Displaying the contents of an RPM or deb package is simple. Each of these can be thought of as an archive of files plus an install script. To view the files in the archive execute the following:
rpm -qlp package.rpm
dpkg -c package.deb
For Debian/Ubuntu systems I use a program called apt-file that allows you to search for files provided by any package that is available to your system even if that package is not installed. This comes in handy if you are building a program from source that has libraries that it depends on. Finding a library is not as easy as finding a program using aptitude.
I downloaded the traceroute deb and displayed the contents using the command above. It provides a library called libsupp.a. If I was building an application that depends on libsupp.a, I wouldn’t be able to easily find it using aptitude. apt-file would show that it’s provided by traceroute.
dcolon@gold:~$ aptitude search libsupp.a dcolon@gold:~$ dcolon@gold:~$ apt-file search libsupp.a traceroute: /usr/lib/libsupp.a dcolon@gold:~$