I was recently in a discussion about meta-packages, and realized many users don’t know what they are or what they do. So, let’s see if we can clear-up the mystery.
Meta-packages in a nutshell – A ‘meta-package’ is a convenient way to bulk-install groups of applications, their libraries and documentation. Many Linux distributions use them for a variety of purposes, from seeding disk images that will go on to become new releases, to creating software bundles that are easy for a user to install. A meta-package rarely contains anything other than a changelog and perhaps copyright information, it contains no applications or libraries within itself. The way they work is by having a list of dependencies that the package manager reads. The package manager then goes to the repositories to find the dependencies and installs them.