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I came to Linux as an winXP refugee, and I'd prefer not to get deeper into the nuts and bolts than I have to. I am fairly comfortable with the command line (I'm an old geezer who worked on several command line systems before windows were invented), so as long as it's documented, I can do it.

Synaptic gives a lot of options for updating, and frankly I find it confusing. So I just go to the terminal and do sudo apt-get update/upgrade from time to time.

What levels does that command line process install as default? Am I likely to run into problems picking up bleeding edge unstable versions? I use the programs that came with the package as far as possible, only adding things like python3 and a few low level utilities.

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Linux Mint is based on the LTS release of Ubuntu, so it gets well-tested packages.

  • If you prefer graphical app, Mint has its own Update Manager, represented by a blue shield in the panel, that should be easy enough to use. It offers you a list of packages, but you usually just need to say yes.

  • If you prefer the command line, sudo apt-get update followed by upgrade is generally fine. It will upgrade packages, but it won't install any new packages or remove anything. From the docs:

  upgrade
       upgrade is used to install the newest versions of all packages
       currently installed on the system from the sources enumerated in
       /etc/apt/sources.list. Packages currently installed with new
       versions available are retrieved and upgraded; under no
       circumstances are currently installed packages removed, or packages
       not already installed retrieved and installed. New versions of
       currently installed packages that cannot be upgraded without
       changing the install status of another package will be left at
       their current version. An update must be performed first so that
       apt-get knows that new versions of packages are available.

So sometimes it won't upgrade a package whose dependencies have changed. If you want to be more thorough, you can use sudo apt-get dist-upgrade:

  dist-upgrade
       dist-upgrade in addition to performing the function of upgrade,
       also intelligently handles changing dependencies with new versions
       of packages; apt-get has a "smart" conflict resolution system, and
       it will attempt to upgrade the most important packages at the
       expense of less important ones if necessary. The dist-upgrade
       command may therefore remove some packages. The
       /etc/apt/sources.list file contains a list of locations from which
       to retrieve desired package files. See also apt_preferences(5) for
       a mechanism for overriding the general settings for individual
       packages.
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No, the command-line is always safe. There shouldn't be even any difference as synaptic is just a front-end. Some people find it more comfortable. apt-get has no less options than synaptic, they are just hidden from you when you only use apt-get update/install/upgrade etc.

I personally find searching via synaptic much more comfortable as the command-line search of apt-get ain't the best (imho).

Hint: In newer apt versions you can just use apt install/update/upgrade ;-)

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Synaptic and apt-get are tools for the same task. Both of them use repositories to get updates of the packages.

By default, when you install Linux Mint the official repositories are referenced, you can check which repositories you are using on the Software Sources tab on Synaptics or going to /etc/apt on console.

If you use the official repositories you won't break / damage your system, because repositories maintainers check every relation / dependency of the packages versions.

However sometimes you need to install an application not available on the official repositories, so you can add other repositories.

It could happen that the new repository installs a new version of a package or a common library. If an existing application depends on the older version then the application fails.

Most of the time it doesn't happen because Linux Mint freeze versions so if you have Linux Mint 17 and the repository you add is for that version then the maintainer will respect the dependencies.

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