The Ports & Packages collection


OpenBSD is a fairly complete system of its own, but still there is a lot of software that one might want see added. However there is the problem on where to draw the line as to what to include, as well as the occasional licensing and export restriction problems. As OpenBSD is supposed to be a small stand-alone UNIX-like operating system, some things just can't be shipped with the system.

The ports & packages collection does NOT go through the thorough security audit that OpenBSD follows. Although we strive to keep the quality of the packages collection high, we just do not have enough human resources to ensure the same level of robustness and security.

The port collection, originally borrowed from FreeBSD, fills this gap. The concept is to have, for each third-party software, a Makefile that controls

This information is kept in a directory hierarchy under the /usr/ports directory.

Packages are the binary equivalent of ports. A compiled port becomes a package that can be registered into the system using pkg_add(1).

Packages look like simple .tgz bundles, but they should always be added using pkg_add(1), as there might be some extra information that only pkg_add(1) knows how to handle. Tip: you can distinguish between packages and .tgz bundles using pkg_info(1).

Getting packages

A large collection of pre-compiled packages is available for most common architectures. Adding a package is as easy as pkg_add pkgname.tgz. If you are grabbing packages off a single source (a package repository), set PKG_PATH to that repository URL, in order to grab dependencies.

For instance, to install the gimp package for the 2.8 release on an i386 machine off the ftp site (including dependencies), do:

    # setenv PKG_PATH ftp://ftp.openbsd.org/pub/OpenBSD/2.8/packages/i386/
    # pkg_add ${PKG_PATH}gimp-1.1.27.tgz

Ports and packages update for an OpenBSD release

The 2.7 release saw the introduction of a stable branch for the ports tree.

For instance, to grab the stable branch for the 2.8 release:

    $ cd /usr/ports
    $ cvs -q -d anoncvs@some.anon.server:/cvs up -r OPENBSD_2_8 -Pd

Starting with the 2.8 release, selected binary packages are also made available. Thanks to Christian Weisgerber for handling the hard work of coordinating the stable branch changes. Please refer to the stable packages page to find out about updated packages and important updates to the stable branch.

Package names are always changed in case of a package update, to avoid any risk of confusion between a package from the release and a bug-fixed package.

Managing installed packages

The packages(7) manual page holds useful information about ways to manage installed packages, solve conflicts (files that already exist) and handle dependencies.

As of OpenBSD 2.8, to update a package you must:

This is slightly inconvenient, as packages may trigger dependencies, and you may have to remove a large subset of packages for an update.

Using ports

If a given package does not exist for your architecture, you may still be able to compile the port. Besides, some users will want to compile everything from source for various reasons.

You can ftp the release version from the pub/OpenBSD/[version] (where [version] is the release number) directory on any of the ftp mirror sites. The release versions are the ones we ship on our CDROM, and have gone through more testing than any snapshot. Further information is available in the ports(7) man page.

Life cycle of the ports tree

The ports tree, like the rest of OpenBSD, is constantly changing. The normal life cycle of the ports tree is as follows:

The change of status will be widely publicized on the Mailing lists.

The current ports tree may not be used with the previous release once the switch to tracking OpenBSD-current occurs. This is due to changes, typically with the port make process, that require code based upon the OpenBSD-current source tree.

The ports tree works as a single entity. Updating a single directory is not guaranteed to work, as package dependencies may force you to update and recompile vast portions of the ports tree. It is strongly suggested that people don't track ports-current unless they're prepared to deal with various problems. Mailing lists such as source-changes@openbsd.org or tech@openbsd.org will probably be invaluable.

The ports-current tree can be retrieved via:

Ports and XFree

There is some special magic in the OpenBSD XFree configuration files that allows the ports tree to install imake-based applications under /usr/local.

OpenBSD currently does not ship with XFree 4.0.x for various reasons. This ports magic does not work with the XFree 4.0.x distribution (yet). You will need to apply the patch in /usr/ports/infrastructure/patches/patch-xfree-4.0 to a default binary XFree 4.0.x distribution for it to work with the OpenBSD ports tree.

Future releases of XFree 4.0.x will probably include the necessary magic.

Example use of the Ports tree

Let's say you managed to get a ports tree and you want to compile and install the archiving utility unzip. You should be able to do something like this:

    % cd /usr/ports/archivers/unzip
    % su
    # make
    # make install
    # exit
Easy, huh ? Especially considering all that happened in the background:

With OpenBSD 2.8, almost all ports automatically build packages when installing.

As ports get built, the /usr/ports/distfiles directory gets filled with program sources, and /usr/ports/packages gets filled with binary packages. Users with low connectivity may refer to mirror-distfiles(7) for an efficient way to grab all distfiles at once. In OpenBSD-current, you can use the script /usr/ports/infrastructure/fetch/clean-old to track old distfiles. Note that the OpenBSD CD only include the ports tree and selected packages. If you wish to have the distfiles, you will have to get them through an independent way.

Creating new ports

If you are interested in helping to expand the OpenBSD ports tree you should first read porting.html. That page references the porting section of the FreeBSD handbook as well as OpenBSD specific policies and hints.

Problems and contacts

If you have trouble with existing ports, or need information about creating new ports, please send e-mail to the OpenBSD ports mailing list, ports@openbsd.org. Corrections are always welcome, but in any case do please provide:

For ports that don't build correctly, a complete build transcript is almost always required. Some ports may have configuration issues linked to what is already on your machine.
OpenBSD www@openbsd.org
$OpenBSD: ports.html,v 1.46 2000/12/18 03:21:41 espie Exp $