • Open a Terminal and type the following commands, pressing the Return or Enter key after each (you may have to type in your password):

      sudo dpkg --configure -a
      sudo apt-get install -f

Browser works, Synaptic will not

(note: probably inaccurate or outdated)

If the router is set to auto discover DNS then Synaptic will fail. Resolve this by setting up a static ip address and manually set DNS ip in router. Now Ubuntu (system-administration-networking) config static ip and enter your ISP dns ip and delete router DNS ip which will look something like

See also

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SynapticHowto (last edited 2013-12-14 10:27:06 by knome)