Purge Libreoffice from Ubuntu Mate?

UM is amazing. Really enjoying this distro…

I prefer Kingsoft (WPS Office) to Libre and I am using this command (sudo apt-get remove --purge libreoffice*) to purge. The problem is that it wants to take ubuntu-mate-desktop too which I obviously don’t want.

How can I uninstall Libreoffice safely?


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I am assuming you have one of the pre-15.04 versions of Ubuntu Mate (the 14.04 and 14.10 releases). The reason being that they are built outside of the main Canonical structure. That above being the case, the Ubuntu Mate team was forced to package everything up in a single bundle. That means that if you try to un-install one particular aspect of the initially installed system, it wants to take everything else down with it.

The newer version (15.04) no longer has the above issue. I happen to be using 14.04 myself. The way I have dealt with the issue is to simply leave the existing software in place and just remove its icons from the menu. Then install whatever replacement software I want.

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ubuntu-mate-desktop is a metapackage. It’s basically a list of other packages to be installed (by listing them as dependencies). Removing this metapackage does NOT remove any of those listed packages; only the list itself is removed from your system. (Think of it as a shopping list. After shopping and getting all the items on the list, you throw the list away. You still have the items on the list.)

I didn’t know that. Everyone I have spoken to has told me not to try and uninstall something like libre-office from, say, ubuntu-mate 14.04 because it will take down the rest of the desktop. Can I just check that this is something you know about only in principle or whether it is actually based on your own personal experience of having uninstalled one of these packages with no ill effects? If the latter, then that’s great and I will change my advice to others on the basis of it.

Hi Steve,

Here is one link that explains the concept:


Here is the most relevant quote to your question from that web page:

A metapackage, such as ubuntu-minimal or ubuntu-desktop,
can have a long list of dependencies. So, when a metapackage is
automatically removed by the removal or purging of any one, or more, of
its underlying dependencies, all of the other packages that were in the
metapackage's depends list are still installed on the system.

You can google "metapackage" and get more links.

Yes, I have several times had to remove a metapackage (such as xubuntu-desktop) when removing a software package. It works as explained.

Actually, I have read further on in that paragraph you have cited and it seems to indicate there will be problems down the line when it comes to system upgrading. Due to the meta package no longer existing following the uninstallation of one of its dependencies (Libre Office, in the case of Ubuntu Mate 14.04, for example), any upgrade to it will subsequently fail or, in the case of an upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu, will reinstall all of the dependencies that were previously uninstalled, in turn requiring that they be uninstalled/purged once again (see below);

.........If at a later time, there is an upgrade to the metapackage, the upgrade cannot occur, because the metapackage to be upgraded is no longer installed on the system. However when upgrading to new versions of Ubuntu the update-manager will check to see if you have the meta package installed before attempting to do an upgrade. It may be possible to create a replacement metapackage to enable an upgrade, but some packages may then need to be removed or purged upon the upgrade of the metapackage. A metapackage which defines some Conflict or Replacement dependencies might be able to stop some of the unwanted packages from being reinstalled. Some trickery is needed.....

On that basis, I am going to stick to my original advice not to uninstalll any of the dependencies and, instead, simply hide them from view if they are no longer needed/wanted. It's just simpler that way and not prone to unexpected results.