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In my case I want to do aptitude install wireless-tools but want to know which files will be installed and where in the filesystem before I install the package.

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install the 'apt-file' package:

apt-get install apt-file

you then can check contents of any package without downloading the package in advance:

apt-file list PACKAGENAME
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You can go to packages.debian.org and search for the package you're interested in. Towards the bottom of each package's page, there's a link labeled [list of files] (one for each architecture) that will take you to the list of files to be installed. For example, here's the list of files for Python.

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  • That's helpful, though it provides some weird results, look at the result for gnome: packages.debian.org/wheezy/all/gnome/filelist I suppose there should be waaaay more filesystem changes. – JohnnyFromBF Jan 30 '13 at 18:56
  • Oh, yeah, this approach won't give you file lists from all the dependencies. Not sure how to get that... – jjlin Jan 30 '13 at 19:04
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You can download the .deb package without install it

apt-get --download-only install PACKAGENAME

And then list the contents of the .deb package.

dpkg --contents /var/cache/apt/archives/PACKAFILEGENAME.deb

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There is always a question before starting the update as to whether you want to continue or not. You could still initiate the install and just say NO at the appropriate time.

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