2.3. Lintian Tags

Lintian uses a special format for all its error and warning messages. With that it is very easy to write other programs which run Lintian and interpret the displayed messages.

The first character of each line indicates the type of message. Currently, the following types are supported:

Errors (E)

The displayed message indicates a policy violation or a packaging error. For policy violations, Lintian will cite the appropriate policy section when it is invoked with the -i option.

Warnings (W)

The displayed message might be a policy violation or packaging error. A warning is usually an indication that the test is known to sometimes produce false positive alarms, because either the corresponding rule in policy has many exceptions or the test uses some sort of heuristic to find errors.

Info (I)

The displayed message is meant to inform the maintainer about a certain packaging aspect. Such messages do not usually indicate errors, but might still be of interest to the curious. They are not displayed unless the -I option is set.

Notes (N)

The displayed message is a debugging message which informs you about the current state of Lintian.

Experimental (X)

The displayed message is one of the types listed above, but has been flagged as `experimental' by the Lintian maintainers. This means that the code that generates this message is not as well tested as the rest of Lintian, and might still give surprising results. Feel free to ignore Experimental messages that do not seem to make sense, though of course bug reports are always welcome. They are not displayed unless the -E option is set.

Overridden (O)

The displayed message indicates a previous Warning or Error message which has been overridden (see below). They are not displayed unless the --show-overrides option is set.

Pedantic (P)

The displayed message indicates a message of Lintian at its most pickiest and include checks for particular Debian packaging styles, checks that are very frequently wrong, and checks that many people disagree with. They are not displayed unless the --pedantic option is set.

The type indicator is followed by the name of the package and for non-binary packages the type of the package. Then comes the problem that was discovered, also known as a tag (for example, old-fsf-address-in-copyright-file).

Depending on which tag has been reported, the line may contain additional arguments which tell you, for example, which files are involved.

If you do not understand what a certain tag is about, you can specify the -i option when calling Lintian to get a detailed description of the reported tags:

$ lintian -i libc5_5.4.38-1.deb
W: libc5: old-fsf-address-in-copyright-file
N:   The /usr/share/doc/<pkg>/copyright file refers to the old postal
N:   address of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The new address is:
N:     Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston,
N:     MA 02110-1301, USA.
N:   Severity: normal, Certainty: certain

In some cases, the messages contain some additional text with a leading hash character (#). This text should be ignored by any other programs which interpret Lintian's output because it doesn't follow a unique format between different messages and it's only meant as additional information for the maintainer.