The Elixir Cross Referencer
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Latest commit fd81603 Jul 18, 2018

The Elixir Cross Referencer

Elixir is a source code cross-referencer inspired by LXR. It's written in Python and its main purpose is to index every release of a C or C++ project (like the Linux kernel) while keeping a minimal footprint.

It uses Git as a source-code file store and Berkeley DB for cross-reference data. Internally, it indexes Git blobs rather than trees of files to avoid duplicating work and data. It has a straightforward data structure (reminiscent of older LXR releases) to keep queries simple and fast.

You can see it in action on


  • Python >= 3.5
  • The Jinja2 and Pygments Python libraries
  • Berkeley DB (and its Python binding)
  • Exuberant Ctags
  • Perl (for non-greedy regexes)


Elixir has the following architecture:

| CGI interface |
| Query command | Update command |
|          Shell script          |

The shell script ("") is the lower layer and provides commands to interact with Git and other Unix utilities. The Python commands use the shell script's services to provide access to the annotated source code and identifier lists ("") or to create and update the databases (""). Finally, the CGI interface ("") uses the query interface to generate HTML pages.

When installing the system, you should test each layer manually and make sure it works correctly before moving on to the next one.

Two environment variables are used to tell Elixir where to find its local Git repository and its database directory:

  • LXR_REPO_DIR (the directory that contains your Git project)
  • LXR_DATA_DIR (the directory that will contain your databases)

When both are set up, you should be able to test that the script works:

$ ./ list-tags

then generate the databases:

$ ./

and verify that the queries work:

$ ./ file v4.10 /kernel/sched/clock.c
$ ./ ident v4.10 raw_spin_unlock_irq

Generating the full database can take a long time: it takes about 15 hours on a Xeon E3-1245 v5 to index 1800 tags in the Linux kernel. For that reason, you may want to tweak the script (for example, by limiting the number of tags with a "head") in order to test the update and query commands.

The CGI interface ("") is meant to be called from your web server. Since it includes support for indexing multiple projects, it expects a different variable ("LXR_PROJ_DIR") which points to a directory with a specific structure:

    • <project 1>
      • data
      • repo
    • <project 2>
      • data
      • repo
    • <project 3>
      • data
      • repo

It will then generate the other two variables upon calling the query command.

Here is an example configuration for Apache:

<Directory /usr/local/elixir/http/>
    Options +ExecCGI
    AllowOverride None
    Require all granted
    SetEnv LXR_PROJ_DIR /srv/elixir-data

AddHandler cgi-script .py

<VirtualHost *:80>
    DocumentRoot /usr/local/elixir/http

    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteRule "^/$" "/linux/latest/source" [R]
    RewriteRule "^/.*/(source|ident|search)" "/" [PT]

Don't forget to enable cgi and rewrite support with a2enmod cgi rewrite.

Hardware requirements

Performance requirements depend mostly on the amount of traffic that you get on your Elixir service. However, a fast server also helps for the initial indexing of the projects.

At Bootlin, here are a few details about the server we're using:

  • As of April 2018, our Elixir service consumes 165 GB of data (supporting all projects, with some data duplication). Therefore, a 256 GB (SSD!) disk should be fine for most needs.
  • The server has 64GB of DDR4 ECC RAM, and a E3-1245 v5 CPU running at 3.50GHz (4 cores / 8 threads).

Supporting a new project

Elixir has a very simple modular architecture that allows to support new source code projects by just adding a new file to the Elixir sources.

Elixir's assumptions:

  • Project sources have to be available in a git repository
  • All project releases are associated to a given git tag. Elixir only considers such tags.

First make an installation of Elixir by following the above instructions. See the projects subdirectory for projects that are already supported.

Once Elixir works for at least one project, it's time to clone the git repository for the project you want to support:

cd /srv/git
git clone --bare

Now, in your LXR_PROJ_DIR directory, create a new directory for the new project:

mkdir -p zephyr/data
ln -s /srv/git/zephyr.git repo

Now, go back to the Elixir sources and test that tags are correctly extracted:

./ list-tags

Depending on how you want to show the available versions on the Elixir pages, you may have to apply substitutions to each tag string, for example to add a v prefix if missing, for consistency with how other project versions are shown. You may also decide to ignore specific tags. All this can be done by redefining the default list_tags() function in a new project/<projectname>.sh file. Here's an example (projects/ file):

    echo "$tags" |
    grep -v '^zephyr-v'

Note that <project_name> must match the name of the directory that you created under LXR_PROJ_DIR.

The next step is to make sure that versions are classified as you wish in the version menu. This classification work is done through the list_tags_h() function which generates the output of the ./ list-tags -h command. Here's what you get for the Linux project:

v4 v4.16 v4.16
v4 v4.16 v4.16-rc7
v4 v4.16 v4.16-rc6
v4 v4.16 v4.16-rc5
v4 v4.16 v4.16-rc4
v4 v4.16 v4.16-rc3
v4 v4.16 v4.16-rc2
v4 v4.16 v4.16-rc1

The first column is the top level menu entry for versions. The second one is the next level menu entry, and the third one is the actual version that can be selected by the menu.

If the default behavior is not what you want, you will have to customize the list_tags_h function.

You should also make sure that Elixir properly identifies the most recent versions:

./ get-latest

If needed, customize the get_latest() function.

You are now ready to generate Elixir's database for your new project:


You can then check that Elixir works through your http server.

Note: this documentation applies to version 0.3 of Elixir.