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A manager for checkouts of third-party source code dependencies.
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A simple manager for third-party source code dependencies.

Repoint is a program that manages a single directory within your project's working tree. This directory contains checkouts of the external source code repositories that are needed to build your program.

You might think of Repoint as an alternative to Mercurial subrepositories or Git submodules, but with less magic, fewer alarming failure cases, and support for libraries hosted using Mercurial, Git, or Subversion, regardless of what version control system is used for your main project.

You configure Repoint with a list of libraries, their remote repository locations, and any branch or tag information you want their checkouts to conform to. This list is stored in your repository, and when you run the Repoint utility, it reviews the list and checks out the necessary code.

With a normal installation of Repoint within a project, running

$ ./repoint install

should be sufficient to retrieve the necessary dependencies specified for the project.


Repoint was written as an alternative to Mercurial subrepositories for cross-platform C++ projects with numerous external dependencies, so as to manage them in a simple way without depending on a particular version control system and without using a giant mono-repository.

Repoint has four limitations that distinguish it from "proper" package managers like npm or Maven:

  1. It only knows how to check out library code in the form of complete version control repositories. There is no support for installing pre-packaged or pre-compiled dependencies. If it's not in a repository, or if cloning the repository would be too expensive, then Repoint won't help. (A corollary is that you should only use Repoint in development trees that are themselves checked out from a hosted repo; don't distribute source releases or end-user packages that depend on it. If your code is distributed via a "proper" package manager itself, use that package manager for its dependencies too.)

  2. It puts all third-party libraries into a subdirectory of the project directory. There is no per-user or system-wide package installation location. Every local working copy gets its own copy.

  3. It doesn't do dependency tracking. If an external library has its own dependencies, you have to be aware of those and add them to the configuration yourself.

  4. It doesn't know how to build anything. It just brings in the source code, and your build process is assumed to know what to do with it. This also means it doesn't care what language the source code is in or what build tool you use.

In turn it has one big advantage over "proper" package managers:

  1. It is equivalent to cloning a bunch of repositories yourself, but with a neater interface. That makes it unintrusive, easy to understand, able to install libraries that aren't set up to be packages, and usable in other situations where there isn't a package manager ready to do the job.

Installing Repoint

Repoint consists of four files which can be copied autotools-style into the project root. These are repoint, repoint.sml, repoint.bat and repoint.ps1. The file repoint.sml contains the actual program, while repoint, repoint.bat and repoint.ps1 are platform-specific wrappers. In this configuration, you should type ./repoint to run the Repoint tool regardless of platform. Alternatively the same files can be installed to the PATH like any other executables.

The Repoint distribution also includes a Bash script called which copies the four Repoint files into whichever directory you run the shell script from.

Platform support

Repoint has been tested on Linux, macOS, and Windows. It has continuous-integration testing across all three platforms, though it is much less thoroughly tested on Windows than the other two platforms.

Repoint requires a Standard ML compiler to be available when it is run. It supports Poly/ML, SML/NJ, or, on non-Windows platforms only, MLton and MLKit. It is fairly easy to install at least one of these on every platform Repoint is intended to support.

Repoint is a developer tool. Don't ask end-users of your software to use it.

  • Linux and macOS CI build: Build Status
  • Windows CI build: Build status

Setting up a Repoint project

List the external libraries needed for your project in a JSON file called repoint-project.json in your project's top-level directory.

A complete example of repoint-project.json:

    "config": {
        "extdir": "ext"
    "libraries": {
        "vamp-plugin-sdk": {
            "vcs": "git",
            "service": "github",
            "owner": "c4dm"
        "bqvec": {
            "vcs": "hg",
            "service": "bitbucket",
            "owner": "breakfastquay"

All libraries will be checked out into subdirectories of a single external-library directory in the project root; the location of this directory (typically ext) should be configured as the first thing in repoint-project.json. The directory in question should normally be excluded from your project's own version control, i.e. added to your .hgignore, .gitignore etc file. The usual expectation is that this directory contains only third-party code, and that one could safely delete the entire directory and run Repoint again to recreate it.

Libraries are listed in the libraries object in the config file. Each library has a key, which is the local name (a single directory or relative path) it will be checked out to within the external-library directory. Properties of a library may include

  • vcs - The version control system to use. Must be one of the recognised set of names, currently git, hg (Mercurial), or svn (Subversion).

  • service - The repository hosting service. Some services are built-in, but you can define further ones in a services section (see "Further configuration" below).

  • owner - User or project name of the owner of the repository on the hosting service.

  • repository - Repository name at the provider, if it differs from the local library name.

  • url - Complete URL to check out, as an alternative to specifying the service, owner, etc.

  • branch - Branch to check out if not the default.

  • pin - Specific revision id or tag to check out if not always the latest.

A library that has a pin property is pinned to a specific tag or revision ID, and once it has been checked out at that tag or ID, it won't be changed by Repoint again unless the specification for it changes. An unpinned library floats on a branch and is potentially updated every time repoint update is run.

Repoint creates a file called repoint-lock.json each time you update a project, which stores the versions actually used in the current project directory. This is then used by the command repoint install, which installs exactly the versions listed in the lock file. You can check this file into your version control system to ensure that other users get the same revisions when running repoint install themselves.

See "Advanced stuff" below for more per-project and per-user configuration possibilities.

Using the Repoint tool

Reviewing library status

Run repoint review to check and print statuses of all the configured libraries. This won't change the local working copies, but it does fetch any pending changes from remote repositories, so network access is required.

Run repoint status to do the same thing but without using the network. That's much faster but it can only tell you whether a library is present locally at all, not necessarily whether it's the newest version.

The statuses that may be reported by review or status are:

For unpinned libraries:

  • Absent: No repository has been checked out for the library yet

  • Correct: Library is the newest version available on the correct branch. If you run repoint status instead repoint review, this will appear as Present instead of Correct, as the program can't be sure you have the latest version without using the network.

  • Superseded: Library exists and is on the correct branch, but there is a newer revision available.

  • Wrong: Library exists but is checked out on the wrong branch.

For pinned libraries:

  • Absent: No repository has been checked out for the library yet

  • Correct: Library is checked out at the pinned revision.

  • Wrong: Library is checked out at any other revision.

A local status will also be shown:

  • Clean: The library has no un-committed local modifications.

  • Modified: The library has local modifications that have not been committed.

  • Differs from Lock: The library is checked out at a version that differs from the one listed in the repoint-lock.json file. Either the lock file needs updating (by repoint update or repoint lock) or the wrong revision is checked out and this should be fixed (by repoint install).

Note that at present Repoint cannot always report local modifications that have been committed but not pushed, although the presence of such a commit is one possible cause of the Differs from Lock status.

Installing and updating libraries

Run repoint install to install, i.e. to check out locally, all of the configured libraries.

If there is a repoint-lock.json file present, repoint install will check out all libraries listed in that file to the precise revisions recorded there. Otherwise it will follow any branch and/or pinned id specified in the project file.

Note that repoint install always follows the lock file if present, even if it contradicts the project file.

Run repoint update to update all the configured libraries according to the repoint-project.json specification, and then write out a new repoint-lock.json containing the resulting state.

Note that repoint update always ignores the existing contents of the lock file, but it does take into account the branch and pin specifications in the project file. Pinned libraries will be updated to the pinned version if they are in Absent or Wrong state; unpinned libraries will always be updated, which should have an effect only when they are in Absent, Superseded, or Wrong state.

Run repoint lock to rewrite repoint-lock.json according to the actual state of the installed libraries. (As repoint update does, but without changing any of the library code.)

Creating an archive file

To pack up a project and all its configured libraries into an archive file, run repoint archive with the target filename as argument, e.g. repoint archive /home/user/myproject-v1.0.tar.gz. This works by checking out a temporary clean copy of the project's own repository, so it requires that the project itself is version-controlled using one of the same version-control systems as Repoint supports for libraries.

Repoint expects the archive target filename to have one of a small set of recognised suffixes: .tar, .tar.gz, .tar.bz2, .tar.xz, and it requires that GNU tar or a compatible program be available in the current PATH. (This is unlikely to be straightforward on Windows.) Zip archives are not yet supported. You can explicitly exclude some files from the archive by adding one or more options of the form --exclude <path> after the target filename.

Advanced stuff

Changing the upstream origin of a library

If the upstream repository URL for a library changes -- e.g. if the library moves to a different provider, or if you want to pick up a different fork of it -- you can change its details in repoint-project.json to reflect the new location, and that location will be used for all subsequent Repoint operations.

This should work seamlessly for all of the supported version control systems, so long as the new location has the same root commit as before (i.e. it is not an unrelated repository) and so long as it uses the same version control system.

If you want to switch a library to check out from a repository unrelated to its current one, or switch it to a different version control system, then for the moment you will have to remove any existing checkout of that library by hand first.

Re-running Repoint from a build system when something changes

When a Repoint update or install process completes, Repoint touches an (empty) checkpoint file called .repoint.point in the project root directory. You can use this to check whether Repoint should be run: if .repoint.point is missing, or is older than either repoint-project.json or repoint-lock.json, then repoint install should be run before the build can complete.

A Makefile or other build system can include a rule to check this and run repoint install automatically, with some caveats:

  • If the build system reads recursive build files or dependencies from the external library directories, then the build system will itself need to be re-run after Repoint has installed the libraries;

  • Repoint is a developer tool, not an end-user tool: if your code is intended to be built by people who are not active developers of it, then it should be packaged in a way that does not require running Repoint to build it (for example using repoint archive).

Repoint supports a --directory option to tell it which directory is the project root, for use when being invoked from a build script in a different directory, such as in a shadow-build configuration.

Limitations when checking libraries out using Subversion

Libraries checked out from a Subversion repository are in basic cases handled identically to those checked out from Git or Mercurial. But there are some limitations specific to Subversion:

  • Repoint is not aware of the Subversion conventions for branching or tagging. Branches and tags must be specified by changing the checkout URL.

  • The lack of local history in a Subversion repo has an effect on the information that can be reported by Repoint. For example, repoint status can never report Superseded for a Subversion checkout.

  • If you modify and commit a Subversion repository, remember that you must subsequently run svn update in it before it has the right local revision ID. You may get confusing results from repoint commands if you forget to do this.

Adding new service providers

You can cause a library to be checked out from any URL, even one that is not from a known hosting service, simply by specifying a url property for that library.

Alternatively, if you want to refer to a service repeatedly that is not one of those hardcoded in the Repoint program, you can add a services property to the top-level object in repoint-project.json. For example:

    "config": {
        "extdir": "ext"
    "services": {
        "soundsoftware": {
            "vcs": ["hg", "git"],
            "anonymous": "{vcs}/{repository}",
            "authenticated": "https://{account}{vcs}/{repository}"
    "libraries": {

The above example defines a new service, local to this project, that can be referred to as soundsoftware in library definitions. This service is declared to support Mercurial and Git.

The anonymous property describes how to construct a checkout URL for this service in the case where the user has no login account there, and the authenticated property gives an alternative that can be used if the user is known to have an account on the service (see "User configuration" below).

The following variables will be expanded if they appear within curly braces in anonymous and authenticated URLs, when constructing a checkout URL for a specific library:

  • vcs - the version control system being used, as found in the library's vcs property.

  • owner - the owner of the repository, as found in the library's owner property.

  • repository - the name of the repository, either the library name or (if present) the contents of the library's repository property.

  • account - the user's login name for the service if known (see "Per-user configuration" below).

  • service - the name of the service.

Per-user configuration

You can provide some user configuration in a file called .repoint.json (with leading dot) in your home directory.

This file contains a JSON object which can have the following properties:

  • accounts - account names for this user for known service providers, in the form of an object mapping from service name to account name.

  • services - global definitions of service providers, in the same format as described in "Adding new service providers" above. Definitions here will override both those hardcoded in Repoint and those listed in project files.

As an example of .repoint.json with an accounts property:

    "accounts": {
        "github": "cannam",
        "bitbucket": "cannam"

Repoint may use a different checkout URL with services on which you have declared an account name, in order to take advantage of the possibility of using an authenticated protocol that can be pushed to using keychain authentication. For example, providing an account name may cause Repoint to switch to an ssh URL in place of a default https URL.

Author and licence

Repoint was written by Chris Cannam, copyright 2017-2018 Chris Cannam, Particular Programs Ltd, and Queen Mary University of London. It is free software provided under an MIT-style licence. See the file COPYING for details.

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