Building .deb packages for Python applications

Building .deb packages for Python applications

Recently I wanted to build a .deb package for an internal IBM application I was writing so that users could easily install it and also so we could distribute them through some internal repositories. This proved a bit harder than I expected so this is a quick summary of how I ended up doing it. Note that your requirements might be entirely different!

The first thing to do is to create the files required by the packaging process. I discovered that the dh_make command can create a load of sample files that can be used as part of this process. To do this, create a directory in the format [package-name]-[version] (e.g. my-great-app-1.0) and run dh_make from within it (I specified ‘s’ for single binary when prompted). This will create a load of sample files in a ‘debian’ subdirectory. Delete any of these you don’t need (which is probably most of them); I kept the following:

  • changelog – change history for all versions of the app (keep to the format specified by the Debian Policy Manual)
  • compat – no idea why I needed this but things don’t work properly later if I don’t
  • control – the details of the package you are creating (see the specification for all configuration options)
  • dirs – the list of directories in which your app will install files (e.g. /usr/bin, /usr/share/pyshared/my-great-app, /usr/share/applications)
  • README.Debian – the README for your app
  • rules – a MakeFile with instructions for how to create the package (for my Python app the important bit here was in the ‘install’ section; here I created a $(CURDIR)/debian/my-great-app subdirectory and copied all files into it as if it were /, e.g. binary to $(CURDIR)/debian/my-great-app/usr/bin/my-great-app)

Once I’d created all those files and put them in my-great-app/packaging/debian and my source in my-great-app/src I created a simple build script my-great-app/bin/build. This looked something like the following:


export VERSION=1.0
export DEBFULLNAME="Gareth Jones"
export DEBEMAIL=""

cd ../build
sudo rm -rf my-great-app*
mkdir -p my-great-app-$VERSION
cp -u ../src/*.py ../src/*.desktop ../src/*.ico ../packaging/my-great-app my-great-app-$VERSION
tar -czf my-great-app-$VERSION.orig.tar.gz my-great-app-$VERSION/
cd my-great-app-$VERSION
mkdir debian
cp -u ../../packaging/debian/* debian/
gksu dpkg-buildpackage

This should create you a my-great-app_1.0-1_all.deb and the my-great-app_1.0-1_i386.changes, my-great-app_1.0-1.dsc and my-great-app_1.0-1.tar.gz files your repository maintainer might want.

A really useful video I found for helping me fill in the contents of the debian control files (and getting me through the whole process) was here. Definitely worth checking out if you need to do this yourself.

4 thoughts on “Building .deb packages for Python applications

  1. There's also stdeb, which adds a command bdist_deb which you can use to build a deb file as easily as an rpm or tarball.Just install stdeb, and add the following to ~/.pydistutils.cfg so that distutils will know about stdeb:[global]command-packages: stdeb.commandThen, in your python source dir, type the following:python bdist_deb

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