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. Debhelper commands are all named with a "dh_" prefix.
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 L<dh_make|dh_make(1)> 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 debhelper.
=head1 DEBHELPER COMMANDS
Here is the complete list of available debhelper commands. See their man
pages for additional documentation.
=head1 DEBHELPER CONFIG FILES
Many debhelper commands make use of files in F<debian/> to control what they
do. Besides the common F<debian/changelog> and F<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 on).
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.
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 --print-architecture",
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 '*') in the files.
=head1 SHARED DEBHELPER OPTIONS
The following command line options are supported by all debhelper programs.
=item B<-v>, B<--verbose>
Verbose mode: show all commands that modify the package build directory.
Do not really do anything. If used with -v, the result is that the command
will output what it would have done.
=item B<-a>, B<--arch>
Act on all architecture dependent packages.
=item B<-i>, B<--indep>
Act on all architecture independent packages.
=item B<->I<ppackage>, B<--package=>I<package>
Act on the package named "package".
=item B<-s>, B<--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 independant.
=item B<-N>I<package>, B<--no-package=>I<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.
=item B<-P>I<tmpdir>, B<--tmpdir=>I<tmpdir>
Use "tmpdir" for package build directory. The default is debian/<package>
=head1 COMMON DEBHELPER OPTIONS
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
Do not modify postinst/postrm/etc scripts.
=item B<-X>I<item>, B<--exclude=>I<item>
Exclude an item from processing. This option may be used multiple times,
to exclude more than one thing.
=item B<-A>, B<-all>
Makes files or other items that are specified on the command line take effect
in ALL packages acted on, not just the first.
=head2 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
B<-a>, B<-i>, B<-p>, and B<-s> parameters. These parameters are cumulative.
If none are given, debhelper programs default to acting on all packages listed
in the control file.
See F</usr/share/doc/debhelper/examples/rules.multi> for an example of how to
use this in a package that generates multiple binary packages.
=head2 Automatic generation of debian install scripts
Some debhelper commands will automatically generate parts of debian install
scripts. If you want these automatically generated things included in your
debian install 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.
All scripts 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: $!";
=head2 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
=head2 Debhelper compatability 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 DH_COMPAT environment variable was introduced.
DH_COMPAT may be set to a number, to determine which major revision of
debhelper should be used. There are currently 3:
Setting DH_COMPAT=1 (or leaving it unset) causes debhelper to act in
compatability mode. It 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.
Setting DH_COMPAT=2 causes debhelper to consistently use debian/<package>
as the package tree directory for every package that is built.
This is the reccommended mode of operation.
Setting DH_COMPAT=3 does everything V2 does, plus:
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 ldconfig.
Every file in etc/ is automatically flagged as a conffile by dh_installdeb.
=head2 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.
=head2 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/lib/menu/ before installing the menu files, etc.
If you are generating a debian package that has arch-indep and
arch-dependent portions, and you are using dh_movefiles to move the
arch-indep files out of debian/tmp, you need to make sure that dh_movefiles
does this even if only the arch-dependent package is being built (for
ports to other architectures). I handle this in the example rules file
"rules.multi" by calling dh_movefiles in the install target.
Once your package uses debhelper to build, be sure to add
debhelper to your Build-Depends line in debian/control.
Set to 1 to enable verbose mode. Debhelper will output every command it runs
that modifies files on the build system.
Specifies what compatability level debhelper should run at. See above.
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. If you use DH_OPTIONS, be sure to build depend on "debhelper >= 1.1.17" --
older debhelpers will ignore it and do things you don't want them to. One very
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.
=head1 SEE ALSO
A set of example debian/rules files that use debhelper.
Debhelper web site.
Joey Hess <firstname.lastname@example.org>