Debian offers tens of thousands of software, data and documentation packages. It is considered helpful for the users (who might not have the right to install packages themselves) to specify all biomedical software with a single instruction given to the local shell or to the local system administrator.

Debian Med contains a set of metapackages that declare dependencies on other Debian packages that can be used to prepare the system for solving particular tasks. The user only needs to search for metapackages starting with prefix med-, and install just few of them to fulfill his or her software selection requirements. The package management system then will take care about the installation of all packages that are in the list of dependencies of these metapackages - so the user can be sure that all packages he or she might need for the job will be installed on his or her system. If at least one of the metapackages is installed, a special user menu is created to enhance usability for the user working in the field of medicine.

Currently, Debian Med applications are provided in certain categories: medical practice and patient management, medical research, hospital information systems, medical imaging, documentation, molecular biology and medical genetics and others.

Technically these categories are implemented as appropriate metapackages, for instance med-bio for packages concerning molecular biology and medical genetics and med-practice, which is helpful to manage a medical practice. The sense of using metapackages is that you have to install only a single package using a package management software tool to get all interesting packages that are necessary for a single task. For instance a single command
apt-get install med-bio
results in installation of all applications inside Debian that are related to the field of molecular biology and medical genetics.

Andreas Tille 2010-12-10