With our 2019.3 Kali release imminent, we wanted to take a quick moment to discuss one of our more significant upcoming changes: our selection of metapackages. These alterations are designed to optimize Kali, reduce ISO size, and better organize metapackages as we continue to grow.

Before we get into what’s new, let’s briefly recap what a metapackage is. A metapackage is a package that does not contain any tools itself, but rather is a dependency list of normal packages (or other metapackages). This allows us to group related tools together. For instance, if you want to be able to access every wireless tool, simply install the kali-tools-wireless metapackage. This will obtain all wireless tools in one download. As always, you can access the full list of metapackages available in Kali on kali.org/docs/general-use/metapackages/. If you prefer to use the command line, the following command will list out the packages that will be installed via a specific metapackage:

root@kali:~# apt update
Hit:1 http://http.kali.org/kali kali-rolling InRelease
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
All packages are up to date.
root@kali:~# apt depends kali-tools-wireless
Depends: kali-tools-802-11
Depends: kali-tools-bluetooth
Depends: kali-tools-rfid
Depends: kali-tools-sdr
Depends: killerbee
Depends: rfcat
Depends: rfkill
Depends: sakis3g
Depends: spectools
Depends: wireshark

We took the time to create new metapackages and rename existing ones, and we did the same with the tools listed inside of them. As a result of these changes, we’ve implemented a new naming convention for simplicity and improved granular control. At the end of the post there is a table displaying the relationships between previous and new names moving forward, along with a description of the metapackage purpose.

If you have made it this far, you are likely wondering “how does this affect me”?

  • If you are using a version of Kali older than 2019.3, if and when you upgrade, you will still have the same set of tools (just newer)!
  • However, if you do a fresh install of Kali with a version higher than either weekly W34 or 2019.3 ISO, you will notice some of the tools that get installed by DEFAULT have changed (we have put Kali on a diet!)

Previously, kali-linux-full was the default metapackage, which has been renamed to kali-linux-large with a redirect put in place. We have introduced a new default metapackage called kali-linux-default, which serves as a slimmed-down version of the tools from kali-linux-large.

Depending on how you use Kali will determine which metapackage would suit you best. This is the power of metapackages. For example:

  • If you want a core set of tools, stick with kali-linux-default (designed for assessments that are straightforward ).
  • If you want a more general and wider range of tools, select kali-linux-large (useful if Internet access is permitted but slow).
  • If you want to be prepared for anything, go with kali-linux-everything (great if you are going to be doing air-gap/offline work)

Note: You can install multiple metapackages at once and are not limited to just one, so mix and match!

Each of these metapackages depends on the one above. That means, when we add a new essential tool to kali-linux-default, it is automatically part of kali-linux-large and thus kali-linux-everything. Otherwise, when we add a new tool that may not be useful to everyone, it will be placed into either kali-linux-large or kali-linux-everything – depending on our tool policy. More information about the new tool policy will be made public towards the end of the year. Stay tuned for some very exciting news!

How Kali is being used today has changed since when Kali (and even BackTrack) was first born. Not everyone needs all the tools at once – but they are still available when required. We have opted for a new default set of tools to match the majority of today’s current network environments, by removing edge cases and legacy tools which are rarely used.

Upon doing a system upgrade (apt -y full-upgrade) on a version of Kali older than 2019.3, you will see the old metapackage name being removed. This is safe.
If you have tried to remove a tool before, you may have run into this (when the tool is part of a metapackage). This is also safe to remove, as it doesn’t remove any other tools. It simply means that when a new tool is added into that metapackage, you won’t receive it.

If you are running 2019.3 and want the old default set of tools, you can do either apt -y install <tool> for a one-off package installation or apt -y install kali-linux-large to get the old tool set back. For the 2019.3 release, we will be doing a one-off extra image, which is based on kali-linux-large to help with the transition.

Below are the tables with a complete breakdown of previous metapackages names, along with their new respective names:


These metapackages are used when generating our images

Old New Notes
kali-linux kali-linux-core Base Kali Linux System – core items that are always included
new kali-linux-default “Default” desktop (amd64/i386) images include these tools
new kali-linux-light Kali-Light images use this to be generated
new kali-linux-arm All tools suitable for ARM devices
kali-linux-nethunter kali-linux-nethunter (same) Tools used as part of Kali NetHunter

Kali Menu

These entries are based around the Kali menu

Old New Notes
new kali-tools-information-gathering Used for Open-source Intelligence (OSINT) & information gathering
new kali-tools-vulnerability Vulnerability assessments tools
kali-linux-web kali-tools-web Designed doing web applications attacks
new kali-tools-database Based around any database attacks
kali-linux-pwtools kali-tools-passwords Helpful for password cracking attacks – Online & offline
kali-linux-wireless kali-tools-wireless All tools based around Wireless protocols – 802.11, Bluetooth, RFID & SDR
new kali-tools-reverse-engineering For reverse engineering binaries
new kali-tools-exploitation Commonly used for doing exploitation
new kali-tools-social-engineering Aimed for doing social engineering techniques
new kali-tools-sniffing-spoofing Any tools meant for sniffing & spoofing
new kali-tools-post-exploitation Techniques for post exploitation stage
kali-linux-forensics kali-tools-forensics Forensic tools – Live & Offline
new kali-tools-reporting Reporting tools


These are tool listing based on the category and type

Old New Notes
kali-linux-gpu kali-tools-gpu Tools which benefit from having access to GPU hardware
new kali-tools-hardware Hardware hacking tools
new kali-tools-crypto-stego Tools based around Cryptography & Steganography
new kali-tools-fuzzing For fuzzing protocols
new kali-tools-802-11 802.11 (Commonly known as “Wi-Fi”)
new kali-tools-bluetooth For targeting Bluetooth devices
kali-linux-rfid kali-tools-rfid Radio-Frequency IDentification tools
kali-linux-sdr kali-tools-sdr Software-Defined Radio tools
kali-linux-voip kali-tools-voip Voice over IP tools
new kali-tools-windows-resources Any resources which can be executed on a Windows hosts


Useful metapackages which are “one off” groupings

Old New Notes
kali-linux-full kali-linux-large Our previous default tools for amd64/i386 images
kali-linux-all kali-linux-everything Every metapackage and tool listed here
kali-linux-top10 kali-tools-top10 The most commonly used tools
kali-desktop-live kali-desktop-live (same) Used during a live session when booted from the image
new kali-tools-headless Tools which do not require a GUI in order to access them


Tools used for OffSec’s courses

Old New Notes
new offsec-awae Advanced Web Attacks and Exploitation
new offsec-pwk Penetration Testing with Kali

Desktop Managers

Desktop Environment (DE) & Window Manager (WM)

Old New Notes
kali-desktop-common kali-desktop-core Any key tools required for a GUI image
new kali-desktop-e17 Enlightenment (WM)
kali-desktop-gnome kali-desktop-gnome (same) GNOME (DE)
new kali-desktop-i3 i3 (WM)
kali-desktop-kde kali-desktop-kde (same) KDE (DE)
kali-desktop-lxde kali-desktop-lxde (same) LXDE (WM)
new kali-desktop-mate MATE (DE)
new kali-desktop-pantheon Pantheon (DE)
kali-desktop-xfce kali-desktop-xfce (same) XFCE (WM)

If you wish to create your own metapackage, see how we do it here, before you create your own package.

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