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Package software from any package manager to any distribution

Project description

Universal Packaging Tool (upt)

A unified CLI tool that converts a package from a language-specific package manager (such as PyPI or NPM) to an almost ready-to-use package for Free Unix-based operating systems (such as a GNU/Linux distribution or *BSD).


Please note that Python 3.6 or newer is required to run upt.

You may install upt from PyPI:

$ pip install upt

You may also install it from the Git repository or a tarball:

$ python install

By itself, upt is useless. It requires frontends and or backends to provide useful features. See the list of available frontends/backends at the end of this document. You may install them by running:

$ pip install upt-pypi
$ pip install upt-openbsd
$ pip install ...

You may also install upt and all its frontends by running:

$ pip install upt[frontends]

You may also install upt and all its backends by running:

$ pip install upt[backends]

You may also install upt and all of its frontends and backends by running:

$ pip install upt[frontends,backends]


You may get help by running:

$ upt --help

Upt gathers data about a package using a frontend and writes a package definition using a backend. You may list all installed frontends and backends by running:

$ upt list-frontends
$ upt list-backends

To package the requests library from PyPI for GNU Guix, just write:

$ upt package --frontend pypi --backend guix requests

Or, using shorter options:

$ upt package -f pypi -b guix requests

You may also want to recursively package all of its requirements:

$ upt package -f pypi -b guix -r requests

You may also want to package a version other than the latest one:

$ upt package -f pypi -b guix requests@2.16.0

The package definition will be written to the standard output.

You may update an existing package to the latest version:

$ upt package -f pypi -b guix -u requests

You may update an existing package to a specific version:

$ upt package -f pypi -b guix -u requests@2.22.0

Under the hood

There are two kinds of places from where packages may be installed:

  • language specific package repositories (CPAN, CRAN, CTAN, Hackage, NPM, PyPI, RubyGems, etc.)
  • traditional, language agnostic package managers (apt for Debian, dnf for Fedora, Nix, Guix, pkgsrc, the OpenBSD ports, etc.)

Packages available on the former are usually also packaged in the latter ones. Since packaging is a tedious and repetitive task, packagers have written tools to assist them in this endeavor: Guix has "guix import", a collection of scripts that parse CPAN, PyPI and other language specific package repositories and generate a Guix package definition; Debian has tools such as pypi2deb, npm2deb... The same goes for RPM-based distributions, and other operating systems.

Let's talk about PyPI. It seems that (almost) every single distribution has (or will have) a tool that parses PyPI. Whatever the distribution may be (Debian, Fedora, Guix...), parsing PyPI is basically always the same thing: it is just reading a JSON document. This code is not shared among distributions though, which means that they all end up writing the same kind of code. The same is true for other language specific package managers.

The distribution specific code is usually not even shared among the various tools provided by said distribution. Writing an OpenBSD port always involve creating a directory, writing the maintainer's name to a Makefile, etc. These operations are common to all packages: they should not be rewritten over and over by every single tool OpenBSD developers may end up using. The same is true for Debian: creating a Debian package involves a lot of operations that are not truly specific to the piece of software being packaged.

We may also note that all these tools come with their own interface: packagers working with more than one package repository and/or more than one distribution therefore have to use different interfaces to perform similar tasks.

The Universal Packaging Tool (upt) aims at providing package maintainers with a unified CLI that harnesses the power of a modular infrastructure, meant to factorize as much code as possible. Upt is the "core" of the project. It exposes a CLI and a small Python library that defines an internal representation for packages. Two kind of objects have to talk to upt:

  • frontends, which parse a package repository and return information about a given package using upt's internal representation;
  • backends, which turn the internal representation of a package into a valid package definition for a language agnostic package manager.

This is basically what other common tools do: the GCC compiler has frontends for languages and backends for CPU architectures. Similarly, pandoc can convert files from one markup language to another using various frontends and backends.

                |               |          |                  |
   Package      |      upt      |    upt   |       upt        |    Package
 Repositories   |   Frontends   |          |     Backends     |  Definitions
                |               |          |                  |
  +------+      |  +----------+ |  +-----+ |  +-------------+ |  +----------+
  |      |      |  |          | |  |     | |  |             | |  |          |
  | PyPI |------|->| upt-pypi |-|->|     |-|->|  upt-guix   |-|->| Guix pkg |
  |      |      |  |          | |  |     | |  |             | |  |          |
  +------+      |  +----------+ |  |     | |  +-------------+ |  +----------+
                |               |  | upt | |                  |
  +------+      |  +----------+ |  |     | |  +-------------+ |  +----------+
  |      |      |  |          | |  |     | |  |             | |  |          |
  | CPAN |------|->| upt-cpan |-|->|     |-|->| upt-openbsd |-|->| Makefile |
  |      |      |  |          | |  |     | |  |             | |  |          |
  +------+      |  +----------+ |  +-----+ |  +-------------+ |  +----------+
                |               |          |                  |

Here we can see that using the upt-pypi and upt-cpan frontends, upt is able to retrieve information about packages hosted on CPAN and PyPI. Then, using the upt-guix backend, it can generate a package definition suitable for GNU Guix; using the upt-openbsd backend, it can generate a Makefile suitable for OpenBSD's ports.

Using this modular approach, we solved our two issues:

  • We will only ever need one PyPI parser, one CPAN parser, etc.
  • We will only have one backend per distribution. Backends will not be truly language-agnostic: the build systems will not be the same for Python packages and Ruby packages, for instance. Still, a lot of code may be factorized: the creation of the required directories, the writing of some common metadata...

Last but not least, frontends and backends are not part of the upt core project. Every backend, every frontend is a separate project, living in its own repository, written by its own team. This way, nobody has control over the full project, and different communities may make different technical choices (testing tools, coding standards, version control systems...) without having to impose them upon everyone else.

Contributing to upt

You may contribute by sending patches to or by opening a pull request.

Your patches should not break anything, so, prior to sending them, be sure to run:

$ tox -eflake8
$ tox -epy36

You may also want to contribute to one of the frontends/backends: they are separate projects, so you should not send your patches to upt.

Adding frontends or backends

New frontend/backend using cookiecutter

You may create the whole directory structure for a new frontend/backend using cookiecutter. This will also write some code and create a first git commit including everything you need to get started. Simply type:

$ cookiecutter

And answer the questions prompted on the screen. The next two sections describe the structure of a frontend and a backend.

Adding a frontend

Your setup.cfg should use an entry point, like this:

# Taken from the upt-rubygems project
upt.frontends =
    rubygems = upt_rubygems.upt_rubygems:RubyGemsFrontend

Alternatively, if you want to use

    entry_points = { 
        'upt.frontends': [

Let us now look at the implementation of a frontend:

import upt
class MyFrontEndPackage(upt.Package):

class MyFrontendParser(upt.Parser):
        name = 'myfrontend'

        def parse(self, pkg_name):
            return MyFrontendPackage(pkg_name,
                version=...,  # A string, such as '1.2.3'
                homepage=...,  # A string
                summary=...,  # A string containing a short description
                description=...,  # A string, containing a longer description
                # upt.PackageRequirement takes two arguments:
                # - the name of the package
                # - a version specifier, as defined in
                    'config': [
                         upt.PackageRequirement('config-dep', '==1.4'),
                    'build': [
                         upt.PackageRequirement('build-dep', '>1.2'),
                    'run': [
                         upt.PackageRequirement('runtime-dep', ''),
                    'test': [
                         upt.PackageRequirement('test-dep', '<=2.3'),
                # The license(s) used by this package, as instances of
                # upt.License. The upt project provides a lot of licenses in
                # the upt.licenses module. Use help(upt.licenses) to see the
                # whole list.
                # If you may not determine the nature of a licenses, you should
                # return upt.UnknownLicense().
                # The list of licenses may be empty.
                    upt.Archive('', size=1234,
                                md5='md5', rmd160='rmd160', sha256='sha256')

The most interesting method here is MyFrontendParser.parse. It must return a upt.Package object (you may define a subclass such as MyFrontendPackage if you wish). Only the package name and its version must be passed to the constructor, all other fields are optional.

Adding a backend

Your setup.cfg should use an entry point, like this:

# Taken from upt-openbsd
upt.backends =
    openbsd = upt_openbsd.upt_openbsd:OpenBSD

Alternatively, if you want to use

    entry_points = { 
        'upt.backends': [

Let us now look at the implementation of a backend:

import upt
class MyBackend(upt.Backend):
    # The name of the backend: this is what will be seen in the output of
    # "upt --list-backends".
    name = 'mybackend'

    # Should you wish to use the "--recursive" flag, in order to recursively
    # package all dependencies of your package, you must define the following
    # method, which returns a list of all versions of a given package currently
    # packaged in your backend.
    def package_versions(self, package_name):
        """Return a list of available versions of PACKAGE_NAME"""
        raise NotImplementedError

    # Alternatively, you could redefine the following method to have complete
    # control over the decision to package (or not package) the given
    # requirement:
    # def needs_requirement(self, req, phase):

    def create_package(self, upt_pkg, output=None):
        # Parameters:
        # - upt_pkg: an instance of upt_pkg. See the "Adding a frontend"
        #            section for more info on its fields.
        # - output: currently unused, will always be None.

        # Do whatever you need to generate a valid "package definition" for
        # your package manager. Note that "upt_pkg.frontend" contains the name
        # of the frontend that was used: it should be helpful with the
        # language-specific parts of your backend.

        # Currently, all backends write the "package definition" to stdout.


Whether you are writing a frontend or a backend, you can use a logger provided by upt by running:

import logging
logger = logging.getLogger('upt')

See the logging module documentation for more info on how to use this logger.

Known frontends and backends

Supported frontends

Please tell us about your frontends!

Supported backends

Please tell us about your backends!


upt-cpan upt-pypi upt-rubygems
upt-fedora OK OK OK
upt-freebsd OK OK KO
upt-guix OK OK OK
upt-nix OK OK KO
upt-openbsd OK OK OK

Similar projects

Generic tools

fpm (Effing package management) is a tool quite similar to upt. It can turn packages from PyPI/RubyGems/etc. into packages for Debian/Fedora/etc. It features a unified command-line interface, a common behaviour for all target distributions, and a modular design.

The main difference with upt is that it does not generate the "source" of a package, but rather an installable package: it will generate a deb file rather than a debian/ directory, an rpm file rather than a spec file, etc. See this comment on the bug tracker for more information.

Per-distribution tools

Here are some tools used to turn a package from a language-specific archive to a package suitable for a general purpose package manager. We can see that GNU Guix, NetBSD and OpenBSD decided to write a single tool, thus having a unified CLI to access all upstream packages.

Debian Fedora Guix FreeBSD NetBSD OpenBSD
CPAN dh-make-perl cpan2rpm guix import ? url2pkg PortGen
NPM npm2deb npm2rpm N/A ? url2pkg ?
PyPI pypi2deb pyp2rpm guix import pytoport url2pkg PortGen
Ruby gem2deb gem2rpm guix import ? url2pkg PortGen


This project is distributed under the 3-Clause BSD License. See the LICENSE file.

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