Switch to SpeakEasy.net DSL

The Modular Manual Browser

Home Page
Manual: (Debian-5.0)
Apropos / Subsearch:
optional field

debhelper(7)                       Debhelper                      debhelper(7)

       debhelper - the debhelper tool suite

       dh_* [-v] [-a] [-i] [-s] [--no-act] [-ppackage] [-Npackage] [-Ptmpdir]

       Debhelper is used to help you build a debian package. The philosophy
       behind debhelper is to provide a collection of small, simple, and
       easily understood tools that are used in debian/rules to automate
       various common aspects of building a package. This means less work for
       you, the packager.  It also, to some degree means that these tools can
       be changed if debian policy changes, and packages that use them will
       require only a rebuild to comply with the new policy.

       A typical debian/rules file that uses debhelper will call several
       debhelper commands in sequence, or use dh(1) to automate this process.
       Examples of rules files that use debhelper are in

       To create a new debian package using debhelper, you can just copy one
       of the sample rules files and edit it by hand. Or you can try the dh-
       make package, which contains a dh_make command that partially automates
       the process. For a more gentle introduction, the maint-guide debian
       package contains a tutorial about making your first package using

       Here is the complete list of available debhelper commands. See their
       man pages for additional documentation.

           automatically builds a package

           automatically cleans up after a build

           automatically configure a package prior to building

           automatically runs make install or similar

           automatically runs a package's test suites

           build debian binary packages

           clean up package build directories

           compress files and fix symlinks in package build directories

           Register .desktop files

           fix permissions of files in package build directories

           generate GConf schema registration scripts

           generate and install control file

           Update Freedesktop icon caches

           install files into package build directories

           install and register SGML Catalogs

           install changelogs into package build directories

           install cron scripts into etc/cron.*

           install files into the DEBIAN directory

           install files used by debconf in package build directories

           create subdirectories in package build directories

           install documentation into package build directories

           register an emacs add on package

           install example files into package build directories

           install if-up and if-down hooks

           install and register info files

           install init scripts into package build directories

           install logcheck rulefiles into etc/logcheck/

           install logrotate config files

           install man pages into package build directories

           old-style man page installer

           install debian menu files into package build directories

           install mime files into package build directories

           register modules with modutils

           install pam support files

           install ppp ip-up and ip-down files

           install udev rules files

           register a window manager

           register X fonts

           create symlinks in package build directories

           install lintian override files into package build directories

           list binary packages debhelper will act on

           automatically create shlibs file and call dpkg-gensymbols

           generate DEBIAN/md5sums file

           move files out of debian/tmp into subpackages

           calculates perl dependencies and cleans up after MakeMaker

           preform cleanups in preparation for building a binary package

           calculates python dependencies and adds postinst and prerm python

           generate ScrollKeeper registration scripts

           calculate shared library dependencies

           strip executables, shared libraries, and some static libraries

           obsolete suid registration program

           test directory before building debian package

           ensure that a package is built as root

           ensure that the correct version of debhelper is installed

           obsolete undocumented.7 symlink program

           migrate usr/local directories to maintainer scripts

       If a program's name starts with "dh_", and the program is not on the
       above list, then it is not part of the debhelper package, but it should
       still work like the other programs described on this page.

       Many debhelper commands make use of files in debian/ to control what
       they do. Besides the common debian/changelog and debian/control, which
       are in all packages, not just those using debhelper, some additional
       files can be used to configure the behavior of specific debhelper
       commands. These files are typically named debian/package.foo (where
       "package" of course, is replaced with the package that is being acted

       For example, dh_installdocs uses files named debian/package.docs to
       list the documentation files it will install. See the man pages of
       individual commands for details about the names and formats of the
       files they use.  Generally, these files will list files to act on, one
       file per line. Some programs in debhelper use pairs of files and
       destinations or slightly more complicated formats.

       Note that if a package is the first (or only) binary package listed in
       debian/control, debhelper will use debian/foo if no debian/package.foo
       file can be found.

       In some rare cases, you may want to have different versions of these
       files for different architectures. If files named
       debian/package.foo.arch exist, where "arch" is the same as the output
       of "dpkg-architecture -qDEB_HOST_ARCH", then they will be used in
       preference to other, more general files.

       In many cases, these config files are used to specify various types of
       files. Documentation or example files to install, files to move, and so
       on.  When appropriate, in cases like these, you can use standard shell
       wildcard characters ('?' and '*' and '[..]' character classes) in the

       You can also put comments in these files; lines beginning with "#" are

       The following command line options are supported by all debhelper

       -v, --verbose
           Verbose mode: show all commands that modify the package build

           Do not really do anything. If used with -v, the result is that the
           command will output what it would have done.

       -a, --arch
           Act on all architecture dependent packages.

       -i, --indep
           Act on all architecture independent packages.

       -ppackage, --package=package
           Act on the package named "package". This option may be specified
           multiple times to make debhelper operate on a given set of

       -s, --same-arch
           This is a smarter version of the -a flag, that is used in some rare
           circumstances. It understands that if the control file lists
           "Architecture: i386" for the package, the package should not be
           acted on on other architectures. So this flag makes the command act
           on all "Architecture: any" packages, as well as on any packages
           that have the current architecture explicitly specified.  Contrast
           to the -a flag, which makes the command work on all packages that
           are not architecture independent.

       -Npackage, --no-package=package
           Do not act on the specified package even if an -a, -i, or -p option
           lists the package as one that should be acted on.

           Ignore the specified file. This can be used if debian/ contains a
           debhelper config file that a debhelper command should not act on.
           Note that debian/compat, debian/control, and debian/changelog can't
           be ignored, but then, there should never be a reason to ignore
           those files.

           For example, if upstream ships a debian/init that you don't want
           dh_installinit to install, use --ignore=debian/init

       -Ptmpdir, --tmpdir=tmpdir
           Use "tmpdir" for package build directory. The default is

           This little-used option changes the package which debhelper
           considers the "main package", that is, the first one listed in
           debian/control, and the one for which debian/foo files can be used
           instead of the usual debian/package.foo files.

       The following command line options are supported by some debhelper
       programs.  See the man page of each program for a complete explanation
       of what each option does.

       -n  Do not modify postinst/postrm/etc scripts.

       -Xitem, --exclude=item
           Exclude an item from processing. This option may be used multiple
           times, to exclude more than one thing.

       -A, --all
           Makes files or other items that are specified on the command line
           take effect in ALL packages acted on, not just the first.

       Multiple binary package support

       If your source package generates more than one binary package,
       debhelper programs will default to acting on all binary packages when
       run. If your source package happens to generate one architecture
       dependent package, and another architecture independent package, this
       is not the correct behavior, because you need to generate the
       architecture dependent packages in the binary-arch debian/rules target,
       and the architecture independent packages in the binary-indep
       debian/rules target.

       To facilitate this, as well as give you more control over which
       packages are acted on by debhelper programs, all debhelper programs
       accept the -a, -i, -p, and -s parameters. These parameters are
       cumulative.  If none are given, debhelper programs default to acting on
       all packages listed in the control file.

       Automatic generation of debian install scripts

       Some debhelper commands will automatically generate parts of debian
       maintainer scripts. If you want these automatically generated things
       included in your existing debian maintainer scripts, then you need to
       add "#DEBHELPER#" to your scripts, in the place the code should be
       added.  "#DEBHELPER#" will be replaced by any auto-generated code when
       you run dh_installdeb.

       If a script does not exist at all and debhelper needs to add something
       to it, then debhelper will create the complete script.

       All debhelper commands that automatically generate code in this way let
       it be disabled by the -n parameter (see above).

       Note that the inserted code will be shell code, so you cannot directly
       use it in a perl script. If you would like to embed it into a perl
       script, here is one way to do that (note that I made sure that $1, $2,
       etc are set with the set command):

         my $temp="set -e\nset -- @ARGV\n" . << 'EOF';
         system ($temp) / 256 == 0
               or die "Problem with debhelper scripts: $!";

       Automatic generation of miscellaneous dependencies.

       Some debhelper commands may make the generated package need to depend
       on some other packages. For example, if you use dh_installdebconf(1),
       your package will generally need to depend on debconf. Or if you use
       dh_installxfonts(1), your package will generally need to depend on a
       particular version of xutils. Keeping track of these miscellaneous
       dependencies can be annoying since they are dependant on how debhelper
       does things, so debhelper offers a way to automate it.

       All commands of this type, besides documenting what dependencies may be
       needed on their man pages, will automatically generate a substvar
       called ${misc:Depends}. If you put that token into your debian/control
       file, it will be expanded to the dependencies debhelper figures you

       This is entirely independent of the standard ${shlibs:Depends}
       generated by dh_makeshlibs(1), and the ${perl:Depends} generated by
       dh_perl(1).  You can choose not to use any of these, if debhelper's
       guesses don't match reality.

       Package build directories

       By default, all debhelper programs assume that the temporary directory
       used for assembling the tree of files in a package is debian/<package>.

       Sometimes, you might want to use some other temporary directory. This
       is supported by the -P flag. For example, "dh_installdocs
       -Pdebian/tmp", will use debian/tmp as the temporary directory. Note
       that if you use -P, the debhelper programs can only be acting on a
       single package at a time. So if you have a package that builds many
       binary packages, you will need to also use the -p flag to specify which
       binary package the debhelper program will act on.

       Debhelper compatibility levels

       From time to time, major non-backwards-compatible changes need to be
       made to debhelper, to keep it clean and well-designed as needs change
       and its author gains more experience. To prevent such major changes
       from breaking existing packages, the concept of debhelper compatibility
       levels was introduced. You tell debhelper which compatibility level it
       should use, and it modifies its behavior in various ways.

       Tell debhelper what compatibility level to use by writing a number to
       debian/compat. For example, to turn on V7 mode:

         % echo 7 > debian/compat

       Unless otherwise indicated, all debhelper documentation assumes that
       you are using the most recent compatibility level, and in most cases
       does not indicate if the behavior is different in an earlier
       compatibility level, so if you are not using the most recent
       compatibility level, you're advised to read below for notes about what
       is different in earlier compatibility levels.

       These are the available compatibility levels:

       V1  This is the original debhelper compatibility level, and so it is
           the default one. In this mode, debhelper will use debian/tmp as the
           package tree directory for the first binary package listed in the
           control file, while using debian/<package> for all other packages
           listed in the control file.

           This mode is deprecated.

       V2  In this mode, debhelper will consistently use debian/<package> as
           the package tree directory for every package that is built.

           This mode is deprecated.

       V3  This mode works like V2, with the following additions:

           -       Debhelper config files support globbing via * and ?, when
                   appropriate. To turn this off and use those characters raw,
                   just prefix with a backslash.

           -       dh_makeshlibs makes the postinst and postrm scripts call

           -       Every file in etc/ is automatically flagged as a conffile
                   by dh_installdeb.

           This mode is deprecated.

       V4  Changes from V3 are:

           -       dh_makeshlibs -V will not include the debian part of the
                   version number in the generated dependency line in the
                   shlibs file.

           -       You are encouraged to put the new ${misc:Depends} into
                   debian/control to supplement the ${shlibs:Depends} field.

           -       dh_fixperms will make all files in bin/ directories and in
                   etc/init.d executable.

           -       dh_link will correct existing links to conform with policy.

       V5  Changes from V4 are:

           -       Comments are ignored in debhelper config files.

           -       dh_strip --dbg-package now specifies the name of a package
                   to put debugging symbols in, not the packages to take the
                   symbols from.

           -       dh_installdocs skips installing empty files.

           -       dh_install errors out if wildcards expand to nothing.

       V6  Changes from V5 are:

           -       Commands that generate maintainer script fragements will
                   order the fragements in reverse order for the prerm and
                   postrm scripts.

           -       dh_installwm will install a slave manpage link for
                   x-window-manager.1.gz, if it sees the man page in
                   usr/share/man/man1 in the package build directory.

           -       dh_builddeb did not previously delete everything matching
                   DH_ALWAYS_EXCLUDE, if it was set to a list of things to
                   exclude, such as "CVS:.svn:.git". Now it does.

           -       dh_installman allows overwriting existing man pages in the
                   package build directory. In previous compatibility levels
                   it silently refuses to do this.

       V7  This is the recommended mode of operation.

           Changes from V6 are:

           -       dh_install, will fall back to looking for files in
                   debian/tmp if it doesn't find them in the current directory
                   (or wherever you tell it look using --srcdir). This allows
                   dh_install to interoperate with dh_auto_install, which
                   installs to debian/tmp, without needing any special

           -       dh_clean will read debian/clean and delete files listed

           -       dh_clean will delete toplevel *-stamp files.

           -       dh_installchangelogs will guess at what file is the
                   upstream changelog if none is specified.

       Doc directory symlinks

       Sometimes it is useful to make a package not contain a
       /usr/share/doc/package directory at all, instead placing just a
       dangling symlink in the binary package, that points to some other doc
       directory. Policy says this is ok if your package depends on the
       package whose doc directory it uses. To accomplish this, just don't
       tell debhelper to install any documentation files into the package, and
       use dh_link to set up the symlink (or do it by hand), and debhelper
       should do the right thing: notice it is a dangling symlink and not try
       to install a copyright file or changelog.


       Debhelper includes support for udebs. To create a udeb with debhelper,
       add "XC-Package-Type: udeb" to the package's stanza in debian/control,
       and build-depend on debhelper (>= 4.2). Debhelper will try to create
       udebs that comply with debian-installer policy, by making the generated
       package files end in ".udeb", not installing any documentation into a
       udeb, skipping over preinst, postrm, prerm, and config scripts, etc.

       Other notes

       In general, if any debhelper program needs a directory to exist under
       debian/, it will create it. I haven't bothered to document this in all
       the man pages, but for example, dh_installdeb knows to make
       debian/<package>/DEBIAN/ before trying to put files there,
       dh_installmenu knows you need a debian/<package>/usr/share/menu/ before
       installing the menu files, etc.

       Once your package uses debhelper to build, be sure to add debhelper to
       your Build-Depends line in debian/control. You should build-depend on a
       version of debhelper equal to (or greater than) the debhelper
       compatibility level your package uses. So if your package used
       compatibility level 7:

         Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 7)

           Set to 1 to enable verbose mode. Debhelper will output every
           command it runs that modifies files on the build system.

           Temporarily specifies what compatibility level debhelper should run
           at, overriding any value in debian/compat.

           Set to 1 to enable no-act mode.

           Anything in this variable will be prepended to the command line
           arguments of all debhelper commands. This is useful in some
           situations, for example, if you need to pass -p to all debhelper
           commands that will be run. One good way to set DH_OPTIONS is by
           using "Target-specific Variable Values" in your debian/rules file.
           See the make documentation for details on doing this.

           If set, this adds the value the variable is set to to the -X
           options of all commands that support the -X option. Moreover,
           dh_builddeb will rm -rf anything that matches the value in your
           package build tree.

           This can be useful if you are doing a build from a CVS source tree,
           in which case setting DH_ALWAYS_EXCLUDE=CVS will prevent any CVS
           directories from sneaking into the package you build. Or, if a
           package has a source tarball that (unwisely) includes CVS
           directories, you might want to export DH_ALWAYS_EXCLUDE=CVS in
           debian/rules, to make it take effect wherever your package is

           Multiple things to exclude can be separated with colons, as in

           A set of example debian/rules files that use debhelper.

           Debhelper web site.

       Joey Hess <joeyhATdebian.org>

7.0.15                            2008-07-09                      debhelper(7)