4. Control files and their fields (from old Packaging Manual)

Many of the tools in the dpkg suite manipulate data in a common format, known as control files. Binary and source packages have control data as do the .changes files which control the installation of uploaded files, and dpkg’s internal databases are in a similar format.

4.1. Syntax of control files

See Syntax of control files.

It is important to note that there are several fields which are optional as far as dpkg and the related tools are concerned, but which must appear in every Debian package, or whose omission may cause problems.

4.2. List of fields

See List of fields.

This section now contains only the fields that didn’t belong to the Policy manual.

4.2.1. Filename and MSDOS-Filename

These fields in Packages files give the filename(s) of (the parts of) a package in the distribution directories, relative to the root of the Debian hierarchy. If the package has been split into several parts the parts are all listed in order, separated by spaces.

4.2.2. Size and MD5sum

These fields in Packages files give the size (in bytes, expressed in decimal) and MD5 checksum of the file(s) which make(s) up a binary package in the distribution. If the package is split into several parts the values for the parts are listed in order, separated by spaces.

4.2.3. Status

This field in dpkg’s status file records whether the user wants a package installed, removed or left alone, whether it is broken (requiring re-installation) or not and what its current state on the system is. Each of these pieces of information is a single word.

4.2.4. Config-Version

If a package is not installed or not configured, this field in dpkg’s status file records the last version of the package which was successfully configured.

4.2.5. Conffiles

This field in dpkg’s status file contains information about the automatically-managed configuration files held by a package. This field should not appear anywhere in a package!

4.2.6. Obsolete fields

These are still recognized by dpkg but should not appear anywhere any more.

Revision; Package-Revision; Package_Revision

The Debian revision part of the package version was at one point in a separate control field. This field went through several names.


Old name for Recommends.


Old name for Suggests.


Old name for Priority.