the Robot Construction Kit


What is Autoproj

Autoproj allows to easily install and maintain software that is under source code form (usually from a version control system). It has been designed to support a package-oriented development process, where each package can have its own version control repository (think “distributed version control”). It also provides an easy integration of the local operating system (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, maybe MacOSX at some point).

This tool has been developed in the frame of the RubyInMotion project (, to install robotics-related software – that is often bleeding edge. Unlike the ROS build system, it is not bound to one build system, one VCS and one integration framework. The philosophy behind autoproj is:

  • supports both CMake and autotools, and can be adapted to other tools
  • supports different VCS: cvs, svn, git, plain tarballs.
  • software packages are plain packages, meaning that they can be built and installed /outside/ an autoproj tree, and are not tied at all to the autoproj build system.
  • leverage the actual OS package management system. Right now, only Debian-like systems (like Ubuntu) are supported, simply because it is the only one I have access to.
  • handle code generation properly

It tries as much as possible to follow the lead of Willow Garage on the package specification. More specifically, the package manifest files are common between ROS package management and autoproj (more details in the following of this document).

Overview of an autoproj installation

The idea in an autoproj installation is that people share definitions for a set of packages that can depend on each other. Then, anyone can cherry-pick in these definitions to build its own installation (in practice, one builds a complete configuration per-project).

Each package definition includes:

  • how to get the package’s source code
  • how to build the package
  • on what the package depends. This can be either another package built by autoproj, or an operating system package.

See this page for more information.

Software packages in Autoproj

In the realm of autoproj, a software package should be a self-contained build system, that could be built outside of an autoproj tree. In practice, it means that the package writer should leverage its build system (for instance, CMake) to discover if the package dependencies are installed, and what are the appropriate build options that should be given (for instance, include directories or library names).

As a guideline, we recommend that inter-package dependencies are managed by using pkg-config.

To describe the package, and more importantly to setup cross-package dependencies, an optional manifest file can be added.