How to add repository from shell in Debian?

In Ubuntu one can add a repository via following command –

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair

As Ubuntu is based on Debian code base, I was expecting that the same would work in Debian too, but it doesn’t.

  • What is the reason for this?
  • Is there some other shell command I can use to achieve the same?

Note: I know I can edit /etc/apt/sources.list, but I want to achieve this from the shell. I also want to know why the same command won’t work when the code base is the same.

Asked By: Kshitiz Sharma


Ubuntu is based on Debian but includes things Debian doesn’t (and in turn are often incorporated into Debian later). The add-apt-repository command is an example which was included in Ubuntu first.

The add-apt-repository actually just executes a couple of commands to add the repository:

  • append the repository to /etc/apt/sources.list
  • add the repository key to the machine.

A script that sort of does the same that can be found here is quoted below

if [ $# -eq 1 ]
NM=$(uname -a && date)
NAME=$(echo $NM | md5sum | cut -f1 -d" ")
    ppa_name=$(echo "$1" | cut -d":" -f2 -s)
    if [ -z "$ppa_name" ]
        echo "PPA name not found"
        echo "Utility to add PPA repositories in your debian machine"
        echo "$0 ppa:user/ppa-name"
        echo "$ppa_name"
        echo "deb$ppa_name/ubuntu lucid main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
        apt-get update >> /dev/null 2> /tmp/${NAME}_apt_add_key.txt
        key=$(cat /tmp/${NAME}_apt_add_key.txt | cut -d":" -f6 | cut -d" " -f3)
        apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys $key
        rm -rf /tmp/${NAME}_apt_add_key.txt
    echo "Utility to add PPA repositories in your debian machine"
    echo "$0 ppa:user/ppa-name"
Answered By: Goez

Debian Jessie and later (2014-)

As pointed out by @voltagex in the comments, it can now be found in the software-properties-common package:

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common

Debian Wheezy and earlier:

The program add-apt-repository is available in Debian. It’s in the python-software-properties package:

sudo apt-get install python-software-properties

It was added to that package in version 0.75. The current version in Debian Stable (‘squeeze”) is 0.60, so it doesn’t have it. The version currently in Debian Testing (“wheezy”) is, so it’s available there.

Answered By: Jim Paris

Assuming you’re running a non-ancient version of Debian (Etch or later), you can just drop a file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ The file name must end with .list; Debian Stretch (not yet released) will likely add .sources with a different format.

The format is the same as the main sources.list file.

The advantage is, especially if this is for some software you’re distributing, you don’t have to worry merging your changes into a possibly-edited /etc/apt/sources.list file (especially hard to deal with if your program is uninstalled). You can use dpkg conffile support to put the file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/.

Answered By: derobert

add-apt-repository can now be found in the software-properties-common package.

Answered By: Richard Ayotte
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