Creating Packages

David Macek edited this page Jul 10, 2018 · 9 revisions

The MSYS2 software distribution uses a port of Pacman from Arch Linux to manage (install, remove and update) binary packages and also to build those packages in the first place.

General information

There are 3 package repositories, msys2, mingw32, and mingw64. msys2 software (from the msys2 repository) is software that depends on msys-2.0.dll and is very similar to Cygwin software (which is a POSIX emulation layer for Windows). Native Windows software (from this project's perspective) is software that doesn't depend on msys-2.0.dll, and links dynamically to the highly compatible msvcrt.dll.

In this document, to attempt to avoid confusion, MSYS2 refers to the software distribution while msys2 or msys refers to the repository, the packages in that repository and the software in those packages that link to msys-2.0.dll.

Package recipes

Packages are built from programmatic recipes to ensure builds are reproducible. A recipe is a set of files which describe how to build, package and install a given piece of software; these are often specific to MSYS2.

In the simplest form it is a single file named PKGBUILD, which contains metadata for the package, a specification where the source for the given software can be found, and a few lines of code which that takes the source and builds the final software from it. For more complex cases it also contains install scripts or a number of patch files which are needed to be applied on the released version of the upstream software in order to be able to compile and work in the given environment.

Typically, each recipe is in its own directory. The directory is also used when building as a working place by default.

PKGBUILD

Use 2 spaces for indentation: expand -t 2 PKGBUILD > PKGBUILD.new && mv PKGBUILD.new PKGBUILD

A PKGBUILD is a bash script defining variables and functions that are then used by the build system to create the package. The PKGBUILD manpage and the [PKGBUILD wikipage on ArchWiki)(https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PKGBUILD) are good sources to read about all the details of PKGBUILDs. The mingw PKGBUILDs are loosely based on the mingw-w64 cross-compilation packages guidelines in Arch Linux. If you don't want to read all that just yet, just read some existing PKGBUILDs; the purpose of most parts should be obvious.

Patch files

When creating a patch file, you can use the following naming convention for its name: ###-target-Purpose.patch

Where

  • ### a sequence number, starting from 001
  • target, is the package name and version (separated by a hyphen) for which the patch was first created
  • [Purpose] describes what the patch is fixing or improving

Building

The actual build and packaging is done by running makepkg or makepkg-mingw. The former is used to build msys2 packages and the latter for mingw packages. To learn more, read the makepkg manpage and the makepkg wikipage on ArchWiki. When building either msys or native software, you should use the MSYS shell, not the MINGW{32,64} shells.

The process happens in multiple phases:

  • download, verify and extract - the package sources are downloaded if necessary, checked against checksums and PGP signatures if specified, and extracted into a working directory (src by default)
  • prepare() - using this function, the packager can specify what should happen with the sources before the actual build; apply patches and source modifications here
  • build() - this function contains commands to run the build tool(s), e.g. ./configure and make
  • check() - an optional step to check the build products by e.g. running the software's test suite
  • package() - this function is provided with a temporary directory, where it should put the final contents of the package using e.g. make install
  • tidy, archive and sign - the package contents are scanned for some issues, tidied up and packaged into the final .tar.xz with an optional signature in .tar.xz.sig

The makepkg tool takes arguments allowing you to turn off some phases or some checks. The typical usage is makepkg -sCLf for a full build and makepkg -RdLf for a "re-package". Re-packaging is useful when the process failed in package() and you don't want to run the long build part again. makepkg-mingw takes the same arguments.

Re-building a package

To get you started, you can try just re-building an existing package. This may also be helpful if you need to diagnose an issue and need the debugging symbols.

An example of fetching the msys repository source, building and then installing a package from it is:

git clone "https://github.com/Alexpux/MSYS2-packages"
cd MSYS2-packages/flex
makepkg -sCLf
pacman -U flex-*.pkg.tar.xz

An example of fetching the mingw repository source, building and then installing a package from it is:

git clone "https://github.com/Alexpux/MINGW-packages"
cd MINGW-packages/mingw-w64-python3
makepkg-mingw -sCLf
pacman -U mingw-w64-*-python3-*-any.pkg.tar.xz

A new package from start to finish

Please do not create pull requests for PKGBUILDs that just repackage binary releases from other projects. This is contrary to the goals of MSYS2. If the software cannot be built for some reason then try to fix the cause of that.

  1. Decide which subsystem to target (msys or mingw)
  2. Build the software in the target subsystem
  3. Test the functionality
  4. Create patches if necessary and repeat
  5. Prepare a recipe
  6. Build the package
  7. Install the package locally
  8. Test the installed package
  9. Modify the recipe if necessary and repeat
  10. Commit the new package to the target repository (on your own GitHub account)
  11. Send a pull request to merge the new repice into the official repository
  12. Check CI results, reviews and comments
  13. Fix issues if necessary and repeat
  14. Offer your fixes to the software's developers (upstream)

The steps above describe an intuitive process of going from the idea of creating a package to making it available to you and others using pacman. You can of course customize the process to suit you and your situation.

Once you are familiar with the process, we recommend creating recipes and using makepkg straight away for all packages. It's a great way to record your build steps in a reproducible way, which is not only useful for you, but also for other people when asked for help with the builds.

Which subsystem?

In MSYS2 there are 2 types of packages:

  • msys packages - these run on the emulation layer and are typically POSIX-only programs
  • mingw packages - these run natively just like any other Windows program

You should think of these two systems as separate where msys2 packages should generally only be build dependencies of mingw packages. You also can't link a mingw program against an msys library.

This means you first need to decide which subsystem (and which repository) is the right one for your new package. The set of things that belong to the msys2 subsystem is pretty small:

  • essential POSIX stuff: filesystem, msys2-runtime, ...
  • the native toolchain: gcc, binutils, gdb, ...
  • supporting programs that are hard to port to Windows: pacman, bash, automake, make, ...
  • programs for bridging the gap: mintty, winpty, ...
  • supporting programs, even though they're portable: python, man, vim, git, ...
  • carefully chosen useful tools: mc, ssh, rsync, lftp, ...
  • dependencies of these packages

In other words, if a program is needed to build native software, but is itself hard to port, it can be made into a msys2 package. Anything else needs to be done as a mingw package or vetted individually.

Build software

In order to be able to compile a software or build a package you need to install basic packages, as the MSYS2 install does not contain build tools.

The core packages groups you need to install if you wish to build from PKGBUILDs are:

  • base-devel for any building
  • msys2-devel for building msys2 packages
  • mingw-w64-i686-toolchain for building mingw32 packages
  • mingw-w64-x86_64-toolchain for building mingw64 packages

If you don't install the required package group, building might fail with unexpected errors. Note that -- contrary to what you might expect -- base-devel doesn't contain gcc nor binutils.

Test software

Check that the software does what it should. Try its testsuite.

Patch software

If the software doesn't work straight away or doesn't even build, you'll probably need to pass some arguments to the build scripts or modify (patch) its build system, its source code, its definitions files etc. Such patches will be stored as files alongside the PKGBUILD.

This part is very specific to each software and may require searching the Internet, talking to the software's developers or support team, talking to us etc. The Porting wikipage may help with some common issues. While it is probably okay to make quick (monkey-)patches that fix the software for our use case (and possibly break it for every other), is it better to make proper surgical-precision patches and attempt to have them accepted by the software developer ("upstream").

Recipe

Create a PKGBUILD describing all the steps necessary to build and package the software, including any patches or additional files. Make sure the follow the style and ideas of other recipes if applicable. A good strategy is to find some existing working recipes that use the same build system as your software does and use them as a template for your recipe. You can also take inspiration from an official Arch Linux (or unofficial AUR) recipe for your software.

Build package

Run the makepkg command (makepkg or makepkg-mingw) on your recipe.

makepkg-mingw is essentially a wrapper that does a few checks, sets up the correct environments and runs makepkg twice, once for mingw32 and once for mingw64. If you want to build just for one architecture (e.g. if you're on 32-bit Windows), you'll need to define MINGW_INSTALLS in the environment, with either mingw32 or mingw64 as the value, for example:

MINGW_INSTALLS=mingw32 makepkg-mingw -sCLf

... or you could export it from ~/.profile so it's set up automatically:

export MINGW_INSTALLS=mingw32

Note that if you want to contribute, we'd appreciate it if you test your packages on both architectures (32 and 64 bits), which is only possible on a 64-bit Windows system. If you can't do that for some reason, we can test your pull requests on a 64-bit system.

Install package

If the package build successfully, it's good to check its contents first before installing to see if it contains what you intended. When installing (using pacman -U pkgname-pkgver-arch.tar.xz), pacman checks for any filesystem conflicts and then places the package contents into your MSYS2 root as it would do with any other package. You can also remove the package using pacman -R pkgname.

Test package

Make sure the package installed all the files which it's supposed to distribute: executables, shared and static libraries, configuration files, header files, licenses, documentation etc.

Pay special attention to the configuration files and make sure they are not containing hard-coded path elements and are pointing to the right location. Typical config files:

  • *-config files in the ${prefix}/bin directory
  • *.pc files for pkg-config in the ${prefix}/lib/pkgconfig directory
  • *.cmake files in the ${prefix}/lib/cmake directory

Verify that the package works even if installed into a clean updated MSYS2 installation, preferably not in the default C:\msys{32,64} location (and maybe even temporarily rename your primary MSYS2 installation root). This checks that you specified the runtime dependencies correctly and that the software doesn't try to use hard-coded paths from your build.

Modify package

If there are issues, fix them in your PKGBUILD and re-build or re-package as necessary. Make sure you're not using stale build products or source files from a previous build (use the -C flag for makepkg).

Commit

Integrate your recipe into your local clone of the msys2-packages or mingw-packages repository. In order to help us avoid accumulating useless commits in the repository, please follow these guidelines:

  • create a new branch for your work
  • put all your work into it, preferrably in just 1 commit
  • if you want to pull changes from our repository, use the rebasing strategy (git pull --rebase) to place your commits above ours, do not just merge
  • if you need to change something in your recipe, amend your existing commit (git commit --amend)
  • push your new branch onto your repository "fork" on your GitHub account, using git push --force-with-lease if necessary

Altough these guidelines (which rely heavily on rewriting history) are not suitable for public development on main branches (master etc.), they're an excellent match for this kind the iterative work-in-progress development that happens when contributing new packages.

Send PR

Open and send a pull request against the master branch of the official repositories on GitHub, currently residing under the user @Alexpux (links here). Please include a short description of what you're submitting and why. In case your recipe is not final yet, add "[do not merge]" to the title and explain in the description.

Check

Our CI systems will automatically try to build your package, but don't panic if the build fails. Unfortunately, the CI systems are not perfect and may fail even if your package is fine.

The project maintainers will try to look at your PR and review it. This may take some time and sometimes happens in bursts, so don't be discouraged if you get no response for a few days, but don't be afraid to explicitly ask for help or a review on our IRC channel.

Fix

If there are any issues pointed out, try to fix them and update your pull request. GitHub will automatically refresh the pull request when you push to your branch, there is no need to create a new PR. After pushing, add a comment to the PR to notify the reviewers.

If there are no issues with the package, it will be merged. Please note that this doesn't make the package immediately available through pacman. The binary repositories are updated in bursts.

Upstream

In case you had to made changes in order to be able to compile and run properly (and hence created patches), please make an effort to submit proper patches and PRs to the upstream project so that the patches can be removed from our repositories and can be of use to other Windows developers.

Resources

Read through our wiki, especially about pacman and the Porting section.

Useful packages and tools

Package Purpose
mingw-w64-{i686,x86_64}-qt-creator to build/debug qmake, qbs, autotools and cmake based packages
mingw-w64-{i686,x86_64}-codelite-git if you dislike qt-creator
mingw-w64-{i686,x86_64}-gedit to avoid notepad and notepad++
mingw-w64-{i686,x86_64}-meld3 to compare files and directories
perl-ack Faster, better replacement for grep
mingw-w64-{i686,x86_64}-ag Very fast replacement for grep or perl-ack

Various links

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