An important part of any operating system is documentation, the technical manuals that describe the operation and use of programs. As part of its efforts to create a high-quality free operating system, the Debian Project is making every effort to provide all of its users with proper documentation in an easily accessible form.
If you are new to Debian we recommend you start first by reading:
Do have these at hand when you make your first Debian installation, it will probably answer many questions and help you work with your new Debian system. Later you might want to go through:
- The Debian Administrator's Handbook, the comprehensive user manual
- Debian Reference, a terse user's guide with the focus on the shell command line
- Release Notes, for people who are upgrading
- Debian Wiki, a good source of information for newcomers
Finally, make sure you print out and have at hand the Debian GNU/Linux Reference Card, a listing of the most important commands for Debian systems.
There is a fair bit of other documentation listed below.
Types of documentation
Most of the documentation included in Debian was written for GNU/Linux in general. There is also some documentation written specifically for Debian. These documents come in these basic categories:
The manuals resemble books, because they comprehensively describe major topics.
Many of the manuals listed here are available both online and in Debian packages; in fact, most of the manuals on the website are extracted from their respective Debian packages. Choose a manual below for its package name and/or links to the online versions.
Manuals specific to Debian
- Debian Policy Manual
- Debian Developer's Reference
- Guide for Debian Maintainers
- Debian New Maintainers' Guide
- Introduction to Debian packaging
- Debian Menu System
- Debian Installer internals
- Guide for database using package maintainers
- Policy for packages using databases
The complete list of Debian manuals and other documentation can be found at the Debian Documentation Project web pages.
There are also several user-oriented manuals written for Debian GNU/Linux, available as printed books.
The HOWTO documents, like their name says, describe how to do something, and they usually cover a more specific subject.
FAQ stands for frequently asked questions. A FAQ is a document which answers those questions.
Other, shorter documents
The following documents include quicker, shorter instructions:
- manual pages
- Traditionally, all Unix programs are documented with manual pages, reference manuals made available through the man command. They usually aren't meant for beginners. You can search for and read the manual pages available in Debian in https://manpages.debian.org/.
- info files
- Many GNU software is documented through info files instead of manual pages. These files include detailed information of the program itself, options and example usage and are available through the info command.
- various README files
- The read me files are also common — they are simple text files that describe a single item, usually a package. You can find a lot of these in the /usr/share/doc/ subdirectories on your Debian system. Each software package has a subdirectory under it with its own read me files, and might also include configuration examples. Notice that, for larger programs, documentation is typically provided in a separate package (same name as the original package, but ending in -doc).
- quick reference cards
Quick reference cards are very short summaries of a certain (sub)system. Usually, such a reference card provides the mostly used commands on a single piece of paper. Some notable reference cards and collections include:
- Debian GNU/Linux Reference Card
- This card, that can be printed out in a single paper, provides a list of the most important commands and is a good reference for new users of Debian that want to familiarise with them. At least basic knowledge of computer, files, directories and the command line is required. Novice users might want to read the Debian Reference first.
If you have checked the above resources and still can't find answers to your questions or solutions to your problems regarding Debian, take a look at our support page.