dh_make - prepare Debian packaging for an original source archive


dh_make [option]...


dh_make is a tool to convert a regular source code package into one formatted according to the requirements of the Debian Policy. dh_make must be invoked within a directory containing the source code, which must be named <packagename>-<version>. The <packagename> must be all lowercase, The <packagename> and <version> must be all lowercase, digits and dashes. The <version> can also contain digits, and the symbols plus, dot, tilde. The <version> must start with a digit. If the directory name does not conform to this scheme, you must rename it before using dh_make. Alternatively, you may be able to use the --packagename option to force the package name.

Classes can be set with the single direct options (such as --s for single) or with the -C,--packageclass option (-C=s for single).
Single binary (s)

The package will generate a single binary .deb package. It is the standard case, so if you don’t know what to do, choose this.

Arch-Independent (i)

The package will generate a single package that is arch-independent.

Library (l)

The package will generate at least two binaries. One library package containing just the lib in /usr/lib and another *-dev_*.deb package containing documentation and C headers.

Unless --native was given, dh_make makes sure a original source archive (<packagename>_<version>.orig.tar.gz) exists. The archive can either end with .gz or one of the other supported compression extensions such as bz2 or lzma. If no such file exists, the file specified with -f is copied in place. If no -f is supplied either but --createorig is, the current directory is created into a new archive ../<packagename>-<version>.orig.tar.gz The original archive is needed for other Debian tools to generate the diffs to the original sources required by the Debian packaging format. Unless there are reasons against it, this file should be the pristine upstream archive.

Then dh_make proceeds to generate a "debian" subdirectory and the necessary control files in the program source directory. Those control files are customized with the packagename and version extracted from the directory name.

dh_make makes several attempts to obtain the username. It first checks for the environment variables $DEBFULLNAME, $LOGNAME is used to find a name in the /etc/passwd file, and through NIS, YP and LDAP.

The e-mail address can either be specified with the -fB--email option or dh_make will attempt to find it. It will first check the environment variables $DEBEMAIL and then $EMAIL. If they are not set then dh_make will search an available LDAP directory using ldapsearch(1) using $LOGNAME as the uid to search under. Finally it will use $LOGNAME and /etc/mailname to generate an email address.

dh_make will also generate example files that are also customized for the package generated. You can remove all files with *.ex if you wish. You can also delete the README.Debian file if you don’t have anything to put in it. Renaming the example files to their name without the .ex at the end (and editing them if necessary) will activate that feature of debhelper.

If the --templates or -o (--overlay) option is used dh_make will apply a customizing template to the "debian" directory. See the templates described in the FILES section of this manpage for samples.


-c, --copyright license

Use license type in copyright file. license can be apache, artistic, bsd, gpl, gpl2, gpl3, isc, lgpl, lgpl2, lgl3, mit or custom. If this field is not specified the copyright file has a space to fill in which sort of license is used. The field is case-insensitive so -c GPL works as well as -c gpl. gpl and lgpl will give you version 3 of the corresponding license, apache implies Apache v2.0. If you need a different version, change the license file afterwards or use the gpl2 and lgpl2 options. If you select custom here you will need to use the --copyrightfile option as well.

--copyrightfile filename

When using the custom --copyright option this is the location of your custom copyright file. dh_make will process this file just like the standard copyright files. It is suggested you use one of the existing license files as a starting point.


Create a separate PACKAGE-doc binary package. All found documents in the source package will be installed here.

-e, --email address

Use address as the e-mail address in the Maintainer: field of debian/control file.

-n, --native

Create a native Debian packages, i.e. do not generate a .orig archive, since it will be generated when building with dpkg-buildpackage. The version number will not have a Debian revision number (e.g. -1) appended to it.

-f, --file file

Use file as the original source archive, and skip the copying of the current program tree to program.orig.

-l, --library

Automatically set the package class to Library, skipping the question.

-s, --single

Automatically set the package class to Single binary, skipping the question.

-i, --indep

Automatically set the package class to arch-independent binary, skipping the question.

-a, --addmissing

Adds missing example and control files on an existing debian source directory.

-t, --templates directory

Applies the customizing templates in directory to the debian directory.

-o, --overlay directory

Applies a customization template to an existing debian directory.

-p, --packagename name

Force the package name to be name, good for packages with hyphens in their name or other strangeness. You can also make the parameter name_version which will set both the package name and version and bypass and directory checking.

-d, --defaultless

Skips applying the default templates to the target debian directory. Generally used in conjunction with either the --overlay or --templates options.

-h, --help

Display the name, version, available options and authors, and exit successfully.

-v, --version

Show the program name and version, and exit successfully.

-y, --yes

Automatic yes to prompts and run non-interactively. The package class needs to be set for dh_make to run fully automatically.


The following environment settings are used by dh_make:

Email address to use in control and changelog entries.


You full name, eg "John Doe" which will appear in the control and changelog entries.


Email address to use in control and changelog entries, only used if DEBEMAIL is no set.


Default username used for looking up email and full name in other directories.



Directory that contains all the template files, separated in six directories:


with files for all package classes,


with files specific to the Single binary class,


with files specific to the Library class, and finally,


with files specific to the native Debian packages.


template files for the more common licenses used in Debian packages


To get dh_make to use the defaults and ask you various questions about the package


Create your single class package using the with the GPL license:

dh_make -s -c gpl

A more involved example where you set your name in the environment, contact email and license in the options and specify the upstream file:

dh_make --email contact [AT] --copyright=bsd \  
--file ../foo.tar.gz


dh_make may not detect your username and email address correctly when using sudo.



You may also want to read the Debian Policy (in /usr/share/doc/debian-policy ) and the New Maintainers’ Guide (in /usr/share/doc/maint-guide).