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Copyright Thomas Leonard and others, 2013


Zero Install is a decentralised cross-distribution software installation system available under the LGPL. It allows software developers to publish programs directly from their own web-sites, while supporting features familiar from centralised distribution repositories such as shared libraries, automatic updates and digital signatures. It is intended to complement, rather than replace, the operating system's package management. 0install packages never interfere with those provided by the distribution.

0install does not define a new packaging format; unmodified tarballs or zip archives can be used. Instead, it defines an XML metadata format to describe these packages and the dependencies between them. A single metadata file can be used on multiple platforms (e.g. Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Mac OS X and Windows), assuming binary or source archives are available that work on those systems.

0install also has some interesting features not often found in traditional package managers. For example, while it will share libraries whenever possible, it can always install multiple versions of a package in parallel when there are conflicting requirements. Installation is always side-effect-free (each package is unpacked to its own directory and will not touch shared directories such as /usr/bin), making it ideal for use with sandboxing technologies and virtualisation.

The XML file describing the program's requirements can also be included in a source-code repository, allowing full dependency handling for unreleased developer versions. For example, a user can clone a Git repository and build and test the program, automatically downloading newer versions of libraries where necessary, without interfering with the versions of those libraries installed by their distribution, which continue to be used for other software.

See the web-site for full details.


0install is written in OCaml. You will need the OCaml build tools and some OCaml libraries to compile 0install.

The easiest way to get the dependencies is using OPAM:

$ opam sw 4.01.0
$ eval `opam config env`
$ opam install yojson xmlm ounit react lwt extlib ocurl obus lablgtk sha

Note: some of these are optional:

  • obus is used on Linux to add support for D-BUS notifications, installing native packages using PackageKit, and using NetworkManager to check the network status before doing background updates.
  • lablgtk provides a GTK GUI.

Alternatively, you can use your distribution's packages if you prefer (and if they are new enough). For example, on Debian:

$ sudo apt-get install gettext ocaml-nox ocaml-findlib libyojson-ocaml-dev \
   libxmlm-ocaml-dev camlp4-extra make liblwt-ocaml-dev libounit-ocaml-dev \
   libextlib-ocaml-dev libcurl-ocaml-dev libssl-ocaml-dev \
   libobus-ocaml-dev liblablgtk2-ocaml-dev liblwt-glib-ocaml-dev

On Fedora:

$ su -c 'yum install gettext ocaml ocaml-findlib ocaml-yojson-devel \
   ocaml-biniou-devel ocaml-easy-format-devel ocaml-xmlm-devel ocaml-camlp4-devel \
   ocaml-lwt-devel ocaml-ounit-devel ocaml-extlib-devel ocaml-curl-devel \
   ocaml-obus-devel ocaml-lablgtk-devel openssl-devel'

Either way, build and install by running this command in the top-level directory:

$ make && sudo make install

You can also install just to your home directory (this doesn't require root access):

$ make && make install_home
$ export PATH=$HOME/bin:$PATH

Logging out and back in again will ensure $PATH and the Applications menu get updated correctly, on Ubuntu at least.

To try 0install without installing:

$ make
$ ./dist/files/0install --help

Windows installation

A Windows binary of 0install is available at

To install from source:

  1. Install WODI (I used the 64-bit graphical installer). This gets you OCaml and a package manager for installing OCaml libraries.

    During the install, you should select and install these Cygwin packags:

    • make
    • mingw64-x86_64-gcc-core or mingw64-i686-gcc-core (for 64-bit or 32-bit WODI)
    • gnupg

    If you don't get prompted, install Cygwin manually and use it to install the packages.

  2. Run "Wodi64 Cygwin".

  3. Install the dependencies with:

    godi_add godi-yojson godi-xmlm godi-react godi-lwt \
      godi-extlib godi-sha godi-curl godi-lablgtk2 godi-ounit


    • lablgtk2 is optional (only needed if you want the GTK GUI).
    • ounit is optional (only needed to run the unit-tests during the build - these currently fail on Windows).
    • There is no visible progress indicator while the packages are installing, but you should see the output of ocamlfind list getting longer.
  4. Change directory to the "ocaml" subdirectory of 0install and build:

    cd ocaml
    make ocaml

This creates the executables build/ocaml/install.exe and build/ocaml/0install-runenv.exe:

$ ../build/ocaml/0install.exe --help
Usage: 0install.exe COMMAND [OPTIONS]

If you'd like to make the top-level Makefile work on Windows so you can make install, please send a patch.

To run, you may need to copy these DLLs from /opt/wodi64/bin to the build/ocaml directory:

  • libcurl-4.dll
  • libcares-2.dll
  • zlib1.dll

Note that the native OCaml code cannot currently cope with archives containing executable files (with the Unix X bit set) - you'll get the error Incorrect manifest -- archive is corrupted. When the OCaml version of 0install is run under the .NET version, the .NET version sets the environment variable %ZEROINSTALL_EXTERNAL_FETCHER% to a .NET helper process which does the unpacking correctly. Patches to add native support are welcome.


A bash completion script is available in share/bash-completion. It can be sourced from your .bashrc or added under /usr/share/bash-completion. Note that you may have to install a separate "bash-completion" package on some systems.

For zsh users, copy the script in share/zsh/site-functions/ to a directory in your $fpath (e.g. /usr/local/share/zsh/site-functions).

For fish-shell users, add the full path to share/fish/completions to $fish_complete_path.

These completion scripts are installed automatically by "make install".


To install Edit and name it 'rox-edit':

$ 0install add rox-edit

To run it (use the name you chose above):

$ rox-edit

When you run it, 0install will check how long it has been since it checked for updates and will run a check in the background if it has been too long. To check for updates manually:

$ 0install update rox-edit 2.0.5 -> 2.0.6

This shows that ROX-Lib, a library rox-edit uses, was upgraded.

If an upgrade stops a program from working, use "0install whatchanged". This will tell you when the application was last upgraded and what changed, and tells you how to revert to the previous version:

$ 0install whatchanged rox-edit
Last checked    : Tue Sep 25 09:45:19 2012
Last update     : 2012-09-25
Previous update : 2012-08-25 2.0.5 -> 2.0.6

To run using the previous selections, use:
0install run /home/tal/.config/

To see where things have been stored:

$ 0install show rox-edit
- URI:
  Version: 2.2
  Path: /home/tal/.cache/
  - URI:
    Version: 2.0.6
    Path: /home/tal/.cache/
  - URI:
    Version: 2.7.3-4
    Path: (package:deb:python2.7:2.7.3-4:x86_64)

To view or change configuration settings:

$ 0install config

For more information, see the man-page for 0install and the web-site.


This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2.1 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This library is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Lesser General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Lesser General Public License along with this library; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA


Please report any bugs to the mailing list.

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