Shorthand for search terms

Some search terms can be written using short forms, which consist of a tilde (~) followed by a single character that identifies the term, and finally the arguments (if any) to the term. For instance, the short form of ?name(aptitude) is ~n aptitude.

When writing a term using its short form, tilde characters and whitespace -- that is, space characters, tabs, and so on -- will break the term off and start a new term. For instance, ~mDaniel Burrows will match any package whose maintainer field contains Daniel and whose name contains Burrows, while ~i~napt matches installed packages whose name contains apt. To include whitespace characters in the search expression, you can either place a tilde in front of it (as in Daniel~ Burrows) or place quotation marks around it (as in "Debian Project" or even Debian" "Project). Inside a quoted string, the backslash character (\) can be used to cancel the special meaning of the quotation mark: for instance, ~d"\"email" will match any package whose description contains a quotation mark followed immediately by email. [16]


Question marks (?) will not end the short form of a term, even if they are followed by the name of a search term. For instance, ~napt?priority(required) will match all packages whose name matches the regular expression apt?priority(required). To combine a short query term with a search term specified by name, add one or more spaces between the two terms, as in ~napt ?priority(required), or place quotation marks around the text (if any) following the short form of a term, as in ~n"apt"?priority(required).

Table 2.3, “Quick guide to search terms” lists the short form of each search term.

[16] The backslash escapes \\, \n, and \t are also available.