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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: 0.48-1
Maintainer: Emfox Zhou <>
Uploaders: Raphaël Hertzog <>
Standards-Version: 3.9.0
Vcs-Svn: svn://
Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 7.4.12), python-support (>= 0.8), xdg-utils, python (>= 2.5), libgtk2.0-0 (>= 2.6), python-gtk2, python-xdg, python-simplejson | python (>= 2.6)
 bd84fa5104de5ed85a49723d26b350856de93217 966899 zim_0.48.orig.tar.gz
 352111ff372a20579664416c9abd4970839835b3 9615 zim_0.48-1.debian.tar.gz
 77d8df7dc89b233fdc3aab1a8ad959c6888881ae160770f50bf880a56e02f895 966899 zim_0.48.orig.tar.gz
 0fceab5d3b099075cd38c225fa4002d893c1cdf4bbcc51d1391a34248e1e1a22 9615 zim_0.48-1.debian.tar.gz
 88cfc18c0c7339528d5f5f463647bb5f 966899 zim_0.48.orig.tar.gz
 608b6e74aa14252dfc6236ab184bdb0c 9615 zim_0.48-1.debian.tar.gz

Version: GnuPG v1.4.10 (GNU/Linux)
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.