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
<email@example.com>”, and is typically the person who created
the package, as opposed to the author of the software that was
- Description: short-description (recommended)
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,
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
- 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
- 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 (recommended)
- 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 from.
- Bugs: url
- The url of the bug tracking system for this package. The current
used format is bts-type://bts-address, like
- 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 package.
- This field is used to indicate how this package should behave on a
- This value is the default when the field is omitted, in which case adding
the field with an explicit no value is generally not needed.
- 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
- 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 effect otherwise.
- 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 « dpkg-gencontrol
- 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 script.
- 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 Recommends
- Suggests: package-list
- Lists packages that are related to this one and can perhaps enhance its
usefulness, but without which installing this package is perfectly
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 Breaks field.
- 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
- 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 conflicted
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 (obsolete)
- 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
twice as fast as stock Unix egrep) hybridized with a Boyer-Moore-Gosper
search for a fixed string that eliminates impossible text from being
considered by the full regexp matcher without necessarily having to
look at every character. The result is typically many times faster
than Unix grep or egrep. (Regular expressions containing backreferencing
will run more slowly, however).