List non-free software from the terminal

gnuDo you know which non-free software are installed on your Linux box? Though many distros ship only free software, the non-free ones may get installed over the course of time. The vrms (Virtual Richard M. Stallman) package identifies these packages. It checks the licenses of all software installed on your box and lists the ones which are non-free. It is particularly useful for Debian-bases systems.

Before going further, we should understand the differences between two important terms from the Debian point of view:

  • non-free: as the name suggests, these are not free. However, they are redistributable. non-free software is not considered as part of Debian.
  • contrib: these packages are free themselves but depend on non-free packages. Not considered as part of Debian.


To install vrms on Ubuntu, run:

$ sudo apt install vrms


To list all non-free and contrib packages, run:

$ vrms -e
                Non-free packages installed on tux

intel-microcode                     Processor microcode firmware for Intel CPUs
rar                                 Archiver for .rar files
unrar                               Unarchiver for .rar files (non-free version)

                 Contrib packages installed on tux

iucode-tool                         Intel processor microcode tool
libdvd-pkg                          DVD-Video playing library - installer
thunar-dropbox-plugin               context-menu items from dropbox for Thunar
virtualbox-5.1                      Oracle VM VirtualBox

  3 non-free packages, 0.2% of 1744 installed packages.
  4 contrib packages, 0.2% of 1744 installed packages.

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