This command can only list contents of installed packages,


but how to list contents of a non-installed package, to preview/examine the package?


9 Answers 9


dpkg -c (or --contents) lists the contents of a .deb package file (It is a front-end to dpkg-deb.)

dpkg -c package_file.deb

To work directly with package names rather than package files, you can use apt-file. (You may need to install the apt-file package first.)

sudo apt-file update        
apt-file list package_name

As stated in the first comment, apt-file lists contents for packages in your already-configured Apt repositories. It is irrelevant whether any particular package is or is not installed.

  • 23
    apt-file also needs to be updated (sudo apt-file update), and only lists contents for packages in your already-configured Apt repositories. Jan 28, 2010 at 22:54
  • 1
    @quackquixote: In Ubuntu 12.04 it's automatic
    – confiq
    May 13, 2012 at 10:43
  • 2
    The Apt-file answer assumes that your package is coming from a configured repository instead of a .deb file you have downloaded separately. The original question is ambiguous though.
    – Zoredache
    Jan 15, 2013 at 23:27
  • 5
    @confiq, not by my testing. I'm running 12.04.4 and it still says "E: The cache is empty. You need to run 'apt-file update' first." Jun 28, 2014 at 20:48
  • apt-file list doesn't work for me.
    – icando
    Oct 10, 2014 at 18:24

Use --contents instead of -L:

dpkg --contents PACKAGENAME

When used in this manner, dpkg acts as a front-end to dpkg-deb, so use man dpkg-deb to see all the options.

You can also use an archive browser to view the package contents.

  • 4
    This doesn't work unless I installed it first and then uninstall it.
    – Lenik
    Dec 15, 2009 at 14:07
  • 3
    it should work fine if you give it a .deb file as an argument (instead of PACKAGENAME, give it PACKAGE-DEB-FILE). Dec 15, 2009 at 22:11
  • 5
    This answer is wrong. You have to have the package installed first. If you don't have it installed, then you don't have a .deb file.
    – Neil
    May 1, 2012 at 2:14
  • This command works for me. For example, I downloaded google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb from Google. Then issued the command: dpkg --contents google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb and it listed out all the files it will install (mostly to /opt/google/chrome), none of which are currently installed on my system as I type this. (I'm running Xubuntu 11.10 if that matters.)
    – quux00
    Aug 4, 2012 at 21:11
  • 14
    @Neil, the answer is not wrong. Just because you have a deb file, doesn't mean it's installed. apt-file needs the entire build-essential package. O.O
    – d-_-b
    Oct 15, 2012 at 10:00

dpkg --contents will let you look at the uninstalled package. If the .deb is not on your system yet, do

apt-get --download-only install pkgname

The package will get downloaded to /var/cache/apt/archives but not installed.

  • 7
    Can I just list the contents without download it? If I'm on a very slow connection, and if the package is too large to download. If the .deb file has a file header where contents list goes, I guess download the whole package maybe not necessary. Is this possible?
    – Lenik
    Dec 15, 2009 at 14:06
  • The --download-only does not work well when a conflicting package is already installed. It will want to remove the conflicting package, when when --download-only is supplied.
    – Frank
    Nov 5, 2020 at 8:25

The best way would be to browse directly the package repository:

http://packages.debian.org/[distro name]/all/[package name]/filelist



  • 3
    And to avoid leaving the terminal, you can use e.g. lynx -dump -nolist http://packages.debian.org/wheezy/all/transmission-common/filelist | grep ^/ (provided you have lynx installed).
    – Ruslan
    Aug 17, 2018 at 11:40

I took @baldoz's http idea and generalized it for Ubuntu and Debian, added a little sed and wrapped it in a bash function one-liner:

function deb_list () { curl -s $(lsb_release -si | sed -e 's Ubuntu https://packages.ubuntu.com ' -e 's Debian https://packages.debian.org ')/$(lsb_release -sc)/all/$1/filelist | sed -n -e '/<pre>/,/<\/pre>/p' | sed -e 's/<[^>]\+>//g' -e '/^$/d'; }


$ deb_list curl

Same function on multiple lines:

function deb_list () {
    curl -s $(lsb_release -si \
                | sed -e 's Ubuntu https://packages.ubuntu.com ' \
                      -e 's Debian https://packages.debian.org '
              )/$(lsb_release -sc)/all/$1/filelist \
      | sed -n -e '/<pre>/,/<\/pre>/p' \
      | sed -e 's/<[^>]\+>//g' -e '/^$/d';


  1. lsb_release -si returns "Ubuntu" or "Debian" replace that with the base url https://packages.ubuntu.com or https://packages.debian.org
  2. lsb_Release -sc returns the codename (e.g. "trusty", "sid", etc) use that to build the full URL: https://packages.ubuntu.com/trusty/all/curl/filelist
  3. Fetch that URL with curl and pipe the html through three sed commands. First captures only the file list (what's between <pre> and </pre> tags); second strips out any html tags; third removes any blank lines.

Note: It doesn't search PPAs, alternate apt sources repos and only queries official packages available for the release of debian/ubuntu you are running.

  • Do i need ruby to run it?
    – Anwar
    Jul 1, 2015 at 7:03
  • 1
    @Anwar, I'd initially used Ruby because I was lazy and multiline regexes suck in sed/awk/grep. But I've rewritten it to use two sed commands, no Ruby required.
    – notpeter
    Jul 1, 2015 at 16:01
  • Nice! This is the answer I was looking for
    – Anwar
    Jul 1, 2015 at 16:37

For all those people who might still googling this issue at Jan 2017, you can have some cool stuff with recent versions of apt and dpkg in Debian 8.5 without downloading anything.

List Contents of Deb File Without Download:

First locate the full url of the deb file :

root@debian:apt-get --print-uris download yade
'http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/pool/main/y/yade/yade_2016.06a-7_amd64.deb' yade_2016.06a-7_amd64.deb 1621148 SHA256:26c0d84484a92ae9c2828edaa63243eb764378d79191149970926aa3ec40cdd4

PS: --print-uris switch prints the url of deb package but deb is not downloaded.

Then display contents of deb package without downloading it:

root@debian:curl -sL -o- "http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/pool/main/y/yade/yade_2016.06a-7_amd64.deb" |dpkg-deb -c /dev/stdin
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2016-12-10 22:18 ./
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2016-12-10 22:18 ./usr/
drwxr-xr-x root/root         0 2016-12-10 22:18 ./usr/bin/
-rwxr-xr-x root/root     13184 2016-12-10 22:18 ./usr/bin/yade
.........................more files listed bellow ......................

PS: Same result can be achieved with

root@debian:dpkg -c <(curl -sL -o- "http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/pool/main/y/yade/yade_2016.06a-7_amd64.deb")

Extract a file from the above deb package , without download.
For example we want to read man page of package yade without installing this package and without even downloading the deb package.

Filename of man page inside deb package as advised by dpkg -c is ./usr/share/man/man1/yade.1.gz

To read man page on the fly:

root@debian:curl -sL -o- "http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/pool/main/y/yade/yade_2016.06a-7_amd64.deb" |dpkg-deb --fsys-tarfile /dev/stdin |tar -xO ./usr/share/man/man1/yade.1.gz |man /dev/stdin

man page is displayed correctly using man application.

PS: Above pipes does not work with ar command.

root@debian:apt --version --> apt 1.4~beta2 (amd64)
root@debian:dpkg --version --> Debian 'dpkg' package management program version 1.18.18 (amd64).
root@debian:man --version --> man
root@debian:tar --version --> tar (GNU tar) 1.29
  • This description works for systems that use only "apt" and don't have the older "apt-x" commands available!
    – Jon Watte
    Aug 9, 2019 at 20:11


apt-get download packages-name
dpkg --contents *.deb

Seems it's not possible before installing it first or extracting the list from .deb file.

Try the following command:

dpkg --contents <(curl -s $(apt-get install --yes --no-download --reinstall --print-uris language-pack-en | tail -n1 | grep -o "http[^']\+"))

Change language-pack-en with your package name.

It basically reads .deb file extracted via curl and run dpkg --contents FILE on it.

You can also check the content without downloading the package file.

So if you know the URL of .deb file, the following shell command will list all the package files:

dpkg -c <(curl -sL "http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/pool/main/a/avis/avis_1.2.2-4_all.deb")

Curl params: -s - silent, -L - follow moved links.

If you don't know the URL, fetch by: apt --print-uris, e.g.

apt --print-uris install avis | grep avis

Well, although not exactly a way to directly list the files in a deb package, you could go to https://www.debian.org/distrib/packages, do a search for the desired package, then near the bottom of the ensuing page, click on the list of files link found against the desired architecture. The ensuing page gives you a nice listing of the files that the installation of said package will place into your system.

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