debian mentors/ tutorials/ packagechecking

Package Checking

The net thing is to check the package for suitablility for upload. There are lots of things to get right, and so even experienced maintainers make mistakes.

There are lots of things to check for, and lots of ways to do it. You might also be interested in CommonPackagingMistakes.

Things to check

Policy compliance

All packages must comply with Debian policy. The best way to do this is to become familiar with it, so that you know when you might be touching on something that is discussed there.

When you are dealing with a package that comes under one of the sub policies you should also check compliance with that.


Packages that include any architecture dependant components are autobuilt on the Buildds. For this to work the build dependencies of the package must be correct.


There are many conventions used in Debian packages so that there is some consistency and it is easier to work on packages you are not familiar with. Unfortunately/Inevitably some of these are not documented somewhere like the DebianPolicy. As such it takes experience to be able to know when they apply.

Ways to check


Lintian and Linda are two package checkers that attempt to try and tell you when your package does not follow policy, or breaks a convention that is used. They are a very useful first check, and have helped eliminate many simple mistakes. However they are not perfect, and sometimes get things wrong, as well as the fact that they can't catch all mistakes.

You should really have eliminated all non-spurious lintian/linda warnings from your package before you ask anyone to look at it for you, as you will just be increasing the work for them.


pbuilder is a program that builds your package in a clean chroot, similar to that which is used on the buildds. This helps you check whther it build cleanly, and also makes sure that you have sufficient build dependencies.

Again you sure ensure that the package builds in pbuilder before asking anyone to look at the package.


piuparts is a tool that attempts to simulate installation/removal of the package, and upgrades between versions using a chroot. It can give information on which files changed, and whether anything was left behind.

It is most useful when you have mainainter scripts, or are using Conflicts/Replaces, as these are the sorts of things that are hard to get right.


If you require a sponsor for your package they will check it, but you must not rely on them to do it for you. For one thing it is enogh work to check a perfect package, without having to correct lots of mistakes. Also they will have lots of things to do, and will be more willing to sponsor you if they have less to do.

Their experience can be invaluable at spotting obscure things and solving difficult problems though.

Mailing list

The debian-mentors mailing list is a good way to both find sponsors, and have a package checked. If you send a message there either with [RFC] at the start of the subject if you just want the package checking, or [RFS] if you would like a sponsor, then people will look at it.

It is quite common for people who are not able to sponsor to check your package first, to reduce the workload for those who are able to sponsor. Comments will be sent as replies to the list, listing problems found in your package, and pointers to more information where possible. You should listen to the comments, and don't feel insulted if there are lots of things found, people are just trying to help you. Do not be afraid to ask for more information if there is a comment made that you do not understand.


Some people prefer IRC to mailing lists. The #debian-mentors channel of ( has many of the same people as the mailing list who might be willing to check and/or sponsor the package. You might get a quicker response on IRC, and you might not get a response at all. It can also be harder to track what is going on.


Below is the checklist that I use when I am checking a package. It obviously varies depending on the package. I will use to denote the source package name, and for the version.

Download the package and unpack

License/Copyright check





Other files under debian/


Resulting packages

Using the package