Scripts for building Emacs packages from Version Control
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MELPA is a growing collection of package.el-compatible Emacs Lisp packages built automatically on our server from the upstream source code using simple recipes. (Think of it as a server-side version of el-get, or even homebrew.)

Packages are updated when changes are made to the MELPA repository, or at least daily.

If you just want to browse and install packages, check out the archive index page for instructions.

Adding packages is as simple as submitting a pull request; read on for details.

About the name

MELPA is Milkypostman's ELPA or Milkypostman's Experimental Lisp Package Archive if you're not into the whole brevity thing.


  • buildpkg -- Create an archive of the package(s) passed as arguments to the script. Built packages are put in the packages/ folder with version corresponding to the newest HEAD revision available; given according to the %Y%m%d format.

  • melpa -- All the logic for generating everything in the repository based on the recipe files. By default this will clean the packages/ directory, build all packages listed under recipes/, and compile the index.html file for the melpa website front page.

The following arguments are accepted:

clear : clean out the packages/ directory

build : build all packages in pkglist

index : build the index.html file

validate : naively validate that the correct number of packages were built.

Note that these scripts require an Emacs with package.el installed, such as Emacs 24. If you have an older version of Emacs, you can get a suitable package.el here.


The package-build.el file contains all the heavy lifting. The scripts above call the package-build-archive function from the command-line to actually build the package(s).

Use (package-build-all) to build all melpa packages.

Alternatively you can load this file from within Emacs and issues commands from there.

The package-build.el automatically generates any required information for the package. For multi-file packages this include generating the file <NAME>-pkg.el which contains description, version, and requires information determined by searching <NAME>-pkg.el, <NAME>.el, and <NAME> if they exist in the repository.

Contributing New Packages

Packages are specified by files in the recipes directory. You can contribute a new package by adding a new file under recipes using the following form,

 :fetcher [git|github|bzr|hg|darcs|svn|wiki]
 [:url "<repo url>"]
 [:repo "github-user/repo-name"]
 [:files ("<file1>", ...)])

package-name : a lisp symbol that has the same name as the package being specified.

:url : specifies the URL of the version control repository. required for the git, bzr, hg, darcs and svn fetchers

:fetcher : specifies the type of repository that :url points to. Right now package-build supports git, github, bazaar (bzr), mercurial (hg), subversion (svn), darcs, and Emacs Wiki (wiki) as possible mechanisms for checking out the repository. With the exception of the Emacs Wiki fetcher, package-build uses the corresponding application to update files before building the package. The Emacs Wiki fetcher gets the latest version of the package from<NAME>.el where NAME is the package name. Note that the :url property is not needed for the wiki engine unless the name of the package file on the EmacsWiki differs from the package name being built. In the case of the github fetcher, use :repo instead of :url; the git URL will then be deduced.

:files : optional property specifying the explicit files used to build the package. Automatically populated by matching all .el files in the root of the repository. This is necessary when there are multiple .el files in the repository but the package should only be built from a subset.

Single File Repository

ido-ubiquitous is a repository that contains two files:

  • ido-ubiquitous.el

Since there is only one .el file, this package only needs the :url and :fetcher specified,

 :url ""
 :fetcher git)

Multiple Packages in one Repository

The emacs-starter-kit contains the starter-kit package along with extra packages in the modules directory; starter-kit-bindings, starter-kit-lisp, etc.

 :url ""
 :fetcher git)
 :url ""
 :fetcher git
 :files ("modules/starter-kit-bindings.el"))

Notice that :files is not specified for starter-kit since package-build will automatically add all .el files in the root directory of the repository. The starter-kit-bindings repository is contained in the modules/ subdirectory and thus needs the packages files specified explicitly.

Submitting the Package

You should first fork the MELPA repository, add your new file under recipes, and confirm your new package builds properly by running buildpkg <NAME>. You can install the package that you built by running the interactive command package-install-file in Emacs, and specifying the newly built package which should be in the packages/ subdirectory under the melpa directory.

After verifying the entry works properly please open a pull request on Github.


Packages end up in the packages/ directory by default. This can be configured using the package-build-archive-dir variable.

Repositories are checked out to the working/ directory by default. This can be configured using the package-build-working-dir variable.