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I am having a hard time deciphering what is returned when I run the command dpkg -l vim and unable to locate a source that breaks it down.

For example what does it mean Desired=Unknown/Install/Remove/Purge/Hold

| Status=Not/Inst/Conf-files/Unpacked/halF-conf/Half-inst/trig-aWait/Trig-pend
|/ Err?=(none)/Reinst-required (Status,Err: uppercase=bad)
||/ Name           Version        Description
ii  skype     Skype
un  vim            <none>         (no description available)

If I compare the lines I can see that the first column ii and un respectively. Does un refer to (U)nknow and (Not) and does ii refer to (I)nstall and (I)nst?

What do the other options mean? For example when it says Desired, what does that mean in comparison to Status? What relationship does Err? have?

What do Hold,Conf-files,unpacked, halF-conf, Half-inst, trig-aWait, Trig-pend, Reinst-required, (Status,Err: uppercase=bad) all refer to?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The first three lines are just a header explaining what the first three columns (the three characters under the + signs in row 5) are acronyms for.

You package Vim is shown as un, which means

  • Desired status: unknown
  • Actual status: not installed
  • Errors: blank (i.e. "none")

The other parts should be self-explanatory.

See man dpkq-query for a more complete listing of the format. See info dpkg for more information on the meaning of the different statuses.

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Thanks. I don't quite follow how they explain the first 3 columns. For example how did you decipher the desired status is unknown, the actual status is not installed and errors are none? I had a look at the man pages before posting but the explanation completely escapes me. – PeanutsMonkey Apr 18 '12 at 7:25
@PeanutsMonkey: The first line in the header starts with "Desired", and is graphically connected to the first column among the package lines (the | symbols directly under the D in "Desired" point to the + above u). The line continues with the possible values in the column and their meaning. The upper-case letter of each possible value in line 1-3 is the representation used in the corresponding column. – Daniel Andersson Apr 18 '12 at 7:28
Thanks. Just so that I could compare an installed packaged and an non-existent package, I updated my question. Is my interpretation correct? – PeanutsMonkey Apr 18 '12 at 7:35
@PeanutsMonkey: see info dpkg for more info on the separate statuses. "Desired" is what dpkg believes you want, e.g. you want to have Skype installed. "Status" is what is actually the case, which can differ from "Desired" e.g. if something has gone wrong. You might want to have a certain package installed, but it has failed because of broken dependencies, and so on. "Error" might denote that the package has been damaged in some way (perhaps the binaries have been removed or modified externally). – Daniel Andersson Apr 18 '12 at 7:48
Thanks. Is my interpretation correct though? – PeanutsMonkey Apr 18 '12 at 23:22

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