Gentoo Linux is perhaps the most-used source-based Linux distribution. One secret to its success is the powerful and handy Portage package management system. While Gentoo comes with extensive documentation covering most aspects of using Portage, the techniques described in Gentoo's handbook and other documentation are not always the most effective ones. Here are some insider tips that can greatly increase your productivity.
Before you install a package, you usually look for it via Portage's search capabilities. Portage's emerge utility has --search and --searchdesc options, but using them is not enjoyable, because they take a long time to run. That's why we've seen the emergence of third-party search front ends for Portage, such as esearch and eix. Their common idea is to use their own search indexes to speed up searches. When using either utility, you have to rebuild the index after updating the Portage tree, and after installing and uninstalling software.
Of the two, eix works faster and has more capabilities. You can get information on the utility from its man page or by invoking eix --help. To use eix to search for a package whose name contains foo, simply invoke eix foo.
Eix is a very flexible tool. It can give you more information on packages than esearch or emerge -s. It can search through different fields (e.g. package name, category, or description), it can search for regular expressions or wildcard patterns, or do fuzzy searches, and its output can be configured for use in scripts.
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