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dh - debhelper command sequencer


dh sequence [--with addon[,addon ...]] [--list] [debhelper options]


dh runs a sequence of debhelper commands. The supported sequences correspond to the
targets of a debian/rules file: build-arch, build-indep, build, clean, install-indep,
install-arch, install, binary-arch, binary-indep, and binary.


A debian/rules file using dh can override the command that is run at any step in a
sequence, by defining an override target.

To override dh_command, add a target named override_dh_command to the rules file. When it
would normally run dh_command, dh will instead call that target. The override target can
then run the command with additional options, or run entirely different commands instead.
See examples below.

Override targets can also be defined to run only when building architecture dependent or
architecture independent packages. Use targets with names like override_dh_command-arch
and override_dh_command-indep. (Note that to use this feature, you should Build-Depend on
debhelper 8.9.7 or above.)


--with addon[,addon ...]
Add the debhelper commands specified by the given addon to appropriate places in the
sequence of commands that is run. This option can be repeated more than once, or
multiple addons can be listed, separated by commas. This is used when there is a
third-party package that provides debhelper commands. See the PROGRAMMING file for
documentation about the sequence addon interface.

--without addon
The inverse of --with, disables using the given addon. This option can be repeated
more than once, or multiple addons to disable can be listed, separated by commas.

--list, -l
List all available addons.

Prints commands that would run for a given sequence, but does not run them.

Note that dh normally skips running commands that it knows will do nothing. With
--no-act, the full list of commands in a sequence is printed.

Other options passed to dh are passed on to each command it runs. This can be used to set
an option like -v or -X or -N, as well as for more specialised options.


To see what commands are included in a sequence, without actually doing anything:

dh binary-arch --no-act

This is a very simple rules file, for packages where the default sequences of commands
work with no additional options.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@

Often you'll want to pass an option to a specific debhelper command. The easy way to do
with is by adding an override target for that command.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@

dh_strip -Xfoo

dh_auto_configure -- --with-foo --disable-bar

Sometimes the automated dh_auto_configure(1) and dh_auto_build(1) can't guess what to do
for a strange package. Here's how to avoid running either and instead run your own

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@


make universe-explode-in-delight

Another common case is wanting to do something manually before or after a particular
debhelper command is run.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@

chmod 4755 debian/foo/usr/bin/foo

If your package uses autotools and you want to freshen config.sub and config.guess with
newer versions from the autotools-dev package at build time, you can use some commands
provided in autotools-dev that automate it, like this.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@ --with autotools_dev

Python tools are not run by dh by default, due to the continual change in that area.
(Before compatibility level v9, dh does run dh_pysupport.) Here is how to use dh_python2.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@ --with python2

Here is how to force use of Perl's Module::Build build system, which can be necessary if
debhelper wrongly detects that the package uses MakeMaker.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@ --buildsystem=perl_build

Here is an example of overriding where the dh_auto_* commands find the package's source,
for a package where the source is located in a subdirectory.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@ --sourcedirectory=src

And here is an example of how to tell the dh_auto_* commands to build in a subdirectory,
which will be removed on clean.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@ --builddirectory=build

If your package can be built in parallel, please either use compat 10 or pass --parallel
to dh. Then dpkg-buildpackage -j will work.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@ --parallel

If your package cannot be built reliably while using multiple threads, please pass
--no-parallel to dh (or the relevant dh_auto_* command):

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@ --no-parallel

Here is a way to prevent dh from running several commands that you don't want it to run,
by defining empty override targets for each command.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@

# Commands not to run:
override_dh_auto_test override_dh_compress override_dh_fixperms:

A long build process for a separate documentation package can be separated out using
architecture independent overrides. These will be skipped when running build-arch and
binary-arch sequences.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
dh $@

$(MAKE) -C docs

# No tests needed for docs

$(MAKE) -C docs install

Adding to the example above, suppose you need to chmod a file, but only when building the
architecture dependent package, as it's not present when building only documentation.

chmod 4755 debian/foo/usr/bin/foo


If you're curious about dh's internals, here's how it works under the hood.

Each debhelper command will record when it's successfully run in
debian/package.debhelper.log. (Which dh_clean deletes.) So dh can tell which commands have
already been run, for which packages, and skip running those commands again.

Each time dh is run, it examines the log, and finds the last logged command that is in the
specified sequence. It then continues with the next command in the sequence. The --until,
--before, --after, and --remaining options can override this behavior.

A sequence can also run dependent targets in debian/rules. For example, the "binary"
sequence runs the "install" target.

dh uses the DH_INTERNAL_OPTIONS environment variable to pass information through to
debhelper commands that are run inside override targets. The contents (and indeed,
existence) of this environment variable, as the name might suggest, is subject to change
at any time.

Commands in the build-indep, install-indep and binary-indep sequences are passed the -i
option to ensure they only work on architecture independent packages, and commands in the
build-arch, install-arch and binary-arch sequences are passed the -a option to ensure they
only work on architecture dependent packages.


The following options are deprecated. It's much better to use override targets instead.
They are not available in compat 10.

--until cmd
Run commands in the sequence until and including cmd, then stop.

--before cmd
Run commands in the sequence before cmd, then stop.

--after cmd
Run commands in the sequence that come after cmd.

Run all commands in the sequence that have yet to be run.

In the above options, cmd can be a full name of a debhelper command, or a substring. It'll
first search for a command in the sequence exactly matching the name, to avoid any
ambiguity. If there are multiple substring matches, the last one in the sequence will be

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