Packaging is the simplest, yet not exactly clearly documented well part of software development. This tutorial should hopefully cover everything you need to start making simple, working packages for Maemo.

This tutorial assumes you're running on Linux (or a virtual machine of one) and that you have Scratchbox installed as per

[edit] Qt Creator users

A project made with QtCreator usually creates two (or more) folders, one contains a clean source, and the other contains an architecture specific build, for the purpose of this tutorial, we will not be using Qt Creator's package builder (as imo, it's crap compared to the manual one).

Copy the files in the clean source directory to somewhere in your scratchbox $home directory (or just copy the whole folder into ~ on scratchbox) and follow the steps below.

[edit] Scratchbox users

Packaging an application involves two things, getting the source itself, and making the debian/ directory and writing its contents. The debian/ directory is needed to make .deb packages, everything related to the package (i.e. .deb file) is there, with the sources outside it, the sources and the debian/ directory should be in one main directory, which is the source directory for the package.

Example hierarchy (Package name is maemodeb):

maemodeb/ (main source dir, a version number can be appended (e.g maemodeb-0.1)
  src/ (usually contains sources, sources can also be put in the main dir without a subfolder)
  data/ (usually contains data, i.e icons/images)
  debian/ (contains the files needed to build the package)

The debian directory should contain at least this basic set of files, without them, a package cannot be built:

A control file, this holds information such as name of package(s - multiple packages can be built from one source), description, maintainer name, section, packages needed to build the source, and the dependencies, and (for Maemo), icons for the application manager and "pretty" names, also for the application manager.

A changelog file, this holds again, the name of the source (not the separate packages), the version number, the changes in that version number, and a signature with the name and email for the person who edited the old source, as well as a timestamp, this file can be auto-generated with dch.

A compat file, which contains the version of debhelper needed, only a number is held in this file, usually 5.

A rules file, which contains the build instructions.

What should these files contain? These files can be generated using dh_make, however, I find cleaning the examples it generates a bit tedious, so I copy the files from my own sample debian/ folder.

control file:

Source: source_name
Section: section_goes_here, possible sections listed here
Priority: extra
Maintainer: Your_FULL_REAL_name <email_must_NOT_be_fake>
Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 5) # deps needed to build the package (e.g libqt4-dev for 
Standards-Version: 3.7.2

Package: first_package_name
XB-Maemo-Display-Name: Name to be displayed in HAM
Architecture: architecture, can be all/i386/armel
Depends: dependencies for the package
Description: short description here
 hildon-theme-alpha's boxes have a black border around theme, this package fixes the size 70 one.


Source: maemodeb
Section: user/system
Priority: extra
Maintainer: Mohammad Abu-Garbeyyeh <>
Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 5)
Standards-Version: 3.7.2

Package: maemodeb
XB-Maemo-Display-Name: Maemo Deb
Architecture: all
Depends: apt, ${shlibs:Depends}
Description: Sample package to show how packaging works
 Long description of the application to be shown if a user clicks Description in HAM


source_name (version_number) unstable; urgency=low

  * Initial release.

 -- Mohammad Abu-Garbeyyeh <>  Sun, 10 Oct 2010 23:31:54 +0200


maemodeb (0.1) unstable; urgency=low

  * Initial release.

 -- Mohammad Abu-Garbeyyeh <>  Sun, 10 Oct 2010 23:31:54 +0200

This file can further be edited using dch, part of the package devscripts, apt-get install devscripts.

compat file:


rules file: This is the only part of packaging where you have to think what to do, you will need to add the parts needed to configure-stamp, for example ./configure should be added there, or qmake if you're using Qt and a .pro file.

You will need to add the parts to compile the files to build-stamp, e.g make.

And finally, the parts needed to install the file, e.g $(MAKE) DESTDIR=$(CURDIR)/debian/package_name install. If your make file does not handle file installations, you can use an install file in debian/ and keep dh_install in the rules file, as per below.

#!/usr/bin/make -f
# -*- makefile -*-
# Sample debian/rules that uses debhelper.
# This file was originally written by Joey Hess and Craig Small.
# As a special exception, when this file is copied by dh-make into a
# dh-make output file, you may use that output file without restriction.
# This special exception was added by Craig Small in version 0.37 of dh-make.

# Uncomment this to turn on verbose mode.
#export DH_VERBOSE=1

CFLAGS = -Wall -g

ifneq (,$(findstring noopt,$(DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS)))
 	CFLAGS += -O0
	CFLAGS += -O2

configure: configure-stamp
	# Add here commands to configure the package.

	touch configure-stamp

build: build-stamp

build-stamp: configure-stamp
	touch build-stamp

	rm -f build-stamp configure-stamp

install: build
	dh_clean -k

# Build architecture-independent files here.
binary-indep: build install
# We have nothing to do by default.

# Build architecture-dependent files here.
binary-arch: build install
	dh_installchangelogs debian/changelog
#	dh_installmenu
#	dh_installdebconf
#	dh_installpam
#	dh_installmime
#	dh_installinit
#	dh_perl
#	dh_makeshlibs

binary: binary-indep binary-arch
.PHONY: build clean binary-indep binary-arch binary install configure

Sample install file:

bin/		usr/sbin
bin/		usr/sbin
bin/		usr/sbin
bin/psfreedom				usr/bin
src/ui/PSFreedom			opt/psfreedom
data/psfreedom.sudoers			etc/sudoers.d
data/psfreedomicon.png			usr/share/pixmaps
data/psfreedom.desktop			usr/share/applications/hildon

[edit] Additional files

Although basic packaging was covered above, you might need extra files such as:

A postinst file, which is a file that is run post installation (Setting up <packagename> ...), these files should be normal shell scripts that run the commands you need (such as chmod +x, update-sudoers etc...). Variations exist such as postinst/postrm/preinst/prerm, post is after, pre is before, inst is installation, rm is removal. Keep in mind that these are all run as root (with sudo!), so dbus-send commands should be run with!!!), and permissions have to be kept in mind.


echo "Updating sudoers"

exit 0

A .desktop file, which is a menu icon, this is installed to /usr/share/applications/hildon/, either by an install file, or a makefile.

[Desktop Entry]
Name=PSFreedom # As shown in the menu.
Icon=psfreedomicon # Icon file, e.g psfreedomicon.png in /usr/share/pixmaps/
Exec=psfreedom # What to run, full path needed if not in $PATH (i.e if it's run from /opt)
X-Osso-Service=org.maemo.psfreedom # (Fully optional! Should only be added if a .service file exists.

A .service file, this is not normally needed, except if you want to launch your application via dbus and if you want to load a splash screen with hildon-desktop, again, this is optional. This is installed/copied to /usr/share/dbus-1/services/

[D-BUS Service]
Name=org.maemo.psfreedom # Name of service file, you decide what you want it to be.
Exec=/usr/bin/psfreedom # What to execute.