New packaging guidelines - draft
Below is a draft copy of a revised set of packaging guidelines.
Please comment if you feel appropriate. In a week or so, barring
serious controversy, I'll post a definitive version.
I've made various typo fixes, &c. to the draft Ian M. gave me, and
made the descriptions of the *.txt files available match reality. I
think this is the list of the substantive changes I've made:
* Some packages can have a null `build' target, because `build'
doesn't make sense.
* Control file field names Mixed Case (and NAME changed to Package).
* Recommended -> Recommends; Optional -> Suggests.
* Source field; Priority, Section, Essential fields.
* Control file fields delimited as per RFC822.
* Comment about Maintainer field and dots in maintainer name portion.
* Revision number folded into Version.
* Syntax of package names defined.
* Added more stuff about conffiles and what to do about them.
* More information about maintainer scripts, including I/O
redirection, idempotency, avoidance of prompting, shared files (eg
* Corrected minor infelicities in syntax descriptions for
* New info about Provides.
* Requirement to list dependency on libc.
* CFLAGS=-O3 (GCC 2.6 supports this and it is supposed to work)
The document is Texinfo'd now (that's Ian M.'s work), and the .texi &c
files will be available somewhere soon :-).
This is Info file guidelines.info, produced by Makeinfo-1.63 from the
input file guidelines.texi.
File: guidelines.info, Node: Top, Next: Additional Information, Prev: (dir), Up: (dir)
Debian GNU/Linux Packaging Guidelines
(This file was last updated on 6th November 1995. Please check the
directory `project/standards' at any Debian GNU/Linux archive for a
potentially more up to date copy.)
This file documents the steps that must be taken in the preparation
of a Debian GNU/Linux package. All submissions to be included in the
distribution proper and all packages to be considered for `contrib' or
`non-free' availability *must* conform to the guidelines and standards
described in this document or they cannot be included or made available
at the archive with the distribution.
Please read the Guidelines carefully. If you have comments or
questions, please contact `email@example.com'. If you are
planning on going further than just contributing a package (i.e., if
you plan to maintain it for an extended period of time or if you are
generally interested in becoming more involved in the Project), you
should join the `debian-devel' mailing list. For more details, read
`info/mailing-lists.txt', available at any Debian GNU/Linux archive.
* Additional Information::
* Package Copyright:: A few words about the importance of
understanding the package copyright.
* Package Content:: Requirements for the package content.
* Source Package:: Creating the source package.
* Binary Package:: Creating the binary package.
* Control Files:: The binary package control files.
File: guidelines.info, Node: Additional Information, Next: Package Copyright, Prev: Top, Up: Top
These Guidelines are intended to be fairly general. More specific
information is available about certain aspects of building packages,
such as how to use the features of Init under Debian GNU/Linux. This
information can be found in the directory `project/standards' at any
Debian GNU/Linux archive. At the time of this writing, the following
documents are available:
A description of `/etc/skel' and `/usr/doc/examples'.
How to write an extended (and more useful) `DESCRIPTION' field.
How to use the features of Init under Debian GNU/Linux in packages.
How to properly configure packages to use the Debian GNU/Linux mail
All the ways that the package maintainer scripts inside a package
can be called by dpkg.
What order things happen in during a package upgrade.
How to use "virtual dependencies" in packages.
The list of virtual package names currently in use, together with
the procedure for getting new virtual package names allocated.
How to properly order package names in the `DEPENDS' field.
There are a number of documents that describe more technical details
of dpkg's operation, that will probably only be of minority interest.
Please read them if you're doing anything complicated.
How dpkg can sometimes automatically deconfigure packages in order
to do bulk installations smoothly.
How to tell dpkg a package is essential and should not be removed.
(This is for the use of base system packages only.)
What happens when a package appears to have been completely
In the future, we hope also to make available:
How to choose a good copyright notice to attach to new programs.
The algorithm with which packages' version numbers are compared.
Also, you should download the sample files and the sample package
(GNU Hello) available in `standards/samples'. You may use any of this
material as a starting point for new packages. The following sample
files, incidentally, are available:
File: guidelines.info, Node: Package Copyright, Next: Package Content, Prev: Additional Information, Up: Top
Please study the copyright of your submission *carefully* and
*understand it* before proceeding! If you have doubts or questions,
In order to understand how we classify and distribute certain
packages, it is important to understand the distinction between being
freely available and being freely redistributable.
Being "freely available", quite simply, means that the software can
be made available freely, at least for non-commercial purposes and in
its original, unmodified form. This includes packages made available
freely that have restrictions on non-commercial use, redistribution of
modifications, etc. Being freely available, therefore, has nothing to
do with being able to modify and redistribute the software. It only
means that you can get a copy of the software without having to pay
(and it does not necessarily mean that you can *use* the software
without having to pay--shareware is an example of freely available
"freely redistributable", while generally being freely available,
goes beyond just being freely available. freely redistributable means
that that the software, in addition to being able to be made available
freely, must be able to be freely modified and redistributed without
All submissions to be included in the distribution proper *must* be
In addition to the distribution, the Project maintains two separate
archives of software packages with the distribution: the `contrib'
archive and the `non-free' archive.
`contrib' is an archive of user-contributed packages that are not
maintained by the Project, packages that were once maintained by the
Project but that are no longer actively maintained, and packages that
are maintained by the Project but that are not yet considered ready for
inclusion in the distribution proper (i.e., ALPHA and BETA packages).
As above, all submissions for inclusion in the `contrib' archive *must*
be freely redistributable.
`non-free' is an archive of packages with either restrictive or
unclear terms of copying or modification. If a package has *any*
restrictions on modification or redistribution, it can not be included
in the distribution or `contrib' archive. It can only be included in
the `non-free' archive, and then only if it is freely available.
In summary, in order to be included in the distribution proper or the
`contrib' archive, a package must be *freely redistributable*. Anyone
must be able to make copies of it, modify it, redistribute it with
their modifications in place, include it on a CD-ROM, or generally sell
it. To be included in the `non-free' archive, a package may have
restrictions, as long as the package remains *freely available*. We
must be available to make it available freely at the archive, and anyone
must be able to make copies of it and use it for at least
non-commercial, personal purposes. Software that will typically be
included in `non-free' are software that does not allow commercial
distribution, software that does not allow modification or
redistribution of modifications, commercial "demos", and "shareware".
When in doubt, send mail to `firstname.lastname@example.org' and
`email@example.com'. Be prepared to provide us with the copyright
statement. Software covered by the GPL, public domain software and
BSD-like copyrights are safe; be wary of the phrases "commercial use
prohibited" and "distribution restricted".
Every package submission *must* be accompanied by verbatim copy of
its copyright (with the exceptions of public domain packages and those
covered by the UCB BSD licence or the GNU GPL or LGPL; in these cases
simply indicate which is appropriate). This information must be
included in a file installed to the directory `/usr/doc/copyright'.
See below for details.
File: guidelines.info, Node: Package Content, Next: Source Package, Prev: Package Copyright, Up: Top
The following requirements apply equally to both the binary and
source packages. In either case, when files have been installed, they
must conform to the requirements described in this section.
The primary rule in Debian GNU/Linux is to follow the Linux "File
System Standard" ("FSSTND"). The location of installed files *must*
comply *fully* with the FSSTND. The latest version of this document
can be found alongside the Guidelines or at `tsx-11.mit.edu' in
`/pub/linux/docs/linux-standards/fsstnd'. Specific questions about
following the standard should be addressed to Daniel Quinlan, the
FSSTND coordinator, at `firstname.lastname@example.org'.
In addition to the FSSTND, all Debian GNU/Linux packages must follow
the guidelines below.
* Directories should be mode 755 or (for group-writability) mode
2775, with the exception of special "system" directories that need
to be another mode. The ownership of the directory should be
consistent with its mode--if a directory is mode 2775, it should
be owned by the group that needs write access to it, of course.
Use common sense in assigning permissions and ownerships to
directories, and make sure that what is done is secure if it is
* Normal binaries should be mode 755 and owned by `root.root'. If
there is a good reason to use a different mode or ownership, you
may do so, but you must try to be as consistent as possible with
the rest of the system. If you need to use a different mode or
ownership, please discuss it with `email@example.com'.
* Setuid binaries should normally be mode 4755 (not 4711!) and, of
course, owned by the appropriate user.
* Setgid binaries should normally be mode 2755 (not 2711!) and, of
course, owned by the appropriate group.
* Library files should generally be mode 644 and owned by
`root.root'. If the package requires different permissions or
ownerships to function correctly, they should be used instead.
* Manual pages should be mode 644 and owned by `root.root'. The
`nroff' source must be installed. You should *not* install a
preformatted "cat page", and you should only use sections 1 to
9--see the FSSTND for more details.
* Info documents should be mode 644, owned by `root.root', and
compressed with `gzip' when installed. The package must call
`install-info' to update the Info `dir' file. This should be done
in the post-installation script (`postinst'), like this:
install-info --quiet /usr/info/foobar.info
The entries should be removed by the pre-removal script (`prerm'),
install-info --quiet --remove /usr/info/foobar.info
It is also a good idea to specify a section for the Info `dir'
entry. This is done with the `--section' switch. To determine
which section to use, you should use look at `/usr/info/dir' on
your system and choose the most relevant (or create a new section
if none of the current sections are relevant).
If `install-info' cannot find a description entry in the Info file
you will have to supply one. See `install-info'(8) for details.
* If a package contains any shared libraries you will have to invoke
`ldconfig' in both the `postinst' and `prerm' scripts to correctly
update the library links. See `ldconfig'(8) for details.
* Any additional documentation that comes with the package can be
installed at the discretion of the package maintainer. Text
documentation should be mode 644, owned by `root.root', installed
to `/usr/doc', and compressed with `gzip' unless it is small.
If a subdirectory of `/usr/doc' is warranted, please do create one.
Please do not install DVI, PostScript, or large textual
documentation to `/usr/doc'. However, please do upload such
documentation as a separate package so that it can be made
available with the distribution. If a user has the need for the
documentation, they can easily get it from the archive, CD-ROM,
etc., but it should not take up disk space on the machines of the
user who do not need or want it installed.
* Create a file named `/usr/doc/copyright/<package>' which gives
details of the authorship and copyright of the package. If the
package is distributed under the GNU General Public Licence, the
GNU Library General Public Licence or the Regents of the
University of California at Berkeley (BSD) licence, please say so
instead of including a copy of the licence. The files `BSD',
`GPL', and `LGPL' will be available in the `/usr/doc/copyright'
directory for you to refer to. `/usr/doc/copyright/<package>'
should not be compressed.
*All* authorship and copyright information from the original source
package must be included in the `/usr/doc/copyright/<package>'
* Any example files (for example, sample configuration files) should
be placed in the directory `/usr/doc/examples'. If the file is
normally a hidden file, such as `.emacs', then please call it
`dot.emacs', to avoid confusion. Again, you may create a
subdirectory if it is needed.
* All symbolic links should be relative, not absolute. Absolute
links, in general, cause problems when a file system is not
mounted where it "normally" resides (for example, when mounted via
NFS). In certain cases, however, relative links may also cause
similar problems. I have generally made links into `/etc' and
`/var' absolute and all other links relative. There may be other
cases in which absolute links are necessary.
Therefore, in the Makefile, do not do (even though it is easier):
ln -fs /usr/bin/gcc /usr/bin/cc
ln -fs gcc /usr/bin/cc
( cd /usr/bin ; ln -fs gcc cc )
Please do not create hard links in the manual page directories. In
these cases, you should use relative symbolic links or files that
`.so' (roff for `source') others instead.
* All command scripts should have a `#!' line naming the shell to be
used to interpret them.
* In the case of Perl scripts this should be `#!/usr/bin/perl' or
sometimes `#!/bin/perl', as follows: if the script is a critical
one that may be called when the `/usr' partition is unmounted or
broken it should use `/bin/perl'. Otherwise (especially if the
script is not specifically targetted at Debian) it should use
Perl's standard location, `/usr/bin/perl'.
* Generally the following compilation parameters should be used:
CC = gcc
CFLAGS = -O3
LDFLAGS = -s (and -N, if appropriate; see below)
All installed binaries should be stripped, hence `-s'. `-N'
should only be used on binaries that are very small (less than 8K
with the `-N' option, roughly) and are not likely to have multiple
instances in memory. Do not use `-N' on daemons, no matter how
small they are.
It is up to the package maintainer to decide what compilation
options are best for the package. Certain binaries (such as
computational- intensive programs) may function better with
certain flags; feel free to use them. Please use good judgment
here. Don't add flags for the sake of adding flags; only add
flags if there is good reason to do so.
* Please check with the base system maintainer (Ian Murdock) before
using users or groups other than `root' and others specified in
File: guidelines.info, Node: Source Package, Next: Binary Package, Prev: Package Content, Up: Top
The source package should contain a file called `debian.rules' which
contains at least the following targets, to be invoked in the top level
`debian.rules' should start with
and be executable. It is a good idea to arrange for it not to fail
obscurely when invoked in the wrong directory, for example by testing
for the existence of a file in the source directory.
* The `build' target should perform all non-interactive configuration
and compilation of the package. If a package has an interactive
pre-build configuration routine, the source package should be built
*after* this has taken place.
For some packages, notably ones where the same source tree is
compiled in different ways to produce two binary packages, the
`build' target does not make much sense. For these packages it is
good enough to provide two (or more) targets (`build-a' and
`build-b' or whatever) for each of the ways of building the
package, and a `build' target that does nothing. The `binary'
target will have to build the package in each of the possible ways
and make the binary package out of each.
* The `binary' target of `debian.rules' should be all that is
necessary for the user to build the binary package. The binary
package should be created using `dpkg' and placed in the parent of
the top level directory. The next section describes how to
construct binary packages from the `binary' target.
* The `clean' target should undo the effects of the `build' target
and the `binary' target, except that it should leave alone any
`../<package>-<version>.deb' file created by a run of `binary'.
* Additional targets may exist in `debian.rules'. We recommend using
`source' and `diff' targets to build the Debianised source package
and the Debianisation context diff, respectively. These files
should be placed in `../foo-<version>.tar.gz' and
`../foo-<version>.diff.gz'. The `install' target, for installing
into a running system direct from the Debianised source tree, is
no longer required. The sample `debian.rules' provides `source'
and `diff' targets that should work with little or no alteration,
providing that the package-specific variables at the top of the
script have been properly defined.
* If you need to edit a `Makefile' where `configure' scripts are
used, you should edit the `.in' files rather than editing the
`Makefile' directly. This allows the user to reconfigure the
package if necessary. You should *not* configure the package and
edit the generated `Makefile'! This makes it impossible for
someone else to later reconfigure the package.
* Please document your changes to the source package so that future
package maintainers know what has been changed. To do this,
include a description of your changes in the `debian.README'
(which, as described above, should already contain authorship and
copyright information!) and include relevant information such as
your name, electronic mail address, date, etc.
* If changes to the source code are made, please use a `define'. If
they are changes required to compile or function under Linux in
general, use `LINUX'. If it is a cosmetic or functional change,
* Create the source package using `tar', and use `gzip -9' to
compress it. Source packages should be named in the form
<package>-<version>.tar.gz--for example, `fileutils-3.9-3.tar.gz'.
NB, here `<version>' is the full Debian version number, in the
form `<original_version>-<debian_revision>' (see below), but the
tarfile should unpack into a directory named
`<package>-<original_version>' (again, see the section below on
* Create the context diff against the original package using `diff
-cNr', and use `gzip -9' to compress it. Context diffs should be
named in the form <package>-<version>.diff.gz--for example,
Please note that the package and patch filenames do *not* need to
fit in MS-DOS 8+3. They will be made available under an alternative
8+3 name in the archive by the archive maintainer, using a symlink.
File: guidelines.info, Node: Binary Package, Next: Control Files, Prev: Source Package, Up: Top
The `binary' target of the source package `debian.rules' file should
do the following (see the sample `debian.rules' for an implementation
that you are free to modify and use in your own packages, of course):
* Create an empty directory in the top-level directory of the source
package (deleting it first, if necessary), and install the files
belonging to this package in that directory. For example, the
directory could be called `debian-tmp' and would probably contain
directories `debian-tmp/usr/bin', `debian-tmp/usr/lib', etc.
(`debian-tmp' is the name traditionally used, and it is used in
the sample `debian.rules' file, so we will use that name in the
* Make sure that all the files under `debian-tmp' have the correct
ownerships and permissions (*note Package Content::., for more
information about file locations, ownerships, and permissions.)
* Create a subdirectory of `debian-tmp' called `DEBIAN'. This
directory contains the package control information, including at
the very least the master information file named `control'. The
next section describes the semantics and syntax of the files
required and allowed here.
* Run `dpkg' to create the binary package, using something like
dpkg --build debian-tmp
This will create a file called `debian-tmp.deb', from the
`debian-tmp' directory. You should rename this file to
`../<package>-<version>.deb' after it is built.
After the `binary' target has done all this, the
`<package>-<version>.deb' file in the parent directory is the
binary distribution. This file may be distributed and installed on
any Debian GNU/Linux system with `dpkg' in the same manner and
using the same methods as all packages are installed to the system.
* If a single source package corresponds to several binary packages,
there should usually be a `debian.rules' file with a single
`binary' target that builds all the binary packages involved and
move all packages to the parent directory of that containing the
In this case, you should choose binary package names which are
meant to make clear the close relationship between the binary
packages and which source package the binary packages came from
(for example, the `texinfo' source package build two binary
packages: `texidoc' and `texinfo'). You should place the
appropriate binary package name in the `Package' field of the
control file (not the source package name), and you should
consider whether the other binary packages that come from the same
source tree should be mentioned in the `Depends', `Recommends' or
`Suggests' fields. You should put the source package name in the
You should retain the source package version numbering in the
`Version' field--the version number should be the same for the
Debianised source tree and all the binary packages generated from
it. See below for details of version numbers.
File: guidelines.info, Node: Control Files, Prev: Binary Package, Up: Top
Each binary package contains, in addition to the files that comprise
the actual package, a set of text files that control how `dpkg'
installs, configures, upgrades, removes, etc. the package. These files
are called "control files". When creating the package, the control
files should placed in a directory called `DEBIAN', as described
earlier (*note Binary Package::., for further information).
The control information files are:
The master package control information file.
A list of package configuration files.
The package pre-installation script.
The package post-installation script.
The package pre-removal script.
The package post-removal script.
Of these, only `control' is required. The various installation
scripts, and the configuration files list, will only be used if they are
* Installation and Removal Scripts::
* Dependencies and Conflicts::
* Package Classification Fields::
File: guidelines.info, Node: control, Next: conffiles, Prev: Control Files, Up: Control Files
The `control' file contains a number of fields. Each field begins
with a field name, such as `Package' or `Version' (case insensitive),
followed by a colon and optionally some spaces or tabs (a single space
is conventional). Then comes the body of the field, which may be
several lines long; each continuation line must start with at least one
space or tab. (These are the same rules as apply to RFC822 mail
headers.) Blank lines are not permitted in the control file.
The required fields in the control file are the following:
The name of the package.
The description of the package.
The name and e-mail address of the maintainer of the package.
The version number in the format
Each field has a particular format and meaning for the package
The value of `Package' should be the name of the package. Package
names must start with an alphanumeric, must be at least two characters,
and may contain only alphanumerics and the characters - + . : = % _
(that is, hyphen, plus, stop, at, colon, equals, percent and
underscore). They are not case sensitive.
The `Maintainer' field should be in the form
Joe J. Bloggs <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Note that this will not be useable as an email address if the name
given contains full stop characters, because of a silly restriction in
the Internet mail standards. If you want to use this as an email
address in a program you should check for full stops and change the
string to the form `email@example.com (Joe J. Bloggs)' if you find any.
The `Version' field should be the version number of the package.
For most packages which are not written specifically for Debian, this
should be in the form
where `<original_version>' is the original package version number in
whatever form the original package uses and `<debian_revision>'
indicates which "debianisation" this is (this should usually be a plain
number or perhaps a two numbers separated by a full stop, and should be
incremented each time the package is changed or updated).
Packages which are written specifically for Debian do not have a
debian_revision, and their version number should simply be version
(which should not contain any hyphens, to avoid confusion).
There is an ordering imposed on version numbers, described in
`version-ordering.txt'. This ordering is designed to `do the right
thing' in most circumstances; if your package has an version number in
an unusual format you may need to reformat it somewhat to get the
ordering right. This is important because `dpkg' is (for example)
reluctant to downgrade packages.
The optional fields in the control file are the following:
The names of prerequisite packages.
The names of related, recommended packages.
The names of related, optional packages.
The names of packages which conflict with this package.
The names of virtual packages which this package provides.
The `priority' of the package, as shown and used by `dselect'.
The `section' of the package, as shown and used by `dselect', and
used as a location for the package in the distribution.
A boolean field used by the base packages.
See below for details of the semantics and syntax of these fields.
Most packages will need at least a `Depends' field.
An example of a `control' file would be:
Maintainer: Ian Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Recommends: pine | mailx | elm | emacs | mail-user-agent
Depends: cron, libc5
Description: Electronic mail transport system.
Smail is the recommended mail transport agent (MTA) for Debian.
An MTA is the innards of the mail system - it takes messages from
user-friendly mailer programs and arranges for them to be delivered
locally or passed on to other systems as required.
In order to make use of it you must have one or more user level
mailreader programs such as elm, pine, mailx or Emacs (which has Rmail
and VM as mailreaders) installed. If you wish to send messages other
than just to other users of your system you must also have appropriate
networking support, in the form of IP or UUCP.
In this case, `mail-user-agent' is a virtual package representing
any user mailer program; the actual package names `pine' is quoted for
the reasons described in `dependency-ordering.txt', and the others
because older versions of those packages do not have the appropriate
File: guidelines.info, Node: conffiles, Next: Installation and Removal Scripts, Prev: control, Up: Control Files
The contents of `conffiles' is simply a list of configuration files
in the package. When installing the package, `dpkg' uses an
intelligent method to update these files. This will ensure that
package-specific configuration files are not overwritten when a package
is upgraded, unless the user wishes the installation tools to do so.
Typically, files listed in conffiles are package-specific
configuration files, which (according to the Linux Filesystem Standard)
are stored in `/etc'. For example, the `sendmail' package may contain
the file `/etc/sendmail.cf', which we do not wish to overwrite
automatically when the user upgrades the sendmail package. Only those
files listed in `DEBIAN/conffiles' will be updated intelligently when a
package is upgraded; all other files in the package will be overwritten
by the upgrade process.
Configuration files which will be functional as shipped and will
probably need little or no local editing should simply be listed the
`conffiles' file; in this case you need read no further.
For packages whose configuration files will need modification on
most systems there are two sensible approaches. Which one is chosen
depends on how hard the configuration problem is and how much time the
package maintainer has available.
One option is for you to ship a minimal `best-effort' file in
`/etc', and list the file in `conffiles'. This will mean that the user
will have to go and edit the file themselves to get the package to work
properly, of course. The next time they upgrade the package, if you
haven't changed the file version, their old file will be left in place.
If you have modified your version then the user will get a prompt
asking them which version of the file they want, theirs or yours. They
will then usually have to resolve the discrepancies manually.
The other option is to be preferred, if you can do it: don't put a
copy of the configuration file in the package at all. Instead, you
check in the postinst whether the file exists, and if it doesn't you
prompt the user for the information you need to create a good one. This
is obviously harder work.
You also have to remember that you will have to keep up with your
package's changes: if you discover a bug in the program which generates
the configuration file, or if the format of the file changes from one
version to the next, you will have to arrange for the postinst script to
do something sensible--usually this will mean editing the installed
configuration file to remove the problem or change the syntax. You will
have to do this very carefully, since the user may have changed the
file, perhaps to fix the very problem that your script is trying to deal
with--you will have to detect these situations and deal with them
If you do go down this route it's probably a good idea to make the
program that generates the configuration file(s) a separate program in
/usr/sbin, by convention called package`config', and then run that if
appropriate from the post-installation script. The package`config'
program should not unquestioningly overwrite an existing
configuration--if its mode of operation is geared towards setting up a
package for the first time (rather than any arbitrary reconfiguration
later) you should have it check whether the configuration already
exists, and require a `--force' flag to overwrite it.
`conffiles' should almost certainly list all the files contained in
your package in the `/etc' directory. There may also be other files
somewhere that the user is expected to edit, which should also be
included. Note, however, that the FSSTND specifies that configuration
files must be in `/etc'. No Debian package should contain
configuration files in `/usr/etc', and all programs should refer to
configuration files in `/etc'.
For example, the TCP/IP package might use a conffiles which contains
and so on; the files
might be generated by an interactive configuration program, and would
then not be included in the package or listed in the `conffiles'.
File: guidelines.info, Node: Installation and Removal Scripts, Next: Dependencies and Conflicts, Prev: conffiles, Up: Control Files
Installation and Removal Scripts
The scripts `preinst', `postinst', `prerm', and `postrm' are
optional (Bash or Perl) scripts. As the names would indicate, if these
scripts exist, they will be executed before installing the package,
after installation, before package removal, and after removal,
They are given arguments which indicate the precise situation and
action being performed--see `maintainer-script-args.txt' for details of
exactly when each of the scripts is invoked and what its arguments are.
Extra arguments and situations may be added later, so you should not
test the number of arguments to your script to determine the situation,
and you should choose the sense of your `if it is this then do this
otherwise do that' tests carefully.
These scripts can be used to perform any site-specific package
Because the scripts will be exectued by the dpkg front-end, it is
guaranteed that the scripts will be executed interactively. User input
from the scripts should be read from standard input, not the user's
terminal. Similarly, output should be sent to standard output.
If your maintainer scripts need to prompt for passwords and/or do
full-screen interaction should do these things to and from /dev/tty,
since `dpkg' will at some point redirect scripts' standard input and
output so that it can log the installation process. Likewise, because
these scripts may be executed with standard output redirected into a
pipe for logging purposes, Perl scripts should set unbuffered output by
setting `$|=1' so that the output is printed immediately rather than
The scripts must be idempotent, and they must clean up after
themselves properly. Ie, they must do the right thing if run multiple
times, even if previous runs failed halfway through. This is so that if
any errors occur, or if the `dpkg' run is interrupted, the user can
recover by rerunning `dpkg', and/or by upgrading to a new version and
then rerunning the failed operation.
These scripts should avoid producing output which it is unnecessary
for the user to see and should rely on `dpkg' to stave off boredom on
the part of a user installing many packages. This means, amongst other
things, using the `--quiet' option on `install-info'.
Packages should try to minimise the amount of prompting they need to
do, and they should ensure that the user will only every be asked each
question once. This means that packages should try to use appropriate
shared configuration files (such as `/etc/papersize' and
`/etc/news/server'), rather than each prompting for their own list of
required pieces of information.
It also means that an upgrade should not ask the same questions
again, unless the user has used `dpkg --purge' to remove the package's
configuration. The answers to configuration questions should be stored
in an appropriate place in /etc so that the user can modify them, and
how this has been done should be documented.
If a package has a vitally important piece of information to pass to
the user (such as "don't run me as I am, you must edit the following
configuration files first or you risk your system emitting
badly-formatted messages"), it should display this in the `postinst'
script and prompt the user to hit Return to acknowledge the message.
Copyright messages do not count as vitally important (they belong in
`/usr/doc/copyright'; neither do instructions on how to use a program
(these should be in on line documentation, where all the users can see
They should return a zero exit status for success, or a nonzero one
for failure. Note that if a script is a `#!/bin/sh' script it should
probably start with `set -e', to avoid continuing after errors--see
`bash'(1) for details. Perl scripts should check for errors when
making calls such as `open', `print', `close', `rename' and `system'.
If these scripts exist they should be left in the `DEBIAN' directory
with execute permission enabled and should contain an appropriate `#!'
line, such as `#!/bin/bash' for a `bash' script or `#!/bin/perl' for a
Perl script (see above).
File: guidelines.info, Node: Dependencies and Conflicts, Next: Package Classification Fields, Prev: Installation and Removal Scripts, Up: Control Files
Conflicts, Depends, Suggests, Recommends and Provides
The `Depends' field lists packages that are required for this
package to provide a significant amount of functionality. The package
maintenance software will not allow a package to be installed without
also installing packages listed in its `Depends' field, and will run
the `postinst' scripts of packages listed in `Depends' fields before
those of the packages which depend on them, and run the `prerm' scripts
Packages containing dynamically-linked executable binaries (this
includes almost all C programs) should include a `Depends' field which
mentions the shared C library required for the program to run. For
a.out binaries linked against `libc.so.4' the relevant package name is
`libc'; for ELF binaries linked against `libc.so.5' the relevant
package name is `libc5'.
The `Recommends' field lists packages that would be found together
with this one in all but unusual installations. The user-level package
maintenance program `dselect' will warn the user if they select a
package without those listed in its `Recommends' field. Note that
`Recommends' fields don't currently have any implications for the order
in which the maintainer scripts are run.
The `Suggests' field lists packages that are related to this one and
can perhaps enhance its usefulness, but without which installing this
package is perfectly reasonable. The package maintenance software will
not moan at the user for not selecting `Suggests' related packages, but
may use the information in the `Suggests' field to assist the user
during package selection.
The syntax of `Depends', `Recommends' and `Suggests' is a list of
groups of alternative packages. Each group is a list of packages
separated by vertical bar (or `pipe') symbols, `|'. The groups are
separated by commas. Each package is a package name optionally
followed by a version number specification in parentheses. A version
number may start with a `>', in which case that version or any later
will match, or `<' for that version or any earlier version. Commas are
to be read as `AND', and pipes as `OR', with pipes binding more tightly.
The `Conflicts' field lists packages that conflict with this one,
for example by containing files with the same names (an example would
be Smail vs. Sendmail). The package maintenance software will not
allow conflicting packages to be installed. Two conflicting packages
should each include a `Conflicts' line mentioning the other.
The syntax of `Conflicts' is a list of package names (with optional
version numbers), separated by commas (and optional whitespace). In
the `Conflicts' field the comma should be read as `OR'.
The `Provides' field lists the names of any `virtual packages' of
which this packages is to be considered an instantiation. Virtual
packages are used to allow packages to refer to a service they require
(such as the availability of `/usr/sbin/sendmail') without having to
know the names of all the relevant packages. The virtual package names
defined in `Provides' fields may be used in other packages' `Depends',
`Recommends', `Suggests' and `Conflicts' fields. For more information
about how to use virtual packages and which virtual package names to
use read `virtual-dependencies.txt' and
The syntax of `Provides' is a list of package names separated by
commas (and optional whitespace).
File: guidelines.info, Node: Package Classification Fields, Prev: Dependencies and Conflicts, Up: Control Files
Priority, Section and Essential
The `Priority' and `Section' fields are used by `dselect' when
displaying the list of packages to the user. There is no need to put
them into a package, since these are usually set by the distribution
maintainers in the `Packages' file.
However, if a user installs a package which is not part of the
standard distribution, or without downloading and updating from a new
`Packages' file, the information about the priority and section of a
package will be absent, and the `dselect' package listing will have the
package listed under `unclassified'. It is permissible for a package
to include `Section' or `Priority' fields to improve this; however, if
you do this you should make sure you keep the information up to date so
that users are not shown conflicting information. The `Section' field
can also be used by the distribution maintainers as a suggestion about
which section you think is most appropriate for your package.
The `Essential' field should only appear in packages in the
installation's base system. If it is set to `yes' then `dpkg' will not
remove the package even if asked to, and will make certain minor
modifications to its installation procedures. The only other legal
value is `no', which is equivalent to the absence of the field.
Node: Additional Information1746
Node: Package Copyright4374
Node: Package Content8340
Node: Source Package16305
Node: Binary Package20812
Node: Control Files24054
Node: Installation and Removal Scripts34676
Node: Dependencies and Conflicts38978
Node: Package Classification Fields42634
End Tag Table