Chapter 20. The pkginstall framework

Table of Contents

20.1. Files and directories outside the installation prefix
20.1.1. Directory manipulation
20.1.2. File manipulation
20.2. Configuration files
20.2.1. How PKG_SYSCONFDIR is set
20.2.2. Telling the software where configuration files are
20.2.3. Patching installation
20.2.4. Declaring configuration files
20.2.5. Disabling handling of configuration files
20.3. System startup scripts
20.3.1. Disabling handling of system startup scripts
20.4. System users and groups
20.5. System shells
20.5.1. Disabling shell registration
20.6. Fonts
20.6.1. Disabling automatic update of the fonts databases

This chapter describes the framework known as pkginstall, whose key features are:

The following sections inspect each of the above points in detail.

You may be thinking that many of the things described here could be easily done with simple code in the package's post-installation target (post-install). This is incorrect, as the code in them is only executed when building from source. Machines using binary packages could not benefit from it at all (as the code itself could be unavailable). Therefore, the only way to achieve any of the items described above is by means of the installation scripts, which are automatically generated by pkginstall.

20.1. Files and directories outside the installation prefix

As you already know, the PLIST file holds a list of files and directories that belong to a package. The names used in it are relative to the installation prefix (${PREFIX}), which means that it cannot register files outside this directory (absolute path names are not allowed). Despite this restriction, some packages need to install files outside this location; e.g., under ${VARBASE} or ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR}. The only way to achieve this is to create such files during installation time by using installation scripts.

The generic installation scripts are shell scripts that can contain arbitrary code. The list of scripts to execute is taken from the INSTALL_FILE variable, which defaults to INSTALL. A similar variable exists for package removal (DEINSTALL_FILE, whose default is DEINSTALL). These scripts can run arbitrary commands, so they have the potential to create and manage files anywhere in the file system.

Using these general installation files is not recommended, but may be needed in some special cases. One reason for avoiding them is that the user has to trust the packager that there is no unwanted or simply erroneous code included in the installation script. Also, previously there were many similar scripts for the same functionality, and fixing a common error involved finding and changing all of them.

The pkginstall framework offers another, standardized way. It provides generic scripts to abstract the manipulation of such files and directories based on variables set in the package's Makefile. The rest of this section describes these variables.

20.1.1. Directory manipulation

The following variables can be set to request the creation of directories anywhere in the file system:

  • MAKE_DIRS and OWN_DIRS contain a list of directories that should be created and should attempt to be destroyed by the installation scripts. The difference between the two is that the latter prompts the administrator to remove any directories that may be left after deinstallation (because they were not empty), while the former does not. Example:

    MAKE_DIRS+=             ${VARBASE}/foo/private
  • MAKE_DIRS_PERMS and OWN_DIRS_PERMS contain a list of tuples describing which directories should be created and should attempt to be destroyed by the installation scripts. Each tuple holds the following values, separated by spaces: the directory name, its owner, its group and its numerical mode. For example:

    MAKE_DIRS_PERMS+=       ${VARBASE}/foo/private \
                            ${REAL_ROOT_USER} ${REAL_ROOT_GROUP} 0700

    The difference between the two is exactly the same as their non-PERMS counterparts.

20.1.2. File manipulation

Creating non-empty files outside the installation prefix is tricky because the PLIST forces all files to be inside it. To overcome this problem, the only solution is to extract the file in a known place (i.e., inside the installation prefix) and copy it to the appropriate location during installation (done by the installation scripts generated by pkginstall). We will call the former the reference file in the following paragraphs, which describe the variables that can be used to automatically and consistently handle files outside the installation prefix:

  • REQD_FILES is a list of pairs of reference and target files. At installation time, the reference file is copied to the target if and only if the latter does not exist. Upon deinstallation, the reference file is removed provided that it was not modified by the installation.

  • REQD_FILES_PERMS contains tuples describing reference files and targets, including owner, group, and numeric permissions that should be set. For example:

    REQD_FILES_PERMS+=      ${PREFIX}/share/somefile ${VARBASE}/somefile \
                            ${REAL_ROOT_USER} ${REAL_ROOT_GROUP} 0700
  • CONF_FILES and CONF_FILES_PERMS have the same syntax as REQD_FILES and REQD_FILES_PERMS respectively. The difference is that these variables are specifically intended for handling configuration files, for which additional conventions and constraints apply. See Section 20.2, “Configuration files” for further discussion. Note in particular that while handling of configuration files can be disabled by the user (see Section 20.2.5, “Disabling handling of configuration files”), this setting does not affect REQD_FILES and REQD_FILES_PERMS.

To install an empty file, one can use these macros and /dev/null as the reference file.

20.2. Configuration files

There are two principles that govern the handling of configuration files in pkgsrc: first, the user's configuration must not be lost or overwritten by upgrades or reinstallations; and second, the default configuration should always be available for reference. To that end, pkgsrc has a framework specifically for handling configuration files. In general, configuration files are installed into ${PREFIX}/share/examples, and copied from there to the pertinent etc directory as a separate step and only as needed.

To make this work, there are three things that need to happen, any of which may require patching. First, the package must be told to read its configuration from the correct place at runtime; this place is ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR} (or possibly a subdirectory of it) which is often but not always ${PREFIX}/etc. Second, the package must be taught to install its default configuration files in ${PREFIX}/share/examples/${PKGBASE}; this is the point at which patching often becomes required because it is not the same place as the runtime location. Third, the configuration files need to be declared in the package makefile; this is the easy part.

With those elements in place, the right things will happen: the package install phase and resulting binary package will not touch ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR}, and the default configuration will be copied into place by the pkgsrc framework only if not already present. Similarly, upon deinstall the configuration will not be removed if it has been modified. (This means that in the case of reinstallation and upgrades, unmodified configuration files are updated but modifications are never discarded.)

The following sections describe how to make these things happen and document other relevant knobs available in the pkgsrc infrastructure.

20.2.1. How PKG_SYSCONFDIR is set

As said before, the PKG_SYSCONFDIR variable specifies where configuration files shall be installed. Its contents are set based upon the following variables:

  • PKG_SYSCONFBASE: The configuration's root directory. Defaults to ${PREFIX}/etc although it may be overridden by the user to point to their preferred location (e.g., /etc, /etc/pkg, etc.). Packages must not use it directly.

  • PKG_SYSCONFSUBDIR: A subdirectory of PKG_SYSCONFBASE under which the configuration files for the package being built shall be installed. The definition of this variable only makes sense in the package's Makefile (i.e., it is not user-customizable).

    As an example, consider the Apache package, www/apache24, which places its configuration files under the httpd/ subdirectory of PKG_SYSCONFBASE. This should be set in the package Makefile.

  • PKG_SYSCONFVAR: Specifies the name of the variable that holds this package's configuration directory (if different from PKG_SYSCONFBASE). It defaults to PKGBASE's value, and is always prefixed with PKG_SYSCONFDIR.

  • PKG_SYSCONFDIR.${PKG_SYSCONFVAR}: Holds the directory where the configuration files for the package identified by PKG_SYSCONFVAR's shall be placed.

Based on the above variables, pkginstall determines the value of PKG_SYSCONFDIR, which is the only variable that may be used within a package to refer to its configuration directory. The algorithm used to set its value is basically the following:

  1. If PKG_SYSCONFDIR.${PKG_SYSCONFVAR} is set, its value is used.

  2. If the previous variable is not defined but PKG_SYSCONFSUBDIR is set in the package's Makefile, the resulting value is ${PKG_SYSCONFBASE}/${PKG_SYSCONFSUBDIR}.

  3. Otherwise, it is set to ${PKG_SYSCONFBASE}.

It is worth mentioning that ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR} is automatically added to OWN_DIRS. This causes it to be automatically created if needed. See Section 20.1.1, “Directory manipulation” for further details. This does not apply to subdirectories of ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR}; they must be manually created with OWN_DIRS or MAKE_DIRS.

20.2.2. Telling the software where configuration files are

Given that pkgsrc (and users!) expect configuration files to be in a known place, you need to teach each package where to install its files. In some cases you will have to patch the package Makefiles to achieve it. If you are lucky, though, it may be as easy as passing an extra flag to the configuration script. This is the case for packages using GNU autoconf:


Note that this specifies where the package has to look for its configuration files, not where they will be installed. Fortunately, there is a different way to specify the latter, as seen in the next section, although the combination is rather confusing at first glance.

20.2.3. Patching installation

As discussed above, packages themselves must not touch the contents of ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR} directly. Bad news is that many software installation scripts will, out of the box, mess with the contents of that directory. So what is the correct procedure to fix this issue?

You must teach the package (usually by manually patching it) to install any configuration files under the examples hierarchy, share/examples/${PKGBASE}/. This way, the PLIST registers them and the administrator always has the original copies available.

It turns out that for packages using GNU autoconf it is possible to create the desired effect by setting sysconfdir on the make command line at install time. Consider this example taken from mail/mutt:

EGDIR=                  ${PREFIX}/share/examples/mutt

Note that the EGDIR variable, though commonly used for this purpose, is local to that package and has no meaning outside it.

20.2.4. Declaring configuration files

Once the required configuration files are in place (i.e., under the examples hierarchy), the pkginstall framework can use them as reference copies during the package installation to update what is in ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR}. To achieve this, the variables CONF_FILES and CONF_FILES_PERMS are used. Check out Section 20.1.2, “File manipulation” for further information about their syntax and their purpose. Here is an example, taken from the mail/mutt package:

EGDIR=                  ${PREFIX}/share/examples/mutt
CONF_FILES=             ${EGDIR}/Muttrc ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR}/Muttrc

Note that (as in the previous section's example) the EGDIR variable is specific to the package and has no meaning outside it.

For reference, the complete example from Mutt is as follows:

CONFIGURE_ARGS+=        --sysconfdir=${PKG_SYSCONFDIR}
EGDIR=                  ${PREFIX}/share/examples/mutt
CONF_FILES=             ${EGDIR}/Muttrc ${PKG_SYSCONFDIR}/Muttrc

20.2.5. Disabling handling of configuration files

The automatic copying of config files can be toggled by setting the environment variable PKG_CONFIG prior to package installation.

20.3. System startup scripts

System startup scripts are special files because they must be installed in a place known by the underlying OS, usually outside the installation prefix. Therefore, the same rules described in Section 20.1, “Files and directories outside the installation prefix” apply, and the same solutions can be used. However, pkginstall provides a special mechanism to handle these files.

In order to provide system startup scripts, the package has to:

  1. Store the script inside ${FILESDIR}, with the .sh suffix appended. Considering the print/cups-base package as an example, it has a in its files directory.

  2. Tell pkginstall to handle it, appending the name of the script, without its extension, to the RCD_SCRIPTS variable. Continuing the previous example:

    RCD_SCRIPTS+=   cupsd

Once this is done, pkginstall will do the following steps for each script in an automated fashion:

  1. Process the file found in the files directory applying all the substitutions described in the FILES_SUBST variable.

  2. Copy the script from the files directory to the examples hierarchy, ${PREFIX}/share/examples/rc.d/. Note that this reference file must be explicitly registered in the PLIST.

  3. Add code to the installation scripts to copy the startup script from the examples hierarchy into the system-wide startup scripts directory.

20.3.1. Disabling handling of system startup scripts

The automatic copying of config files can be toggled by setting the environment variable PKG_RCD_SCRIPTS prior to package installation. Note that the scripts will be always copied inside the examples hierarchy, ${PREFIX}/share/examples/rc.d/, no matter what the value of this variable is.

20.4. System users and groups

If a package needs to create special users and/or groups during installation, it can do so by using the pkginstall framework.

Users can be created by adding entries to the PKG_USERS variable. Each entry has the following syntax:


Further specification of user details may be done by setting per-user variables. PKG_UID.user is the numeric UID for the user. PKG_GECOS.user is the user's description or comment. PKG_HOME.user is the user's home directory, and defaults to /nonexistent if not specified. PKG_SHELL.user is the user's shell, and defaults to /sbin/nologin if not specified.

Similarly, groups can be created by adding entries to the PKG_GROUPS variable, whose syntax is:


The numeric GID of the group may be set by defining

If a package needs to create the users and groups at an earlier stage, then it can set USERGROUP_PHASE to either configure,build, or pre-install to indicate the phase before which the users and groups are created. In this case, the numeric UIDs and GIDs of the created users and groups are automatically hardcoded into the final installation scripts.

20.5. System shells

Packages that install system shells should register them in the shell database, /etc/shells, to make things easier to the administrator. This must be done from the installation scripts to keep binary packages working on any system. pkginstall provides an easy way to accomplish this task.

When a package provides a shell interpreter, it has to set the PKG_SHELL variable to its absolute file name. This will add some hooks to the installation scripts to handle it. Consider the following example, taken from shells/zsh:

PKG_SHELL=      ${PREFIX}/bin/zsh

20.5.1. Disabling shell registration

The automatic registration of shell interpreters can be disabled by the administrator by setting the PKG_REGISTER_SHELLS environment variable to NO.

20.6. Fonts

Packages that install X11 fonts should update the database files that index the fonts within each fonts directory. This can easily be accomplished within the pkginstall framework.

When a package installs X11 fonts, it must list the directories in which fonts are installed in the FONTS_DIRS.type variables, where type can be one of ttf, type1 or x11. This will add hooks to the installation scripts to run the appropriate commands to update the fonts database files within each of those directories. For convenience, if the directory path is relative, it is taken to be relative to the package's installation prefix. Consider the following example, taken from fonts/dbz-ttf:

FONTS_DIRS.ttf= ${PREFIX}/share/fonts/X11/TTF

20.6.1. Disabling automatic update of the fonts databases

The automatic update of fonts databases can be disabled by the administrator by setting the PKG_UPDATE_FONTS_DB environment variable to NO.