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This section contains a rough overview of the tools available to maintainers. The following is by no means complete or definitive, but just a guide to some of the more popular tools.
Debian maintainer tools are meant to aid developers and free their time for critical tasks. As Larry Wall says, there's more than one way to do it.
Some people prefer to use high-level package maintenance tools and some do not. Debian is officially agnostic on this issue; any tool which gets the job done is fine. Therefore, this section is not meant to stipulate to anyone which tools they should use or how they should go about their duties of maintainership. Nor is it meant to endorse any particular tool to the exclusion of a competing tool.
Most of the descriptions of these packages come from the actual package descriptions themselves. Further information can be found in the package documentation itself. You can also see more info with the command apt-cache show <package-name>.
The following tools are pretty much required for any maintainer.
dpkg-dev contains the tools (including
required to unpack, build, and upload Debian source packages. These utilities
contain the fundamental, low-level functionality required to create and
manipulate packages; as such, they are essential for any Debian maintainer.
debconf provides a consistent interface to configuring packages
interactively. It is user interface independent, allowing end-users to
configure packages with a text-only interface, an HTML interface, or a dialog
interface. New interfaces can be added as modules.
You can find documentation for this package in the
Many feel that this system should be used for all packages which require
interactive configuration; see Configuration
debconf, Section 6.5.
not currently required by Debian Policy, but that may change in the future.
fakeroot simulates root privileges. This enables you to build
packages without being root (packages usually want to install files with root
ownership). If you have
fakeroot installed, you can build
packages as a regular user: dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot.
According to the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (FOLDOC), `lint' is "a Unix C language processor which carries out more thorough checks on the code than is usual with C compilers." Package lint tools help package maintainers by automatically finding common problems and policy violations in their packages.
lintian dissects Debian packages and emits information about bugs
and policy violations. It contains automated checks for many aspects of Debian
policy as well as some checks for common errors.
You should periodically get the newest
lintian from `unstable' and
check over all your packages. Notice that the -i option provides
detailed explanations of what each error or warning means, what its basis in
Policy is, and commonly how you can fix the problem.
Refer to Testing the package, Section 5.3 for more information on how and when to use Lintian.
You can also see a summary of all problems reported by Lintian on your packages
reports contain the latest
lintian output for the whole
development distribution ("unstable").
linda is another package linter. It is similar to
lintian but has a different set of checks. Its written in Python
rather than Perl.
debdiff (from the
devscripts, Section A.6.1) compares file
lists and control files of two packages. It is a simple regression test, as it
will help you notice if the number of binary packages has changed since the
last upload, or if something has changed in the control file. Of course, some
of the changes it reports will be all right, but it can help you prevent
You can run it over a pair of binary packages:
debdiff package_1-1_arch.deb package_2-1_arch.deb
Or even a pair of changes files:
debdiff package_1-1_arch.changes package_2-1_arch.changes
For more information please see
Package building tools make the process of writing
files easier. See Helper scripts,
Section 6.1.1 for more information about why these might or might not be
debhelper is a collection of programs which can be used in
debian/rules to automate common tasks related to building binary
debhelper includes programs to install various
files into your package, compress files, fix file permissions, and integrate
your package with the Debian menu system.
Unlike some approaches,
debhelper is broken into several small,
simple commands which act in a consistent manner. As such, it allows more
fine-grained control than some of the other "debian/rules tools".
There are a number of little
debhelper add-on packages, too
transient to document. You can see the list of most of them by doing
apt-cache search ^dh-.
debmake, a precursor to
debhelper, is a more
debian/rules assistant. It includes two main
deb-make, which can be used to help a maintainer convert
a regular (non-Debian) source archive into a Debian source package; and
debstd, which incorporates in one big shot the same sort of
automated functions that one finds in
The consensus is that
debmake is now deprecated in favor of
debhelper. It is a bug to use
debmake in new
packages. New packages using
debmake will be rejected from the
dh-make package contains
dh_make, a program that
creates a skeleton of files necessary to build a Debian package out of a source
tree. As the name suggests,
dh_make is a rewrite of
debmake and its template files use dh_* programs from
While the rules files generated by
dh_make are in general a
sufficient basis for a working package, they are still just the groundwork: the
burden still lies on the maintainer to finely tune the generated files and make
the package entirely functional and Policy-compliant.
yada is another packaging helper tool. It uses a
debian/packages file to auto-generate
and other necessary files in the
debian/ subdirectory. The
debian/packages file contains instruction to build packages and
there is no need to create any
Makefile files. There is
possibility to use macro engine similar to the one used in SPECS files from RPM
For more informations see
equivs is another package for making packages. It is often
suggested for local use if you need to make a package simply to fulfill
dependencies. It is also sometimes used when making ``meta-packages'', which
are packages whose only purpose is to depend on other packages.
The following packages help with the package building process, general driving
dpkg-buildpackage as well as handling supporting tasks.
cvs-buildpackage provides the capability to inject or import
Debian source packages into a CVS repository, build a Debian package from the
CVS repository, and helps in integrating upstream changes into the repository.
These utilities provide an infrastructure to facilitate the use of CVS by Debian maintainers. This allows one to keep separate CVS branches of a package for stable, unstable and possibly experimental distributions, along with the other benefits of a version control system.
debootstrap package and script allows you to
"bootstrap" a Debian base system into any part of your filesystem.
By "base system", we mean the bare minimum of packages required to
operate and install the rest of the system.
Having a system like this can be useful in many ways. For instance, you can
chroot into it if you want to test your build dependencies. Or
you can test how your package behaves when installed into a bare base system.
Chroot builders use this package; see below.
pbuilder constructs a chrooted system, and builds a package inside
the chroot. It is very useful to check that a package's build-dependencies are
correct, and to be sure that unnecessary and wrong build dependencies will not
exist in the resulting package.
A related package is
pbuilder-uml, which goes even further by
doing the build within a User Mode Linux environment.
sbuild is another automated builder. It can use chrooted
environments as well. It can be used stand-alone, or as part of a networked,
distributed build environment. As the latter, it is part of the system used by
porters to build binary packages for all the available architectures. See
buildd, Section 22.214.171.124 for
more information, and
http://buildd.debian.org/ to see
the system in action.
The following packages help automate or simplify the process of uploading packages into the official archive.
dupload is a package and a script to automatically upload Debian
packages to the Debian archive, to log the upload, and to send mail about the
upload of a package. You can configure it for new upload locations or methods.
dput package and script does much the same thing as
dupload, but in a different way. It has some features over
dupload, such as the ability to check the GnuPG signature and
checksums before uploading, and the possibility of running
dinstall in dry-run mode after the upload.
dcut script (part of the package
dput, Section A.5.2) helps in removing files
from the ftp upload directory.
The following tools help automate different maintenance tasks, from adding
changelog entries or signature lines and looking up bugs in Emacs to making use
of the newest and official
devscripts is a package containing wrappers and tools which are
very helpful for maintaining your Debian packages. Example scripts include
dch, which manipulate your
debian/changelog file from the command-line, and
debuild, which is a wrapper around
bts utility is also very helpful to update the state of bug
reports on the command line.
uscan can be used to watch for new
upstream versions of your packages.
debrsign can be used to
remotely sign a package prior to upload, which is nice when the machine you
build the package on is different from where your GPG keys are.
devscripts(1) manual page for a complete list of available
autotools-dev contains best practices for people who maintain
packages which use
which are known to work on all Debian ports.
dpkg-repack creates Debian package file out of a package that has
already been installed. If any changes have been made to the package while it
was unpacked (e.g., files in
/etc were modified), the new package
will inherit the changes.
This utility can make it easy to copy packages from one computer to another, or to recreate packages which are installed on your system but no longer available elsewhere, or to save the current state of a package before you upgrade it.
alien converts binary packages between various packaging formats,
including Debian, RPM (RedHat), LSB (Linux Standard Base), Solaris, and
debsums checks installed packages against their MD5 sums. Note
that not all packages have MD5 sums, since they aren't required by Policy.
dpkg-dev-el is an Emacs lisp package which provides assistance
when editing some of the files in the
debian directory of your
package. For instance, there are handy functions for listing a package's
current bugs, and for finalizing the latest entry in a
dpkg-depcheck (from the
devscripts, Section A.6.1) runs a command
strace to determine all the packages that were used by the
For Debian packages, this is useful when you have to compose a
Build-Depends line for your new package: running the build process
dpkg-depcheck will provide you with a good first
approximation of the build-dependencies. For example:
dpkg-depcheck -b debian/rules build
dpkg-depcheck can also be used to check for run-time dependencies,
especially if your package uses exec(2) to run other programs.
For more information please see
The following tools are helpful for porters and for cross-compilation.
quinn-diff is used to locate the differences from one architecture
to another. For instance, it could tell you which packages need to be ported
for architecture Y, based on architecture X.
dpkg-cross is a tool for installing libraries and headers for
cross-compiling in a way similar to
dpkg. Furthermore, the
is enhanced to support cross-compiling.
The following packages provide information for maintainers or help with building documentation.
debiandoc-sgml provides the DebianDoc SGML DTD, which is commonly
used for Debian documentation. This manual, for instance, is written in
DebianDoc. It also provides scripts for building and styling the source to
various output formats.
Documentation for the DTD can be found in the
Contains the public GPG and PGP keys of Debian developers. See Maintaining your public key, Section 3.2 and the package documentation for more information.
debview provides an Emacs mode for viewing Debian binary packages.
This lets you examine a package without unpacking it.
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Debian Developer's Reference