GNU Swbis

                sw -- bis
software packaging -- again

Making tarballs more respectable.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Swbis

swbis is a software administration system for GNU/Linux systems and systems that are UNIX system-like. It implements the Open Group's CAE Spec C701 (XDSA) Distributed Software Administration. This spec closely follows ISO/IEC 15068-2:1999 (now withdrawn) which was identical to IEEE 1387.2:1995. The implementation relies on POSIX functionality as provided by a typical GNU system. It has security enhancement extensions that use GNU Privacy Guard. The scope of the spec includes a package format, meta-data file format, and utilities for package creation, installation, query, listing, and verification.

While the swbis system has features comparable with package managers, it has features that are of general purpose usefulness to system administrators and developers. These include host-to-host copying of file system directories, advanced tarball creation methods, backward compatibility with uses of plain tarballs, and the ability to act as a directory content integrity checker.

A notable feature of the swbis implementation is its Distributed Software Administration capability. All utilties (except swpackage) are network transparent via direct use of the system Ssh client program. In addition, no new programs or services are required on remote target hosts. This is achieved by use of the ``bash -s'' invocation of a POSIX shell on the remote host which allows reading of script and data on standard input. File loading is performed by 'tar'.

In addition, the swbis swpackage utility is able to translate other package formats into a swbis package with metadata and embedded GPG signature. Translation is done in memory without using temporary files. Currently .rpm, .deb, and slackware runtime packages and plain tarballs are supported.

Some of the programs supplied with this package are:


The current version is 1.13.3

Here is the ChangeLog and NEWS and README from the source distribution.

03 Jul 2023: Swbis 1.13.3 Released
10 Mar 2020: Swbis 1.13.2 Released
05 Nov 2018: Swbis 1.13.1 Released
22 May 2016: Swbis 1.13 Released
03 August 2014: Swbis 1.12 Released
25 April 2011: Swbis 1.11 Released
18 April 2011: Swbis 1.10 Released
23 January 2011: Swbis 1.9 Released
18 January 2011: Swbis 1.8 Released
18 December 2010: Swbis 1.7 Released
12 September 2010: Swbis 1.6 Released
18 March 2010: Swbis 1.5 Released
12 July 2009: Swbis 1.4 Released
13 April 2009: Swbis 1.3 Released
22 November 2008: Swbis 1.2 Released
26 October 2008: Swbis 1.1 Released
09 October 2008: Swbis 1.0 Released
12 August 2008: Swbis 0.986 Released

Version 0.986 is feature complete for upcoming 1.0 release

Changes in this release include:

18 April 2008: Swbis 0.951 Released!

Version 0.951 is feature complete for upcoming 1.0 release

Changes in this release include:

15 September 2007: swlist and swremove now available

The latest version of Swbis available via anonymous CVS now includes new distributed utilties swremove and swlist.

To get the latest use:

cvs -z3 export -D 2007-10-01 swbis
The resulting directory can be verified using swverify like this:
swverify -d --scm @:swbis
This should authenticate the GPG signature but some files may have different md5/sha1 digests because the ./catalog directory is not resigned for every CVS commit.
05 August 2006: Swbis 0.499 Released!

The latest version of Swbis, version 0.499, is available.

Changes in this release include:

See the tutorial for details of these new features.

The CVS Repository contains the 0.499 release that has been signed. To get it use:

cvs -z3 export -r release_0_499 swbis
Then use swverify (version 0.499) to verify it. A directory named swbis will have been created:
swverify -d --scm @:swbis

Downloading Swbis

GNU Swbis releases can be found at The latest release is here. There is only one package to download that contains all source and documentation. The current development sources are available throough the swbis project on savannah.


A short overview is here in swbis(7).
A short user manual is here in swbis(1).

There is a fairly complete info manual, try

 info swbis  # after installing 
 info -f doc/info/  # from within the source package 
The manual is available online here: manual

In addition, there is a tutorial for using Swbis to create signed distribution tarballs and signed CVS releases.

The Open Group spec is here: C701

Here are some working examples

If you have found a bug in Swbis contact us to the e-mail address Or if you think that hasn't worked use the contact information found here. Return to GNU's home page.

Please send FSF & GNU inquiries & questions to There are also other ways to contact the FSF.

Please send comments on these web pages to, send other questions to

Copyright © 2004 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111, USA

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Updated: $Id: index.html,v 1.59 2023/07/07 00:45:51 jhlowe Exp $