Debian GIS Policy

Andreas Tille

First review (Debian Med version) 

David Paleino

Initial writing (Debian Med version) 

Charles Plessy

Contributions in 2008 and 2011 (Debian Med version) 

Bas Couwenberg

Changes for Debian GIS version 


Table of Contents

How to Contribute
Essential readings
Give me the source!
SSH tips
Git repository
Newcomer guidelines for building proper Debian packages
Announcing intent to package
Packaging with Git
PPA for Ubuntu by UbuntuGIS
Derivatives working together with Debian GIS
R packages
Blend Tasks
Installing Debian GIS Blend tasks
Version control systems
New package
The Debian GIS Blend tasks
Building and tagging the packages
Handling patches
Contributing to the GIS Policy


Debian GIS is a Debian Pure Blend with the aim to develop Debian into the best distribution for Geographical Information System applications and users.

A good deal of GIS related software and libraries (e.g. GRASS GIS, GDAL, and PROJ) are already present in Debian.

Thanks to efforts of the Debian GIS team, we currently have many exciting GIS packages in Debian's main archives. Other programs are well along their way to being included in the archive.

The Debian source packages maintained by the Debian GIS team are also used by efforts to support current GIS software on Debian derivatives such as UbuntuGIS, which provides backports of GIS packages for Ubuntu, and OSGeo-Live for their Ubuntu based distribution.

How to Contribute

From the developer to the user, there is a long chain of tasks in which we always welcome participation. First we must keep ourselves informed about the software landscape in GIS and/or OpenStreetMap. So you could help by monitor the GIS landscape for new and updated software and keeping the team informed. Software to be packaged is chosen according to criteria such as users' need and the consistency of the distribution.

Once in Debian, the software is monitored for its quality and bugs are fixed, if possible in collaboration with the upstream maintainer(s). So you could help out by triaging bugs, searching for patches or creating them, then testing the fixes and letting the team know.

All this work would not be very useful if it remains confidential or confined to the source packages of Debian and its derivative distributions. We also dedicate some time to advertise it to the world via and to ease the integration of new members. Maybe you could help out by writing articles about Debian GIS or the software we package? This could be for Magazines (online or in proint). Writing "HOWTO" articles is also a good way to help new users find their feet with the Debian GIS software.

Translating package descriptions (if you speak another language in addition to English), tagging packages with metadata, and uploading screenshots will also help users find the software that fulfills their needs.

Please contact us on if you want to help to make GIS and/or OpenStreetMap software available to users of Debian and its derivative distributions such as Ubuntu, OSGeo-Live, Mint, etc. Read the Membership section if you're interested in joining us.


If you speak a language in addition to English, you can contribute right away with translations of package descriptions at

When working on these, you will find immediate targets for improvements of the original English versions, too. For these though, you need access to Debian GIS's source code repository.

A good route to find the Debian GIS descriptions needing translation is to use one of the Debian GIS task pages (for example the workstation task). If you are using a non-English locale, you should see that untranslated descriptions are in English, and there is a button you can click to contribute a translation. If you use an English locale, there are links at the bottom of the webpage that switch the webpage to other languages.


You can also contribute and edit Debtags on the task pages. Debtags are used in Debian so that people can type in keywords and search for packages that they might need. Please help us to make sure a user will find our packages if they are searching for them. On the Debian GIS task pages, if a package is currently not tagged, you should see a "Go tagging" button. By clicking "Edit Tags", you can also double check the packages that have already been tagged.


A well chosen screenshot can also help to sell each Debian GIS package. Clicking on "Upload screenshot" on the Debian GIS tasks pages will take you to a page where you can upload a screenshot. Instructions can be found on the page that you are taken to. You can also click on an existing screen shot to send an updated one if you think the current one is out of date.

Squashing Bugs

If confirming bugs and contributing and testing patches are your thing, you can help triage the list of outstanding Debian GIS bugs.

You will find guidance on how to use the Debian Bug Tracking System (BTS) linked from this page: Debian Bug Tracking System

Policy Updates

This policy is a work in progress, and attempts to document best practices which evolve and change over time. Different people tend to do things in different ways. If your way diverges, you may want to document it here so that others can benefit. Please send any comments or ideas to For more details on contributing to the policy, see the Contributing to the GIS Policy section later in the policy.


To request membership of the Debian GIS team, and commit access to our git repositories on Salsa, please go to our Salsa page and click the Request Access button. Also send an email to with your motivation to join the team.

You need to register a Salsa account before you can request membership of the Debian GIS team (if you are not a Debian Developer), by creating a guest account using the Debian GitLab self-service interface.

The Debian GIS team collaboration infrastructure was originally hosted on Alioth which provided VCS hosting, mailinglists and website hosting.

The team grew out of the initial effort to collaboratively maintain the grass package, and ended up collaboratively maintaining most GIS and OpenStreetMap source packages, while still using the pkg-grass group name on Alioth.

On Salsa the debian-gis-team namespace is used, but the mailinglist for the Maintainer address in packages still uses pkg-grass in its name thanks to its origin on Alioth.

Essential readings