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AOSC OS Package Styling Manual

Comprehensive (and updated) Styling Manual for AOSC OS Packagers

Introduction and Rationale

The AOSC OS ABBS Tree is now home to over 5000 (and counting) packages, which are maintained by over 20 (historical and current) packagers. With more than 5 years of history behind some packages, issues began to emerge in the following fashion:

Without a comprehensive guildeline for packaging work in the future, these issues will not go away - rather, the list will grow longer and further degrade package qualities in our distribution. This Styling Manual seeks to provide sectioned and targetted sets of guidelines for fixing existing and new packages.

Packager, Package Names, and Descriptions

This section contains the three most basic descriptors for an AOSC OS package.

Packager Information

Packager, or "Maintainer", as referenced in Debian Packages (.deb), should have its value formatted as follows:

Executed Packager <[email protected]>

Package Names

Package names (PKGNAME=, or $PKGNAME) should be lower-cased, and otherwise comply with the choice of package manager.


Package descriptions (PKGDES=, or $PKGDES) are to be composed with the following guidelines:

However, it is worth noting that package descriptions found with AOSC OS packages should be descriptive, but not definitive. For example, an acceptable package description should look something like...

"Library with common API for various MATE modules"

Not less descriptive, like...

"MATE Desktop Library"

Nor excessively definitive and reproduce uncritically claims of the upstream projects, like...

"Library with concise and convenient API for various MATE modules"

Package Specs

In the current implementation of ACBS (Autobuild CI Build Service), three categories of variables are defined in a file named spec - these variables will be discussed below.

Versioning Variables

Versioning variable define the package's version and revision levels.


The VER=, or $VER variable defines the main version of the resulting package. When packaging for AOSC OS, packagers should take note of the following requirements. These requirements are presented in the table below.

SituationsAppropriate ActionsExamples
"Normal" versioning, with only "dot" separatorsRetain version, as defined by the upstream.GNOME Clocks 3.32.1 -> VER=3.32.1
Versions with letter notation(s)Lower-case all letter(s), and remove symbols surrounding the letter(s).Bind 9.12.3-P4 -> VER=9.12.3p4
Versions with dash(es) ("-")Replace the dash(es) with plus ("+") sign(s).ImageMagick 6.9.10-23 -> VER=6.9.10+23
Versions with underscore(s) ("_")Replace the underscore(s) with dot(s) (".").Icarus Verilog 10_2 -> VER=10.2
Versions with release stage notation(s) ("alpha", "beta", "rc", etc.)Lower-case all notations, "Beta" to "beta", etc. Prepend a tilde ("~").Golden Dict 1.5.0-RC2 -> VER=1.5.0~rc2
Versions with formatted date(s)Replace dash(es) ("-") with dots (".").QuickJS 2020-09-06 -> VER=2020.09.06
Git or other VCS snapshotsWrite last tagged version (e.g. "3.2.1") or "0" if never tagged, then append "+", VCS name (e.g. "git") and date of commit.Shadowsocks 5ff694b2c2978b432918dea6ac104706b25cbf48 -> VER=0+git20181219


The REL=, or $REL variable defines the revision level of the resulting package. This variable should only hold a single positive integer as its value, when a package is updated, the REL= line should be removed to indicate a revision level of 0.

Source Variables

Source variables define the package's source(s), and in the case of a VCS (version control system) based source, define in addition a specific source snapshot.


The SRCS=, or $SRCS variable is used to indicate a list of source file(s) used for a package. Requirements and recommendations are presented in the table below. For description on how to compose source entries, please refer to ACBS - Specification Files.

CriteriaRequired/Recommended/DiscouragedAppropriate Actions
URI schemesRecommendedUse Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS, https://) where possible. Avoid non-secure connections (http://) and plain FTP (File Transfer Protocol, ftp://).
Source formatRecommendedUse XZ-compressed Tar-Archives (.tar.xz) where possible, other formats are considered appropriate. Avoid the inefficient BZip2-compressed Tar-Archives (.tar.bz2) where possible.
Version substitutionsRequiredSource links must replace all versions with substitutions from the $VER variable (see above). SRCS= must not be defined with hard-coded version(s).
Versioned tarballsRequiredSource archives (tarballs) must be versioned in order to ensure consistency.
Platform-generated tarballsDiscouragedYou should not use generated tarballs from various platforms, especially those from GitHub and GitLab, which were known to be re-generated over time, altering checksums. Use git:: sources with the commit=tags/... option instead.


The CHKSUMS=, or $CHKSUMS variable is used in conjunction with $SRCS to define the proper checksum for specific source archive(s). The format is as follows.



For descriptions of different cryptographic hash algorithms, and for identification of insecure (and therefore unacceptable) algorithms, refer to this Wikipedia chapter under "Cryptographic Hash Function".

This variable is usually automatically generated with acbs-build -gw $PKGNAME.


The DUMMYSRC=, or $DUMMYSRC variable is used when a package is empty (meta package), or uses custom-generated sources. This variable takes a bolean value.


All packages, when possible or applicable, should be marked with the CHKUPDATE=, or $CHKUPDATE variable. Please refer to AOSC Find Update Syntax for syntax and available options.

Whenever possible, it is encouraged to use the anitya:: checker for your package.

Other Variables

Other variables may be used, so long as they are not any of the variables listed above. These variables are often used to aid with manipulating $SRCDIR, here's the spec file of app-devel/netbeans, for instance.



In the context of AOSC OS packaging, dependencies are arranged in two categories: run-time depedencies, and build-time dependencies. These dependencies are defined by PKGDEP= ($PKGDEP), and BUILDDEP= ($BUILDDEP), respectively.

Run-time Dependencies

Run-time dependencies should be written in such a way that, not only does the package function (programs run, libraries link, etc.), all linkages to the package should also be included. In the case of app-multimedia/ario, for instance, not only should $PKGDEP contain the following dependencies:

avahi, curl, dbus-glib, gnutls, hicolor-icon-theme, libglade, libmpdclient, libnotify, libsoup, libunique, taglib, xdg-utils

Which, through explicit and implicit dependencies, allows for a system environment that contains sufficient runtime for the program /usr/bin/ario to function. By the quality assurance standard, defined in code E432, all direct dependencies on the ELF level should also be included in $PKGDEP, and thus the addition of dbus to $PKGDEP is necessary.

Additional Notes

Build-time Dependencies

Build-time dependencies should written in such a way that the package will compile, install, and package successfully in the BuildKit build environment. Given this, any packages included in the BuildKit environment will not need to be included in $BUILDDEP. For example...

Package Features

When packaging for AOSC OS, please work in accordance to our distribution feature guide. The table below digests some of the common considerations when building packages for AOSC OS.

ConsiderationsAppropriate Actions
FeaturesEnable all features, unless a feature is unmaintained, or violates any of the other considerations in this table.
Language packs (dictionaries, locale data, etc.)Language packs must be included in the same package as the main executables, etc.
Splitting packagesPackages are to be remained intact, unless package comes in multiple flavours, or otherwise agreed upon by the developer majority.
TelemetryAll telemetry functionalities must be stripped or disabled by default (opt-in), packages that do not function without such feature should only be accepted on a case-by-case basis (rejected by default).
Update checkingAll update checking (notification, downloading, etc.) functionalities must be stripped, packages that do not function without such feature should only be accepted on a case-by-case basis (rejected by default).


While most packages could be built with one of the pre-defined Autobuild Types ($ABTYPES), and that patches could be applied automatically from the autobuild/patches directory (or via a pre-defined series file to specify patch order), some packages require manual preparation, patching, and build. This section is dedicated to prepare, patch, build, and beyond under the autobuild/ directory.

A general rule of thumb is to write such scripts secure (quoted) variables, sufficient comments, error control, architectural considerations, progression report, ... Writing easy-to-read and reliable build scripts is not easy, and the table below aims to aid you with making good scripting decisions.

Autobuild Build TemplatesRequiredPackagers should utilise Autobuild Types where possible, without using autobuild/build or ABTYPE=self.
Autobuild Build Template DefinitionRequiredPackagers should explicitly mark the ABTYPE=, or type of Autobuild build templates used by the package source.
Error HandlingRequiredBuild errors should be captured and handled appropriately.
Progression ReportingRequriedProgress should be reported by appropriately employing abinfo and abwarn wrappers, this is required for packages utilising the autobuild/build, or ABTYPE=self.
VerbosityRequiredBuild scripts should enable command verbosity where possible to help generate fuller logs for debugging.
Absolute PathsRequiredBuild scripts should prefix all in-source files, paths, and executables referenced with the build root ($SRCDIR), packaging root ($PKGDIR), or the shadow build prefix ($BLDDIR) (i.e., using "$SRCDIR"/configure versus ./configure); if you have cd'd into a directory, this rule does not apply for any files, paths, and executables referenced.
SymlinksRequiredUse relative paths when symlinking files in the system root to avoid file pollution when accessed from an external system.
Citations and ReferencesRequiredWhen adapting/copying build scripts from other distributions, packager must include a comment indicating the source(s) of the build script(s)
Secure VariablesRequiredVariables should be quoted, for example, all "$SRCDIR" and "$PKGDIR".
Architectural ConsiderationsRequiredUnless marked to fail on specific architectures ($FAIL_ARCH), you should assume that all scripts are tested and will work on all supported architectures.
FIXME CommentsRequiredAll known issues and workarounds must be marked with a # FIXME: comment indicating the reasoning. When possible, append an abbreviated build log for where the error occurred.
Other CommentsRecommendedGood scripts tend to be well commented. However, comments can be replaced with progression report clauses, see "Progression report".
MacrosRecommendedPlease make use of built-in macros, i.e., ab_apply_patches, ab_match_arch, etc. where possible to save on scripting complexity.
Line WidthsRecommendedPlease limit script lines to no more than 80 characters wide to make it more readable for others.

Patch Naming

Patches should follow a uniform and ordered format, before they are included in autobuild/patches/. See below for specific rules.

Git-based Sources

When dealing with Git-based sources, it is possible to create numbered patches from the following command:

git format-patch -n $HASH

Where n defines the amount of commits from the specific commit $HASH, including the specified commit. Alternatively, you can omit the $HASH...

git format-patch -n

To create a series of patches from n commits to the branch HEAD.

These commands generate a series patches like the following...


Other Sources

Without an automatic mean to generate patches, patches should be named in the following format.



Likewise, when including patch(es) from other distributions, they should also be renamed in accordance to the guidelines above.

File Placements

AOSC OS, like many other Linux Distributions, expect packaged files to be located in appropriate directories. Please reference the non-comprehensive table below for our standard of file placements.

Types of FilesAppropriate Placements
Binary or script executables/usr/bin
Binaries run by other programs/usr/libexec, unless hard-coded by other packages/components (GNOME, *ahem*)
Data files (no ELF, or architecturally-dependent scripts)/usr/share
Daemon user home/var/lib/$COMPONENTNAME, where an appropriate$COMPONENTNAME is decided in practice, for instance, /var/lib/lightdm
Go components and shared data/usr/share/gocode
Headers (includes)/usr/include
Java components (commons, etc.)/usr/share/java
Libraries (shared and static)/usr/lib
Non-manpage documentations/usr/share/doc/$PKGNAME
Private libraries/usr/lib/$COMPONENTNAME, where an appropriate$COMPONENTNAME is decided in practice, for instance, /usr/lib/R

Electron and Chromium-based Packages

Electron, Chromium, and other Chromium-based packages should be packaged with the following structure.

ComponentsAppropriate Placements
Binary executables/usr/bin, where the executable is a symbolic link to its target in /usr/lib/$PKGNAME
Desktop, AppStream, and other data files/usr/share
Main program data/usr/lib/$PKGNAME

Binary Packaging (Binpack)

Binary packages should not be installed to /opt, unless the package's licence prohibits such file movement. With adjustments and other modifications, these packages should be installed to the /usr prefix - should the packager find it impossible, they should consider rejecting such packages.

Stripping must also be disabled for binary packages by appending ABSTRIP=0 to defines.

Git Commit Messages

When committing (or contributing, if you like) to the AOSC OS ABBS Tree, please observe the commit message standards, shown in the table below.

ActionMessage FormattingSample Commit Message
Introducing a new package$PKGNAME: new, $PKGVERwindowsnt-kernel: new, 5.1.2600
Security fixes with version update$PKGNAME: update to $PKGVER; #NNNbash: update to 5.2; #114514, where #114514 is a reference to the original security report (GitHub issue)
Security fixes without version update, utilising distribution patch(es)$PKGNAME: ($DISTNAME patch[es], $CHANNEL) #NNNgnome-shell: (Ubuntu patches, 18.10) #2333, where #2333 is a reference to the original security report (GitHub issue)
Security fixes without version update, utilising upstream patch(es)$PKGNAME: (upstream patch[es]) #NNNaudacious: (upstream patches) #1919, where #1919 is a reference to the original security report (GitHub issue)
Updating a package$PKGNAME: update to $PKGVERmate-desktop: update to 1.22.0
Work-in-progress with a fail-to-build package$PKGNAME: ... (FTBFS)chromeos-desktop: update to 99.0.9999 (FTBFS), note that "FTBFS" stands for "Failed To Build From Source", this term is used loosely
Working with a package$PKGNAME: ...kde-workspace: add qt-5 dependency, just say what you did in present tense
Working with a package, multiple actions$PKGNAME: ...; ...gnome-shell: add at-spi2-core dependency; update to 3.32.0
Working with a package, utilising distribution patch(es)$PKGNAME: ($DISTNAME patch[es], $CHANNEL) ...qt-4: (Arch Linux patches) rebuild for openssl
Working with a package, utilising upstream patch(es)$PKGNAME: (upstream patch[es]) ...kodi: (upstream patch) fix lock-up on start-up
Working with a QA issue$PKGNAME: ... ($ISSUECODE)psiconv: rebuild for imagemagick (E431), for a list of QA issue codes, refer to this list
Working with an architecturally-exclusive package$PKGNAME: ... ($ARCH)google-chrome: new, 100.0.9999.999 (amd64)
Working with an architecturally-independent package$PKGNAME: ... (noarch)mate-common: update to 1.22.0 (noarch)

Long Messages

When more than one of the actions were committed, and that the short message goes beyond 50 characters (including space and punctuation marks), you should utilise a "long Git commit message", for example:

firefox: update to 64.0.2; #1536
    - Enable PGO on AMD64, patches from Fedora and upstream.
    - Clean up defines.
    - Remove deprecated --enable-pie option.
    - More vendor-specific preferences to further limit Pocket integration and telemetry.