What’s New In python-apt 0.7.100

Python-apt 0.7.100 is a new major release of the python bindings for the APT package management libraries. It provides support for Python 3, new language features and an API conforming to PEP 8.

Despite the many changes made in python-apt 0.7.100, the release still provides backwards compatibility to the 0.7 series. This makes it possible to run your old applications.

This documents describes the important changes introduced since the release of python-apt, starting with the first development release 0.7.90 from April 2009.


Applications using the old API should be updated to the new API because the old ones will be dropped in a future release. To build a python-apt variant without the deprecated API, build it without the -DCOMPAT_0_7 compiler flag.

Support for Python 3

Python-apt is the first Debian package to support the third major release of Python. The port is straight forward and integrates as nicely in Python 3 as the Python 2 builds integrate in Python 2.

Please be aware that python-apt builds for Python 3 are built without the compatibility options enabled for Python 2 builds. They also do not provide methods like has_key() on mapping objects, because it has been removed in Python 3.

Python 3 support may be disabled by distributions.

Real classes in apt_pkg

The 0.7.100 release introduces real classes in the apt_pkg extension. This is an important step forward and makes writing code much easier, because you can see the classes without having to create an object first. It also makes it easier to talk about those classes, because they have a real name now.

The 0.7 series shipped many functions for creating new objects, because the classes were not exported. In 0.7.100, the classes themselves replace those functions, as you can see in the following table.


Replacing class



























Complete rename of functions, methods and attributes

In May 2008, Ben Finney reported bug 481061 against the python-apt package, asking for PEP8 conformant names. With the release of python-apt 0.7.100, this is finally happening.

Context managers for the with statement

This is not a real big change, but it’s good to have it: apt_pkg.ActionGroup can now be used as a context manager for the with statement. This makes it more obvious that you are using an action group, and is just cooler:

with apt_pkg.ActionGroup(depcache):
    for package in my_selected_packages:

This also works for apt.Cache:

with cache.actiongroup(): # cache is an Instance of apt.Cache
    for package in my_selected_packages:
        package.mark_install() # Instance of apt.Package

Yet another context manager is available for locking the package system:

with apt_pkg.SystemLock():
    # do your stuff here

There is also one for file based locking:

with apt_pkg.FileLock(filename):
    # do your stuff here

Unification of dependency handling

In apt 0.7.XX, there were three different return types of functions parsing dependencies.

First of all, there were apt_pkg.ParseDepends() and apt_pkg.ParseSrcDepends() which returned a list of or groups (which are lists themselves) which contain tuples in the format (package,ver,op), whereas op is one of “<=”,”>=”,”<<”,”>>”,”=”,”!=”.

Secondly, there was Package.DependsListStr which returned a dictionary mapping the type of the dependency (e.g. ‘Depends’, ‘Recommends’) to a list similar to those of apt_pkg.ParseDepends(). The only difference was that the values “>>”, “<<” of op are “>”, “<” instead.

Thirdly, there was SourceRecords.BuildDepends, which returned a simple list of tuples in the format (package, version, op, type), whereas op was the integer representation of those “>>”, “<<” actions and type an integer representing the type of the dependency (e.g. ‘Build-Depends’). The whole format was almost useless from the Python perspective because the string representations or constants for checking the values were not exported.

python-apt 0.7.100 puts an end to this confusion and uses one basic format, which is the format known from Package.DependsListStr. The format change only applies to the new functions and attributes, i.e. SourceRecords.build_depends will now return a dict, whereas SourceRecords.BuildDepends will still return the classic format. The functions apt_pkg.parse_depends() and apt_pkg.parse_src_depends() now use the same values for op as Package.DependsListStr does.


>>> s = apt_pkg.SourceRecords()
>>> s.lookup("apt")
>>> s.build_depends
{'Build-Depends': [[('debhelper', '5.0', '>=')],
                   [('libdb-dev', '', '')],
                   [('gettext', '0.12', '>=')],
                   [('libcurl4-gnutls-dev', '', ''),
                    ('libcurl3-gnutls-dev', '7.15.5', '>=')],
                   [('debiandoc-sgml', '', '')],
                   [('docbook-utils', '0.6.12', '>=')],
                   [('xsltproc', '', '')],
                   [('docbook-xsl', '', '')],
                   [('xmlto', '', '')]]}
>>> s.BuildDepends
[('debhelper', '5.0', 2, 0),
('libdb-dev', '', 0, 0),
('gettext', '0.12', 2, 0),
('libcurl4-gnutls-dev', '', 16, 0),
('libcurl3-gnutls-dev', '7.15.5', 2, 0),
('debiandoc-sgml', '', 0, 0),
('docbook-utils', '0.6.12', 2, 0),
('xsltproc', '', 0, 0),
('docbook-xsl', '', 0, 0),
('xmlto', '', 0, 0)]

C++ headers

The 0.7.100 release introduces python-apt-dev which provides headers for developers to provide Python support in the libapt-pkg-using application.

Redesign of apt_inst

The 0.7.100 series redesigns the apt_inst module to provide more flexible classes replacing the older functions. The older functions are still available in Python 2 builds, but are deprecated and will be removed in the future.

Other changes

This release of python-apt also features several other, smaller changes:

  • Reduced memory usage by making apt.Cache create apt.Package() object dynamically, instead of creating all of them during the cache initialization.

  • Support to set the candidate version in apt.package.Package

  • Support for reading gzip-compressed files in apt_pkg.TagFile.

  • Various changes to apt.debfile have been merged from gdebi.

There have been various other changes, see the changelog for a complete list of changes.

Porting your applications to the new python-apt API

Porting your application to the new python-apt API may be trivial. You should download the source tarball of python-apt and run the tool utils/migrate-0.8 over your code:

utils/migrate-0.8.py -c myapp.py mypackage/

This will search your code for places where possibly deprecated names are used. Using the argument -c, you can turn colorized output on.

Now that you know which parts of your code have to be changed, you have to know how to do this. For classes, please look at the table. For all attributes, methods, functions, and their parameters the following rules apply:

  1. Replace leading [A-Z] with [a-z] (e.g DescURI => descURI)

  2. Replace multiple [A-Z] with [A-Z][a-z] (e.g. descURI => descUri)

  3. Replace every [A-Z] with the corresponding [a-z] (descUri => desc_uri)

As an exception, refixes such as ‘de’ (e.g. ‘dequote’) or ‘un’ (e.g. ‘unlock’) are normally not separated by underscores from the next word. There are also some other exceptions which are listed here, and apply to any name containing this word: filename, filesize, destdir, destfile, dequote, unlock, reinstall, pinfile, REINSTREQ, UNPACKED, parse_commandline.