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Reporting Bugs in Debian

Reporting bugs

All Debian users are encouraged to report bugs they find in Debian packages. By reporting a new bug, you are contributing to the process of improving the software you use, both for yourself and for other users. It's a small but important way to give something back to Debian and to the wider open source software community.

Bugs in Debian are reported and responded to using the Debian Bug Tracking System. Before reporting a Debian bug, you should read How to report a bug in Debian, and be careful to follow the rules and guidelines described. Other useful links include the following:

  • How to Report Bugs Effectively

    A useful and informative guide - not Debian specific.

  • Reportbug Debian Package

    A Debian package designed to make bug reporting easier and more accurate. Reportbug will guide you through the process of creating a bug report, and make sure your report is formatted correctly. If you don't want to use reportbug directly as a mailer, you can use

    reportbug -o file

    to output the bug report to a file, and then paste the report into your usual email program.

  • Developers' information regarding the bug processing system

    For more experienced users. This page includes definitions of bug severity levels, instructions for closing bugs, and other such information. One useful comment here is that follow-up messages to a bug report should always be mailed to the bug address (nnn@bugs.debian.org, where nnn is the bug number). This ensures that any further information you add is included in the correct, publically available log for that bug.

Helping with bug reports

We understand that reporting a bug can be a difficult or even stressful thing if you are inexperienced. For many users, writing a bug report will be their first direct interaction with the Debian community, which can be scary in itself. Some people are not certain that the problem they have noticed is a bug, and they may not be sure what to write in their bug report or how their report will be received. The Debian Women project would like to encourage and support inexperienced people in reporting the bugs they find in Debian packages. We suggest the following:

  • Read the suggestions and linked pages above carefully :)

  • If you aren't sure that what you have is a bug, ask someone else's opinion. If another person can reproduce the same problem in the same way you did, it is probably a bug. If you don't know someone to ask, join us on IRC at #debian-women, and see whether anyone else has that package installed and is willing to help you decide whether you have an actual bug.

  • If you report a bug, the developer in charge of that package can always ask you to clarify a point or provide more information. Don't be afraid to report something just because you don't understand what is causing the problem.

  • If you report a bug and the developer responds with a question you don't understand, ask them to clarify what they mean. Alternately, join us on IRC at #debian-women, and ask there. If someone knows the answer they will be happy to help explain.

  • Sooner or later you might report something that isn't actually a bug or has been reported before. While taking all care to avoid this, it happens to all of us in the end! Don't worry about it! It's better to report something that isn't a problem then to ignore something that may also cause problems for other people if it goes unreported.

If you are having trouble writing your first bug report, you are welcome to join us on IRC at #debian-women and ask for advice. Or you can email Helen for advice. There is no such thing as a silly question!

Happy bug reporting :)