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5.3. Structure of a Source Package

5.3.1. Format

A source package is usually comprised of three files, a .dsc, a .orig.tar.gz, and a .debian.tar.gz (or .diff.gz). They allow creation of binary packages (.deb files described above) from the source code files of the program, which are written in a programming language.
The .dsc (Debian Source Control) file is a short text file containing an RFC 2822 header (just like the control file studied in Section 5.2.1, “Description: the control File”) which describes the source package and indicates which other files are part thereof. It is signed by its maintainer, which guarantees authenticity. See Section 6.5, “Checking Package Authenticity” for further details on this subject.

Example 5.1. A .dsc file

Hash: SHA256

Format: 3.0 (quilt)
Source: zim
Binary: zim
Architecture: all
Version: 0.62-3
Maintainer: Emfox Zhou <>
Uploaders: Raphaël Hertzog <>
Standards-Version: 3.9.6
Vcs-Git: git://
Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 9), xdg-utils, python (>= 2.6.6-3~), libgtk2.0-0 (>= 2.6), python-gtk2, python-xdg
 zim deb x11 optional arch=all
 ad8de170826682323c10195b65b9f1243fd75637 1772246 zim_0.62.orig.tar.gz
 a4f70d6f7fb404022c9cc4870a4e62ea3ca08388 14768 zim_0.62-3.debian.tar.xz
 19d62aebd2c1a92d84d80720c6c1dcdb779c39a2120468fed01b7f252511bdc2 1772246 zim_0.62.orig.tar.gz
 fc2e827e83897d5e33f152f124802c46c3c01c5158b75a8275a27833f1f6f1de 14768 zim_0.62-3.debian.tar.xz
 43419efba07f7086168442e3d698287a 1772246 zim_0.62.orig.tar.gz
 725a69663a6c2961f07673ae541298e4 14768 zim_0.62-3.debian.tar.xz

Version: GnuPG v2
Comment: Signed by Raphael Hertzog

Note that the source package also has dependencies (Build-Depends) completely distinct from those of binary packages, since they indicate tools required to compile the software in question and construct its binary package.
The .orig.tar.gz file is an archive containing the source code as provided by the original developer. Debian package maintainers are asked to not modify this archive in order to be able to easily check the origin and integrity of the file (by simple comparison with a checksum) and to respect the wishes of some authors.
The .debian.tar.gz contains all of the modifications made by the Debian maintainer, especially the addition of a debian directory containing the instructions to execute to construct a Debian package.

5.3.2. Usage within Debian

The source package is the foundation of everything in Debian. All Debian packages come from a source package, and each modification in a Debian package is the consequence of a modification made to the source package. The Debian maintainers work with the source package, knowing, however, the consequences of their actions on the binary packages. The fruits of their labors are thus found in the source packages available from Debian: you can easily go back to them and everything stems from them.
When a new version of a package (source package and one or more binary packages) arrives on the Debian server, the source package is the most important. Indeed, it will then be used by a network of machines of different architectures for compilation on the various architectures supported by Debian. The fact that the developer also sends one or more binary packages for a given architecture (usually i386 or amd64) is relatively unimportant, since these could just as well have been automatically generated.