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Debian packaging tools

Project description

The Python package deb-pkg-tools is a collection of functions to work with Debian packages and repositories. Some of those functions have a command line interface (see below) because they’re very convenient to use in shell scripts, while other functions are meant to be called directly from Python code. It’s currently tested on Python 2.6, 2.7 and 3.4.

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 :-)

Installation and usage

You can install the deb-pkg-tools package using the following command:

$ pip install deb-pkg-tools

After installation you’ll have the deb-pkg-tools program available:

$ deb-pkg-tools --help
Usage: deb-pkg-tools [OPTIONS]

Supported options:

  -i, --inspect=FILE          inspect the metadata in a *.deb archive
  -b, --build=DIR             build a Debian package with `dpkg-deb --build'
  -u, --update-repo=DIR       create/update a trivial package repository
  -a, --activate-repo=DIR     enable `apt-get' to install packages from a
                              trivial repository (requires root/sudo privilege)
  -d, --deactivate-repo=DIR   cleans up after --activate-repo
                              (requires root/sudo privilege)
  -w, --with-repo=DIR CMD...  create/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
  -v, --verbose               make more noise
  -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().

If you’re interested in using deb-pkg-tools as a Python module, please refer to the function reference on Read the Docs.


The deb-pkg-tools package depends on the python-debian package for control file parsing (it will be automatically installed as a dependency). The following external programs are also required (depending on which functionality you need of course):

Program Package
apt-ftparchive apt-utils
apt-get apt
cp coreutils
dpkg-deb dpkg
dpkg-architecture dpkg-dev
du coreutils
fakeroot fakeroot
gpg gnupg
gzip gzip
lintian lintian

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:

Variable Default Description
DPT_CHOWN_FILES true Normalize ownership of files during packaging.
DPT_ROOT_USER root During package builds the ownership of all directories and files is reset to this user.
DPT_ROOT_GROUP root During package builds the ownership of all directories and files is reset to this group.
DPT_RESET_SETGID true Reset sticky bit on directories inside package templates before building.
DPT_ALLOW_FAKEROOT_OR_SUDO true Run commands using either fakeroot or sudo (depending on which is available).
DPT_SUDO true Enable the usage of sudo during operations that normally require elevated privileges.
DPT_HARD_LINKS true Allow the usage of hard links to speed up file copies between directories on the same file system.
DPT_FORCE_ENTROPY false Force the system to generate entropy based on disk I/O.
SHELL /bin/bash Shell to use for the deb-pkg-tools --with-repo command.

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.

© 2014 Peter Odding.

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