10. Upgrading checklist

10.1. About the checklist

The checklist below has been created to simplify the upgrading process of old packages. This list is not official or normative. It only provides an indication of what has changed and whether you are likely to need to make changes to your package in light of this. If you have doubts about a certain topic, if you need more details, or if you think some other package does not comply with policy, please refer to the Policy Manual itself.

All of the changes from version 3.0.0 onwards indicate which section of the Policy Manual discusses the issue. The section numbering should still be accurate for changes back to the 2.5.0 release. Before that point, the sections listed here probably no longer correspond to sections in the modern Policy Manual.

Here is how the check list works: Check which policy version your package was checked against last (indicated in the Standards-Version field of the source package). Then move upwards until the top and check which of the items on the list might concern your package. Note which sections of policy discuss this, and then check out the Policy Manual for details. Once you’ve made all necessary changes to match the current rules, update the value of Standards-Version to the current Policy Manual version.

If an item in the list is followed by the name of a Lintian tag in square brackets, it indicates that the policy requirement is covered by that Lintian tag. The lack of such an annotation does not mean that no Lintian tag exists to cover the requirement. Our coverage of these annotations is quite incomplete, and patches to this checklist are very welcome.

The sections in this checklist match the values for the Standards-Version control field in omitting the minor patch version, except in the two anomalous historical cases where normative requirements were changed in a minor patch release.

10.2. Version 4.6.2

Released December, 2022.


Essential packages are only required to provide their core functionality when unconfigured if they had previously been configured at least once.

6.5 & 6.6

The new package version is provided as an additional argument following the old package version to several preinst, prerm, and postrm maintainer script actions.


When computing the priority for alternatives for /usr/bin/x-window-manager, start with a priority of 40, not 20, and don’t increase the priority based on support for the (obsolete) Debian menu system.

10.3. Version 4.6.1

Released May, 2022.


Restore permission for packages for non-64-bit architectures to install files to /usr/lib64/.

9.7.2 & 9.7.3

The text of these sections has been updated to reflect the package split of bin:mime-support into bin:media-types and bin:mailcap.

10.4. Version 4.6.0

Released August, 2021.


No package is allowed to install files in /usr/lib64/. Previously, this prohibition only applied to packages for 64-bit architectures.


Manual pages may be included in dependencies, not only in the packages containing the things they document.

10.5. Version 4.5.1

Released November, 2020.

2.3, 4.5 & 12.5

The copyright information for files in a package must be copied verbatim into /usr/share/doc/PACKAGE/copyright when all of the following hold:

  1. the distribution license for those files requires that copyright information be included in all copies and/or binary distributions;

  2. the files are shipped in the binary package, either in source or compiled form; and

  3. the form in which the files are present in the binary package does not include a plain text version of their copyright notices.

Note that there is no change to the requirement to copy all licensing information into /usr/share/doc/PACKAGE/copyright.

(Previously, it was always required for all copyright information to be copied into /usr/share/doc/PACKAGE/copyright.)


Packages must not contain a non-default series file. That is, dpkg’s vendor-specific patch series feature must not be used for packages in the Debian archive.

(previously a “should not”)

10.6. Version 4.5.0

Released January, 2020.


When maintainers choose a new hardcoded or dynamically generated username for packages to use, they should start this username with an underscore.


Packages that include system services should include systemd service units to start or stop those services.

Including an init script is encouraged if there is no systemd unit, and optional if there is (previously, it was recommended).

In the common case that a package includes a single system service, the service unit should have the same name as the package plus the “.service” extension. If an init script is included, it should have the same name as the systemd unit.


It is encouraged for init scripts to support the status argument (previously, it was recommended).


Use of update-rc.d is required if the package includes an init script (previously, Policy said in one place that it was required, and in another said that it was recommended).

10.7. Version 4.4.1

Released September, 2019.


A package control file must not have more than one Vcs-<type> field.

If the package is maintained in multiple version control systems, the maintainer should specify the one that they would prefer other people to use as the basis for proposing changes to the package.

9.10 & 11.5

doc-base registration is now optional, from being recommended.


Document /run/reboot-required mechanism.


State some syntactical restrictions on the Files: field. Wildcards are required to match the contents of directories, and the space character separates patterns and cannot be escaped.

10.8. Version 4.4.0

Released July, 2019.


The recommended way to implement the build process of a Debian package, in the absence of a good reason to use a different approach, is the dh tool. This recommendation includes the contents of the debian/rules building script.

Some examples of good reasons to use a different approach are given. The recommendation to use dh does not always apply, and use of dh is not required.


Permit -b in Vcs-Hg as well as Vcs-Git.


Document versioned Provides.


New logind and default-logind virtual packages for a package providing logind API (via D-Bus and sd-login(3)), and for Debian’s preferred implementation, respectively.

10.9. Version 4.3.0

Released December, 2018.

2.3 & 4.5

In cases where a package’s distribution license explicitly permits its copyright information to be excluded from distributions of binaries built from the source, a verbatim copy of the package’s copyright information should normally still be included in the copyright file, but it need not be if creating and maintaining a copy of that information involves significant time and effort.


Required targets must not write outside of the unpacked source package tree, except for TMPDIR, /tmp and /var/tmp.


Packages should not contain a non-default series file. That is, dpkg’s vendor-specific patch series feature should not be used for packages in the Debian archive.


Binaries should be stripped using strip --strip-unneeded --remove-section=.comment --remove-section=.note (as dh_strip already does).


It is no longer suggested nor recommended to use install -s to strip binaries, because it gets several things wrong.


When stripping shared libraries with strip(1), you should additionally pass --remove-section=.comment --remove-section=.note (as dh_strip already does).


New dbus-session-bus and default-dbus-session-bus virtual packages for a package providing the D-Bus session bus, and for Debian’s preferred D-Bus implementation, respectively.

10.10. Version 4.2.1

Released August, 2018.

10.4 & perl

The requirement that the shebang at the top of Perl command scripts be #!/usr/bin/perl is relaxed from a ‘must’ to a ‘should’.

10.11. Version 4.2.0

Released August, 2018.


The package build should be as verbose as reasonably possible. This means that debian/rules should pass to the commands it invokes options that cause them to produce verbose output.


Required targets may attempt network access, via the loopback interface, to services on the build host that have been started by the build.


New terse tag that can appear in DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS to make a package build less verbose.

5.2 & 5.4

The Standards-Version field is now mandatory, not just recommended.


Upstream release notes, when available, should be installed as /usr/share/doc/package/NEWS.gz. Upstream changelogs may be made available as /usr/share/doc/package/changelog.gz.

This is a relaxation of older Policy which said that the upstream changelog should be made accessible at this path. Now it is up to maintainer discretion whether it is useful to install it.

The practice of installing the upstream release notes as /usr/share/doc/package/changelog.gz is permitted but deprecated.

10.12. Version 4.1.5

Released July, 2018.


Document how debian/rules and the Rules-Requires-Root field interact.


You should not change a package’s epoch, even in experimental, without getting consensus on debian-devel first.

Epochs should not be used for the purpose of rolling back the version of a package. Use the +really convention.


Document the Rules-Requires-Root field.


Update Debian’s version of the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard from 2.3 to 3.0, and update the list of exceptions. Only a tiny minority of packages, if any, should be made buggy by this change.

9.3.2 & 10.4

Update version of POSIX standard for shell scripts from SUSv3 to POSIX.1-2017 (also known as SUSv4 in some contexts).

10.13. Version 4.1.4

Released April, 2018.


The part of the version number after the epoch must not be reused for a version of the package with different contents, even after the version of the package previously using that part of the version number is no longer present in any archive suites.


For non-native packages, the upstream version must not be reused for different upstream source code, so that for each source package name and upstream version number there exists exactly one original source archive contents.


The get-orig-source rules target has been removed. Packages should transition to debian/watch and use uscan where possible.


If /etc/staff-group-for-usr-local does not exist, /usr/local and all subdirectories created by packages should have permissions 0755 and be owned by root:root. If the file exists, the old permissions of 2775 and ownership of root:staff should remain.

10.14. Version 4.1.3

Released December, 2017.


URLs given in VCS-* headers should use a scheme that provides confidentiality (https, for example) if the VCS repository supports it. [vcs-field-uses-insecure-uri]


Built-Using should be used exactly when there are license or DFSG requirements to retain full source code in the archive. Previously, the description of the field implied it was needed in other cases too.


libc may also install files in /lib64.

If a package’s daemon should not be autostarted unless the local administrator has explicitly requested it, the package’s postinst should use the new defaults-disabled option of update-rc.d.

The old method of including DISABLED=yes in the package’s /etc/default file should not be used.


Clarify that programs may invoke either /usr/bin/editor and /usr/bin/pager directly, or use editor and pager and rely on PATH.


The Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal license (CC0-1.0) is now included in /usr/share/common-licenses and does not need to be copied verbatim in the package copyright file.

10.15. Version 4.1.2

Released November, 2017.


Binary packages that have potentially offensive content should have the suffix -offensive. This replaces an older convention to use -off. As before, whether the contents of a package needs this content warning is a matter of maintainer discretion.


Private shared object files should be installed in subdirectories of /usr/lib or /usr/lib/triplet. This change permits private shared object files to take advantage of multiarch, and also removes the implication that it is permissible to install private shared object files directly into /usr/lib/triplet.


The shebang at the top of Perl command scripts must be #!/usr/bin/perl. (Previously, this was a ‘should’ rather than a ‘must’.)

10.16. Version 4.1.1

Released September, 2017.


debian/changelog must exist in source packages.


The canonical non-existent home directory is /nonexistent.

10.17. Version 4.1.0

Released August, 2017.


Non-default alternative dependencies on non-free packages are permitted for packages in main.


If upstream provides OpenPGP signatures, including the upstream signing key as debian/upstream/signing-key.asc in the source package and using the pgpsigurlmangle option in debian/watch configuration to indicate how to find the upstream signature for new releases is recommended.


Packages should build reproducibly when certain factors are held constant; see 4.15 for the list.


Packages are recommended to build reproducibly even when build paths and most environment variables are allowed to vary.


Only the dynamic linker may install files to /lib64/.

No package for a 64 bit architecture may install files to /usr/lib64/ or any subdirectory.


The required behaviour of x-terminal-emulator -e has been clarified, and updated to replace a false claim about the behaviour of xterm.

Programs must support -e command where command may include multiple arguments, which must be executed as if the arguments were passed to execvp directly, bypassing the shell.

If this execution fails and -e has a single argument, xterm’s fallback behaviour of passing command to the shell is permitted but not required.

10.18. Version 4.0.1

Released August, 2017.


Priorities are now used only for controlling which packages are part of a minimal or standard Debian installation and should be selected based on functionality provided directly to users (so nearly all shared libraries should have a priority of optional). Packages may now depend on packages with a lower priority.

The extra priority has been deprecated and should be treated as equivalent to optional. All extra priorities should be changed to optional. Packages with a priority of optional may conflict with each other (but packages that both have a priority of standard or higher still may not conflict).


New section documenting the Testsuite field in Debian source control files.


Shared libraries must now invoke ldconfig by means of triggers, instead of maintscripts.


Packages are recommended to use debhelper tools instead of invoking update-rc.d and invoke-rc.d directly.


Policy’s description of how the local system administrator may modify the runlevels at which a daemon is started and stopped, and how init scripts may depend on other init scripts, have been removed. These are now handled by LSB headers.


Policy’s specification of the console messages that should be emitted by init.d scripts has been removed. This is now defined by LSB, for sysvinit, and is not expected to be followed by other init systems.


Packages installing a Free Desktop entry must not also install a Debian menu system entry.


The prohibition against depending on environment variables for reasonable defaults is only for programs on the system PATH and only for custom environment variable settings (not, say, a sane PATH).

10.19. Version 4.0.0

Released May, 2017.


config.sub and config.guess should be updated at build time or replaced with the versions from autotools-dev.


New TARGET set of dpkg-architecture variables and new DEB_*_ARCH_BITS and DEB_*_ARCH_ENDIAN variables.


New DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS tag, nodoc, which says to suppress documentation generation (but continue to build all binary packages, even documentation packages, just let them be mostly empty).


Automatically-generated debug packages do not need to have a corresponding stanza in debian/control. (This is existing practice; this Policy update is just clearer about it.)


Colons are not permitted in upstream version numbers.


New Build-Depends-Arch and Build-Conflicts-Arch fields are now supported.


The recommended package name for shared library development files is now libraryname-dev or librarynameapiversion-dev, not librarynamesoversion-dev.


The stable release of Debian supports /run, so packages may now assume that it exists and do not need any special dependency on a version of initscripts.


New optional try-restart standard init script argument, which (if supported) should restart the service if it is already running and otherwise just report success.


Support for the status init script argument is recommended.

Packages must not call /etc/init.d scripts directly even as a fallback, and instead must always use invoke-rc.d (which is essential and shouldn’t require any conditional).


Instructions for upstart integration removed since upstart is no longer maintained in Debian.


Packages may not install files in both /path and /usr/path, and must manage any backward-compatibility symlinks so that they don’t break if /path and /usr/path are the same directory.


Packages should assume device files in /dev are dynamically managed and don’t have to be created by the package. Packages other than those whose purpose is to manage /dev must not create or remove files there when a dynamic management facility is in use. Named pipes and device files outside of /dev should normally be created on demand via init scripts, systemd units, or similar mechanisms, but may be created and removed in maintainer scripts if they must be created during package installation.


Checking with the base-passwd maintainer is no longer required (or desirable) when creating a new dynamic user or group in a package.


Dependencies on *-doc packages should be at most Recommends (Suggests if they only include documentation in supplemental formats).


The Mozilla Public License 1.1 and 2.0 (MPL-1.1 and MPL-2.0) are now included in /usr/share/common-licenses and do not need to be copied verbatim in the package copyright file.


The https form of the copyright-format URL is now allowed and preferred in the Format field.


The Perl search path now includes multiarch directories. The vendor directory for architecture-specific modules is now versioned to support multiarch.


New adventure virtual package for implementations of the classic Colossal Cave Adventure game.


New httpd-wsgi3 virtual package for Python 3 WSGI-capable HTTP servers. The existing httpd-wsgi virtual package is for Python 2 WSGI-capable HTTP servers.


New virtual-mysql-client, virtual-mysql-client-core, virtual-mysql-server, virtual-mysql-server-core, and virtual-mysql-testsuite virtual packages for MySQL-compatible software.

10.20. Version 3.9.8

Released April, 2016.


The menu system is deprecated in favor of the FreeDesktop menu standard. New requirements set for FreeDesktop menu entries.


New instructions for registering media type handlers with the FreeDesktop system, which automatically synchronizes with mailcap and therefore replaces mailcap registration for packages using desktop entries.

10.21. Version 3.9.7

Released February, 2016.


Symbolic links must not traverse above the root directory.


32bit UIDs in the range 65536-4294967293 are reserved for dynamically allocated user accounts.


Empty field values in control files are only permitted in the debian/control file of a source package.


debian/rules: required targets must not attempt network access.


recommend to ship additional documentation for package pkg in a separate package pkg-doc and install it into /usr/share/doc/pkg.

10.22. Version 3.9.6

Released September, 2014.


The FHS is relaxed to allow a subdirectory of /usr/lib to hold a mixture of architecture-independent and architecture-dependent files, though directories entirely composed of architecture-independent files should be located in /usr/share.


The FHS requirement for /usr/local/lib64 to exist if /lib64 or /usr/lib64 exists is removed.


An FHS exception has been granted for multiarch include files, permitting header files to instead be installed to /usr/include/triplet.


Binaries must not be statically linked with the GNU C library, see policy for exceptions.


It is clarified that signature appearing in debian/changelog should be the details of the person who prepared this release of the package.


The default web document root is now /var/www/html


java1-runtime and java2-runtime are removed, javaN-runtime and javaN-runtime-headless are added for all N between 5 and 9.


Added httpd-wsgi for WSGI capable HTTP servers.


Perl packages should use the %Config hash to locate module paths instead of hardcoding paths in @INC.


Perl binary modules and any modules installed into $Config{vendorarch} must depend on the relevant perlapi-* package.

10.23. Version 3.9.5

Released October, 2013.


Control data fields must not start with the hyphen character (-), to avoid potential confusions when parsing clearsigned control data files that were not properly unescaped.

5.4, 5.6.24

Checksums-Sha1 and Checksums-Sha256 are now mandatory in .dsc files.

5.6.25, 5.8.1

The DM-Upload-Allowed field is obsolete. Permissions are now granted via dak-commands files.


New section documenting the Package-List field in Debian source control files.


New section documenting the Package-Type field in source package control files.


New section documenting the Dgit field in Debian source control files.

The exception to the FHS for the /selinux was removed.


Packages should remove all obsolete configuration files without local changes during upgrades. The dpkg-maintscript-helper tool, available from the dpkg package since Wheezy, can help with this.


The name of the files and directories installed by binary packages must be encoded in UTF-8 and should be restricted to ASCII when possible. In the system PATH, they must be restricted to ASCII.


Stop recommending to serve HTML documents from /usr/share/doc/package.


Packages distributing Info documents should use install-info’s trigger, and do not need anymore to depend on dpkg (>= 1.15.4) | install-info.


The escape capability is now documented.


mp3-decoder and mp3-encoder are removed.

10.24. Version 3.9.4

Released August, 2012.


New tasks archive section.


build-arch and build-indep are now mandatory targets in debian/rules.


New section documenting the Vcs-* fields, which are already in widespread use. Note the mechanism for specifying the Git branch used for packaging in the Vcs-Git field.


The deprecated relations < and > now must not be used.


New Built-Using field, which must be used to document the source packages for any binaries that are incorporated into this package at build time. This is used to ensure that the archive meets license requirements for providing source for all binaries.


Policy for dependencies between shared libraries and other packages has been largely rewritten to document the symbols system and more clearly document handling of shared library ABI changes. symbols files are now recommended over shlibs files in most situations. All maintainers of shared library packages should review the entirety of this section.


Packages must not assume the /run directory exists or is usable without a dependency on initscripts (>= 2.88dsf-13.3) until the stable release of Debian supports /run.


Packages including MIME configuration can now rely on triggers and do not need to call update-mime.


New section documenting general requirements for alternate init systems and specific requirements for integrating with upstart.


All copyright files must be encoded in UTF-8.

10.25. Version 3.9.3

Released February, 2012.


New archive sections education, introspection, and metapackages added.


The Architecture field in *.dsc files may now contain the value any all for source packages building both architecture-independent and architecture-dependent packages.


If a dependency is restricted to particular architectures, the list of architectures must be non-empty.


/run is allowed as an exception to the FHS and replaces /var/run. /run/lock replaces /var/lock. The FHS requirements for the older directories apply to these directories as well. Backward compatibility links will be maintained and packages need not switch to referencing /run directly yet. Files in /run should be stored in a temporary file system.


New section spelling out the requirements for packages that use files in /run, /var/run, or /var/lock. This generalizes information previously only in 9.3.2.


Cron job file names must not contain . or + or they will be ignored by cron. They should replace those characters with _. If a package provides multiple cron job files in the same directory, they should each start with the package name (possibly modified as above), -, and then some suitable suffix.


Packages using doc-base do not need to call install-docs anymore.


Packages that declare the same conffile may see left-over configuration files from each other even if they conflict.


The Policy rules around Motif libraries were just a special case of normal rules for non-free dependencies and were largely obsolete, so they have been removed.


debian/copyright is no longer required to list the Debian maintainers involved in the creation of the package (although note that the requirement to list copyright information is unchanged).


Version 1.0 of the “Machine-readable debian/copyright file” specification is included.


This separate document has been retired and and its (short) contents merged into Policy section 9.7. There are no changes to the requirements.


Packages may declare an interest in the perl-major-upgrade trigger to be notified of major upgrades of perl.


ttf-japanese-{mincho, gothic} is renamed to fonts-japanese-{mincho, gothic}.

10.26. Version 3.9.2

Released April, 2011.


Multiple clarifications throughout Policy where “installed” was used and the more precise terms “unpacked” or “configured” were intended.


The maintainer address must accept mail from Debian role accounts and the BTS. At least one human must be listed with their personal email address in Uploaders if the maintainer is a shared email address. The duties of a maintainer are also clearer.


All control fields are now classified as simple, folded, or multiline, which governs whether their values must be a single line or may be continued across multiple lines and whether line breaks are significant.


Parsers are allowed to accept stanza separation lines containing whitespace, but control files should use completely empty lines. Ordering of stanzas is significant. Field names must be composed of printable ASCII characters except colon and must not begin with #.


The DM-Upload-Allowed field is now documented.


The system state maintainer scripts can rely upon during each possible invocation is now documented. In several less-common cases, this is stricter than Policy had previously documented. Packages with complex maintainer scripts should be reviewed in light of this new documentation.


The impact on system state when maintainer scripts that are part of a circular dependency are run is now documented. Circular dependencies are now a should not.


The system state when postinst and prerm scripts are run is now documented, and the documentation of the special case of dependency state for postrm scripts has been improved. postrm scripts are required to gracefully skip actions if their dependencies are not available.


GNU/Hurd systems are allowed /hurd and /servers directories in the root filesystem.


Packages installing to architecture-specific subdirectories of /usr/lib must use the value returned by dpkg-architecture -qDEB_HOST_MULTIARCH, not by dpkg-architecture -qDEB_HOST_GNU_TYPE; this is a path change on i386 architectures and a no-op for other architectures.


mailx is now a virtual package provided by packages that install /usr/bin/mailx and implement at least the POSIX-required interface.

10.27. Version 3.9.1

Released July, 2010.


Date-based version components should be given as the four-digit year, two-digit month, and then two-digit day, but may have embedded punctuation.


Maintainer scripts must pass --package to dpkg-divert when creating or removing diversions and must not use --local.


Only dpkg-gencontrol supports variable substitution. dpkg-genchanges (for *.changes) and dpkg-source (for *.dsc) do not.


Architecture restrictions and wildcards are also allowed in binary package relationships provided that the binary package is not architecture-independent.


Conflicts and Breaks should only be used when there are file conflicts or one package breaks the other, not just because two packages provide similar functionality but don’t interfere.


The SONAME of a library should change whenever the ABI of the library changes in a way that isn’t backward-compatible. It should not change if the library ABI changes are backward-compatible. Discourage bundling shared libraries together in one package.


Ada Library Information (*.ali) files must be installed read-only.

8.6.1, 8.6.2, 8.6.5

Packages should normally not include a shlibs.local file since we now have complete shlibs coverage.


The SONAME of a library may instead be of the form name-major-version.so.


Libtool .la files should not be installed for public libraries. If they’re required (for libltdl, for instance), the dependency_libs setting should be emptied. Library packages historically including .la files must continue to include them (with dependency_libs emptied) until all libraries that depend on that library have removed or emptied their .la files.


Libraries no longer need to be built with -D_REENTRANT, which was an obsolete LinuxThreads requirement. Instead, say explicitly that libraries should be built with threading support and to be thread-safe if the library supports this.


/bin/sh scripts may assume that kill supports an argument of -signal, that kill and trap support the numeric signals listed in the XSI extension, and that signal 13 (SIGPIPE) can be trapped with trap.


Use of /etc/logrotate.d/package for logrotate rules is now recommended.


Control information files should be owned by root:root and either mode 644 or mode 755.

11.4, 11.8.3, 11.8.4

Packages providing alternatives for editor, pager, x-terminal-emulator, or x-window-manager should also provide a slave alternative for the corresponding manual page.


Cgi-bin executable files may be installed in subdirectories of /usr/lib/cgi-bin and web servers should serve out executables in those subdirectories.


The GPL version 1 is now included in common-licenses and should be referenced from there instead of included in the copyright file.

10.28. Version 3.9.0

Released June, 2010.

4.4, 5.6.15

The required format for the date in a changelog entry and in the Date control field is now precisely specified.


A control stanza must not contain more than one instance of a particular field name.

5.4, 5.5, 5.6.24

The Checksums-Sha1 and Checksums-Sha256 fields in *.dsc and *.changes files are now documented and recommended.

5.5, 5.6.16

The Format field of .changes files is now 1.8. The Format field syntax for source package .dsc files allows a subtype in parentheses, and it is used for a different purpose than the Format field for .changes files.


The syntax of the Maintainer field is now must rather than should.


The comma separating entries in Uploaders is now must rather than should.

5.6.8, 7.1, 11.1.1

Architecture wildcards may be used in addition to specific architectures in debian/control and *.dsc Architecture fields, and in architecture restrictions in build relationships.


Maintainer scripts are no longer guaranteed to run with a controlling terminal and must be able to fall back to noninteractive behavior (debconf handles this). Maintainer scripts may abort if there is no controlling terminal and no reasonable default for a high-priority question, but should avoid this if possible.

7.3, 7.6.1

Breaks should be used with Replaces for moving files between packages.


Breaks should normally be used instead of Conflicts for transient issues and moving files between packages. New documentation of when each should be used.


Use Conflicts with Provides if only one provider of a virtual facility can be installed at a time.


All shared library development files are no longer required to be in the -dev package, only be available when the -dev package is installed. This allows the -dev package to be split as long as it depends on the additional packages.


The UID range of user accounts is extended to 1000-59999.

9.3.2, 10.4

init.d scripts are a possible exception from the normal requirement to use set -e in each shell script.


The UCB BSD license was removed from the list of licenses that should be referenced from /usr/share/common-licenses/BSD. It should instead be included directly in debian/copyright, although it will still be in common-licenses for the time being.


SETTITLE is now documented (it has been supported for some time). SETTITLE is like TITLE but takes a template instead of a string to allow translation.


perl-base now provides perlapi-abiname instead of a package based solely on the Perl version. Perl packages must now depend on perlapi-$Config{debian_abi}, falling back on $Config{version} if $Config{debian_abi} is not set.


Packages using Makefile.PL should use DESTDIR rather than PREFIX to install into the package staging area. PREFIX only worked due to a Debian-local patch.

10.29. Version 3.8.4

Released January, 2010.


An FHS exception has been granted for multiarch libraries. Permitting files to instead be installed to /lib/triplet and /usr/lib/triplet directories.


Packages may not contain named pipes and should instead create them in postinst and remove them in prerm or postrm.


/sys and /selinux directories are explicitly allowed as an exception to the FHS.

10.30. Version 3.8.3

Released August, 2009.


DEB_*_ARCH_CPU and DEB_*_ARCH_OS variables are now documented and recommended over GNU-style variables for that information.


Source package Architecture fields may contain all in combination with other architectures. Clarify when all and any may be used in different versions of the field.


The Debian archive software does not support uploading to multiple distributions with one *.changes file.


The Binary field may span multiple lines.


Shared library packages are no longer allowed to install libraries in a non-standard location and modify ld.so.conf. Packages should either be installed in a standard library directory or packages using them should be built with RPATH.


Installation directories for X programs have been clarified. Packages are no longer required to pre-depend on x11-common before installing into /usr/include/X11 and /usr/lib/X11.


Manual pages are no longer required to contain only characters representable in the legacy encoding for that language.


Localized man pages should either be kept up-to-date with the original version or warn that they’re not up-to-date, either with warning text or by showing missing or changed portions in the original language.


install-info is now handled via triggers so packages no longer need to invoke it in maintainer scripts. Info documents should now have directory sections and entries in the document. Packages containing info documents should add a dependency to support partial upgrades.


The requirement for Perl modules to have a versioned Depend and Build-Depend on perl >= 5.6.0-16 has been removed.

10.31. Version 3.8.2

Released June, 2009.


The list of archive sections has been significantly expanded. See this debian-devel-announce message for the list of new sections and rules for how to categorize packages.


All packages must use debconf or equivalent for user prompting, though essential packages or their dependencies may also fall back on other methods.


The requirements for source package names are now explicitly spelled out.


Legacy XFree86 servers no longer get a special exception from the FHS permitting /etc/X11/XF86Config-4.


Removed obsolete dependency requirements for packages that use /var/mail.


Speedo fonts are now deprecated. The X backend was disabled starting in lenny.


The GNU Free Documentation License version 1.3 is included in common-licenses and should be referenced from there.

10.32. Version 3.8.1

Released March, 2009.


Care should be taken when adding functionality to essential and such additions create an obligation to support that functionality in essential forever unless significant work is done.


Changelog files must be encoded in UTF-8.


Some format requirements for changelog files are now “must” instead of “should.”


Alternative changelog formats have been removed. Debian only supports one changelog format for the Debian Archive.


New nocheck option for DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS indicating any build-time test suite provided by the package should not be run.


All control files must be encoded in UTF-8.


debian/control allows comment lines starting with # with no preceding whitespace.


Init scripts ending in .sh are not handled specially. They are not sourced and are not guaranteed to be run by /bin/sh regardless of the #! line. This brings Policy in line with the long-standing behavior of the init system in Debian.


The start action of an init script must exit successfully and not start the daemon again if it’s already running.


/var/run and /var/lock may be mounted as temporary filesystems, and init scripts must therefore create any necessary subdirectories dynamically.


/bin/sh scripts may assume that local can take multiple variable arguments and supports assignment.


User mailboxes may be mode 600 and owned by the user rather than mode 660, owned by user, and group mail.

10.33. Version 3.8.0

Released June, 2008.

2.4, 3.7

The base section has been removed. contrib and non-free have been removed from the section list; they are only categories. The base system is now defined by priority.


If dpkg-source -x doesn’t provide the source that will be compiled, a debian/rules patch target is recommended and should do whatever else is necessary.

4.9.1, 10.1

Standardized the format of DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS. Specified permitted characters for tags, required that tags be whitespace-separated, allowed packages to assume non-conflicting tags, and required unknown flags be ignored.


Added parallel=n to the standardized DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS tags, indicating that a package should be built using up to n parallel processes if the package supports it


Debian packages should not use convenience copies of code from other packages unless the included package is explicitly intended to be used that way.


If dpkg-source -x doesn’t produce source ready for editing and building with dpkg-buildpackage, packages should include a debian/README.source file explaining how to generate the patched source, add a new modification, and remove an existing modification. This file may also be used to document packaging a new upstream release and any other complexity of the Debian build process.


The Uploaders field in debian/control may be wrapped.


An empty Debian revision is equivalent to a Debian revision of 0 in a version number.


New Homepage field for upstream web sites.

6.5, 6.6, 7

The Breaks field declares that this package breaks another and prevents installation of the breaking package unless the package named in Breaks is deconfigured first. This field should not be used until the dpkg in Debian stable supports it.

8.1, 8.2

Clarify which files should go into a shared library package, into a separate package, or into the -dev package. Suggest -tools instead of -runtime for runtime support programs, since that naming is more common in Debian.


Files in /etc/cron.{hourly,daily,weekly,monthly} must be configuration files (upgraded from should). Mention the hourly directory.


Packages providing /etc/X11/Xresources files need not conflict with xbase (<<, which is long-obsolete.


Manual pages in locale-specific directories should use either the legacy encoding for that directory or UTF-8. Country names should not be included in locale-specific manual page directories unless indicating a significant difference in the language. All characters in the manual page source should be representable in the legacy encoding for a locale even if the man page is encoded in UTF-8.


The Apache 2.0 license is now in common-licenses and should be referenced rather than quoted in debian/copyright.


Packages in contrib and non-free should state in the copyright file that the package is not part of Debian GNU/Linux and briefly explain why.


Underscore (_) is allowed in debconf template names.

10.34. Version 3.7.3

Released December, 2007.


Package version numbers may contain tildes, which sort before anything, even the end of a part.


Scripts may assume that /bin/sh supports local (at a basic level) and that its test builtin (if any) supports -a and -o binary logical operators.


The substitution variable ${binary:Version} should be used in place of ${Source-Version} for dependencies between packages of the same library.

menu policy

Substantial reorganization and renaming of sections in the Debian menu structure. Packages with menu entries should be reviewed to see if the menu section has been renamed or if one of the new sections would be more appropriate.


The Source field in a .changes file may contain a version number in parentheses.


The acceptable values for the Urgency field are low, medium, high, critical, or emergency.


The shlibs file now allows an optional type field, indicating the type of package for which the line is valid. The only currently supported type is udeb, used with packages for the Debian Installer.


Packages following the Debian Configuration management specification must allow for translation of their messages by using a gettext-based system such as po-debconf.


GFDL 1.2, GPL 3, and LGPL 3 are now in common-licenses and should be referenced rather than quoted in debian/copyright.

10.35. Version

Released October, 2006.

This release broke the normal rule against introducing normative changes without changing the major patch level.


Maintainer scripts must not be world writeable (up from a should to a must)

10.36. Version 3.7.2

Released April, 2006.


Revert the cgi-lib change.

10.37. Version 3.7.1

Released April, 2006.


It is now possible to create shared libraries without relocatable code (using -fPIC) in certain exceptional cases, provided some procedures are followed, and for creating static libraries with relocatable code (again, using -fPIC). Discussion on debian-devel@lists.debian.org, getting a rough consensus, and documenting it in README.Debian constitute most of the process.


Packages should install any relevant files into the directories /usr/include/X11/ and /usr/lib/X11/, but if they do so, they must pre-depend on x11-common (>= 1:7.0.0)

10.38. Version 3.7.0

Released April, 2006.


Packages shipping web server CGI files are expected to install them in /usr/lib/cgi-lib/ directories. This location change perhaps should be documented in NEWS


Web server packages should include a standard scriptAlias of cgi-lib to /usr/lib/cgi-lib.


The version of FHS mandated by policy has been upped to 2.3. There should be no changes required for most packages, though new top level directories /media, /srv, etc. may be of interest.

5.1, 5.6.3

All fields, apart from the Uploaders field, in the control file are supposed to be a single logical line, which may be spread over multiple physical lines (newline followed by space is elided). However, any parser for the control file must allow the Uploaders field to be spread over multiple physical lines as well, to prepare for future changes.


When scripts are installed into a directory in the system PATH, the script name should not include an extension that denotes the scripting language currently used to implement it.

packages that invoke initscripts now must use invoke-rc.d to do so since it also pays attention to run levels and other local constraints., 11.8.7, etc

We no longer use /usr/X11R6, since we have migrated away to using Xorg paths. This means, for one thing, fonts live in /usr/share/fonts/X11/ now, and /usr/X11R6 is gone.

10.39. Version 3.6.2

Released June, 2005.

Recommend doc-base, and not menu, for registering package documentation.


Run time support programs should live in subdirectories of /usr/lib/ or /usr/share, and preferably the shared lib is named the same as the package name (to avoid name collisions).


It is recommended that HTTP servers provide an alias /images to allow packages to share image files with the web server

10.40. Version 3.6.1

Released August, 2003.


Prompting the user should be done using debconf. Non debconf user prompts are now deprecated.

10.41. Version 3.6.0

Released July, 2003.

Restructuring caused shifts in section numbers and bumping of the minor version number.

Many packaging manual appendices that were integrated into policy sections are now empty, and replaced with links to the Policy. In particular, the appendices that included the list of control fields were updated (new fields like Closes, Changed-By were added) and the list of fields for each of control, .changes and .dsc files is now in Policy, and they’re marked mandatory, recommended or optional based on the current practice and the behavior of the deb-building tool-chain.

Elimination of needlessly deep section levels, primarily in the chapter Debian Archive, from which two new chapters were split out, Binary packages and Source packages. What remained was reordered properly, that is, some sects became sects etc.

Several sections that were redundant, crufty or simply not designed with any sort of vision, were rearranged according to the formula that everything should be either in the same place or properly interlinked. Some things remained split up between different chapters when they talked about different aspects of files: their content, their syntax, and their placement in the file system. In particular, see the new sections about changelog files.

menu policy

Added Games/Simulation and Apps/Education to menu sub-policy


Debian changelogs should be UTF-8 encoded.


shared libraries must be linked against all libraries that they use symbols from in the same way that binaries are.


build-depends-indep need not be satisfied during clean target.

10.42. Version 3.5.10

Released May, 2003.


packages providing the x-terminal-emulator virtual package ought to ensure that they interpret the command line exactly like xterm does.


Window managers compliant with the Window Manager Specification Project may add 40 points for ranking in the alternatives

10.43. Version 3.5.9

Released March, 2003.


The section describing the Description: package field once again has full details of the long description format.


Clarified that if a package has non-build-essential build-dependencies, it should have them listed in the Build-Depends and related fields (i.e. it’s not merely optional).


When asked to restart a service that isn’t already running, the init script should start the service.


If the purpose of a package is to provide examples, then the example files can be installed into /usr/share/doc/package (rather than /usr/share/doc/package/examples).

10.44. Version 3.5.8

Released November, 2002.


It is no longer necessary to keep a log of changes to the upstream sources in the copyright file. Instead, all such changes should be documented in the changelog file.


Build-Depends, Build-Conflicts, Build-Depends-Indep, and Build-Conflicts-Indep must also be satisfied when the clean target is called.

menu policy

A new Apps/Science menu section is available

debconf policy

debconf specification cleared up, various changes.


It is no longer recommended to create symlinks from nonexistent manual pages to undocumented(7). Missing manual pages for programs are still a bug.

10.45. Version 3.5.7

Released August, 2002.

Packages no longer have to ask permission to call MAKEDEV in postinst, merely notifying the user ought to be enough.


cryptographic software may now be included in the main archive.


task packages are no longer permitted; tasks are now created by a special Tasks: field in the control file.


window managers that support netwm can now add 20 points when they add themselves as an alternative for /usr/bin/x-window-manager


The default compilation options have now changed, one should provide debugging symbols in all cases, and optionally step back optimization to -O0, depending on the DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS environment variable.

7.6, 4.8

Added mention of build-arch, build-indep, etc, in describing the relationships with Build-Depends, Build-Conflicts, Build-Depends-Indep, and Build-Conflicts-Indep. May need to review the new rules.


Changed rules on how, and when, to invoke ldconfig in maintainer scripts. Long rationale.

Added the last note in 3.5.6 upgrading checklist item regarding build rules, please see below

10.46. Version 3.5.6

Released July, 2001.


Emacs and TeX are no longer mandated by policy to be priority standard packages


Programs that access docs need to do so via /usr/share/doc, and not via /usr/doc/ as was the policy previously


Putting documentation in /usr/doc versus /usr/share/doc is now a “serious” policy violation.


For web servers, one should not provide non-local access to the /usr/share/doc hierarchy. If one can’t provide access controls for the http://localhost/doc/ directory, then it is preferred that one ask permission to expose that information during the install.


There are new rules for build-indep/build-arch targets and there is a new Build-Depend-Indep semantic.

10.47. Version 3.5.5

Released May, 2001.


Manpages should not rely on header information to have alternative manpage names available; it should only use symlinks or .so pages to do this

Clarified note in upgrading checklist regarding examples and templates: this refers only to those examples used by scripts; see section 10.7.3 for the whole story

Included a new section 10.9.1 describing the use of dpkg-statoverride; this does not have the weight of policy

Clarify Standards-Version: you don’t need to rebuild your packages just to change the Standards-Version!


Plugins are no longer bound by all the rules of shared libraries

X Windows related things:

Clarification of priority levels of X Window System related packages


Rules for defining x-terminal-emulator improved


X Font policy rewritten: you must read this if you provide fonts for the X Window System


Packages must not ship /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/app-defaults/


X-related packages should usually use the regular FHS locations; imake-using packages are exempted from this


OpenMotif linked binaries have the same rules as OSF/Motif-linked ones

10.48. Version 3.5.4

Released April, 2001.


The system-wide mail directory is now /var/mail, no longer /var/spool/mail. Any packages accessing the mail spool should access it via /var/mail and include a suitable Depends field;

11.9; perl-policy

The perl policy is now part of Debian policy proper. Perl programs and modules should follow the current Perl policy

10.49. Version 3.5.3

Released April, 2001.


Build-Depends arch syntax has been changed to be less ambiguous. This should not affect any current packages


Examples and templates files for use by scripts should now live in /usr/share/<package> or /usr/lib/<package>, with symbolic links from /usr/share/doc/<package>/examples as needed

10.50. Version 3.5.2

Released February, 2001.


X app-defaults directory has moved from /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/app-defaults to /etc/X11/app-defaults

10.51. Version 3.5.1

Released February, 2001.


dpkg-shlibdeps now uses objdump, so shared libraries have to be run through dpkg-shlibdeps as well as executables

10.52. Version 3.5.0

Released January, 2001.


Font packages for the X Window System must now declare a dependency on xutils (>= 4.0.2)

10.53. Version

Released January, 2001.

This release broke the normal rule against introducing normative changes without changing the major patch level.


Daemon startup scripts in /etc/init.d/ should not contain modifiable parameters; these should be moved to a file in /etc/default/


Files in /usr/share/doc must not be referenced by any program. If such files are needed, they must be placed in /usr/share/<package>/, and symbolic links created as required in /usr/share/doc/<package>/

Much of the packaging manual has now been imported into the policy document

10.54. Version 3.2.1

Released August, 2000.


A package of priority standard or higher may provide two binaries, one compiled with support for the X Window System, and the other without

10.55. Version 3.2.0

Released August, 2000.


By default executables should not be built with the debugging option -g. Instead, it is recommended to support building the package with debugging information optionally.


Policy for packages where the upstream uses HTML changelog files has been expanded. In short, a plain text changelog file should always be generated for the upstream changes

Please note that the new release of the X window system (3.2) shall probably need sweeping changes in policy

Policy for packages providing the following X-based features has been codified:


X server (virtual package xserver)


X terminal emulator (virtual package x-terminal-emulator)


X window manager (virtual package x-window-manager, and /usr/bin/x-window-manager alternative, with priority calculation guidelines)


X fonts (this section has been written from scratch)


X application defaults


Policy for packages using the X Window System and FHS issues has been clarified;


No package may contain or make hard links to conffiles


Noted that newer dpkg versions do not require extreme care in always creating the shared lib before the symlink, so the unpack order be correct

10.56. Version 3.1.1

Released November, 1999.


Correction to semantics of architecture lists in Build-Depends etc. Should not affect many packages

10.57. Version 3.1.0

Released October, 1999.


/usr/doc/<package> has to be a symlink pointing to /usr/share/doc/<package>, to be maintained by postinst and prerm scripts.

7.1, 7.6

Introduced source dependencies (Build-Depends, etc.)


/etc/rc.boot has been deprecated in favour of /etc/rcS.d. (Packages should not be touching this directory, but should use update-rc.d instead)


update-rc.d is now the only allowable way of accessing the /etc/rc?.d/[SK]??* links. Any scripts which manipulate them directly must be changed to use update-rc.d instead. (This is because the file-rc package handles this information in an incompatible way.)


Architecture-specific examples go in /usr/lib/<package>/examples with symlinks from /usr/share/doc/<package>/examples/* or from /usr/share/doc/<package>/examples itself


Updated FHS to a 2.1 draft; this reverts /var/state to /var/lib

9.7; mime-policy

Added MIME sub-policy document


VISUAL is allowed as a (higher priority) alternative to EDITOR


Modified liblockfile description, which affects mailbox-accessing programs. Please see the policy document for details


If a package provides a changelog in HTML format, a text-only version should also be included. (Such a version may be prepared using lynx -dump -nolist.)


Description of how to handle version numbers based on dates added

10.58. Version 3.0.1

Released July, 1999.


Added the clarification that the .la files are essential for the packages using libtool’s libltdl library, in which case the .la files must go in the run-time library package

10.59. Version 3.0.0

Released June, 1999.


Debian formally moves from the FSSTND to the FHS. This is a major change, and the implications of this move are probably not all known.


Only 3 digits of the Standards version need be included in control files, though all four digits are still permitted.


The location of the GPL has changed to /usr/share/common-licenses. This may require changing the copyright files to point to the correct location of the GPL and other major licenses


Packages that use libtool to create shared libraries must include the .la files in the -dev packages


Use logrotate to rotate log files

now 11.8

section 5.8 has been rewritten (Programs for the X Window System)

9.6; menu-policy

There is now an associated menu policy, in a separate document, that carries the full weight of Debian policy


Programs which need to modify the files /var/run/utmp, /var/log/wtmp and /var/log/lastlog must be installed setgid utmp

10.60. Version 2.5.0

Released October, 1998.

Please note that section numbers below this point may not match the current Policy Manual.

  • Rearranged the manual to create a new Section 4, Files

    • Section 3.3 (“Files”) was moved to Section 4. The Sections that were Section 4 and Section 5 were moved down to become Section 5 and Section 6.

    • What was Section 5.5 (“Log files”) is now a subsection of the new Section 4 (“Files”), becoming section 4.8, placed after “Configuration files”, moving the Section 4.8 (“Permissions and owners”) to Section 4.9. All subsections of the old Section 5 after 5.5 were moved down to fill in the number gap.

  • Modified the section about changelog files to accommodate upstream changelogs which were formatted as HTML. These upstream changelog files should now be accessible as /usr/doc/package/changelog.html.gz

  • Symlinks are permissible to link the real, or upstream, changelog name to the Debian mandated name.

  • Clarified that HTML documentation should be present in some package, though not necessarily the main binary package.

  • Corrected all references to the location of the copyright files. The correct location is /usr/doc/package/copyright

  • Ratified the architecture specification strings to cater to the HURD.

10.61. Version 2.4.1

Released April, 1998.

Updated section 3.3.5 Symbolic links

symbolic links within a toplevel directory should be relative, symbolic links between toplevel directories should be absolute (cf., Policy Weekly Issue#6, topic 2)

Updated section 4.9 Games

manpages for games should be installed in /usr/man/man6 (cf., Policy Weekly Issue#6, topic 3)

Updated Chapter 12 Shared Libraries

ldconfig must be called in the postinst script if the package installs shared libraries (cf., Policy Weekly Issue #6, fixes:bug#20515)

10.62. Version 2.4.0

Released January, 1998

Updated section 3.3.4 Scripts
  • /bin/sh may be any POSIX compatible shell

  • scripts including bashisms have to specify /bin/bash as interpreter

  • scripts which create files in world-writable directories (e.g., in /tmp) should use tempfile or mktemp for creating the directory

Updated section 3.3.5 Symbolic Links

symbolic links referencing compressed files must have the same file extension as the referenced file

Updated section 3.3.6 Device files

/dev/tty* serial devices should be used instead of /dev/cu*

Updated section 3.4.2 Writing the scripts in /etc/init.d
  • all /etc/init.d scripts have to provide the following options: start, stop, restart, force-reload

  • the reload option is optional and must never stop and restart the service

Updated section 3.5 Cron jobs

cron jobs that need to be executed more often than daily should be installed into /etc/cron.d

Updated section 3.7 Menus

removed section about how to register HTML docs to `menu’ (the corresponding section in 4.4, Web servers and applications, has been removed in policy already, so this one was obsolete)

New section 3.8 Keyboard configuration

details about how the backspace and delete keys should be handled

New section 3.9 Environment variables

no program must depend on environment variables to get a reasonable default configuration

New section 4.6 News system configuration

/etc/news/organization and /etc/news/server should be supported by all news servers and clients

Updated section 4.7 Programs for the X Window System
  • programs requiring a non-free Motif library should be provided as foo-smotif and foo-dmotif package

  • if lesstif works reliably for such program, it should be linked against lesstif and not against a non-free Motif library

Updated section 4.9 Games

games for X Windows have to be installed in /usr/games, just as non-X games

10.63. Version 2.3.0

Released September, 1997.

  • new section `4.2 Daemons’ including rules for /etc/services, /etc/protocols, /etc/rpc, and /etc/inetd.conf

  • updated section about `Configuration files’: packages may not touch other packages’ configuration files

  • MUAs and MTAs have to use liblockfile

10.64. Version 2.2.0

Released July, 1997.

  • added section 4.1 `Architecture specification strings’: use <arch>-linux where <arch> is one of the following: i386, alpha, arm, m68k, powerpc, sparc.

  • detailed rules for /usr/local

  • user ID’s

  • editor/pager policy

  • cron jobs

  • device files

  • don’t install shared libraries as executable

  • app-defaults files may not be conffiles

10.65. Version 2.1.3

Released March, 1997.

  • two programs with different functionality must not have the same name

  • “Webstandard 3.0”

  • “Standard for Console Messages”

  • Libraries should be compiled with -D_REENTRANT

  • Libraries should be stripped with strip --strip-unneeded

10.66. Version 2.1.2

Released November, 1996.

  • Some changes WRT shared libraries

10.67. Version 2.1.1

Released September, 1996.

  • No hard links in source packages

  • Do not use dpkg-divert or update-alternatives without consultation

  • Shared libraries must be installed stripped

10.68. Version 2.1.0

Released August, 1996.

  • Upstream changelog must be installed too