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dgit - Man Page

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; the dgit-repos repo for the package can even be the same as the `origin' remote, although this is not generally the case in Debian.

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; the distro to which the upload was made; a tag name which can be used to fetch the git commits; and a url to use as a hint for the dgit git server for that distro.

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 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).

git represents only file executability. git does not represent empty directories, or any leaf objects other than plain files and symlinks. The behaviour of Debian source package formats on objects with unusual permissions is complicated. Some pathological Debian source packages will no longer build if empty directories are pruned (or if other things not reproduced by git are changed). Such sources cannot be worked with properly in git, and therefore not with dgit either.

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.


git has features which can automatically transform files as they are being copied between the working tree and the git history. The attributes can be specified in the source tree itself, in .gitattributes. See gitattributes(5).

These transformations are context-sensitive and not, in general, reversible, so dgit operates on the principle that the dgit git history contains the actual contents of the package. (When dgit is manipulating a .dsc, it does so in a private area, where the transforming gitattributes are defused, to achieve this.)

If transforming gitattributes are used, they can cause trouble, because the working tree files can differ from the git revision history (and therefore from the source packages). dgit warns if it finds a .gitattributes file (in a package being fetched or imported), unless the transforming gitattributes have been defused.

dgit clone and dgit setup-new-tree disable transforming gitattributes by default, by creating a suitable .git/info/attributes. See dgit setup-new-tree and dgit setup-gitattributes in dgit(1).

Note that dgit does not disable gitattributes unless they would actually interfere with your work on dgit branches. In particular, gitattributes which affect git archive are not disabled, so .origs you generate by hand can be wrong. You should consider using git-deborig (1) which gets this right, suppressing the attributes.

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.

File Executability

Debian source package formats do not always faithfully reproduce changes to executability. But dgit insists that the result of dgit clone is identical (as far as git can represent - see Limitations, above) to the result of dpkg-source -x.

So files that are executable in your git tree must be executable in the result of dpkg-source -x (but often aren't). If a package has such troublesome files, they have to be non-executable in dgit-compatible git branches.

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.

Simply committing to source files (whether in debian/ or not, but not to patches) will result in a branch that dgit quilt-fixup can linearise. Other kinds of changes, including editing patches or merging, cannot be handled this way.

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-debrebase, gbp pq, or git-dpm.

quilt fixup error messages

When dgit's quilt fixup fails, it prints messages like this:

dgit: base trees orig=5531f03d8456b702eab6 o+d/p=135338e9cc253cc85f84
dgit: quilt differences: src:  == orig ##     gitignores:  == orig ##
dgit: quilt differences:      HEAD ## o+d/p               HEAD ## o+d/p
starting quiltify (multiple patches, linear mode)

dgit: error: quilt fixup cannot be linear.  Stopped at:
dgit:  696c9bd5..84ae8f96: changed debian/patches/test-gitignore

is an import of the .orig tarballs dgit found, with the debian/ directory from your HEAD substituted. This is a git tree object, not a commit: you can pass its hash to git-diff but not git-log.


is another tree object, which is the same as orig but with the patches from debian/patches applied.


is of course your own git HEAD.

quilt differences

shows whether each of the these trees differs from the others (i) in upstream files excluding .gitignore files; (ii) in upstream .gitignore files. == indicates equality; ## indicates inequality.

dgit quilt-fixup --quilt=linear walks commits backwards from your HEAD trying to construct a linear set of additional patches, starting at the end. It hopes to eventually find an ancestor whose tree is identical to o+d/p in all upstream files.

In the error message, 696c9bd5..84ae8f96 is the first commit child-parent edge which cannot sensibly be either ignored, or turned into a patch in debian/patches. In this example, this is because it itself changes files in debian/patches, indicating that something unusual is going on and that continuing is not safe. But you might also see other kinds of troublesome commit or edge.

Your appropriate response depends on the cause and the context. If you have been freely merging your git branch and do not need need a pretty linear patch queue, you can use --quilt=single or --quilt=smash. (Don't use the single-debian-patch dpkg source format option; it has strange properties.) If you want a pretty linear series, and this message is unexpected, it can mean that you have unwittingly committed changes that are not representable by dpkg-source (such as some mode changes). Or maybe you just forgot a necessary --quilt= option.

Finally, this problem can occur if you have provided Debian git tooling such as git-debrebase, git-dpm or git-buildpackage with upstream git commit(s) or tag(s) which are not 100% identical to your orig tarball(s).

Split View and Splitting Quilt Modes

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 splitting quilt mode is selected 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.

Split view mode can also be enabled explicitly with the --split-view command line option and the .split-view access configuration key.

When split view is in operation, regardless of the quilt mode, any dgit-generated pseudomerges and any quilt fixup commits will appear only in the dgit view. dgit push-* 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.

Splitting quilt modes 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 Orig Tarball 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:

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 binaries (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:

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

Debian Project