Patching an Existing Debian Package

This tutorial walks you through patching an existing Debian package. It is useful if you want to create a .deb of a package after fixing some bug or modifying the source in any other way. We will hugin as our example.

We start by fetching the source package

$ apt-get source hugin
$ cd hugin-2017.0.0+dfsg

We will need a tool named quilt to make the process easier.

# apt install quilt

Before using quilt we want to make it aware of the debian/patches directory which holds the patches. Adding the following lines to ~/.quiltrc will make quilt search up the directory tree the debian/patches directory.

d=. ; while [ ! -d $d/debian -a `readlink -e $d` != / ]; do d=$d/..; done
if [ -d $d/debian ] && [ -z $QUILT_PATCHES ]; then
        # if in Debian packaging tree with unset $QUILT_PATCHES
        QUILT_DIFF_ARGS="-p ab --no-timestamps --no-index --color=auto"
        QUILT_REFRESH_ARGS="-p ab --no-timestamps --no-index"
        if ! [ -d $d/debian/patches ]; then mkdir $d/debian/patches; fi

Now starts the actual patching process. The patches are applies in series, and our new patch should be the last one. We start by applying any existing patches, and then creating a new patch

$ quilt push -a
$ quilt new 44_setlocale.patch

I chose the 44_ prefix because hugin already has a patch named 43_fallbackhelp.patch and the convention is naming patches so the names reflect the order they are applied. Next we specify to quilt which files we modify and then we edit them.

$ quilt add src/hugin1/hugin/huginApp.cpp
$ vim src/hugin1/hugin/huginApp.cpp

Alternatively, instead of editing the files manually, quilt import can be used to import an existing patch.

Each patch comes with its own metadata to let other people know who wrote it and what it does. Use

$ quilt header --dep3 -e

to edit this metadata. For example:

Description: Call setlocale()
This fixes a bug in wxExecute, see
The patch has been submitted to upstream,
Author: Guy Rutenberg <>
Last-Update: 2017-10-04
This patch header follows DEP-3:
See [DEP-3]( for more details about the different fields.

After we finish editing we finalize the patch, and unapply all the patches

$ quilt refresh
$ quilt pop -a

Now, you can continue to build the deb from source as usual. We use debchange to create a new version, and debuild to build the package. After the package is build it can be installed using debi

$ DEBEMAIL="Guy Rutenberg <>" debchange --nmu
$ debuild -us -uc -i -I -j7


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