Provided by: dpkg_1.21.1ubuntu2_amd64 bug


       update-alternatives - maintain symbolic links determining default commands


       update-alternatives [option...] command


       update-alternatives creates, removes, maintains and displays information about the
       symbolic links comprising the Debian alternatives system.

       It is possible for several programs fulfilling the same or similar functions to be
       installed on a single system at the same time.  For example, many systems have several
       text editors installed at once.  This gives choice to the users of a system, allowing each
       to use a different editor, if desired, but makes it difficult for a program to make a good
       choice for an editor to invoke if the user has not specified a particular preference.

       Debian's alternatives system aims to solve this problem.  A generic name in the filesystem
       is shared by all files providing interchangeable functionality.  The alternatives system
       and the system administrator together determine which actual file is referenced by this
       generic name.  For example, if the text editors ed(1) and nvi(1) are both installed on the
       system, the alternatives system will cause the generic name /usr/bin/editor to refer to
       /usr/bin/nvi by default. The system administrator can override this and cause it to refer
       to /usr/bin/ed instead, and the alternatives system will not alter this setting until
       explicitly requested to do so.

       The generic name is not a direct symbolic link to the selected alternative.  Instead, it
       is a symbolic link to a name in the alternatives directory, which in turn is a symbolic
       link to the actual file referenced.  This is done so that the system administrator's
       changes can be confined within the /etc directory: the FHS (q.v.) gives reasons why this
       is a Good Thing.

       When each package providing a file with a particular functionality is installed, changed
       or removed, update-alternatives is called to update information about that file in the
       alternatives system.  update-alternatives is usually called from the following Debian
       package maintainer scripts, postinst (configure) to install the alternative and from prerm
       and postrm (remove) to remove the alternative.  Note: in most (if not all) cases no other
       maintainer script actions should call update-alternatives, in particular neither of
       upgrade nor disappear, as any other such action can lose the manual state of an
       alternative, or make the alternative temporarily flip-flop, or completely switch when
       several of them have the same priority.

       It is often useful for a number of alternatives to be synchronized, so that they are
       changed as a group; for example, when several versions of the vi(1) editor are installed,
       the man page referenced by /usr/share/man/man1/vi.1 should correspond to the executable
       referenced by /usr/bin/vi.  update-alternatives handles this by means of master and slave
       links; when the master is changed, any associated slaves are changed too.  A master link
       and its associated slaves make up a link group.

       Each link group is, at any given time, in one of two modes: automatic or manual.  When a
       group is in automatic mode, the alternatives system will automatically decide, as packages
       are installed and removed, whether and how to update the links.  In manual mode, the
       alternatives system will retain the choice of the administrator and avoid changing the
       links (except when something is broken).

       Link groups are in automatic mode when they are first introduced to the system.  If the
       system administrator makes changes to the system's automatic settings, this will be
       noticed the next time update-alternatives is run on the changed link's group, and the
       group will automatically be switched to manual mode.

       Each alternative has a priority associated with it.  When a link group is in automatic
       mode, the alternatives pointed to by members of the group will be those which have the
       highest priority.

       When using the --config option, update-alternatives will list all of the choices for the
       link group of which given name is the master alternative name.  The current choice is
       marked with a ‘*’.  You will then be prompted for your choice regarding this link group.
       Depending on the choice made, the link group might no longer be in auto mode. You will
       need to use the --auto option in order to return to the automatic mode (or you can rerun
       --config and select the entry marked as automatic).

       If you want to configure non-interactively you can use the --set option instead (see

       Different packages providing the same file need to do so cooperatively.  In other words,
       the usage of update-alternatives is mandatory for all involved packages in such case. It
       is not possible to override some file in a package that does not employ the update-
       alternatives mechanism.


       Since the activities of update-alternatives are quite involved, some specific terms will
       help to explain its operation.

       generic name (or alternative link)
           A name, like /usr/bin/editor, which refers, via the alternatives system, to one of a
           number of files of similar function.

       alternative name
           The name of a symbolic link in the alternatives directory.

       alternative (or alternative path)
           The name of a specific file in the filesystem, which may be made accessible via a
           generic name using the alternatives system.

       alternatives directory
           A directory, by default /etc/alternatives, containing the symlinks.

       administrative directory
           A directory, by default /var/lib/dpkg/alternatives, containing update-alternatives'
           state information.

       link group
           A set of related symlinks, intended to be updated as a group.

       master link
           The alternative link in a link group which determines how the other links in the group
           are configured.

       slave link
           An alternative link in a link group which is controlled by the setting of the master

       automatic mode
           When a link group is in automatic mode, the alternatives system ensures that the links
           in the group point to the highest priority alternative appropriate for the group.

       manual mode
           When a link group is in manual mode, the alternatives system will not make any changes
           to the system administrator's settings.


       --install link name path priority [--slave link name path]...
           Add a group of alternatives to the system.  link is the generic name for the master
           link, name is the name of its symlink in the alternatives directory, and path is the
           alternative being introduced for the master link.  The arguments after --slave are the
           generic name, symlink name in the alternatives directory and the alternative path for
           a slave link.  Zero or more --slave options, each followed by three arguments, may be
           specified. Note that the master alternative must exist or the call will fail. However
           if a slave alternative doesn't exist, the corresponding slave alternative link will
           simply not be installed (a warning will still be displayed). If some real file is
           installed where an alternative link has to be installed, it is kept unless --force is

           If the alternative name specified exists already in the alternatives system's records,
           the information supplied will be added as a new set of alternatives for the group.
           Otherwise, a new group, set to automatic mode, will be added with this information.
           If the group is in automatic mode, and the newly added alternatives' priority is
           higher than any other installed alternatives for this group, the symlinks will be
           updated to point to the newly added alternatives.

       --set name path
           Set the program path as alternative for name.  This is equivalent to --config but is
           non-interactive and thus scriptable.

       --remove name path
           Remove an alternative and all of its associated slave links.  name is a name in the
           alternatives directory, and path is an absolute filename to which name could be
           linked. If name is indeed linked to path, name will be updated to point to another
           appropriate alternative (and the group is put back in automatic mode), or removed if
           there is no such alternative left.  Associated slave links will be updated or removed,
           correspondingly.  If the link is not currently pointing to path, no links are changed;
           only the information about the alternative is removed.

       --remove-all name
           Remove all alternatives and all of their associated slave links.  name is a name in
           the alternatives directory.

           Call --config on all alternatives. It can be usefully combined with --skip-auto to
           review and configure all alternatives which are not configured in automatic mode.
           Broken alternatives are also displayed.  Thus a simple way to fix all broken
           alternatives is to call yes '' | update-alternatives --force --all.

       --auto name
           Switch the link group behind the alternative for name to automatic mode.  In the
           process, the master symlink and its slaves are updated to point to the highest
           priority installed alternatives.

       --display name
           Display information about the link group.  Information displayed includes the group's
           mode (auto or manual), the master and slave links, which alternative the master link
           currently points to, what other alternatives are available (and their corresponding
           slave alternatives), and the highest priority alternative currently installed.

           List all master alternative names (those controlling a link group) and their status
           (since version 1.15.0).  Each line contains up to 3 fields (separated by one or more
           spaces). The first field is the alternative name, the second one is the status (either
           auto or manual), and the last one contains the current choice in the alternative
           (beware: it's a filename and thus might contain spaces).

           Read configuration of alternatives on standard input in the format generated by
           --get-selections and reconfigure them accordingly (since version 1.15.0).

       --query name
           Display information about the link group like --display does, but in a machine
           parseable way (since version 1.15.0, see section QUERY FORMAT below).

       --list name
           Display all targets of the link group.

       --config name
           Show available alternatives for a link group and allow the user to interactively
           select which one to use. The link group is updated.

           Show the usage message and exit.

           Show the version and exit.


       --altdir directory
           Specifies the alternatives directory, when this is to be different from the default.
           Defaults to «/etc/alternatives».

       --admindir directory
           Specifies the administrative directory, when this is to be different from the default.
           Defaults to «/var/lib/dpkg/alternatives»

       --instdir directory
           Specifies the installation directory where alternatives links will be created (since
           version 1.20.1).  Defaults to «».

       --root directory
           Specifies the root directory (since version 1.20.1).  This also sets the alternatives,
           installation and administrative directories to match.  Defaults to «».

       --log file
           Specifies the log file (since version 1.15.0), when this is to be different from the
           default (/var/log/alternatives.log).

           Allow replacing or dropping any real file that is installed where an alternative link
           has to be installed or removed.

           Skip configuration prompt for alternatives which are properly configured in automatic
           mode. This option is only relevant with --config or --all.

           Do not generate any comments unless errors occur.

           Generate more comments about what is being done.

           Generate even more comments, helpful for debugging, about what is being done (since
           version 1.19.3).


       0   The requested action was successfully performed.

       2   Problems were encountered whilst parsing the command line or performing the action.


           If set and the --admindir option has not been specified, it will be used as the base
           administrative directory.


           The default alternatives directory.  Can be overridden by the --altdir option.

           The default administration directory.  Can be overridden by the --admindir option.


       The --query format is using an RFC822-like flat format. It's made of n + 1 blocks where n
       is the number of alternatives available in the queried link group. The first block
       contains the following fields:

       Name: name
           The alternative name in the alternative directory.

       Link: link
           The generic name of the alternative.

       Slaves: list-of-slaves
           When this field is present, the next lines hold all slave links associated to the
           master link of the alternative. There is one slave per line. Each line contains one
           space, the generic name of the slave alternative, another space, and the path to the
           slave link.

       Status: status
           The status of the alternative (auto or manual).

       Best: best-choice
           The path of the best alternative for this link group. Not present if there is no
           alternatives available.

       Value: currently-selected-alternative
           The path of the currently selected alternative. It can also take the magic value none.
           It is used if the link doesn't exist.

       The other blocks describe the available alternatives in the queried link group:

       Alternative: path-of-this-alternative
           Path to this block's alternative.

       Priority: priority-value
           Value of the priority of this alternative.

       Slaves: list-of-slaves
           When this field is present, the next lines hold all slave alternatives associated to
           the master link of the alternative. There is one slave per line. Each line contains
           one space, the generic name of the slave alternative, another space, and the path to
           the slave alternative.

        $ update-alternatives --query editor
        Name: editor
        Link: /usr/bin/editor
         editor.1.gz /usr/share/man/man1/editor.1.gz /usr/share/man/fr/man1/editor.1.gz /usr/share/man/it/man1/editor.1.gz /usr/share/man/pl/man1/editor.1.gz /usr/share/man/ru/man1/editor.1.gz
        Status: auto
        Best: /usr/bin/vim.basic
        Value: /usr/bin/vim.basic

        Alternative: /bin/ed
        Priority: -100
         editor.1.gz /usr/share/man/man1/ed.1.gz

        Alternative: /usr/bin/vim.basic
        Priority: 50
         editor.1.gz /usr/share/man/man1/vim.1.gz /usr/share/man/fr/man1/vim.1.gz /usr/share/man/it/man1/vim.1.gz /usr/share/man/pl/man1/vim.1.gz /usr/share/man/ru/man1/vim.1.gz


       With --verbose update-alternatives chatters incessantly about its activities on its
       standard output channel.  If problems occur, update-alternatives outputs error messages on
       its standard error channel and returns an exit status of 2.  These diagnostics should be
       self-explanatory; if you do not find them so, please report this as a bug.


       There are several packages which provide a text editor compatible with vi, for example nvi
       and vim. Which one is used is controlled by the link group vi, which includes links for
       the program itself and the associated manpage.

       To display the available packages which provide vi and the current setting for it, use the
       --display action:

        update-alternatives --display vi

       To choose a particular vi implementation, use this command as root and then select a
       number from the list:

        update-alternatives --config vi

       To go back to having the vi implementation chosen automatically, do this as root:

        update-alternatives --auto vi


       ln(1), FHS (the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard).