OpenBSD FAQ - Package Management [FAQ Index]


There are many applications one might want to use on an OpenBSD system. To make this software easier to install and manage, it is ported to OpenBSD and packaged. The aim of the package system is to keep track of which software gets installed, so that it may be easily updated or removed. In minutes, a large number of packages can be fetched and installed, with everything put in the right place.

The ports collection does not go through the same thorough security audit that is performed on the OpenBSD base system. Although we strive to keep the quality of the packages high, we just do not have enough resources to ensure the same level of robustness and security.

The OpenBSD ports team considers packages to be the goal of their porting work, not the ports themselves. In general, you are advised to use packages over building an application from ports.

Packages can be easily managed with the help of several utilities:

In order to run properly, application X may require that other applications Y and Z be installed. Application X is said to be dependent on these other applications, which is why Y and Z are called dependencies of X. In turn, Y may require other applications P and Q, and Z may require application R to function properly. This way, a whole dependency tree is formed.

Packages look like simple .tgz bundles. Basically they are just that, but there is one crucial difference: they contain some extra packing information. This information is used by pkg_add(1) for several purposes:

Selecting a Mirror

There are two places pkg_add(1) will look for packages: the installurl(5) file (/etc/installurl) or the PKG_PATH environment variable. The former is the preferred method and is configured by default on new installations.

If the use of multiple mirrors is needed, PKG_PATH allows this via a colon-separated list:

# export PKG_PATH=scp://user@company-build-server/usr/ports/packages/%a/all:https://trusted-public-server/%m:installpath
While the default should work well for most people, a list of alternate locations can be found on the mirrors page.

Finding Packages

A large collection of pre-compiled packages is available for the most common architectures.

To search for any given package name, use the -Q flag of pkg_info(1).

$ pkg_info -Q unzip
Another way to find what you're looking for is with the pkglocate command, available from the pkglocatedb package.
$ pkglocate mutool
If you're looking for a specific filename, it can be used to find which package(s) contain that file.

You will notice that certain packages are available in a few different varieties. These are called flavors. The ports FAQ explains flavors in detail, but it basically means they're configured with different sets of options. For example, a package might have optional database support, support for systems without X11, etc. Some packages are also divided into subpackages that may be installed separately.

Not all possible packages are necessarily available on the mirror servers. Some applications simply don't work on all architectures. Some applications cannot be distributed via mirrors for licensing reasons.

Installing Packages

The pkg_add(1) utility is used to install packages. If multiple flavors of a package exist, you will be prompted to choose which one you want to install.
# pkg_add rsync
Ambiguous: choose package for rsync
a       0: <None>
        1: rsync-3.1.2p0
        2: rsync-3.1.2p0-iconv
Your choice:
Here you would select 1 if you want the standard package or 2 if you need iconv support. You can also choose the flavor directly on the command line by using pkg_add rsync-- (for the default) or pkg_add rsync--iconv (for the iconv flavor).

It is possible to specify multiple package names on one line, which then all get installed at once, along with their dependencies. You may also specify the absolute location of a package, be it a local file or remote URL. Supported URL prefixes are http, https, ftp and scp.

For some packages, important additional information will be given about the configuration or use of the application.

# pkg_add jove
jove- ok
--- +jove- -------------------
See /usr/local/share/jove/README about changes to /etc/rc or
/etc/rc.local so that the system recovers jove files
on reboot after a system crash
Additionally, some packages provide configuration and other information in a file located in /usr/local/share/doc/pkg-readmes.

For your safety, if you are installing a package which you had installed earlier and removed, configuration files which have been modified will not be overwritten. The same is true for when you update a package.

Sometimes you may encounter an error like the one in the following example:

# pkg_add xv
xv-3.10ap4:jpeg-6bp3: ok
xv-3.10ap4:png-1.2.14p0: ok
xv-3.10ap4:tiff-3.8.2p0: ok
Can't install xv-3.10ap15 because of libraries
|library X11.16.1 not found
| not found anywhere
Direct dependencies for xv-3.10ap15 resolve to png-1.6.31 jasper-1.900.1p5 tiff-4.0.8p1 jpeg-1.5.1p0v0
Full dependency tree is png-1.6.31 tiff-4.0.8p1 jasper-1.900.1p5 jpeg-1.5.1p0v0
The packing information bundled in the package includes information about shared libraries that the package expects to be installed. If one of the required libraries can't be found, the package is not installed because it would not function anyway.

There are several things to check:

Updating Packages

Installed packages can be updated with pkg_add(1) like so:
# pkg_add -u
This will attempt to update all installed packages, including their dependencies.

Removing Packages

To remove a package, simply use pkg_delete(1):
# pkg_delete screen
Again, modified configuration files will not be removed.

Dependencies that are no longer needed can afterwards be removed with the -a flag:

# pkg_delete -a

Duplicating Installed Packages on Another Machine

Installing a new OpenBSD system with the same set of packages as an older machine is a fairly common use case. The -mz flags of pkg_info(1) will yield appropriate results to make this task easier. For instance:
$ pkg_info -mz | tee list
Copy the "list" file over to the other machine and run:
# pkg_add -l list
Every package specification has a flavor (-- being the default) appended to its name, and packages that co-exist in several versions also have branch information. In this case, subsequent pkg_add(1) commands will select the current python package of the 3.6 version branch.

Incomplete Package Installation or Removal

In some odd cases, you may find a package was not added completely, due to conflicts with other files. The incomplete installation is usually marked with "partial-" prepended to the package name. This can, for instance, happen when you coincidentally press CTRL+C during installation. The installation can be later completed, and the "partial-*" package will disappear, or it can be removed with pkg_delete(8).

More dire system failures, such as file system issues, may lead to /var/db/pkg becoming corrupted or inconsistent.

The pkg_check(8) utility can help clean things up.