Basic Concepts

opam-bin is a simple framework to use opam with binary packages. The framework is composed of:

  • A set of repositories containing binary packages. These repositories will only work for people using the same distribution on the same architecture. You will need to select carefully the right one if you want to use them. These repositories are provided by external contributors. Check this list
  • A git repository containing patches to make opam packages relocatable. Relocatable packages are needed because binary packages will be installed in different directories by different users. The repository is available here:
  • A tool called opam-bin to create and use binary packages, available here:

If you only want to use a repository of binary packages and not create them, you will only need to access one of the binary repositories in the first item, without the need for opam-bin. If you want to develop with a cache of binary packages, or to create repositories of binary packages, then you need to install opam-bin.

Binary packages

Binary packages created by opam-bin follow the following convention:

  • The binary package created from package $NAME.$VERSION is called $NAME.$VERSION+bin+$HASH, where $HASH is a unique hash. This hash is used because dependencies between binary packages are strict and cannot be changed.

  • An alias package called $NAME+bin.$VERSION is also generated, pointing to $NAME.$VERSION+bin+$HASH. You can use it to install the corresponding binary package. For example:

    $ opam install ocamlfind+bin

When opam-bin is installed and you ask to install a package NAME.VERSION, OPAM may decide to install the source package instead of the binary package. OPAM will always select the source package if you have a "NAME" { = VERSION } dependencies asking for the package.

HOWEVER, opam-bin will detect if there is a corresponding binary package, and if it is the case, it will install the binary package instead of compiling the package (opam will still show you the build steps, but these build steps will actually not be executed).

Relocatable packages

Binary packages have to be relocatable to be installed in many different locations. Most OCaml packages are relocatable, but some of them are not. For example, ocaml-base-compiler, ocaml-variants, ocamlfind, ocamlbuild, etc. If you want to create binary packages, you should only use relocatable packages.

We provide a specific git repository containing patches to make packages relocatable. This repository is available in the project:

It can be used automatically by opam-bin with any opam repository.

If you want to use or contribute to this repository, you may want to use a local version. You will then have to set the patches_url option, for example using the opam-bin config command:

opam bin config --patches-url file:///home/user/GIT/relocation-patches

Currently, it contains patches for the following packages:

  • apron
  • menhir
  • mlgmpidl
  • ocaml-base-compiler
  • ocaml-variants
  • ocamlbuild
  • ocaml-config
  • ocamlfind
  • ocamlfind
  • ocaml-variants

opam-bin will try to find the best patch for a given source package. For that, it will use the patch with the highest version less or equal to the current package version. If opam-bin cannot find such a patch, it will disable itself automatically and let opam build the package without using/creating binary packages.

File Structure

opam-bin creates the following file structure in the $HOME/.opam/ directory (or OPAMROOT):

  • ~/.opam/
    • plugins/opam-bin/
      • opam-bin.exe This file is the executable of opam-bin used in opam wrappers.
      • opam-bin.log This file is an internal log of opam-bin used for debugging its behavior.
      • cache/ This directory contains a cache of the archives of the binary packages created locally. It is necessary as the URLs in the opam files are not correct before the archives have been uploaded to their final location.
      • store/ This directory contains the files that have to be published to share binary packages between users/computers.
        • archives/ This directory contains all the archives of the binary packages that have been created locally.
        • repo/ This directory contains an opam repository that exposes the binary packages locally created. It is used locally by opam, and can be shared with other users/computers.
    • SWITCH/
      • etc/opam-bin/packages/ This directory contains, for every binary package that has been installed or built in the switch, its binary version.
      • .opam-switch/opam-bin This directory contains information on the packages viewed by opam-bin. In particular, it contains the opam file used to generate the binary package, the package patch if one was applied.

Patches Repository Structure

The git repository of patches follows the following structure:

  • patches/ directory:
    • NAME/ where NAME is the name of a package
      • VERSION.patch where VERSION is the minimal version to which this patch can be applied.
      • NAME.alias where NAME is another package name, whose patches should be used for this package.
      • VERSION=.patch where VERSION is a version that should exactly match the version of the package on which it should be applied