Notes for Packagers

If you are packaging qpdf for an operating system distribution, this chapter is for you. Otherwise, feel free to skip.

Build Options

For a detailed discussion of build options, please refer to Build Options. This section calls attention to options that are particularly useful to packagers.

  • Perl must be present at build time. Prior to qpdf version 9.1.1, there was a runtime dependency on perl, but this is no longer the case.

  • Make sure you are getting the intended behavior with regard to crypto providers. Read Build-time Crypto Selection for details.

  • Use of SHOW_FAILED_TEST_OUTPUT is recommended for building in continuous integration or other automated environments as it makes it possible to see test failures in build logs. This should be combined with either ctest --verbose or ctest --output-on-failure.

  • Packagers should never define the FUTURE build option. API changes enabled by FUTURE are not stable and may be API/ABI-breaking. That option is intended only for people who are testing their code with a local build of qpdf to provide early feedback or prepare for possible future changes to the API.

  • qpdf’s install targets do not install completion files by default since there is no standard location for them. As a packager, it’s good if you install them wherever your distribution expects such files to go. You can find completion files to install in the completions directory. See the completions/ file for more information.

  • Starting with qpdf 11, qpdf’s default installation installs source files from the examples directory with documentation. Prior to qpdf 11, this was a recommendation for packagers but was not done automatically.

Package Tests

The pkg-test directory contains very small test shell scripts that are designed to help smoke-test an installation of qpdf. They were designed to be used with debian’s autopkgtest framework but can be used by others. Please see pkg-test/ in the source distribution for details.

Packaging Documentation

Starting in qpdf version 10.5, pre-built documentation is no longer distributed with the qpdf source distribution. Here are a few options you may want to consider for your packages:

  • Do nothing

    When you run make install, the file README-doc.txt is installed in the documentation directory. That file tells the reader where to find the documentation online and where to go to download offline copies of the documentation. This is the option selected by the debian packages.

  • Embed pre-built documentation

    You can obtain pre-built documentation and extract its contents into your distribution. This is what the Windows binary distributions available from the qpdf release site do. You can find the pre-built documentation in the release area in the file For an example of this approach, look at qpdf’s GitHub actions build scripts. The build-scripts/build-doc script builds with -DBUILD_DOC_DIST=1 to create the documentation distribution. The build-scripts/build-windows script extracts it into the build tree and builds with -DINSTALL_MANUAL=1 to include it in the installer.

  • Build the documentation yourself

    You can build the documentation as part of your build process. Be sure to pass -DBUILD_DOC_DIST=1 and -DINSTALL_MANUAL=1 to cmake. This is what the AppImage build does. The latest version of Sphinx at the time of the initial conversion a sphinx-based documentation was 4.3.2. Older versions are not guaranteed to work.

Documentation Packaging Rationale

This section describes the reason for things being the way they are. It’s for information only; you don’t have to know any of this to package qpdf.

What is the reason for this change? Prior to qpdf 10.5, the qpdf manual was a docbook XML file. The generated documents were the product of running the file through build-time style sheets and contained no copyrighted material of their own. Starting with version 10.5, the manual is written in reStructured Text and built with Sphinx. This change was made to make it much easier to automatically generate portions of the documentation and to make the documentation easier to work with. The HTML output of Sphinx is also much more readable, usable, and suitable for online consumption than the output of the docbook style sheets. The downsides are that the generated HTML documentation now contains Javascript code and embedded fonts, and the PDF version of the documentation is no longer as suitable for printing (at least as of the 10.5 distribution) since external link targets are no longer shown and cross references no longer contain page number information. The presence of copyrighted material in the generated documentation, even though things are licensed with MIT and BSD licenses, complicates the job of the packager in various ways. For one thing, it means the file in the source repository would have to keep up with the copyright information for files that are not controlled in the repository. Additionally, some distributions (notably Debian/Ubuntu) discourage inclusion of sphinx-generated documentation in packages, preferring you instead to build the documentation as part of the package build process and to depend at runtime on a shared package that contains the code. At the time of the conversion of the qpdf manual from docbook to sphinx, newer versions of both sphinx and the html theme were required than were available in some of most of the Debian/Ubuntu versions for which qpdf was packaged.

Since always-on Internet connectivity is much more common than it used to be, many users of qpdf would prefer to consume the documentation online anyway, and the lack of pre-built documentation in the distribution won’t be as big of a deal. However there are still some people who can’t or choose not to view documentation online. For them, pre-built documentation is still available.