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Debian Python Policy
Chapter 2 - Python Packaging


2.1 Versions

At any given time, the binary package python3 will represent the current default Debian Python 3 version; the binary package python will represent the current default Debian Python 2 version. As far as is reasonable, Python 3 and Python 2 should be treated as separate runtime systems with minimal interdependencies.

In some cases, Python policy explicitly references Python helper tools. For Debian Stretch, the dh-python package provides the only such tools; earlier helpers have been removed from Debian.

It is a design goal to fully specify required interfaces and functions in policy for Python 3 and to avoid enshrining specific implementation details in policy. Except as noted, policy for Python 2 is the same as Python 3 with the exception of the different major version number as needed to distinguish them.

The default Debian Python version, for each of Python 3 and Python 2, should always be the latest stable upstream version that can be fully integrated in Debian.

There may be newer supported or unsupported versions included in Debian if they are not fully integrated for a particular release.

Apart from the default version, legacy versions of Python or beta releases of future upstream versions may be included as well in Debian, as long as they are needed by other packages, or as long as it seems reasonable to provide them.

Note: For the scope of this document, a Python version is synonymous with all micro versions within that minor version. e.g. Python 3.5.0 and 3.5.1 are micro versions of the same Python version 3.5, but Python 3.4 and 3.5 are indeed different versions.

For any version, the main binary package must be called pythonX.Y.

The set of currently supported Python 3 versions can be found in /usr/share/python3/debian_defaults; the supported interface to this information is through /usr/bin/py3versions. The set of currently supported Python 2 versions can be found in /usr/share/python/debian_defaults; the supported interface to this information is /usr/bin/pyversions.

These files are in Python configparser format. They define (in the DEFAULT section) the following options:

Newer versions might also appear in unsupported-versions before being moved to supported-versions.


2.2 Main packages

For every Python version provided in Debian, the binary package pythonX.Y shall provide a complete distribution for deployment of Python scripts and applications. The package must ensure that the binary /usr/bin/pythonX.Y is provided.

Installation of pythonX.Y shall provide the modules of the upstream Python distribution with some exceptions.

Excluded are modules that cannot be included for licensing reasons (for example the profile module), for dependency tracking purposes (for example the GPL-licensed gdbm module), or that should not be included for packaging reasons (for example the tk module which depends on Xorg).

Some tools and files for the development of Python modules are split off in a separate binary package pythonX.Y-dev.

Documentation will be provided separately as well.

At any time, the python3 binary package must ensure that /usr/bin/python3 is provided, as a symlink to the current python3.Y executable. The package must depend on the python3.Y package that installs the executable.

The version of the python3 package must be greater than or equal to 3.Y and lower than 3.Y+1.

At any time, the python binary package must ensure that /usr/bin/python2 is provided, as a symlink to the current python2.Y executable. The package must depend on the python2.Y package that installs the executable.

The version of the python package must be greater than or equal to 2.Y and lower than 2.Y+1.

The python binary package must also ensure that /usr/bin/python is provided, as a symlink to the current python2.Y executable. See PEP 394 for details.


2.3 Minimal packages

For every Python version provided in Debian, the binary package pythonX.Y-minimal might exist and should not be depended upon by other packages except the Python runtime packages themselves.


2.4 Python Interpreter


2.4.1 Interpreter Name

The different Python major versions require different interpreters (see Main packages, Section 2.2).

Python scripts that require the default Python 3 version should specify python3 as the interpreter name.

Python scripts that require the default Python 2 version should specify python2 as the interpreter name.

Python scripts may specify python as the interpreter name only if they do not require any particular version of Python. (Note: this means any python2 version)

Python scripts that only work with a specific Python minor version must explicitly use the versioned interpreter name (pythonX.Y).


2.4.2 Interpreter Location

Python scripts should specify the Debian Python interpreter, to ensure that the Debian Python installation is used and all dependencies on additional Python modules are met.

The preferred specification for the Python 3 interpreter is /usr/bin/python3 (or /usr/bin/python3.Y if it requires Python 3.Y).

The preferred specification for the Python 2 interpreter is /usr/bin/python2 (or /usr/bin/python2.Y if it requires Python 2.Y).

Scripts requiring the default Python 2 version may instead specify the interpreter /usr/bin/python.

Maintainers should not override the Debian Python interpreter using /usr/bin/env name. This is not advisable as it bypasses Debian's dependency checking and makes the package vulnerable to incomplete local installations of Python.


2.5 Module Path

By default, Python modules are searched in the directories listed in the PYTHONPATH environment variable and in the sys.path Python variable. For all supported Debian releases, sys.path does not include a /usr/lib/pythonXY.zip entry.

Directories with private Python modules must be absent from the sys.path.

Public Python 3 modules must be installed in the system Python 3 modules directory, /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages.

Public Python 2 modules must be installed in the system Python 2 modules directory /usr/lib/python2.Y/dist-packages, where 2.Y is the Python 2 version.

A special directory is dedicated to public Python modules installed by the local administrator, /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages for all Python 3 versions, /usr/local/lib/python2.Y/dist-packages for Python 2.

For local installation of Python modules by the system administrator, special directories are reserved. The directory /usr/local/lib/python3/site-packages is in the Python 3 runtime module search path. The directory /usr/local/lib/python2.Y/site-packages is in the Python 2.Y runtime module search path.

Additional information on appending site-specific paths to the module search path is available in the official documentation of the site module.

Python modules which work with multiple supported Python 2 versions must install to version-specific locations, for instance /usr/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/foo.py and /usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/foo.py. These should point to a common file.

Architecture-independent public Python 3 modules must be installed to /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages.

Architecture-independent public Python 2 modules should be installed to /usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages. The historical location for this was /usr/share/pyshared. Since Python 2.7 is the last Python 2 version and the only supported version in Wheezy and later releases, a version-specific location is sufficient.


2.6 Hooks for updates to installed runtimes

The python binary package has special hooks to allow other packages to act upon updates to the installed runtimes.

This mechanism is required to handle changes of the default Python runtime in some packages and to enable the Python packaging helpers.

There are three supported hook types which come in the form of scripts which are invoked from the maintainer scripts of the Python runtime packages when specific installations, removals, or upgrades occur.

  1. /usr/share/python3/runtime.d/*.rtinstall, /usr/share/python/runtime.d/*.rtinstall: These are called when a runtime is installed or becomes supported. The first argument is rtinstall, the second argument is the affected runtime (for example pythonX.Y) and the third and fourth argument are the old and new version of this packaged runtime if this runtime was already installed but unsupported.

  1. /usr/share/python3/runtime.d/*.rtremove, /usr/share/python/runtime.d/*.rtremove: These are called when a runtime is removed or stops being supported. The first argument is rtremove, and the second argument is the affected runtime (for example pythonX.Y).

  1. /usr/share/python3/runtime.d/*.rtupdate, /usr/share/python/runtime.d/*.rtupdate: These are called when the default runtime changes. The first argument is either pre-rtupdate, called before changing the default runtime, or rtupdate, called when changing the default runtime, or post-rtupdate, called immediately afterwards. The second argument is the old default runtime (for example pythonX.Y), and the third argument is the new default runtime (for example pythonX.Z).


2.7 Documentation

Python documentation is split out in separate binary packages pythonX.Y-doc.

The binary package python3-doc will always provide the documentation for the default Debian Python 3 version. The binary package python-doc will always provide the documentation for the default Debian Python 2 version.

TODO: Policy for documentation of third party packages.


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Debian Python Policy

version 0.10.1.0

Neil Schemenauer mailto:nas@debian.org
Matthias Klose mailto:doko@debian.org
Gregor Hoffleit mailto:flight@debian.org
Josselin Mouette mailto:joss@debian.org
Joe Wreschnig mailto:piman@debian.org
Loïc Minier mailto:lool@debian.org
Scott Kitterman mailto:scott@kitterman.com
Barry Warsaw mailto:barry@debian.org
Ben Finney mailto:ben+debian@benfinney.id.au