Many Java libraries have already been packaged in Debian, but they don't have any Maven descriptors (POMs) associated with them. The Maven Debian helper package helps packaging Java software built with Maven, but in order to work it requires that all dependencies have their Maven POMs installed in /usr/share/maven-repo.

In addition, smooth upgrade of Java libraries would imply some difficult search & replace operations in the Maven repository, unless the proposal in Maven Repo Specification is adopted. This proposal suggest creating both native and Debian versions of the artifacts, and replacing all versions in the dependencies with Debian versions.

The maven-repo-helper package aims to provide tools for installing and maintaining POMs and jars in /usr/share/maven-repo, and will have no dependency on Maven so it can be used for any library. It provides the foundations for Maven Debian helper.


For example, get the latest sources of libplexus-io-java using

This library uses maven-repo-helper for installing its POM and jar files in /usr/share/maven-repo.

The debian/rules contain

        mh_installpoms -plib$(PACKAGE)-java
        mh_installjar -plib$(PACKAGE)-java -l pom.xml build/$(PACKAGE)-$(VERSION).jar 


and the Build-Depends are

Build-Depends-Indep: maven-repo-helper, maven-ant-helper, libplexus-utils-java,

No patches for the POM files are needed, all is taken care of by the mh_installpom script (which uses mh_cleanpom)

mh_installpoms will install all POM files registered in debian/$package.pom into /usr/share/maven-repo,

mh_installjar will install the jar file associated with the POM into /usr/share/maven-repo and also add a link to the jar in /usr/share/java, with and without the version

Additional files which may be required are:

debian/$bin-package.poms (for example, debian/libplexus-io-java.pom)

pom.xml --no-parent

It simply lists the pom files in the source tree which need to be installed in the repository, and indicates with the --no-parent option that if the POM inherits from a parent POM, then this inheritance relationship will be removed in the cleaned POM. Removing the parent inheritence can often simplify the packaging, as the parent POM mostly does not contain any useful information - we need only the list of dependencies in our repository, the other details for the build are irrelevant.

A more complex example from the modello package is:

pom.xml --no-parent


The format for rules files is:

groupId artifactId type version classifier scope

which refers to the parts of dependency stanzas in pom.xml like:


Each item can contain a match, a substitution or a wildcard

type is normally jar, pom or *

trailing items can be omitted - which is equivalent to putting *

For example:

junit junit jar s/3\..*/3.x/

This file is taken from the modello package. It specifies that the dependency on junit will use the version '3.x' instead of the default 'debian' version if the native version starts with '3.'. If the group id of the dependency is 'junit, the artifact id of the dependency is 'junit', the type of the dependency is 'jar' and the version starts with '3.', then this rule is used. 's/3\..*/3.x/' performs the replacement for the version, the syntax should be obvious to any sed user.

This example from the commons-configuration package shows a few more possibilities: here, the version for commons-collections is converted to '2.x' if it starts with '2.' or '3.x' if it starts with '3.'. The line with ant is more interesting: if the group id is 'ant', then it is converted to 'org.apache.ant' - great trick for dealing with artifacts which are coming from Maven 1. Any artifact id or type will be matched and left unchanged, while the version will be converted to 'debian'. There is also the line with javax.servlet: this line keeps the version number used by this dependency, so if 2.4 is used, then 2.4 is also used in the cleaned POM.

junit junit jar s/3\..*/3.x/
commons-collections commons-collections jar s/2\..*/2.x/
commons-collections commons-collections jar s/3\..*/3.x/
s/ant/org.apache.ant/ * * s/.*/debian/
log4j log4j jar s/1\.2\..*/1.2.x/
javax.servlet servlet-api jar *

Helper scripts



mh_lspoms [option]... <package>

Looks for all POM files defined in the source of the project.



You need to execute it on the unpacked origial source tree, merged with the debian/ folder. It will create the file debian/<binary package>.poms which contains all the POMs to deploy to the Maven repository and is used by mh_installpoms.

The contents of debian/<binary package>.poms should be:



mh_cleanpom [option]... [pom] [target] [pom-props]

Cleans the POM and prepare it for inclusion in the Maven repository. Also extracts some information from the POM.



This script cleans the original Maven POM, removes all unnecessary elements, and replaces version numbers in dependencies by the Debian versions. It will also remove the POM inheritance is --no-parent is given.

debian/maven.rules is used to alter the version properties for the library and its dependencies.

This script is used by mh_installpom, normally you don't need to use it directly, except if you need to investigate an issue with the cleaning process for a POM file.



mh_installpom [option]... [pom]

Installs the POM file in /usr/share/maven-repo, at the correct location for Maven. Before installing the POM, it prepares it with mh_cleanpom.

debian/maven.rules is used to alter the version properties for the library and its dependencies.

Prefer to use mh_installpoms as it reuses the information in debian/$package.poms and avoids repetition.



This script installs the POM file in /usr/share/maven-repo, at the correct location for Maven. Before installing the POM, it prepares it with mh_cleanpom.

debian/maven.spec is used to alter the version properties for the library and its dependencies.

Prefer to use mh_installpoms as it reuses the information in debian/$package.poms and avoids repetition.



mh_installpoms [option]...

Reads the file debian/$package.poms and installs each POM file listed in the .poms file.




mh_installjar [option]... [pom] [jar] [link]...

Installs the jar file in /usr/share/maven-repo, at the correct location for Maven. Both the native version and the Debian version of the jar are installed. It can also create additional links to the jar, usually placed in /usr/share/java.





mh_patchpoms [option]...

Reads the file debian/$package.poms and tranform each POM file listed in the .poms file into a POM file using the Debian versions of the libraries. Also keeps a backup of each POM file which can be restored with mh_unpatchpoms


This script is used internally by maven-repo-helper when building packages with Maven. It is not usually used when Ant is used for the build.



mh_unpatchpoms [option]...

Restore the POM files that have been patched to their original content.



Cleans the temporary files created by the other mh_* utilities. Add it to the clean: target in debian/rules

Typical workflow

  1. Get the original sources and unpack them, copy the debian/ folder if you are working on an existing package.
  2. Fill debian/changelog and debian/control
  3. mh_lspoms
  4. edit debian/$package.poms (to check that only the POM that are needed are present, and maybe to fix the --no-parent options)
  5. mh_make --ant
  6. edit debian/rules (to fix the last remaining packaging details)
  7. edit debian/control (to add maven-repo-helper to Build-Depends: )