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Miktex.org reports that there are currently 3162 packages.

What does a package mean?

In a most simple case it is a .sty file. But some .sty files load other .sty files, some of which can be used as separate package but some other cannot.

How does Miktex counts packages? I have a local copy of Miktex repository. It counts 3084 files most of which are of .lzma type. Could it be that miktex consider a .lzma file as a separate package?

And the last question: how can one evaluate number of installed packages? Miktex Package Manager shows that currently I have little more than 200 .lzma packages installed. Does it mean that more than 90% of the ctan repository is useless for a typical TeX user.

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    1) A MiKTeX package is not a LaTeX package. Some packages are bundles of LaTeX packages (typical example: amsmath contains 5 packages in the LaTeX sense). Some are dedicated to MiKteX binaries or MiKTeX configuration files. 2) What is a typical TeX user ? Maths packages are probably useless for the average student in Humanities, as are TikZ or pstricks. On the other hand, I'll probably never use xepersian, nor hieroglyphic, nor biblatex-philosophy. – Bernard Oct 9 '16 at 11:25
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    @Bernard Even the humanities needs to draw cats :-). @ OP Even if it is true that 90% of the repository is useless for the typical user, it will not be the same 90%. Remember, too, that neither CTAN nor MikTeX supports only LaTeX. Also, compare something like a typical word processor. More than 90% of its features are probably useless to the typical user though, again, not necessarily the same 90%. (But there might be more common usage in the word processor case.) – cfr Oct 9 '16 at 12:24
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    See in the answer to Glossary of TeX and LaTeX terms the entries package (LaTeX) and package (generic). For your information, I always do a full install: saving a couple of GiB is not much of a problem nowadays. On the machine I'm using now, I have five complete versions of TeX Live (from 2012 to 2016). – egreg Oct 9 '16 at 12:58
  • @egreg: and how much of complete install are you using? I prefer miktex before TL much because miktex alows installing only those packages which are needed. – Igor Kotelnikov Oct 9 '16 at 13:08
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    @IgorKotelnikov There are hundreds of LaTeX packages I've never used and surely I could live without all the CJK part of TeX Live (including pTeX and derived engines) or the Cyrillic support (but I wouldn't be able to answer most of your questions). I cannot test MiKTeX for lack of a windows box, but several questions on the site point to problems with it, particularly with font management or with the automatic downloading: I wouldn't like to be in the final revision of an important document just to discover that the package I need cannot be downloaded because the site is down. – egreg Oct 9 '16 at 13:15
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A package from the MiKTeX point of view is a single entry in the database it uses to manage an installation, and normally corresponds to one archive file to download and install. Some, but not all, of these downloaded files are stored by MiKTeX locally as .lzma files, whilst others place data in the source directory.

As with TeX Live, many of these MiKTeX packages correspond to a single entry in the CTAN list of packages (i.e. http://ctan.org/pkg/<name>), but this is not always the case. For example, the core MiKTeX binaries are spread across several MiKTeX packages some of which have no independent existence on CTAN.

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