Using APT, you can install a specific version of a package using:

apt-get install package=1.0

But you can't do

apt-get install package=1.*

So, how can I find out which versions are avaliable for package on a specific repository, or in all repositories in my /etc/apt/sources.list?


4 Answers 4


Just as an addendum

apt-cache madison <<package name>>

will list the versions available from all your sources.

apt-cache madison vim
   vim | 2:7.3.547-1 | http://debian.mirrors.tds.net/debian/ unstable/main amd64 Packages
   vim | 2:7.3.429-2 | http://debian.mirrors.tds.net/debian/ testing/main amd64 Packages
   vim | 2:7.3.429-2 | http://http.us.debian.org/debian/ testing/main amd64 Packages
   vim | 2:7.3.429-2 | http://debian.mirrors.tds.net/debian/ testing/main Sources
   vim | 2:7.3.547-1 | http://debian.mirrors.tds.net/debian/ unstable/main Sources

madison is an apt-cache subcommand, man apt-cache says:

apt-cache's madison command attempts to mimic the output format and a subset of the functionality of the Debian archive management tool, madison. It displays available versions of a package in a tabular format. Unlike the original madison, it can only display information for the architecture for which APT has retrieved package lists (APT::Architecture).

  • 7
    Madison? Is that a parameter to apt-cache or a package name? I'm not using an apt-get distro anymore (but +1 just in case) Jun 17, 2012 at 19:56
  • 5
    parameter. Don't feel bad, it was one of those chance discoveries for me too. There's a web page (app?) on the Debian site which shows the same information, which I suppose was first, and someone coded it for apt-cache. Quite handy.
    – lornix
    Jun 17, 2012 at 19:57
  • 1
    This doesn't work for all packages.
    – Cerin
    Feb 22, 2014 at 15:32
  • 1
    @nuoritoveri The Sources sources are repositories which contain the source code of the various programs and packages. The source code may be downloaded using the apt-get source XYZZY command to download the source for the XYZZY package. See the apt-get man page (man apt-get) for more details.
    – lornix
    May 12, 2016 at 9:19
  • 6
    Really, madison? Why not terry? Thanks for this
    – smac89
    Dec 8, 2017 at 21:36

The apt-cache show <Package> shows the package descriptions of all the versions your debian installation can install (i.e. from cached list of packages available from the repos listed in sources.list). So I guess you could try something like (for e.g.):

# apt-cache show package | grep Version
Version 1.0
Version 0.9-2squeeze1

The apt-cache show would give you much more info than just versions.

  • Thanks, will try out. Is it possible to downgrade? Feb 24, 2012 at 17:47
  • It seems to work, I just want to know if this would list packages whose versions are lower than what I currently have. Feb 24, 2012 at 17:51
  • 5
    you can use apt-cache policy if only the version interest you.
    – Rémi
    Feb 24, 2012 at 18:11
  • @Rémi Thanks!! That command solved my next doubt, how to know where a package will come from. I was even searching already :) Feb 24, 2012 at 18:21
apt-cache policy gdb

Sample output:

  Installed: 7.7.1-0ubuntu5~14.04.2
  Candidate: 7.7.1-0ubuntu5~14.04.2
  Version table:
 *** 7.7.1-0ubuntu5~14.04.2 0
        500 http://fr.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ trusty-updates/main amd64 Packages
        100 /var/lib/dpkg/status
     7.7-0ubuntu3 0
        500 http://fr.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ trusty/main amd64 Packages
        500 http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ trusty/main amd64 Packages

So we see that there are two versions of GDB available:

  • 7.7.1-0ubuntu5~14.04.2
  • 7.7-0ubuntu3

Meaning of the output:

  • 1
    Thanks, this seems more detailed than apt-cache madison (but harder to parse). Jul 26, 2015 at 18:26
  • @CamiloMartin it's also localized. So keywords like "installed" and "candidate" will be different if the user is using a different language.
    – bleater
    Apr 17 at 0:07

A command that is specifically intended for this is apt-show-versions. You often have to install it, but then can run apt-show-versions -a and it will show you the version number, the distribution (i.e. testing, stable, unstable, backports, etc.) where that can be found, and finally tell you if the version you have installed is up to date or not.

It does not give you as much information as apt-cache, but gives you pretty much what you need, as you can then install from the correct repository (using aptitude / apt-get -t) or simply install using the correct version number in the form you noted.

  • +1, but while testing it on my girlfriend's box with an arbitrary example, it misses one of the versions that apt-cache picked: i.imgur.com/15be7.png Mar 21, 2012 at 9:37
  • That's interesting, it seems to have skipped the oldest one. Perhaps your apt preferences are set to prefer testing?
    – ShankarG
    Mar 21, 2012 at 14:14
  • I don't know? Where would I look to check if it prefers testing? Mar 21, 2012 at 16:18
  • Check the file /etc/apt/preferences
    – ShankarG
    Mar 22, 2012 at 4:35

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