the Robot Construction Kit

Creating a Package Set

A package set is made of three things:

  • the description file (source.yml)
  • an optional initialization script (init.rb) and override script (overrides.rb)
  • autobuild scripts (*.autobuild)

To create a new package set that is going to be shared with others, the simplest solution is to

  • create a new directory
  • add a source.yml file with just the set name in it:
name: my_package_set_name
  • push it to whatever VCS you want. For git and github, you would do something like

    git init
    git add source.yml
    git commit -m "create the my_package_set_name package set"
    git push
  • add the package set to autoproj/manifest and run

    autoproj update-config

At this stage, the empty set is properly checked out in autoproj/remotes/my_package_set_name. You can add package definition and VCS information (see below), test it with autoproj update an autoproj build, commit and push !

If you are not going to share the package set, the simplest solution is to just add the autobuild and version control information in autoproj/local.autobuild and autoproj/overrides.yml – i.e. to not create a separate package set at all.

Adding a package

Adding a package to a package set involves changing two files:

  • one of the package set’s autobuild file that declares what packages there are. Any file ending with .autobuild is loaded as an autobuild file by autoproj.
  • the package set’s source.yml file that declares where to get it (version control information)

For the first step, you need to add one of the following lines:

cmake_package "my/package" # for CMake package
autotools_package "my/package" # for autoconf/automake packages
orogen_package "my/package" # for orogen packages
import_package "my/package" # for custom packages
ruby_package "my/package" # for ruby libraries (optionally with C/C++ extensions)

The package name will be used to refer to this particular package later on – especially for version control definition. If subdirectories are used, like “my” in the above example, the package source will be checked out and built in the corresponding subdirectory. For instance, with

cmake_package "drivers/hokuyo"

the hokuyo driver will always be built in a drivers/ subdirectory.

Now that the package is declared, we need to add version control information to the source.yml file. This needs to be done in the version_control section of the file, as for instance:

  - my/package:
      type: git
      url: git://

The corresponding subversion definition would be:

  - my/package:
      type: svn
      url: svn+ssh://

For testing purposes, it is possible to tell autoproj to not take into account any VCS information:

  - my/package: none

See this page for details on the import mechanisms.

Autobuild scripts

The autobuild scripts lists all the packages defined by this set. It is a Ruby script (but you don’t need to know Ruby to write one). In its most simple form, it looks like:

cmake_package "orocos/rtt"
autotools_package "drivers/imu"
orogen_package "modules/imu"
import_package "external/sisl"
ruby_package "orocos/orocos.rb"

The above snippet lists the kind of packages autoproj currently supports. The first one uses CMake as a build system and will be installed in the orocos/rtt subdirectory of the autoproj installation. The second one is an autotools package. Additionally, there is support for orogen packages (i.e. Orocos components generated with orogen), packages that should be just imported but not build, and for Ruby packages. Package definitions can be tweaked quite a lot, including the ability to generate documentation. See the next page for more information on how to write autobuild scripts.


The source.yml file gives generic information on the package set itself (most importantly its name), and version control information (i.e. where to get the packages). It is a YAML file, and looks like:

name: rock.drivers
  ROOT_DIR: $HOME/share
  - "modules/.*":
      type: git
  - "drivers/.*":
      type: svn
      url: svn+ssh://$PACKAGE.git

The name field gives a name for the set. It is arbitrary, but the guideline is to give a name that is java-like for namespaces, i.e.

The constants: section lists values that can be reused for different packages. Autoproj defines muliple constants:

  • HOME is the user’s home directory,
  • PACKAGE is the expansion of the (complete) regular expression given as package name, i.e. here it might be ‘modules/yourpackage’
  • PACKAGE_BASENAME is the actual package name, useful when using wildcards in package names (see below)
  • AUTOPROJ_SOURCE_DIR path to the directory of the file which contains this constant
  • AUTOPROJ_ROOT path to the main installation folder
  • AUTOPROJ_CONFIG path to the autoproj configuration directory

It is also possible to use configuration variables, that get asked to the user during the build (see below).

Finally, the version_control: section describes how to import each software package. Its general format is:

  type: version_control_type # git, svn, cvs, darcs
  url: repository_url

Where package_name is a regular expression that matches the package name (for instance, “.*” will match all packages and “drivers/.*” will match packages whose name starts with ‘drivers’). The package name is the one given to the blabla_package stanza in the autobuild file.

For the git importer, one of ‘branch’ or ‘tag’ options can be provided as well:

  branch: branch_to_track
  tag: tag_to_stick_to # it is branch OR tag

The options are applied in order, meaning that the top entries will be overridden by the lower ones. In general, one will have a “.*” entry to give options for all packages, and then override for specific packages:

  - .*: # common options for all packages
      type: git
      url: $ROOT_DIR/$PACKAGE.git

  - "modules/logger": # we don't follow master on this module
      branch: imoby

Interaction between package sets definition files

When multiple package sets are used, it is possible to override the version control definitions in low-priority sets with a higher priority one. Autoproj has the following rules when searching for version control information:

  • autoproj looks at the package sets in the order they appear in the installation manifest
  • autoproj searches a relevant version_control field, and stops at the first package set that has one.
  • autoproj stops searching at the package set that defines the package. Consequence: this set must have a version_control field for it, and an error will be issued otherwise.

Using configuration options

autoproj offers a configuration system that allows the user to tweak the build to its needs. If the version control definitions depend on such configuration options (as, for instance, because you want to parametrize the importer URLs), then create an init.rb file next to the source.yml file, and add lines looking like:

configuration_option "option_name", "option_type",
    :default => "default_value",
    :values => ["set", "of", "possible", "values"],
    :doc => "description of the option"

where the option_type field can either be “string” or “boolean”.

Then, you can use the option_name as an expansion in the source.yml file.

For instance, at my lab we are using an share filesystem to store the git repositories. Our project’s init.rb file has the following option definition:

configuration_option "MOUNT_POINT", "string",
    :default => "$HOME/nfs",
    :doc => "mount point of the NFS server"

And the source.yml uses it with:

    url: $MOUNT_POINT/git/$PACKAGE.git
    type: git