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What is a patch? A patch is a change to an Ubuntu package that will resolve a bug report. These include:

  • changes to the packaging of an Ubuntu package
  • changes to the source code included in an Ubuntu package

These changes can appear in a few different formats:


A diff is a plain text file that contains differences between the original file and changed file.


diff -Nurp ciso-1.0.0/ciso.h ciso-1.0.0-fixed/ciso.h
--- ciso-1.0.0/ciso.h    2006-11-03 12:53:02.000000000 -0800
+++ ciso-1.0.0-fixed/ciso.h    2008-11-27 13:32:01.000000000 -0800
@@ -28,9 +28,9 @@
 typedef struct ciso_header
 unsigned char magic[4];         /* +00 : 'C','I','S','O'                 */
-unsigned long header_size;      /* +04 : header size (==0x18)            */
+uint32_t header_size;           /* +04 : header size (==0x18)            */
 unsigned long long total_bytes; /* +08 : number of original data size    */
-unsigned long block_size;       /* +10 : number of compressed block size */
+uint32_t block_size;            /* +10 : number of compressed block size */
 unsigned char ver;              /* +14 : version 01                      */
 unsigned char align;            /* +15 : align of index value            */
 unsigned char rsv_06[2];        /* +16 : reserved                        */

Here the file ciso.h is being changed in two places. Notice that a line marked in front with a - indicates the line which is being removed and a line marked with a + indicates the line that is being added.


A debdiff contains all the changes needed to build a different version of a package. The debdiff will probably include changes to the source of the package, in the form of a diff, in addition to files in the debian directory.

Shortened Example:

diff -u ciso-1.0.0/debian/rules ciso-1.0.0/debian/rules
--- ciso-1.0.0/debian/rules
+++ ciso-1.0.0/debian/rules
@@ -20,8 +20,10 @@
        CFLAGS += -O2
+include /usr/share/dpatch/dpatch.make
 configure: configure-stamp
+configure-stamp: patch
        # Add here commands to configure the package.
@@ -39,7 +41,9 @@
        touch $@
+clean: clean-patched unpatch
        rm -f build-stamp configure-stamp
@@ -86 +90 @@
-.PHONY: build clean binary-indep binary-arch binary install configure
+.PHONY: build clean clean-patched binary-indep binary-arch binary install configure
diff -u ciso-1.0.0/debian/control ciso-1.0.0/debian/control
--- ciso-1.0.0/debian/control
+++ ciso-1.0.0/debian/control
@@ -1,8 +1,9 @@
 Source: ciso
 Section: utils
 Priority: optional
-Maintainer: Gaëtan Petit <>
-Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 5), zlib1g-dev
+Maintainer: Ubuntu MOTU Developers <>
+XSBC-Original-Maintainer: Gaëtan Petit <>
+Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 5), zlib1g-dev, dpatch
 Standards-Version: 3.7.2

Here the files debian/rules and debian/control are being modified.

Patch Systems

Forwarding Patches Upstream


A patch could also be an image file, in the event that a package is missing a menu icon. Bug 274714 is a great example of this. In the debdiff the image is uuencoded (converted from binary to text) and looks like:

--- system-cleaner-1.10.3.orig/debian/system-cleaner-gtk.png.uuencode
+++ system-cleaner-1.10.3/debian/system-cleaner-gtk.png.uuencode
@@ -0,0 +1,429 @@
+begin 644 system-cleaner-gtk.png

Patches in Launchpad

Attachments that are patches can be flagged in the Launchpad bug tracker, which then makes them show up in search results and on other reports. Attachments to bug reports appear in the attachments portlet on the right hand side of a bug report. Attachments which are flagged as patches have a special icon of a pair of Band-Aids beside them.


Notice the "edit" link next to each attachment, it will take you to the following page:


Here you can set and unset the patch flag on a per attachment basis.


Bugs with attachments

Bug reports that have attachments should be examined to see whether or not any of those attachments are patches. If an attachment qualifies as a patch it should be flagged as one. When flagging attachments as patches comment on the bug indicating that the attachment was flagged as a patch and why this is important. A possible reply:

Looking at the attachments in this bug report, I noticed that an attachment was not flagged as a patch. A patch contains changes to an Ubuntu package that will resolve a bug and this attachment is one! Subsequently, I've checked the patch flag for it. In the future when submitting patches please use the patch checkbox as there are some Launchpad searches that use this feature. You can learn more about the patch workflow at

Bugs that already have patches

Bug reports that have attachments flagged as patches should have the patches reviewed to ensure that they are in fact patches. If an attachment is incorrectly flagged as a patch when it is not one, unflag the attachment and comment on the bug report indicating that the attachment is not a patch and why it is important for them to be identified properly. A possible reply:

Looking at the attachments in this bug report, I noticed that one was flagged as a patch incorrectly. A patch contains changes to an Ubuntu package that will resolve a bug, since this was not one I've unchecked the patch flag for it. In the future keep in mind the definition of a patch. You can learn more about what qualifies as a patch at Thanks!

Bugs with verified patches

As mentioned above, patches can come in several different forms. If the patch is not a debdiff one could incorporate the patch into a debdiff for the latest release of Ubuntu or apply the patch to a bzr branch of the package and link the branch to the bug report.

If a patch is a debdiff and applies to a recent version of the package the bug report needs to be sponsored to the archive. This is done by subscribing (NOT assigning) the sponsorship team (ubuntu-sponsors) to the bug. You can view the queue at ubuntu-sponsors.

Find out more:


There are some customized Launchpad reports that can help with the patch workflow.


  • ubuntu-qa-tools - This project contains a couple of scripts that use Launchpadlib to facilitate flagging, or unflagging, of attachments as patches and adding a comment.


Bugs/Patches (last edited 2017-10-10 04:48:25 by sbeattie)