dh man page

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.

Override Targets

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.

This can be used without a debian/compat file.


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 commands.

        #!/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

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.

In compat 10 (or later), dh creates a stamp file debian/debhelper-build-stamp after the build step(s) are complete to avoid re-running them.  Inside an override target, dh_* commands will create a log file debian/package.debhelper.log to keep track of which packages the command(s) have been run for.  These log files are then removed once the override target is complete.

In compat 9 or earlier, 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 (in compat 9 or earlier), 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 (though they were removed in compat 10).

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.

Deprecated Options

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 used.

See Also


This program is a part of debhelper.


Joey Hess <joeyh@debian.org>

Referenced By

debhelper(7), dh-autoreconf(7), dh_make(1).

2017-01-17 10.2.5 Debhelper