deb-control - Debian binary packages' master control file format
Each Debian binary package contains the master control
contains a number of fields. Each field begins with a tag, such as
(case insensitive), followed by a colon, and
the body of the field. Fields are delimited only by field tags. In other
words, field text may be multiple lines in length, but the installation tools
will generally join lines when processing the body of the field (except in the
case of the Description
field, see below).
- Package: package-name (required)
- The value of this field determines the package name, and is
used to generate file names by most installation tools.
- Version: version-string (required)
- Typically, this is the original package's version number in
whatever form the program's author uses. It may also include a Debian
revision number (for non-native packages). The exact format and sorting
algorithm are described in deb-version(5).
- Maintainer: fullname-email (recommended)
- Should be in the format “Joe Bloggs
<firstname.lastname@example.org>”, and is typically the person who created
the package, as opposed to the author of the software that was
- Description: short-description
The format for the package description is a short brief summary on the first
line (after the Description field). The following lines should be
used as a longer, more detailed description. Each line of the long
description must be preceded by a space, and blank lines in the long
description must contain a single ‘ .’ following the
- Section: section
- This is a general field that gives the package a category
based on the software that it installs. Some common sections are
utils, net, mail, text, x11, etc.
- Priority: priority
- Sets the importance of this package in relation to the
system as a whole. Common priorities are required, standard,
optional, extra, etc.
fields usually have a defined set of
accepted values based on the specific distribution policy.
- Installed-Size: size
- The approximate total size of the package's installed
files, in KiB units.
- Essential: yes|no
- This field is usually only needed when the answer is
yes. It denotes a package that is required for proper operation of
the system. Dpkg or any other installation tool will not allow an
Essential package to be removed (at least not without using one of
the force options).
- Build-Essential: yes|no
- This field is usually only needed when the answer is
yes, and is commonly injected by the archive software. It denotes a
package that is required when building other packages.
- Architecture: arch|all
- The architecture specifies which type of hardware this
package was compiled for. Common architectures are amd64,
armel, i386, powerpc, etc. Note that the all
value is meant for packages that are architecture independent. Some
examples of this are shell and Perl scripts, and documentation.
- Origin: name
- The name of the distribution this package is originating
- Bugs: url
- The url of the bug tracking system for this package.
The current used format is bts-type://bts-address,
- Homepage: url
- The upstream project home page url.
- Tag: tag-list
- List of tags describing the qualities of the package. The
description and list of supported tags can be found in the debtags
- This field is used to indicate how this package should
behave on a multi-arch installations.
- This value is the default when the field is omitted, in
which case adding the field with an explicit no value is generally
- This package is co-installable with itself, but it must not
be used to satisfy the dependency of any package of a different
architecture from itself.
- This package is not co-installable with itself, but should
be allowed to satisfy a non-arch-qualified dependency of a package of a
different arch from itself (if a dependency has an explicit arch-qualifier
then the value foreign is ignored).
- This allows reverse-dependencies to indicate in their
Depends field that they accept this package from a foreign
architecture by qualifying the package name with :any, but has no
- Source: source-name
- The name of the source package that this binary package
came from, if it is different than the name of the package itself. If the
source version differs from the binary version, then the
source-name will be followed by a source-version in
parenthesis. This can happen for example on a binary-only non-maintainer
upload, or when setting a different binary version via «
- Subarchitecture: value
- Kernel-Version: value
Installer-Menu-Item: value These fields are used by the
debian-installer and are usually not needed. See
/usr/share/doc/debian-installer/devel/modules.txt from the
debian-installer package for more details about them.
- Depends: package-list
- List of packages that are required for this package to
provide a non-trivial amount of functionality. The package maintenance
software will not allow a package to be installed if the packages listed
in its Depends field aren't installed (at least not without using
the force options). In an installation, the postinst scripts of packages
listed in Depends fields are run before those of the packages which
depend on them. On the opposite, in a removal, the prerm script of a
package is run before those of the packages listed in its Depends
- Pre-Depends: package-list
- List of packages that must be installed and
configured before this one can be installed. This is usually used in the
case where this package requires another package for running its preinst
- Recommends: package-list
- Lists packages that would be found together with this one
in all but unusual installations. The package maintenance software will
warn the user if they install a package without those listed in its
- Suggests: package-list
- Lists packages that are related to this one and can perhaps
enhance its usefulness, but without which installing this package is
The syntax of Depends
fields 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. Commas
are to be read as “AND”, and pipes as “OR”, with
pipes binding more tightly. Each package name is optionally followed by an
architecture qualifier appended after a colon ‘ :
optionally followed by a version number specification in parentheses.
An architecture qualifier name can be a real Debian architecture name (since
dpkg 1.16.5) or any
(since dpkg 1.16.2). If omitted, the default is the
current binary package architecture. A real Debian architecture name will
match exactly that architecture for that package name, any
any architecture for that package name if the package has been marked as
A version number may start with a ‘ >>
’, in which
case any later version will match, and may specify or omit the Debian
packaging revision (separated by a hyphen). Accepted version relationships are
’ for greater than, ‘
’ for less than, ‘ >=
greater than or equal to, ‘ <=
’ for less than or equal
to, and ‘ =
’ for equal to.
- Breaks: package-list
- Lists packages that this one breaks, for example by
exposing bugs when the named packages rely on this one. The package
maintenance software will not allow broken packages to be configured;
generally the resolution is to upgrade the packages named in a
- Conflicts: package-list
- Lists packages that conflict with this one, for example by
containing files with the same names. The package maintenance software
will not allow conflicting packages to be installed at the same time. Two
conflicting packages should each include a Conflicts line
mentioning the other.
- Replaces: package-list
- List of packages files from which this one replaces. This
is used for allowing this package to overwrite the files of another
package and is usually used with the Conflicts field to force
removal of the other package, if this one also has the same files as the
The syntax of Breaks
is a list of
package names, separated by commas (and optional whitespace). In the
fields, the comma should be read as
“OR”. An optional architecture qualifier can also be appended to
the package name with the same syntax as above, but the default is any
instead of the binary package architecture. An optional version can also be
given with the same syntax as above for the Breaks
- Provides: package-list
- This is a list of virtual packages that this one provides.
Usually this is used in the case of several packages all providing the
same service. For example, sendmail and exim can serve as a mail server,
so they provide a common package (“mail-transport-agent”) on
which other packages can depend. This will allow sendmail or exim to serve
as a valid option to satisfy the dependency. This prevents the packages
that depend on a mail server from having to know the package names for all
of them, and using ‘ |’ to separate the list.
The syntax of Provides
is a list of package names, separated by commas
(and optional whitespace). An optional architecture qualifier can also be
appended to the package name with the same syntax as above. If omitted, the
default is the current binary package architecture. An optional exact (equal
to) version can also be given with the same syntax as above (honored since
- Built-Using: package-list
- This field lists extra source packages that were used
during the build of this binary package. This is an indication to the
archive maintenance software that these extra source packages must be kept
whilst this binary package is maintained. This field must be a list of
source package names with strict ‘ =’ version
relationships. Note that the archive maintenance software is likely to
refuse to accept an upload which declares a Built-Using
relationship which cannot be satisfied within the archive.
- Built-For-Profiles: profile-list
- This field used to specify a whitespace separated list of
build profiles that this binary packages was built with (since dpkg 1.17.2
until 1.18.18). The information previously found in this field can now be
found in the .buildinfo file, which supersedes it.
- Auto-Built-Package: reason-list
- This field specifies a whitespace separated list of reasons
why this package was auto-generated. Binary packages marked with this
field will not appear in the debian/control master source control
file. The only currently used reason is debug-symbols.
Maintainer: Wichert Akkerman <email@example.com>
Pre-Depends: libc6 (>= 2.0.105)
Description: GNU grep, egrep and fgrep.
The GNU family of grep utilities may be the "fastest grep in the west".
GNU grep is based on a fast lazy-state deterministic matcher (about
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search for a fixed string that eliminates impossible text from being
considered by the full regexp matcher without necessarily having to
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will run more slowly, however).