The package management system manipulates data represented in a
common format, known as control data, stored in control files.
Control files are used for source packages, binary packages and the
.changes files which control the installation of uploaded files
(dpkg's internal databases are in a similar format).
A control file consists of one or more paragraphs of fields (the
paragraphs are also sometimes referred to as stanzas). The
paragraphs are separated by empty lines. Parsers may accept lines
consisting solely of U+0020 SPACE and U+0009 TAB as paragraph
separators, but control files should use empty lines. Some control
files allow only one paragraph; others allow several, in which case
each paragraph usually refers to a different package. (For example,
in source packages, the first paragraph refers to the source package,
and later paragraphs refer to binary packages generated from the
source.) The ordering of the paragraphs in control files is
Each paragraph consists of a series of data fields. Each field
consists of the field name followed by a colon (U+003A ‘:’), and then
the data/value associated with that field. The field name is
composed of US-ASCII characters excluding control characters, space,
and colon (i.e., characters in the ranges U+0021 ‘!’ through U+0039
‘9’, and U+003B ‘;’ through U+007E ‘~’, inclusive). Field names must
not begin with the comment character (U+0023 ‘#’), nor with the
hyphen character (U+002D ‘-’).
The field ends at the end of the line or at the end of the last
continuation line (see below). Horizontal whitespace (U+0020 SPACE
and U+0009 TAB) may occur immediately before or after the value and
is ignored there; it is conventional to put a single space after the
colon. For example, a field might be:
the field name is Package and the field value dpkg.
Empty field values are only permitted in source package control files
(debian/control). Such fields are ignored.
A paragraph must not contain more than one instance of a particular
There are three types of fields:
simple The field, including its value, must be a single line.
Folding of the field is not permitted. This is the default
field type if the definition of the field does not specify a
folded The value of a folded field is a logical line that may span
several lines. The lines after the first are called
continuation lines and must start with a U+0020 SPACE or a
U+0009 TAB. Whitespace, including any newlines, is not
significant in the field values of folded fields.
This folding method is similar to RFC5322, allowing control
files that contain only one paragraph and no multiline fields
to be read by parsers written for RFC5322.
The value of a multiline field may comprise multiple
continuation lines. The first line of the value, the part on
the same line as the field name, often has special
significance or may have to be empty. Other lines are added
following the same syntax as the continuation lines of the
folded fields. Whitespace, including newlines, is significant
in the values of multiline fields.
Whitespace must not appear inside names (of packages, architectures,
files or anything else) or version numbers, or between the characters
of multi-character version relationships.
The presence and purpose of a field, and the syntax of its value may
differ between types of control files.
Field names are not case-sensitive, but it is usual to capitalize the
field names using mixed case as shown below. Field values are case-
sensitive unless the description of the field says otherwise.
Paragraph separators (empty lines) and lines consisting only of
U+0020 SPACE and U+0009 TAB, are not allowed within field values or
between fields. Empty lines in field values are usually escaped by
representing them by a U+0020 SPACE followed by a dot (U+002E ‘.’).
Lines starting with U+0023 ‘#’, without any preceding whitespace are
comments lines that are only permitted in source package control
files (debian/control) and in deb-origin(5) files. These comment
lines are ignored, even between two continuation lines. They do not
end logical lines.
All control files must be encoded in UTF-8.
This page is part of the dpkg (Debian Package Manager) project.
Information about the project can be found at
⟨https://wiki.debian.org/Teams/Dpkg/⟩. If you have a bug report for
this manual page, see
⟨http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?src=dpkg⟩. This page
was obtained from the project's upstream Git repository
⟨git://git.debian.org/git/dpkg/dpkg.git⟩ on 2017-03-13. If you dis‐
cover any rendering problems in this HTML version of the page, or you
believe there is a better or more up-to-date source for the page, or
you have corrections or improvements to the information in this
COLOPHON (which is not part of the original manual page), send a mail
1.18.15-3-ga2ef 1970-01-01 deb822(5)