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Package guidelines

General Assumptions

Installed package detection

odb uses very simple heuristics to determine whether a package is installed.

An odb package foo that's a library is considered installed if findlib knows about a library foo. For example, batteries installs itself using findlib with the package name batteries. odb knows about this by the is_library=true setting in that package's metadata.

Programs are expected to install (somewhere in the PATH) an executable named the same as their package name. For example, menhir installs an executable menhir. odb knows about this by the is_program=true setting in package metadata, and uses where to detect this executable.

As long as one of these conditions is satisfied, odb will be able to detect the installation of your package. Programs that are both libraries and executables may wish to be marked as both library and executable, so that if either is missing, odb will reinstall the package. This is not required, as one or the other may be more reliably detected. For example, oasis installs a findlib package named oasis and installs an executable oasis, and is marked as both is_library=true and is_program=true.

Programs that do not indicate in their metadata whether they are a library or a program will be detected as installed if either a library or executable is found with their name. This can lead to mis-identification, for example, for the ocaml library zip, it is important that the presence of the executable zip does not cause odb to determine the package is already installed. Thus it is recommended to give odb this information.

Tarball structure

When a package is extracted from its tarball, it is expected that either the tarball contains a single toplevel directory, inside which is the build infrastructure (make/oasis/omake) or that the tarball contains the contents of this toplevel directory (this is strongly discouraged). No assumptions are made on the name of this toplevel directory; whatever it's called, odb will detect it and use it for building. If there are multiple toplevel directories in the tarball, odb will guess one and try to install, but this is not recommended.

VCS structure

It is currently assumed that a VCS checkout will get everything in a release tarball. If needed, odb can be extended with pre-configure actions for VCS builds, but has no support for generating configure or at the moment.

Build systems

It is assumed that native and bytecode compilation will be done when possible, and only bytecode if native compilation is not available.


Oasis support is auto-detected by the presence of of in the package's root directory. An _oasis file is not currently sufficient, as this would require oasis to be installed. (odb TODO: install and run oasis in this case)

All projects packaged with oasis should work out of the box.

odb assumes that the following will work.

$ ocaml -configure [--prefix ~/.odb]
$ ocaml -build
$ [sudo] [OCAMLFIND_DESTDIR=~/.odb/lib] ocaml -install


OMake support is auto-detected by the presence of both OMakefile and OMakeroot. The following commands are assumed to be sufficient to build and install such a project:

$ omake
$ [sudo] [OCAMLFIND_DESTDIR=~/.odb/lib] omake install

Note that this currently does not support any --prefix option, so if the package installs by any means other than ocamlfind, it won't be installed well.

odb will fail if omake is not installed.


Makefile support is assumed if no other installation method is available. This may be changed in the future to check for a Makefile in the project root. odb detects the make executable by probing for gnumake, gmake and make in that order. The commands shown here will assume that make was detected.

If a configure file is present in the package root directory, the following will be run:

$ ./configure [--prefix ~/.odb]

Then make is invoked as follows:

$ make
$ [sudo] [OCAMLFIND_DESTDIR=~/.odb/lib] make install