Nonfree applications package guidelines
For many applications (most of which are Windows ones) there are neither sources nor tarballs available. Many of such applications can not be freely distributed because of license restrictions and/or lack of legal ways to obtain installer for no fee. Such software obviously can not be included into the official repositories but due to nature of AUR it is still possible to privately build packages for it, manageable with pacman.
There are multiple reasons for packaging even non-packageable software:
- Simplification of installation/removal process
- This is applicable even to the simplest of apps, which consist of a single script to be installed into
/usr/bin. Instead of issuing:
$ chmod +x filename
# cp filename /usr/bin/
- you can type just
# makepkg -i
- Most non-free applications are obviously much more complicated, but the burden of downloading an archive/installer from a homepage (often full of advertising), unpacking/decrypting it, hand-writing stereotypical launcher scripts and doing other similar tasks can be effectively lightened by a well-written packaging script.
- Utilizing pacman capabilities
- The ability to track state, perform automatic updates of any installed piece of software, determine ownership of every single file, and store compressed packages in a well-organized cache is what makes GNU/Linux distributions so powerful.
- Sharing code and knowledge
- It is simpler to apply tweaks, fix bugs and seek/provide help in a single public place like AUR versus submitting patches to proprietary developers who may have ceased support or asking vague questions on general purpose forums.
Avoid nonfree software when possible
Yes, it's better to leave this guide and spend some time searching (or maybe even creating) alternatives to an application you wanted to package because:
- Packaging nonfree software is often messy and often against The Arch Way
- It is better to support software that is owned by us all than software that is owned by a company
- It is better to support software that is actively maintained
- It is better to support software that can be fixed if just one person out of millions care enough
Use open source variants where possible
Many commercial games (some are listed in this Wiki) have open source engines and many old games can be played with emulators such as ScummVM. Using open source engines together with the original game assets gives users access to bug fixes and eliminates several issues caused by binary packages.
Keep it simple
If the packaging of some program requires more effort and hacks than buying and using the original version - do the simplest thing, it is Arch!
Before choosing a name on your own, search in AUR for existing versions of the software you want to package. Try to use established naming conversion (e.g. do not create something like
-bin always unless you are sure there will never be source-based package – its creator would have to ask you (or in worst case TUs) to orphan existing package for him and you both will end up with PKGBUILDs cluttered with additional
Again, analyze existing packages (if present) and decide whether or not you want to conflict with them. Do not place things under
/opt unless you want to use some ugly hacks like giving ownership
root:games to the package directory (so users in group
games running the game can write files in the game's own folder).
For most commercial games there is no way to (legally) download game files, which is the preferable way to get them for normal packages. Even when it is possible to download files after providing a password (like with all Humble Indie Bundle games) asking user for this password and downloading somewhere in
build function is not recommended for a variety of reasons (for example, the user may have no Internet access but have all files downloaded and stored locally). The following options should be considered:
- There is only one way to obtain files
- Software is distributed in archive/installer
- Add the required file to
- This way the link to file in AUR web interface will look different from names of files included in source tarball.
- Add following comment on package page:
Need archive/installer to work.
- and explain the details in PKGBUILD source.
- Software is distributed on compact-disk
- Add installer script and
.installfile to package contents, like in package AUR.
- There are several ways to obtain files
Copying files from disk / downloading from Net / getting from archive during
build phase may look like a good idea but it is not recommended because it limits the user's possibilities and makes package installation interactive (which is generally discouraged and just annoying). Again, a good installer script and
.install file can work instead.
Few examples of various strategies for obtaining files required for package:
- AUR – dependency on user-provided file
- AUR – combining files from freely available patch and user-provided compact-disk
- AUR – autonomic fetching installer during build phase
- AUR – searching for disk via mountpoints
Some software authors aggressively protect their software from automatic downloading: ban certain "User-Agent" strings, create temporary links to files etc. You can still conveniently download this files by using
DLAGENTS variable in PKGBUILD. Despite being undocumented this way is used by some PKGBUILDs in official repositories, for example .
Following one-liner disguises curl as the most popular browser among novice computer users:
DLAGENTS=("http::/usr/bin/curl -A 'Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 8.0; Windows NT 6.1)' -fLC - --retry 3 --retry-delay 3 -o %o %u")
And following allows to extract temporary link to file from download page:
DLAGENTS=("http::/usr/bin/wget -r -np -nd -H %u")
Getting icons for .desktop files
Proprietary software often have no separate icon files, so there is nothing to use in .desktop file creation. Happily
.ico files can be easily extracted from executables with programs from package. You can even do it on fly during
build phase (example can be found in AUR).
Many proprietary programs are shipped in nasty installers which sometimes do not even run in Wine. Following tools may be of some help:
- and unpack executable SFX archives, based on this formats
.cabfiles (including ones with
can unpack most
- can extract CAB files from InstallShield installers
unpacks not only many archive formats but also
- it even can extract single sections from common PE (
- it even can extract single sections from common PE (
- is sometimes used to encrypt above-listed executables and can be used for decryption as well
.exeinstallers created with Inno Setup (used for example by GOG.com games) AUR can unpack
In order to determine exact type of file run