Skip to main content

Debian packaging tools

Project description

The Python package deb-pkg-tools is a collection of functions to build and inspect Debian binary packages and repositories of binary packages. Its primary use case is to automate builds.

Some of the functionality is exposed in the command line interface (documented below) because it’s very convenient to use in shell scripts, while other functionality is meant to be used as a Python API. The package is currently tested on cPython 2.7, 3.5+ and PyPy (2.7).

Please note that deb-pkg-tools is quite opinionated about how Debian binary packages should be built and it enforces some of these opinions on its users. Most of this can be avoided with optional function arguments and/or environment variables. If you find something that doesn’t work to your liking and you can’t work around it, feel free to ask for an additional configuration option; I try to keep an open mind about the possible use cases of my projects.


On the one hand the deb-pkg-tools package is based on my experiences with Debian packages and repositories over the past couple of years, on the other hand deb-pkg-tools itself is quite young. Then again most functionality is covered by automated tests; at the time of writing coverage is around 90% (some of the error handling is quite tricky to test if we also want to test the non-error case, which is of course the main focus :-)


The deb-pkg-tools package is available on PyPI which means installation should be as simple as:

$ pip install deb-pkg-tools

There’s actually a multitude of ways to install Python packages (e.g. the per user site-packages directory, virtual environments or just installing system wide) and I have no intention of getting into that discussion here, so if this intimidates you then read up on your options before returning to these instructions ;-).

When deb-pkg-tools is being used to scan thousands of *.deb archives a significant speedup may be achieved using memcached:

$ pip install "deb-pkg-tools[memcached]"

Under the hood deb-pkg-tools uses several programs provided by Debian, the details are available in the dependencies section. To install these programs:

$ sudo apt-get install dpkg-dev fakeroot lintian


There are two ways to use the deb-pkg-tools package: As a command line program and as a Python API. For details about the Python API please refer to the API documentation available on Read the Docs. The command line interface is described below.

Usage: deb-pkg-tools [OPTIONS] …

Wrapper for the deb-pkg-tools Python project that implements various tools to inspect, build and manipulate Debian binary package archives and related entities like trivial repositories.

Supported options:



-i, --inspect=FILE

Inspect the metadata in the Debian binary package archive given by FILE (similar to “dpkg --info”).

-c, --collect=DIR

Copy the package archive(s) given as positional arguments (and all package archives required by the given package archives) into the directory given by DIR.

-C, --check=FILE

Perform static analysis on a package archive and its dependencies in order to recognize common errors as soon as possible.

-p, --patch=FILE

Patch fields into the existing control file given by FILE. To be used together with the -s, --set option.

-s, --set=LINE

A line to patch into the control file (syntax: “Name: Value”). To be used together with the -p, --patch option.

-b, --build=DIR

Build a Debian binary package with “dpkg-deb --build” (and lots of intermediate Python magic, refer to the API documentation of the project for full details) based on the binary package template in the directory given by DIR. The resulting archive is located in the system wide temporary directory (usually /tmp).

-u, --update-repo=DIR

Create or update the trivial Debian binary package repository in the directory given by DIR.

-a, --activate-repo=DIR

Enable “apt-get” to install packages from the trivial repository (requires root/sudo privilege) in the directory given by DIR. Alternatively you can use the -w, --with-repo option.

-d, --deactivate-repo=DIR

Cleans up after --activate-repo (requires root/sudo privilege). Alternatively you can use the -w, --with-repo option.

-w, --with-repo=DIR

Create or update a trivial package repository, activate the repository, run the positional arguments as an external command (usually “apt-get install”) and finally deactivate the repository.

--gc, --garbage-collect

Force removal of stale entries from the persistent (on disk) package metadata cache. Garbage collection is performed automatically by the deb-pkg-tools command line interface when the last garbage collection cycle was more than 24 hours ago, so you only need to do it manually when you want to control when it happens (for example by a daily cron job scheduled during idle hours :-).

-y, --yes

Assume the answer to interactive questions is yes.

-v, --verbose

Make more noise! (useful during debugging)

-h, --help

Show this message and exit.

One thing to note is that the operation of deb-pkg-tools --update-repo can be influenced by a configuration file. For details about this, please refer to the documentation on deb_pkg_tools.repo.select_gpg_key().


The following external programs are required by deb-pkg-tools (depending on which functionality you want to use of course):























The majority of these programs/packages will already be installed on most Debian based systems so you should only need the following to get started:

$ sudo apt-get install dpkg-dev fakeroot lintian

Platform compatibility

Several things can be tweaked via environment variables if they don’t work for your system or platform. For example on Mac OS X the cp command doesn’t have an -l parameter and the root user and group may not exist, but despite these things it can still be useful to test package builds on Mac OS X. The following environment variables can be used to adjust such factors:

Environment variable

Default value



















Environment variables for boolean options support the strings yes, true, 1, no, false and 0 (case is ignored).

Disabling sudo usage

To disable any use of sudo you can use the following:

export DPT_CHOWN_FILES=false
export DPT_RESET_SETGID=false
export DPT_SUDO=false


The latest version of deb-pkg-tools is available on PyPI and GitHub. The documentation is hosted on Read the Docs. For bug reports please create an issue on GitHub. If you have questions, suggestions, etc. feel free to send me an e-mail at


This software is licensed under the MIT license.

© 2020 Peter Odding.

Release history Release notifications | RSS feed

This version


Download files

Download the file for your platform. If you're not sure which to choose, learn more about installing packages.

Source Distribution

deb-pkg-tools-8.4.tar.gz (98.7 kB view hashes)

Uploaded Source

Built Distribution

deb_pkg_tools-8.4-py2.py3-none-any.whl (87.1 kB view hashes)

Uploaded Python 2 Python 3

Supported by

AWS AWS Cloud computing and Security Sponsor Datadog Datadog Monitoring Fastly Fastly CDN Google Google Download Analytics Microsoft Microsoft PSF Sponsor Pingdom Pingdom Monitoring Sentry Sentry Error logging StatusPage StatusPage Status page