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The only difference I can spot is that the command apt-cache show package_name displays the description of package. Is there a specific reason I would use one over the other?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

show provides the package details for the package, so name, version, description and various technical information.

showpkg provides information regarding dependencies (ie what this package needs to already be installed to function) reverse dependencies (what other packages rely on this one) and provides which says what function the package provides. An example of this would be providing syslog capability:

Lets say you have a package foobar that needs syslog running in order to run. You could install syslogd, syslog-ng or syslog-flibble. If each of these 'provide' syslog, then foobar can run regardless of exactly which one is installed.

Unless you are troubleshooting a dependency issue, then show usually provides the most useful information.

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Thanks Paul. When you say reverse dependencies, do you mean packages that rely on the package I am querying about. For example if I run the command sudo apt-cache showpkg skype, it would show its reverse dependencies i.e. packages that rely on skype. Don't quite follow what you mean by provides. – PeanutsMonkey Apr 16 '12 at 7:15
Well the explanation for provides is above in the answer, but the point is that this is extra information that showpkg displays that show does not, as per your question. If you need any of this information, then you need to use showpkg rather than show. And yes, a reverse dependency is a package that has this one listed as a dependency. – Paul Apr 16 '12 at 12:13
So when you say listed dependency, does it list all the packages that rely on say skype? Sorry haven't come across a package that lists reverse dependencies as of yet. – PeanutsMonkey Apr 16 '12 at 19:38

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