In Jakob Nielsen’s recent article on international usability, he makes the following statement:
If you’re designing an e-commerce site for a 5-item product line, you shouldn’t confuse users by offering search or filtering options. Focus on brief descriptions that clearly differentiate the products, facilitating comparisons and choice. Conversely, if you carry 100,000 products, you do need search and filters. You also need to introduce a new level in the IA: the category page, which further helps users compare and choose.
I found the same trend in my research on package managers. Most package managers need to deal with very large numbers of packages. Search and categories were the main methods users used to find relevant packages to install. These topics are examined in detail on a previous post about categories and a previous post about search.
The only package manager that did not have a search function was QuickPET, which had a very small number of packages to choose from. In the case of QuickPET search is not likely to be necessary. QuickPET does have a categorization system that users were not fond of, and given it’s small number of packages, it may have been able to do without a categorization system entirely.