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stdeb - Python to Debian source package conversion utility

stdeb ("setuptools debian") produces Debian source packages from Python packages via a new distutils command, sdist_dsc. Automatic defaults are provided for the Debian package, but many aspects of the resulting package can be customized via a configuration file.



All methods eventually result in a call to the sdist_dsc distutils command. You may prefer to do so directly:

python -c "import stdeb; execfile('')" sdist_dsc

Alternatively, two scripts are provided:

stdeb_run_setup [options] # calls "python sdist_dsc [options]"

py2dsc [options] mypackage-0.1.tar.gz # uses pre-built Python source package

In all cases, a Debian source package is produced from unmodified Python packages. The following files are produced in a newly created subdirectory deb_dist:

  • packagename_versionname.orig.tar.gz
  • packagename_versionname-debianversion.dsc
  • packagename_versionname-debianversion.diff.gz

These can then be compiled into binary packages using the standard Debian machinery (e.g. dpkg-buildpackage).

Also, a bdist_deb distutils command is installed. This calls the sdist_dsc command and then runs dpkg-buildpackage on the result.

Quickstart 1: Just tell me the fastest way to make a .deb

Do this from the directory with your file:

python -c "import stdeb; execfile('')" bdist_deb

This will make a Debian source package (.dsc, .orig.tar.gz and .diff.gz files) and then compile it to a Debian binary package (.deb) for your current system. The result will be in deb_dist.

Note: installing the .deb file on other versions of Ubuntu or Debian than the one on which it was compiled will result in undefined behavior. If you have extension modules, they will be very likely to break. Even in the absence of extension modules, bad stuff could happen.

For this reason, it is much better to build the Debian source package and then compile that (e.g. using Ubuntu's PPA) for each target version of Debian or Ubuntu.

Quickstart 2: I read the warning, so show me how to make a source package, then compile it

This generates a source package:

py2dsc Reindent-0.1.0.tar.gz

This turns it into a .deb:

cd deb_dist/reindent-0.1.0/
dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -uc -us

This installs it:

cd ..
sudo dpkg -i python-reindent_0.1.0-1_all.deb

Another example, with more explanation

This example is more useful if you don't have a Python source package (.tar.gz file generated by python sdist). For the sake of illustration, we do download such a tarball, but immediately unpack it (alternatively, use a version control system to grab the unpacked source of a package):

tar xzf Reindent-0.1.0.tar.gz
cd Reindent-0.1.0

The following will generate a directory deb_dist containing the files reindent_0.1.0-1.dsc, reindent_0.1.0.orig.tar.gz and reindent_0.1.0-1.diff.gz, which, together, are a debian source package:

python sdist_dsc

(For packages that don't use setuptools, you need to get the stdeb monkeypatch for the sdist_dsc distutils command. So, do this: python -c "import stdeb; execfile('')" sdist_dsc, or use the command stdeb_run_setup, which does just this.)

The source generated in the above way is also extracted (using dpkg-source -x) and placed in the deb_dist subdirectory. To continue the example above:

cd deb_dist/reindent-0.1.0
dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -uc -us

Finally, the generated package can be installed:

cd ..
sudo dpkg -i python-reindent_0.1.0-1_all.deb

For yet another example of use, with still more explanation, see allmydata-tahoe ticket 251.


Files are available at the download page (for older releases, see the old download page).

The git repository is available at


For the average Python package, its source distribution (python_package.tar.gz created with python sdist) contains nearly everything necessary to make a Debian source package. This near-equivalence encouraged me to write this distutils extension, which executes the file to extract relevant information. This process is made significantly easier through the use of setuptools.

setuptools is used because of some nice features. For example, setuptools makes the job of "Debianizing" python console and gui scripts much easier.

I wrote this initially to Debianize several Python packages of my own, but I have the feeling it could be generally useful. It appears similar, at least in theory, to easydeb, Logilab's Devtools, bdist_dpkg and bdist_deb.


  • Create a package for all Python versions supported by pycentral. (Limiting this range is possible with the XS-Python-Version: config option.)
  • Automatic conversion of Python package names into valid Debian package names.
  • Attempt to automatically convert version numbers such that ordering is maintained. (The setuptools version sorting is different than the Debian version sorting.) See also the config option Forced-Upstream-Version.
  • Fine grained control of version numbers. (Debian-Version, Forced-Upstream-Version, Upstream-Version-Prefix, Upstream-Version-Suffix config options.)
  • Install .desktop files. (MIME-Desktop-Files config option.)
  • Install .mime and .sharedmimeinfo files. (MIME-File and Shared-MIME-File config options.)
  • Install copyright files. (Copyright-File config option.)
  • Apply patches to upstream sources. (Stdeb-Patch-File config option.)
  • Pass environment variables to script. (Setup-Env-Vars config option.)

Customizing the produced Debian source package (config options)

stdeb will attempt to provide reasonable defaults, but these are only guesses.

To customize the Debian source package produced, you may write config files of the format understood by ConfigParser. When building each package, stdeb looks for the existance of a stdeb.cfg file in the .egg-info directory. You may specify an additional config file with the command-line option --extra-cfg-file.

For an example configuration file I use to build several packages, please see

Option Effect
Debian-Version Set Debian version
Forced-Upstream-Version Force upstream version number
Upstream-Version-Prefix Force upstream version prefix (e.g. epoch)
Upstream-Version-Suffix Force upstream version suffix
Build-Depends Add entry to debian/control
Depends Add entry to debian/control
Package Name of (binary) package
Source Nome of source package
XS-Python-Version Add to debian/control (limits Python versions)
MIME-Desktop-Files Filename of .desktop file(s) to install
MIME-File Filename of .mime file(s) to install
Shared-MIME-File Filename of .sharedmimeinfo file(s) to install
Copyright-File Filename of copyright file to install
Stdeb-Patch-File Patches to apply
Setup-Env-Vars Environment variables to set on call to


  • Python 2.5 or higher (older python OK if you use with backports from Python 2.5)
  • Standard Debian utilities (e.g. date and dpkg-source)

Using stdeb on stdeb

There is a chicken-and-egg problem when trying to make a Debian package of stdeb with stdeb. Here's a recipe to avoid it:

# in the stdeb distribution directory (with
python sdist
python build
PYTHONPATH="build/lib" python stdeb/ dist/stdeb-VERSION.tar.gz


  • Make output meet Debian Python Policy specifications or the new python policy. This will include several things, among which are:
    • the ability to make custom changelogs
    • the ability to include project-supplied documentation as a -doc package
    • include license information in debian/copyright
    • the ability to include project-supplied examples, tests, and data as a separate package
    • much more not listed
  • Create (better) documentation
  • Log output using standard distutils mechanisms
  • Refactor the source code to have a simpler, more sane design

Call for volunteers

I don't have a lot of time for this. This project stands a very real chance of being only a shadow of its potential self unless people step up and contribute. There are numerous ways in which people could help. In particular, I'd be interested in finding a co-maintainer or maintainer if the project generates any interest. Secondarily, I would appreciate advice from Debian developers or Ubuntu MOTUs about the arcane details of Python packaging.

Mailing list

Please address all questions to the distutils-SIG


MIT-style license. Copyright (c) 2006-2009 stdeb authors.

See the LICENSE.txt file provided with the source distribution for full details.


Additional Credits

  • Zooko O'Whielacronx for the autofind-depends patch
  • Brett (last name unknown) for the --ignore-install-requires patch
  • GitHub for hosting services.
  • WebFaction (aka python-hosting) for previous hosting services.
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