dpkg-maintscript-helper — works around known dpkg limitations in maintainer scripts


dpkg-maintscript-helper command [parameter...] -- maint-script-parameter...

Commands and Parameters

supports command

rm_conffile conffile [prior-version [package]]

mv_conffile old-conffile new-conffile [prior-version [package]]

symlink_to_dir pathname old-target [prior-version [package]]

dir_to_symlink pathname new-target [prior-version [package]]


This program is designed to be run within maintainer scripts to achieve some tasks that dpkg can't (yet) handle natively either because of design decisions or due to current limitations.

Many of those tasks require coordinated actions from several maintainer scripts (preinst, postinst, prerm, postrm). To avoid mistakes the same call simply needs to be put in all scripts and the program will automatically adapt its behaviour based on the environment variable DPKG_MAINTSCRIPT_NAME and on the maintainer scripts arguments that you have to forward after a double hyphen.

Common Parameters


Defines the latest version of the package whose upgrade should trigger the operation. It is important to calculate prior-version correctly so that the operations are correctly performed even if the user rebuilt the package with a local version. If prior-version is empty or omitted, then the operation is tried on every upgrade (note: it's safer to give the version and have the operation tried only once).

If the conffile has not been shipped for several versions, and you are now modifying the maintainer scripts to clean up the obsolete file, prior-version should be based on the version of the package that you are now preparing, not the first version of the package that lacked the conffile. This applies to all other actions in the same way.

For example, for a conffile removed in version 2.0-1 of a package, prior-version should be set to 2.0-1~. This will cause the conffile to be removed even if the user rebuilt the previous version 1.0-1 as 1.0-1local1. Or a package switching a path from a symlink (shipped in version 1.0-1) to a directory (shipped in version 2.0-1), but only performing the actual switch in the maintainer scripts in version 3.0-1, should set prior-version to 3.0-1~.


The package name owning the pathname(s). When the package is “Multi-Arch: same” this parameter must include the architecture qualifier, otherwise it should not usually include the architecture qualifier (as it would disallow cross-grades, or switching from being architecture specific to architecture all or vice versa). If the parameter is empty or omitted, the DPKG_MAINTSCRIPT_PACKAGE and DPKG_MAINTSCRIPT_ARCH environment variables (as set by dpkg when running the maintainer scripts) will be used to generate an arch-qualified package name.


All the parameters of the maintainer scripts have to be forwarded to the program after --.

Integration in Packages

When using a packaging helper, please check if it has native dpkg-maintscript-helper integration, which might make your life easier. See for example dh_installdeb(1).

Given that dpkg-maintscript-helper is used in the preinst, using it unconditionally requires a pre-dependency to ensure that the required version of dpkg has been unpacked before. The required version depends on the command used, for rm_conffile and mv_conffile it is, for symlink_to_dir and dir_to_symlink it is 1.17.14:

   Pre-Depends: dpkg (>= 1.17.14)

But in many cases the operation done by the program is not critical for the package, and instead of using a pre-dependency we can call the program only if we know that the required command is supported by the currently installed dpkg:

   if dpkg-maintscript-helper supports command; then
       dpkg-maintscript-helper command ...

The command supports will return 0 on success, 1 otherwise. The supports command will check if the environment variables as set by dpkg and required by the script are present, and will consider it a failure in case the environment is not sufficient.



Sets the color mode (since dpkg 1.19.1). The currently accepted values are: auto (default), always and never.

See Also


Referenced By

debhelper(7), dh_installdeb(1).

2019-06-03 1.19.7 dpkg suite