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A software repository is a storage location from which software packages may be retrieved and installed on a computer. Arch Linux package maintainers (developers and Trusted Users) maintain a number of official repositories containing software packages for essential and popular software, readily accessible via pacman. This article outlines those officially-supported repositories.
Most of the repository splits are for historical reasons. Originally, when Arch Linux was used by very few users, there was only one repository known as [official] (now [core]). At the time, [official] basically contained Judd Vinet's preferred applications. It was designed to contain one of each "type" of program -- one DE, one major browser, etc.
There were users back then that did not like Judd's selection, so since the Arch Build System is so easy to use, they created packages of their own. These packages went into a repository called [unofficial], and were maintained by developers other than Judd. Eventually, the two repositories were both considered equally supported by the developers, so the names [official] and [unofficial] no longer reflected their true purpose. They were subsequently renamed to [current] and [extra] sometime near the release version 0.5.
Shortly after the 2007.8.1 release, [current] was renamed [core] in order to prevent confusion over what exactly it contains. The repositories are now more or less equal in the eyes of the developers and the community, but [core] does have some differences. The main distinction is that packages used for Installation CDs and release snapshots are taken only from [core]. This repository still gives a complete Linux system, though it may not be the Linux system you want.
Now, sometime around 0.5 or 0.6, they found there were a lot of packages that the developers did not want to maintain. One of the developers (Xentac) set up the "Trusted User Repositories", which were unofficial repositories in which trusted users could place packages they had created. There was a [staging] repository where packages could be promoted into the official repositories by one of the Arch Linux developers, but other than this, the developers and trusted users were more or less distinct.
This worked for a while, but not when trusted users got bored with their repositories, and not when untrusted users wanted to share their own packages. This led to the development of the AUR. The TUs were conglomerated into a more closely knit group, and they now collectively maintain the [community] repository. The Trusted Users are still a separate group from the Arch Linux developers, and there is not a lot of communication between them. However, popular packages are still promoted from [community] to [extra] on occasion. The AUR also supports allowing untrusted users to submit PKGBUILDs for other users to use if they wish. These packages are unsupported, and the packages are sometimes called the [unsupported] repository, though since no binary packages are distributed, unsupported is not really a repository. Trusted users can adopt packages from unsupported into [community] at their discretion, whether it is because the package is popular or because they are interested in maintaining it.
After a kernel in [core] broke many user systems the "core signoff policy" was introduced, since then all package updates for [core] need to go through a [testing] repository first, only after multiple signoffs from other developers they were allowed to move. Over time it was noticed various [core] packages have low usage and user signoffs or even lack of bugreports became informally accepted as criteria to accept such packages. Late 2009/begin 2010, with the advent of some new filesystems (and the desire to support them during installation) and the realization that the [core] repository was never clearly defined (just "important packages, handpicked by developers") - although some developers required "enough usage among developers to warrant signoffs" before adoption into [core] - the repository received a more accurate description (see below).
The [core] repository can be found in core/os/i686 or core/os/x86_64 on your favorite mirror. It has fairly strict quality requirements:
- developers and/or users need to signoff on updates before package updates are accepted.
- for packages with low usage a reasonable exposure (as in: inform people about update, request signoffs, keep in testing for a few days up to a week depending on the severity of the change) lack of outstanding bugreports, along with the implicit signoff of the package maintainer is enough).
It contains packages which:
- are needed to boot any kind of supported Arch system.
- may be needed to connect to the internet.
- are essential for package building.
- can manage and check/repair supported filesystems.
- virtually anyone will want or need early in the system setup process (like openssh).
- are dependencies (but not necessarily makedepends) of the above.
This repository is included in the core installation media, so you can build a fully working base system without internet access.
The [extra] repository can be found in extra/os/i686 or extra/os/x86_64 on your favorite mirror. It contains all packages that do not fit in [core]
Example: X.org, window managers, web servers, media players, languages like Python and Ruby, and a lot more.
The [community] repository can be found in community/os/i686 or community/os/x86_64 on your favorite mirror. It is maintained by the Trusted Users (TUs) and is part of the Arch User Repository (AUR). It contains packages from the AUR that have enough votes and were adopted by a TU.
The [multilib] repository can be found in multilib/os/x86_64 on your favorite mirror. It contains 32 bit libraries that can be used to run 32 bit applications like the flash plugin and skype in 64 bit installation.
The [testing] repository can be found in testing/os/i686 on your favorite mirror. [testing] is special because it contains packages that are candidates for the [core] or [extra] repositories. New packages go into [testing] if:
- they are expected to break something on update and need to be tested first
- they require other packages to be rebuilt. In this case, all packages that need to be rebuilt are put into [testing] first and when all rebuilds are done, they are moved back to the other repositories.
[testing] is the only repository that can have name collisions with any of the other official repositories. If enabled, it has to be the first repository listed in your pacman.conf file.
Be careful when enabling [testing]. Your system may break after you perform an update with the [testing] repository enabled. Only experienced users who know how to deal with potential system breakage should use it.
The [testing] repository is not for the "newest of the new" package versions. Part of its purpose is to hold package updates that have the potential to cause system breakage, either by being part of the [core] set of packages, or by being critical in other ways. As such, users of the [testing] repository are strongly encouraged to subscribe to the arch-dev-public mailing list, watch the [testing] Repository Forum, and to report all bugs to the bug tracker.
If you enable testing, you must also enable community-testing.
The [community-testing] repository is like the [testing] repository but for packages that are candidates for the [community] repository.
If you enable community-testing, you must also enable testing.
[unsupported] a.k.a The AUR
[unsupported] is the web based repository that is commonly referred to as the AUR, or Arch User Repository.* Users can submit source packages containing various build files including PKGBUILDs to this repository. This is an unofficial and unsupported repository which is not directly accessible via pacman. To install a package from [unsupported] a user would have to download and extract the source package, run makepkg which downloads upstream sources and builds the package, and finally install the built package using pacman. One of the popular AUR Helpers may be used to help with these tasks.
Unofficial user repositories
A few users run public but unofficial custom repositories. See Unofficial User Repositories.