GNU Software Evaluation
Offering software to GNU
If you have written software which you would like to offer to the GNU Project, thank you very much! This page includes a questionnaire for submitting your package, so that we can get the information needed and evaluate it as quickly as possible.
Please take your time filling out the questionnaire. We've written it as preformatted text so you can copy it to your system and fill it out with some care. When you're done, please email it to <firstname.lastname@example.org> (as plain text).
GNU is not simply a collection of useful programs, but a unified operating system that is 100% free software. Thus, to keep the GNU system technically coherent, we make sure that the parts fit well together. So the evaluators judge programs based on how well they fit into the GNU system, both technically and philosophically, as well as on their quality, usability, and the other characteristics you would expect. Based on the evaluators' report, Richard Stallman (the Chief GNUisance) makes the final decision on whether to accept the contribution.
One consequence of this is that we generally do not accept new packages that substantially overlap with an existing GNU package. As a coherent system, it is better for GNU to have a given package to do a given job, and people in that area to contribute to and improve that package, working together, instead of having many packages that each do different parts of a job, each developed on its own. Similarly, a small program often fits better as part of an existing package than being a new package of its own. (GNU does have a number of such overlapping packages today, generally for historical reasons. This does not obviate the general principle.)
Another consequence is that becoming a GNU maintainer is a somewhat formal process, since affiliating with the GNU project as a maintainer means you must agree to work—within the confines of the maintenance—with the GNU project's mission for software freedom.
So, in addition to the questionnaire, please read the GNU policies in the Information for Maintainers of GNU Software as well as the GNU Coding Standards. A summary of the major policies given below, but please also look through the full documents.
If you have released a free software package but don't wish to fill out the questionnaire and/or meet the requirements for official GNU packages, we still encourage you to submit it to the Free Software Directory. We want the Directory to cover all released free software packages.
Thanks again for your interest in GNU.
What it means for a program to be a GNU package
Here's the explanation, from rms, of what it means for a program to be a GNU package, which also explains the responsibilities of a GNU package maintainer.
Making a program GNU software means that its developers and the GNU project agree that “This program is part of the GNU project, released under the aegis of GNU”—and say so in the program.
The GNU Project appoints package maintainers—initially the main developers, or those of them who wish to be appointed—to take responsibility for the package on the behalf of the GNU project. We hope it won't happen, but if they step down, we look for other maintainers. The program remains a GNU package unless/until the GNU project decides to decommission it.
Being a GNU package means that we normally put the program on
ftp.gnu.org (although we can instead refer to your choice
of ftp site, as long as it allows connections from anyone
This means that the official web site for the program should be on
www.gnu.org, specifically in
/software/PROGRAMNAME. Whenever you give out the URL for
the package home page, you would give this address. It is ok to use
another site for secondary topics, such as pages meant for people
helping develop the package, and for running data bases. (We can make
an exception and put the web pages somewhere else if there is a really
It means that the developers agree to pay attention to making the program work well with the rest of the GNU system—and conversely that the GNU project will encourage other GNU maintainers to pay attention to making their programs fit in well with it.
Just what it means to make programs work well together is mainly a practical matter that depends on what the program does. But there are a few general principles. Certain parts of the GNU coding standards directly affect the consistency of the whole system. These include the standards for configuring and building a program, and the standards for command-line options. It is important to make all GNU programs follow these standards, where they are applicable.
Another important GNU standard is that GNU programs should come with documentation in Texinfo format. That is the GNU standard documentation format, and it can be converted automatically into various other formats. You can use DocBook or any other suitable format for the documentation sources, as long as converting it automatically into Texinfo gives good results.
If a GNU program wants to be extensible, it should use Guile as the programming language for extensibility, if possible. For some programs there's a reason to do things differently, but please use Guile if that is feasible.
A GNU program should use the latest version of the license that the GNU Project recommends—not just any free software license. For most packages, this means using the GNU GPL, “version 3 or later.”
A GNU program should not recommend use of any non-free program, and it should not refer the user to any non-free documentation for free software. The campaign for free documentation to go with free software is a major focus of the GNU project; to show that we are serious about it, we must not undermine our position by recommending documentation that isn't free.
Occasionally there are issues of terminology which are important for the success of the GNU project as a whole. So we expect maintainers of GNU programs to follow them. For example, the documentation files and comments in the program should speak of GNU/Linux systems, rather than calling the whole system “Linux”, and should use the term “free software” rather than “open source”. Since a GNU program is released under the auspices of GNU, it should not say anything that contradicts the GNU Project's views.
For a program to be GNU software does not require transferring copyright to the FSF; that is a separate question. If you transfer the copyright to the FSF, the FSF will enforce the GPL for the program if someone violates it; if you keep the copyright, enforcement will be up to you.
As the GNU maintainer of the package, please make sure to stay in touch with the GNU Project. If we come across a problem relating to the package, we need to tell you about it, and to discuss with you how to solve it. Sometimes we will need to ask you to work with other maintainers to solve a problem that involves using multiple packages together. This probably will happen less than once a year, but please make sure we can contact you in case it does happen.
This short list of tips for GNU maintainers may be a useful overview of some things to do after your package becomes part of GNU.
More details are available in these documents:
For the basic ideas of GNU and free software, please read these essays:
- The GNU Project
- What is Free Software?
- Categories of Free and Nonfree Software
- Avoiding Ruinous Compromises
- Words to Avoid (or Use with Care) Because They Are Loaded or Confusing
- Linux and the GNU System
- GNU/Linux FAQ by Richard Stallman
- Why Open Source Misses the Point of Free Software
Questionnaire for offering software to GNU
* General Information ** Do you agree to follow GNU policies? If your program is accepted to be part of the GNU system, it means that you become a GNU maintainer, which in turn means that you will need to follow GNU policies in regards to that GNU program. (Summarized above, see maintainers document for full descriptions.) ** Package name and version: ** Author Full Name <Email>: ** URL to package home page (if any): ** URL to source tarball: Please make a release tarball for purposes of evaluation, whether or not you publicly release it. If you don't have anywhere to upload it, send it as an attachment. ** Brief description of the package: * Code ** Dependencies: Please list the package's dependencies (source language, libraries, etc.). ** Configuration, building, installation: It might or might not use Autoconf/Automake, but it must meet GNU standards. Even packages that do not require compilation must follow these standards, so installers have a uniform way to define target directories, etc. Please see: http://www.gnu.org/prep/standards/html_node/Configuration.html http://www.gnu.org/prep/standards/html_node/Makefile-Conventions.html ** Documentation: We require using Texinfo (http://www.gnu.org/software/texinfo/) for documentation, and recommend writing both reference and tutorial information in the same manual. Please see http://www.gnu.org/prep/standards/html_node/GNU-Manuals.html ** Internationalization: If your package has any user-visible strings, please make them translatable to other languages using GNU Gettext: http://www.gnu.org/software/gettext/ ** Accessibility: Please discuss any accessibility issues with your package, such as use of relevant APIs. ** Security: Please discuss any possible security issues with your package: cryptographic algorithms being used, sensitive data being stored, possible elevation of privileges, etc. * Licensing: Both the software itself *and all dependencies* (third-party libraries, etc.) must be free software in order to be included in GNU. In general, official GNU software should be released under the GNU GPL version 3 or any later version, and GNU documentation should be released under the GNU FDL version 1.3 or any later version. Please see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html for a practical guide to which licenses are free (for GNU's purposes) and which are not. Please give specific url's to any licenses involved that are not listed on that page. * Similar free software projects: Please explain what motivated you to write your package, and search at least the Free Software Directory (http://www.gnu.org/directory/) for projects similar to yours. If any exist, please also explain what the principal differences are. * Any other information, comments, or questions:
Again, please email the questionnaire to <email@example.com> when it is done.
Other ways to help the GNU Project
There are many other ways of helping GNU, both technical and non-technical.