Debian Plugin

The debian package specification is very robust and powerful. If you wish to do any advanced features, it’s best to understand how the underlying packaging system works. Debian Binary Package Building HOWTO by Chr. Clemens Lee is an excellent tutorial.

SBT Native Packager provides two ways to build debian packages:

  1. A native implementation, where you need dpkg-deb installed, or
  2. A java, platform independent approach with jdeb.

By default the native implementation is activated.


The debian plugin depends on the Linux Plugin.


If you use the native debian package implementation you need the following applications installed:

  • dpkg-deb
  • dpkg-sig
  • dpkg-genchanges
  • lintian
  • fakeroot


sbt debian:packageBin

Required Settings

A debian package needs some mandatory settings to be valid. Make sure you have these settings in your build:

name := "Debian Example"

version := "1.0"

maintainer := "Max Smith <>"

packageSummary := "Hello World Debian Package"

packageDescription := """A fun package description of our software,
  with multiple lines."""

Enable the debian plugin to activate the native package implementation.


Native packaging

Since JARs are by default already compressed, DebianPlugin disables additional compression of the debian package contents.

To compress the debian package, override debianNativeBuildOptions with options for dpkg-deb.

debianNativeBuildOptions in Debian := Nil // dpkg-deb's default compression (currently xz)

debianNativeBuildOptions in Debian := Seq("-Zgzip", "-z3") // gzip compression at level 3

Note that commit cee091c released in 1.1.1 disables package re-compression by default. While this works great with tools such as apt and dpkg, un-compressed package installation is bugged in python-apt 8.8 series. This bug prevents installation of the generated debian package in the following configuration:

  • installation using python-apt module, used by Ansible and SaltStack for example,
  • being on python-apt 8.8 series that’s on Debian Wheezy and perhaps older

It will fail with an error message like:

E: This is not a valid DEB archive, it has no 'data.tar.gz', 'data.tar.bz2' or 'data.tar.lzma' member

Solutions include:

  • upgrading to Debian Jessie,
  • upgrading python-apt, note that no official backport is known
  • re-enabling package re-compression in sbt-native-packager, by overridding debianNativeBuildOptions as described above.

Java based packaging

If you want to use the java based implementation, enable the following plugin:


and this to your plugins.sbt:

libraryDependencies += "org.vafer" % "jdeb" % "1.3" artifacts (Artifact("jdeb", "jar", "jar"))

JDeb is a provided dependency. You have to explicitly add it on your own. It brings a lot of dependencies that could slow your build times. This is the reason the dependency is marked as provided.


Settings and Tasks inherited from parent plugins can be scoped with Debian.

linuxPackageMappings in Debian := linuxPackageMappings.value


Debian requires the following specific settings:

name in Debian
The name of the package for debian (if different from general linux name).
version in Debian
The debian-friendly version of the package. Should be of the form x.y.z-build-aa.
debianPackageConflicts in Debian
The list of debian packages that this package conflicts with.
debianPackageDependencies in Debian
The list of debian packages that this package depends on.
debianPackageProvides in Debian
The list of debian packages that are provided by this package.
debianPackageRecommends in Debian
The list of debian packages that are recommended to be installed with this package.
linuxPackageMappings in Debian
Debian requires a /usr/share/doc/{package name}/changelog.gz file that describes the version changes in this package. These should be appended to the base linux versions.
maintainerScripts in Debian (debianMaintainerScripts)
DEPRECATED use maintainerScripts in Debian instead. These are the packaging scripts themselves used by dpkg-deb to build your debian. These scripts are used when installing/uninstalling a debian, like prerm, postinstall, etc. These scripts are placed in the DEBIAN file when building. Some of these files can be autogenerated, for example when using a package archetype, like server_application. However, any autogenerated file can be overridden by placing your own files in the src/debian/DEBIAN directory.
changelog in Debian
This is the changelog used by dpkg-genchanges to create the .changes file. This will allow you to upload the debian package to a mirror.


The Debian support grants the following commands:

Generates the .deb package for this project.
Generates the .deb file and runs the lintian command to look for issues in the package. Useful for debugging.
Generates the .changes, and therefore the .deb package for this project.


This section contains examples of how you can customize your debian build.

Customizing Debian Metadata

A Debian package provides metadata, which includes dependencies and recommendations. This example adds a dependency on java and recommends a git installation.

debianPackageDependencies in Debian ++= Seq("java2-runtime", "bash (>= 2.05a-11)")

debianPackageRecommends in Debian += "git"

Hook Actions into the Debian Package Lifecycle

To hook into the debian package lifecycle ( you can add preinst , postinst , prerm and/or postrm scripts. Just place them into src/debian/DEBIAN. Or you can do it programmatically in your build.sbt. This example adds actions to preinst and postinst:

import DebianConstants._
maintainerScripts in Debian := maintainerScriptsAppend((maintainerScripts in Debian).value)(
  Preinst -> "echo 'hello, world'",
  Postinst -> s"echo 'installed ${(packageName in Debian).value}'"

The helper methods can be found in MaintainerScriptHelper Scaladocs.

If you use the JavaServerAppPackaging there are predefined postinst and preinst files, which start/stop the application on install/remove calls. Existing maintainer scripts will be extended not overridden.

Use a Different Castle Directory for your Control Scripts

Your control scripts are in a different castle.. directory? No problem.

debianControlScriptsDirectory <<= (sourceDirectory) apply (_ / "deb" / "control")