dgit man page

dgit — principles of operation


dgit treats the Debian archive as a version control system, and bidirectionally gateways between the archive and git. The git view of the package can contain the usual upstream git history, and will be augmented by commits representing uploads done by other developers not using dgit. This git history is stored in a canonical location known as dgit-repos which lives on a dedicated git server.

git branches suitable for use with dgit can be edited directly in git, and used directly for building binary packages. They can be shared using all conventional means for sharing git branches. It is not necessary to use dgit to work with dgitish git branches. However, dgit is (usually) needed in order to convert to or from Debian-format source packages.

See Also

Reference manual and documentation catalogue.
Tutorials and workflow guides. See dgit(1) for a list.


You may use any suitable git workflow with dgit, provided you satisfy dgit's requirements:

dgit maintains a pseudo-remote called dgit, with one branch per suite. This remote cannot be used with plain git.

The dgit-repos repository for each package contains one ref per suite named refs/dgit/suite. These should be pushed to only by dgit. They are fast forwarding. Each push on this branch corresponds to an upload (or attempted upload).

However, it is perfectly fine to have other branches in dgit-repos; normally the dgit-repos repo for the package will be accessible via the remote name `origin'.

dgit push will also make signed tags called archive/debian/version (with version encoded a la DEP-14) and push them to dgit-repos. These are used at the server to authenticate pushes.

Uploads made by dgit contain an additional field Dgit in the source package .dsc. (This is added by dgit push.) This specifies a commit (an ancestor of the dgit/suite branch) whose tree is identical to the unpacked source upload.

Uploads not made by dgit are represented in git by commits which are synthesised by dgit. The tree of each such commit corresponds to the unpacked source; there is a commit with the contents, and a pseudo-merge from last known upload - that is, from the contents of the dgit/suite branch. Depending on the source package format, the contents commit may have a more complex structure, but ultimately it will be a convergence of stubby branches from origin commits representing the components of the source package.

dgit expects trees that it works with to have a dgit (pseudo) remote. This refers to the dgit-created git view of the corresponding archive.

The dgit archive tracking view is synthesised locally, on demand, by each copy of dgit. The tracking view is always a descendant of the dgit-repos suite branch (if one exists), but may be ahead of it if uploads have been done without dgit. The archive tracking view is always fast forwarding within each suite.

dgit push can operate on any commit which is a descendant of the suite tracking branch.

dgit does not make a systematic record of its imports of orig tarball(s). So it does not work by finding git tags or branches referring to orig tarball(s). The orig tarballs are downloaded (by dgit clone) into the parent directory, as with a traditional (non-gitish) dpkg-source workflow. You need to retain these tarballs in the parent directory for dgit build and dgit push. (They are not needed for purely-git-based workflows.)

dgit repositories could be cloned with standard (git) methods. However, the dgit repositories do not contain uploads not made with dgit. And for sourceful builds / uploads the orig tarball(s) will need to be present in the parent directory.

To a user looking at the archive, changes pushed in a simple NMU using dgit look like reasonable changes made in an NMU: in a `3.0 (quilt)' package the delta from the previous upload is recorded in new patch(es) constructed by dpkg-source.

Combined Suites

dgit can synthesize a combined view of several underlying suites. This is requested by specifying, for suite, a comma-separated list:


This facility is available with dgit clone, fetch and pull, only.

dgit will fetch the same package from each specified underlying suite, separately (as if with dgit fetch). dgit will then generate a pseudomerge commit on the tracking branch remotes/dgit/dgit/suite which has the tip of each of the underlying suites as an ancestor, and which contains the same as the suite which has the highest version of the package.

The package must exist in mainsuite, but need not exist in the subsuites.

If a specified subsuite starts with - then mainsuite is prepended.

So, for example, stable,-security means to look for the package in stable, and stable-security, taking whichever is newer. If stable is currently jessie, dgit clone would leave you on the branch dgit/jessie,-security.

Combined suites are not supported by the dgit build operations. This is because those options are intended for building for uploading source packages, and look in the changelog to find the relevant suite. It does not make sense to name a dgit-synthesised combined suite in a changelog, or to try to upload to it.

When using this facility, it is important to always specify the same suites in the same order: dgit will not be make a coherent fast-forwarding history view otherwise.

The history generated by this feature is not normally suitable for merging back into upstreams, as it necessarily contains unattractive pseudomerges.


Because the synthesis of the suite tracking branches is done locally based only on the current archive state, it will not necessarily see every upload not done with dgit. Also, different versions of dgit (or the software it calls) might import the same .dscs differently (although we try to minimise this). As a consequence, the dgit tracking views of the same suite, made by different instances of dgit, may vary. They will have the same contents, but may have different history.

There is no uniform linkage between the tracking branches for different suites. The Debian infrastructure does not do any automatic import of uploads made without dgit. It would be possible for a distro's infrastructure to do this; in that case, different dgit client instances would see exactly the same history.

There has been no bulk import of historical uploads into Debian's dgit infrastructure. To do this it would be necessary to decide whether to import existing vcs history (which might not be faithful to dgit's invariants) or previous non-Dgit uploads (which would not provide a very rich history).

Read-Only Distros

Distros which do not maintain a set of dgit history git repositories can still be used in a read-only mode with dgit. Currently Ubuntu is configured this way.

Package Source Formats

If you are not the maintainer, you do not need to worry about the source format of the package. You can just make changes as you like in git. If the package is a `3.0 (quilt)' package, the patch stack will usually not be represented in the git history.

Format 3.0 (Quilt)

For a format `3.0 (quilt)' source package, dgit may have to make a commit on your current branch to contain metadata used by quilt and dpkg-source.

This is because `3.0 (quilt)' source format represents the patch stack as files in debian/patches/ actually inside the source tree. This means that, taking the whole tree (as seen by git or ls) (i) dpkg-source cannot represent certain trees, and (ii) packing up a tree in `3.0 (quilt)' and then unpacking it does not always yield the same tree.

dgit will automatically work around this for you when building and pushing. The only thing you need to know is that dgit build, sbuild, etc., may make new commits on your HEAD. If you're not a quilt user this commit won't contain any changes to files you care about.

You can explicitly request that dgit do just this fixup, by running dgit quilt-fixup.

If you are a quilt user you need to know that dgit's git trees are `patches applied packaging branches' and do not contain the .pc directory (which is used by quilt to record which patches are applied). If you want to manipulate the patch stack you probably want to be looking at tools like git-dpm.

Split View Quilt Mode

When working with git branches intended for use with the `3.0 (quilt)' source format dgit can automatically convert a suitable maintainer-provided git branch (in one of a variety of formats) into a dgit branch.

When a split view mode is engaged dgit build commands and dgit push will, on each invocation, convert the user's HEAD into the dgit view, so that it can be built and/or uploaded.

dgit push in split view mode will push the dgit view to the dgit git server. The dgit view is always a descendant of the maintainer view. dgit push will also make a maintainer view tag according to DEP-14 and push that to the dgit git server.

Split view mode must be enabled explicitly (by the use of the applicable command line options, subcommands, or configuration). This is because it is not possible to reliably tell (for example) whether a git tree for a dpkg-source `3.0 (quilt)' package is a patches-applied or patches-unapplied tree.

Split view conversions are cached in the ref dgit-intern/quilt-cache. This should not be manipulated directly.

Files in the Source Package but Not in Git - Autotools Etc.

This section is mainly of interest to maintainers who want to use dgit with their existing git history for the Debian package.

Some developers like to have an extra-clean git tree which lacks files which are normally found in source tarballs and therefore in Debian source packages. For example, it is conventional to ship ./configure in the source tarball, but some people prefer not to have it present in the git view of their project.

dgit requires that the source package unpacks to exactly the same files as are in the git commit on which dgit push operates. So if you just try to dgit push directly from one of these extra-clean git branches, it will fail.

As the maintainer you therefore have the following options:


Persuade upstream that the source code in their git history and the source they ship as tarballs should be identical. Of course simply removing the files from the tarball may make the tarball hard for people to use.

One answer is to commit the (maybe autogenerated) files, perhaps with some simple automation to deal with conflicts and spurious changes. This has the advantage that someone who clones the git repository finds the program just as easy to build as someone who uses the tarball.

Have separate git branches which do contain the extra files, and after regenerating the extra files (whenever you would have to anyway), commit the result onto those branches.
Provide source packages which lack the files you don't want in git, and arrange for your package build to create them as needed. This may mean not using upstream source tarballs and makes the Debian source package less useful for people without Debian build infrastructure.

Of course it may also be that the differences are due to build system bugs, which cause unintended files to end up in the source package. dgit will notice this and complain. You may have to fix these bugs before you can unify your existing git history with dgit's.

Files in the Source Package but Not in Git - Docs, Binaries Etc.

Some upstream tarballs contain build artifacts which upstream expects some users not to want to rebuild (or indeed to find hard to rebuild), but which in Debian we always rebuild.

Examples sometimes include crossbuild firmware binaries and documentation. To avoid problems when building updated source packages (in particular, to avoid trying to represent as changes in the source package uninteresting or perhaps unrepresentable changes to such files) many maintainers arrange for the package clean target to delete these files.

dpkg-source does not (with any of the commonly used source formats) represent deletion of files (outside debian/) present in upstream. Thus deleting such files in a dpkg-source working tree does not actually result in them being deleted from the source package. Thus deleting the files in rules clean sweeps this problem under the rug.

However, git does always properly record file deletion. Since dgit's principle is that the dgit git tree is the same of dpkg-source -x, that means that a dgit-compatible git tree always contains these files.

For the non-maintainer, this can be observed in the following suboptimal occurrences:

The package clean target often deletes these files, making the git tree dirty trying to build the source package, etc. This can be fixed by using dgit -wg aka --clean=git, so that the package clean target is never run.
The package build modifies these files, so that builds make the git tree dirty. This can be worked around by using `git reset --hard' after each build (or at least before each commit or push).

From the maintainer's point of view, the main consequence is that to make a dgit-compatible git branch it is necessary to commit these files to git. The maintainer has a few additional options for mitigation: for example, it may be possible for the rules file to arrange to do the build in a temporary area, which avoids updating the troublesome files; they can then be left in the git tree without seeing trouble.

Problems with Package Clean Targets Etc.

A related problem is other unexpected behaviour by a package's clean target. If a package's rules modify files which are distributed in the package, or simply forget to remove certain files, dgit will complain that the tree is dirty.

Again, the solution is to use dgit -wg aka --clean=git, which instructs dgit to use git clean instead of the package's build target, along with perhaps git reset --hard before each build.

This is 100% reliable, but has the downside that if you forget to git add or to commit, and then use dgit -wg or git reset --hard, your changes may be lost.

Referenced By

dgit(1), dgit-maint-gbp(7), dgit-maint-merge(7), dgit-maint-native(7), dgit-nmu-simple(7), dgit-sponsorship(7), dgit-user(7).

Debian Project dgit