One of the best things to ever happen to Linux was the package manager. What a package manager does is it downloads, sets up and installs the software and all its needed dependencies. So instead of downloading a dozen packages manually and compiling all of them from source you can now install everything using one simple command.
Depending on your Linux distribution, there are different management systems used to retrieve and install software. Debian and Debian-based distributions such as Ubuntu and Mint use ‘apt’; Red Hat and Fedora use ‘yum’; and Mandriva uses ‘urpmi’. Here are samples of the simple commands to install software using each of these (switching “gcc" with the package you would like to install):
- apt-get install gcc
- yum install gcc
- urpmi gcc
It’s also quite easy to search for packages using these commands:
- apt-cache search gcc
- yum search gcc
- urpmi –y gcc
Another advantage to package managers is their graphical frontends. Although not as quick as typing a single line in terminal, graphical interfaces such as Synaptic Package Manager for APT, Yum Extender for Yum and RPMDrake for URPMI can be used.
One disadvantage to package managers is when the sources used don’t have the package you want. In that case, you might have to alter the package manager’s resource file or install using the source code like previously explained.