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What is the difference between a .json package and a .deb package?

What Is the Difference Between a .json Package and a .deb Package?

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is the package.json file?
  3. What is a package.deb file?
  4. Properties of package.json
    1. Name 
    2. Version 
    3. Description 
    4. Main 
    5. Scripts 
    6. Keywords 
    7. Author 
    8. License 
    9. Repository 
  5. Properties of package.deb
  6. Uses of package.json 
    1. Uses of package.deb 
    2. Why is packagecloud good for package.json and package.deb? 
  7. Conclusion 


The package.json file is at the heart of the Node.js ecosystem, and it forms the basic part of knowing and working with npm and modern JavaScript. The package.json file is a tool that one can use to make modern development modular, efficient, and streamlined. It is a manifest describing packages, modules, applications, and much more. Understanding the fundamentals of package.json is one of the first steps to getting started with Node.js programming.


On the other hand, the Debian Linux distribution and its derivatives use the deb format, which is an extension of the software package format. Debian packages are Unix ar archives with two tar archives included. The control information is kept in one archive, while the installable data is kept in another. All these will be discussed in detail later on.


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What is the package.json file?

If you have used Node.js before, you’ve probably come across a package.json folder or file. This is a JSON file that exists in your project’s root directory. This package.json file contains critical project information. The file contains both human-readable metadata, such as the name of the project and its description, and functional metadata, such as the application’s dependencies list as well as the version number of the package.


This is an example of a package.json file:

	"name": "node-js-sample",
	"version": "0.2.0",
	"description": "A sample Node.js that uses Express 4",
	"main": "index.js",
	"scripts": {
	"start": "node index.js"
	"dependencies": {
	"express": "^4.13.3"
	"engines": {
	"node": "4.0.0"
	"repository": {
	"type": "git",
	"url": ""
	"keywords": [
	"author": "John Doe",
	"contributors": [
	"Jane Doe <> ("
	"license": "MIT"


What is a package.deb file?


In most cases, packages comprise all of the files required to implement a group of related commands or features. Debian packages are divided into two categories:


  • Binary packages: They contain executables, copyright information, man/info pages, configuration files, and other documentation. All these packages are provided in a Debian-specific archive format, and the file extension .deb is commonly used to identify them. The Debian utility dpkg, perhaps via a frontend such as an aptitude, might unpack these binary packages. This information can be found in the manual.
  • Source packages: They consist of a .dsc file that defines the source package; this includes the titles of these files, a .orig.tar.gz file which contains the original unmodified source in gzip-compressed tar format, and a .diff.gz file containing the Debian-specific modifications to the source. A utility dpkg-source unpacks and packs Debian source archives; again, the manual page contains more information. The application apt-get can be used as a dpkg-source frontend.


The package system installs applications using “dependencies,” which have to be established carefully by package maintainers. The control file that is linked to every package contains a list of these dependencies. For instance, the GNU C compiler, or gcc, “depends” on the Binutils package, which includes both the assembler and the linker. If one tries installing gcc without first installing Binutils, the package management system, or dpkg, will display an error message stating that Binutils is also required and will block the installation of gcc.          


Properties of package.json


Let’s have a look at the properties of a generated package.json file.



This is the project’s name, and whether it is a private project is optional. The name of an npm package will be used as a URL when it is published. As a result, when the package is published, it must have a name that is unique in the npm repository. It must meet certain criteria to be URL-safe. It should be as follows:

  • It should contain a maximum of 214 characters.
  • It should not contain any spaces.
  • Only lowercase letters, dashes (-), and underscores (_) are permitted.
  • A scope can be prefixed to the name (for example, @angular/angular-cli).



There should be a version number that the node-server is able to interpret. For private modules, the version attribute is optional; for public modules, it is compulsory.



A brief description is optional for both public and private projects, but it is handy if you submit your package to npm and want to give more details.



This can be defined as the entry point or entry file for the package. When one is importing this package into an application, the program will look for module exports in that folder.



The scripts key expects an object with script names as keys as well as commands as values, effectively defining a set of node scripts that you may run.


These scripts are apps that run on the command line. You can use npm run COMMAND or yarn COMMAND to run them.


Look at this package.json command:

  "name": "super-mario",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "description": "",
  "main": "index.js",
  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
  "author": "",
  "license": "ISC"}


We can see the “test” key in the scripts:

"test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"


Thus, if one uses the command line to run the npm run test, he/she will get “Error: no test specified logged”. The command name has no restrictions, and scripts can perform things like starting a project on a local server, running tests, and building for production.



A list of keywords helps in the discovery of the module in the npm repository.



This property will list the package that contains the name of the author, and it expects an object with keys for the email, URL, and name. Some of the possible formats include:

"author": "John Doe <> ("

"author": {
    "name": "John Doe",
    "email": "",
    "url": ""



This indicates the package’s license and anticipates a license name through the SPDX identifier. It uses the ISC license by default, but MIT is another popular option. One can also utilize UNLICENSED for both closed-source and private projects.



This property is used to specify the location of the package repository’s source code. Normally, this can be a public GitLab/GitHub repository, with the repository array specifying the git version control type and the repo’s URL.


This is how the repository property would look:

 "repository": {
      "type": "git",
      "url": ""


One can also use the prefix for GitLab or GitHub:

"repository": "gitlab:johndoe/REPOSITORY-NAME"

"repository": "github:johndoe/REPOSITORY-NAME"


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Properties of package.deb

A Debian “package,” often known as a Debian archive file, comprises libraries, the executable files, and the documentation for a certain program suite or group of related applications. The filename of a Debian archive file usually ends with .deb.


The package.deb file has amazing properties, including the following:

  •   It bundles files into an archive that may be unpacked directly on the filesystem.
  •   It allows one to run scripts before and after installation.
  •   It allows one to define and declare dependencies that need to be met before installing a given package.
  •   It contains an eventing system that keeps an eye out for any updates to other packages and then responds accordingly.
  •   It supports by default multiple delivery protocols: SSH, FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS.
  •   It allows one to verify files by signing them with a GPG key.


Uses of package.json 

The package.json file in any project is the core location for describing and configuring how to connect with and operate the app. The npm CLI, as well as yarn, uses it while identifying your project and understands how to deal with its dependencies. This is all part of the package.json file that instructs the npm to launch the project, run scripts, install dependencies, publish this to the NPM registry, and do a variety of other actions. Moreover, the best approach to manage packages is through the use of the npm CLI since it helps build and update the package.json file throughout the lifespan of the project.


The package.json file plays numerous functions in any project’s lifecycle, some of which are only applicable to NPM packages. Additionally, the package.json file is still important to the development flow if one is not publishing his/her project to an NPM registry, or while trying to make it available publicly to others. Before any NPM package is installed in your project, the project must also have a package.json file. This is one of the most likely reasons you need one for your project.


Uses of package.deb 

There are several uses of Debian’s packaging tools including the following:

  •   It manages and manipulates packages or sections of these packages.
  •   It manages local overrides of package files.
  •   It helps in the creation of package archives for developers.
  •   It assists users with the installation of software from a remote FTP location.


Why is packagecloud good for package.json and package.deb? 

Packagecloud has package repositories that are consistent, at enterprise scale, and at startup speed. They also work in unison with other systems that you are already using. You can manage all your packages and deploy them to any environment you wish to, which can either be in the cloud or on-premises, from a single slick interface. Packagecloud also supports a wide range of package types, including Python, Java, Node, Ruby, and many more.



Any Node Project’s foundation is the JSON file. It keeps track of key metadata based on a project that is required before it can be published to NPM, as well as functional attributes that npm utilizes while installing dependencies and the run scripts, as well as identifying the package’s entry point. Knowing more about the package.json and how it interacts with npm is a crucial component of designing Node.js applications, and it is becoming increasingly significant in the JavaScript ecosystem.


A Debian software package is a file with the .deb extension. They are primarily found in Unix-based operating systems, such as iOS and Ubuntu. The executable files, documentation, and libraries are all contained in two tar archives in each .deb file. GZIP, BZIP2, LZMA, or XZ compression may or may not be used. Micro deb files (.udeb) are similar to DEB files in that they contain some but not all of the same information.


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