Meta package and package group

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A meta package and a package group can be defined by the packager to denote a set of related packages. Both can allow to install or uninstall this set of packages simultaneously by using the meta package or the group name as a substitute for each individual package name. While a group is not a package, it can be installed in a similar fashion to a package, see pacman#Installing package groups and PKGBUILD#groups.

Difference between meta package and package group

The difference between a meta package and a regular package is that a meta package is empty and exists purely to link related packages together via dependencies. A meta package, often (though not always) titled with the "-meta" suffix, provides similar functionality to a package group in that it enables multiple related packages to be installed or uninstalled simultaneously.

Each solution has advantages and disadvantages:

meta package:

  • Meta packages can be installed just like any other package (see pacman#Installing specific packages).
  • Meta packages can be removed like any other package (see pacman#Removing packages).
  • Any new member packages will be installed when the meta package itself is updated with a new set of dependencies.
  • Users cannot choose which meta package dependencies they wish to install.
  • Users cannot remove meta package dependencies without having to uninstall the meta package itself.

group:

  • Package groups will prompt users to select the packages from the group that they wish to install (see pacman#Installing package groups).
  • Users cannot uninstall a group, because they installed a list of packages.
  • New group members will not be automatically installed.
  • Users can choose which group members they wish to install.
  • Users can uninstall group members without having to remove the entire group.

Meta packages

The most important meta package is base. It contains a minimal package set that defines a basic Arch Linux installation. It includes:

The kernel is an optional dependency. See the announcement when it was introduced, and reasoning why base is a meta package.

Groups

The most important package group is base-devel. It contains tools required to build many packages like GCC and make. See also makepkg#Usage.

See also