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Debtags reaching the Packages file

Hello everyone from the Debtags SmallGroup!

As you've probably noticed, last week Anthony Towns merged the Debtags
data into the Packages file.  This marks a big step into having Debtags
becoming more mainstream (and more useful) in Debian.

How it is working

The authoritative location of the tag database is in alioth's SVN at:


Changes in the categorization are tracked by Erich's packagebrowser,
either directly at:


or using debtags-edit's e-mail submission.

Changes in the packagebrowser are periodically reviewed, committed in
svn and sent to ajt for inclusion in the Packages file.

New possibilities

apt-cache show

The first outcome of this is that the tag data can now be seen in the
output of 'apt-cache show <package>'.


You can also use grep-dctrl with the tag data.  Here is an example:

  grep-aptavail -sPackage -FTag 'use::editing' \
		-a 'works-with::rasterimage' \
                -a --not 'role::aux-shlib'

(the role::aux-shlib is still not widely used, but it's going to change


Debtags support has also been added to pkgsync by Steinar H. Gunderson:


If you are new to Debtags, don't forget to also try out packagesearch
and debtags-edit, that have been supporting tag searches for quite a

Software development

libtagcoll1-dev contains functions for matching a set of tags against a
tag expressions such as:

  'use::editing && works-with::rasterimage && !role::aux-shlib"

You can now use those functions on the data from the Packages file.
Contact me if you want to try and use it in your software.

To tickle your appetite, here are two interesting tag expressions that
could be used, for example, to hide uninteresting packages from a
package list:

  !(role::aux-data || role::aux-dummy || role::aux-shlib)
    Hides all packages that are binary-indep data files, dummy packages
    for upgrades and shared libraries.
  (!culture::* || culture::italian)
    Hides all culture-specific packages that are not interesting to me.

Future developments

This mail in the debtags-devel list talks about Debtags plans for Etch.
It originated an interesting thread that includes some upcoming
refactorings of the tag vocabulary:


Learning more

Here are some resources to learn more about Debtags:

  The Debtags website:

  The debtags-devel mailing list:

  The Debtags paper I wrote for Debconf5:

Things are getting more and more exciting: stay tuned, get involved!


Enrico - speaking for the Debtags SmallGroup

GPG key: 1024D/797EBFAB 2000-12-05 Enrico Zini <enrico@enricozini.org>

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