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FreeBSD Handbook : Contributing to FreeBSD : How to Contribute : Porting an existing piece of free software
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19.2.5. Porting an existing piece of free software

Contributed by Jordan K. Hubbard <jkh@FreeBSD.ORG>, Gary Palmer <gpalmer@FreeBSD.ORG>, Satoshi Asami <asami@FreeBSD.ORG> and David O'Brien <obrien@FreeBSD.ORG>.
28 August 1996.

The porting of freely available software, while perhaps not as gratifying as developing your own from scratch, is still a vital part of FreeBSD's growth and of great usefulness to those who would not otherwise know where to turn for it. All ported software is organized into a carefully organized hierarchy known as ``the ports collection''. The collection enables a new user to get a quick and complete overview of what is available for FreeBSD in an easy-to-compile form. It also saves considerable space by not actually containing the majority of the sources being ported, but merely those differences required for running under FreeBSD.

What follows are some guidelines for creating a new port for FreeBSD 3.x. The bulk of the work is done by /usr/share/mk/, which all port Makefiles include. Please refer to that file for more details on the inner workings of the ports collection. Even if you don't hack Makefiles daily, it is well commented, and you will still gain much knowledge from it. Before Starting the Port

Note: Only a fraction of the overridable variables (${..}) are mentioned in this document. Most (if not all) are documented at the start of This file uses a non-standard tab setting. Emacs and Vim should recognize the setting on loading the file. vi or ex can be set to using the correct value by typing `:set tabstop=4' once the file has been loaded.

You may come across code that needs modifications or conditional compilation based upon what version of UNIX it is running under. If you need to make such changes to the code for conditional compilation, make sure you make the changes as general as possible so that we can back-port code to FreeBSD 1.x systems and cross-port to other BSD systems such as 4.4BSD from CSRG, BSD/386, 386BSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD.

The preferred way to tell 4.3BSD/Reno (1990) and newer versions of the BSD code apart is by using the `BSD' macro defined in <sys/param.h>. Hopefully that file is already included; if not, add the code:

#if (defined(__unix__) || defined(unix)) && !defined(USG)
#include <sys/param.h>

to the proper place in the .c file. We believe that every system that defines these to symbols has sys/param.h. If you find a system that doesn't, we would like to know. Please send mail to FreeBSD ports mailing list <freebsd-ports@FreeBSD.ORG>.

Another way is to use the GNU Autoconf style of doing this:

#include <sys/param.h>

Don't forget to add -DHAVE_SYS_PARAM_H to the CFLAGS in the Makefile for this method.

Once you have <sys/param.h> included, you may use:

#if (defined(BSD) && (BSD >= 199103))

to detect if the code is being compiled on a 4.3 Net2 code base or newer (e.g. FreeBSD 1.x, 4.3/Reno, NetBSD 0.9, 386BSD, BSD/386 1.1 and below).


#if (defined(BSD) && (BSD >= 199306))

to detect if the code is being compiled on a 4.4 code base or newer (e.g. FreeBSD 2.x, 4.4, NetBSD 1.0, BSD/386 2.0 or above).

The value of the BSD macro is 199506 for the 4.4BSD-Lite2 code base. This is stated for informational purposes only. It should not be used to distinguish between version of FreeBSD based only on 4.4-Lite vs. versions that have merged in changes from 4.4-Lite2. The __FreeBSD__ macro should be used instead.

Use sparingly:

In the hundreds of ports that have been done, there have only been one or two cases where __FreeBSD__ should have been used. Just because an earlier port screwed up and used it in the wrong place does not mean you should do so too. Quick Porting

This section tells you how to do a quick port. In many cases, it is not enough, but we will see.

First, get the original tarball and put it into ${DISTDIR}, which defaults to /usr/ports/distfiles.

Note: The following assumes that the software compiled out-of-the-box, i.e., there was absolutely no change required for the port to work on your FreeBSD box. If you needed to change something, you will have to refer to the next section too.

Writing the Makefile

The minimal Makefile would look something like this:

 # New ports collection makefile for:	oneko
 # Version required:	1.1b
 # Date created:	5 December 1994
 # Whom:		asami
 # $Id$
 DISTNAME=	oneko-1.1b
 .include <>

See if you can figure it out. Do not worry about the contents of the $Id$ line, it will be filled in automatically by CVS when the port is imported to our main ports tree. You can find a more detailed example in the sample Makefile section.

Writing the description files

There are three required description files that are required for any port, whether they actually package or not. They are COMMENT, DESCR, and PLIST, and reside in the pkg subdirectory.


This is the one-line description of the port. PLEASE do not include the package name (or version number of the software) in the comment. Here is an example:

A cat chasing a mouse all over the screen.


This is a longer description of the port. One to a few paragraphs concisely explaining what the port does is sufficient. This is not a manual or an in-depth description on how to use or compile the port! Please be careful if you are copying from the README or manpage; too often they are not a concise description of the port or are in an awkward format (e.g. manpages have justified spacing). If the ported software has an official WWW homepage, you should list in here.

It is recommended that you sign the name at the end of this file, as in:

This is a port of oneko, in which a cat chases a poor mouse all over
the screen.

- Satoshi


This file lists all the files installed by the port. It is also called the `packing list' because the package is generated by packing the files listed here. The pathnames are relative to the installation prefix (usually /usr/local or /usr/X11R6). Also it is assumed the manpages will be compressed.

Here is a small example:


Refer to the pkg_create(1) man page for details on the packing list.

Creating the checksum file

Just type `make makesum'. The ports make rules will automatically generate the file files/md5.

Testing the port

You should make sure that the port rules do exactly what you want it to do, including packaging up the port. Try doing `make install', `make package' and then `make deinstall' and see if all the files and directories are correctly deleted. Then do a `pkg_add `make package-name`.tgz' and see if everything re-appears and works correctly. Then do another `make deinstall' and then `make reinstall; make package' to make sure you haven't included in the packing list any files that are not installed by your port.

Submitting the port

First, make sure you have read the Do's and Dont's section.

Now that you are happy with your port, the only thing remaining is to put it in the main FreeBSD ports tree and make everybody else happy about it too. We do not need your work/ directory or the pkgname.tgz package, so delete them now. Next, simply include the output of `shar `find port_dir`' in a bug report and send it with the send-pr(1) program. If the uncompressed port is larger than 20KB, you should compress it into a tarfile and use uuencode(1) before including it in the bug report (uuencoded tarfiles are acceptable even if the report is smaller than 20KB but are not preferred). Be sure to classify the bug report as category `ports' and class `change-request'.

One more time, do not include the original source distfile, the work/ directory, or the package you built with `make package'!

See Bug Reports and General Commentary for more information.

We will look at your port, get back to you if necessary, and put it in the tree. Your name will also appear in the list of `Additional FreeBSD contributors' on the FreeBSD Handbook and other files. Isn't that great?!? :) Slow Porting

Ok, so it was not that simple, and the port required some modifications to get it to work. In this section, we will explain, step by step, how to modify it to get it to work with the ports paradigm.

How things work

First, this is the sequence of events which occurs when the user first types `make' in your port's directory, and you may find that having in another window while you read this really helps to understand it.

But do not worry if you do not really understand what is doing, not many people do... :>

  1. The fetch target is run. The fetch target is responsible for making sure that the tarball exists locally in ${DISTDIR}. If fetch cannot find the required files in ${DISTDIR} it will look up the URL ${MASTER_SITES}, which is set in the Makefile, as well as our main ftp site at, where we put sanctioned distfiles as backup. It will then attempt to fetch the named distribution file with ${FETCH}, assuming that the requesting site has direct access to the Internet. If that succeeds, it will save the file in ${DISTDIR} for future use and proceed.
  2. The extract target is run. It looks for your port's distribution file in ${DISTDIR} (typically a gzip'd tarball) and unpacks it into a temporary subdirectory specified by ${WRKDIR} (defaults to work).
  3. The patch target is run. First, any patches defined in ${PATCHFILES} are applied. Second, if any patches are found in ${PATCHDIR} (defaults to the patches subdirectory), they are applied at this time in alphabetical order.
  4. The configure target is run. This can do any one of many different things.
    1. If it exists, scripts/configure is run.
    2. If ${HAS_CONFIGURE} or ${GNU_CONFIGURE} is set, ${WRKSRC}/configure is run.
    3. If ${USE_IMAKE} is set, ${XMKMF} (default: `xmkmf -a') is run.
  5. The build target is run. This is responsible for descending into the ports' private working directory (${WRKSRC}) and building it. If ${USE_GMAKE} is set, GNU make will be used, otherwise the system make will be used.

The above are the default actions. In addition, you can define targets `pre-<something>' or `post-<something>', or put scripts with those names, in the scripts subdirectory, and they will be run before or after the default actions are done.

For example, if you have a post-extract target defined in your Makefile, and a file pre-build in the scripts subdirectory, the post-extract target will be called after the regular extraction actions, and the pre-build script will be executed before the default build rules are done. It is recommended that you use Makefile targets if the actions are simple enough, because it will be easier for someone to figure out what kind of non-default action the port requires.

The default actions are done by the targets `do-<something>'. For example, the commands to extract a port are in the target `do-extract'. If you are not happy with the default target, you can fix it by redefining the `do-<something>' target in your Makefile.

Note that the `main' targets (e.g., extract, configure, etc.) do nothing more than make sure all the stages up to that one is completed and call the real targets or scripts, and they are not intended to be changed. If you want to fix the extraction, fix do-extract, but never ever touch extract!

Now that you understand what goes on when the user types `make', let us go through the recommended steps to create the perfect port.

Getting the original sources

Get the original sources (normally) as a compressed tarball (<foo>.tar.gz or <foo>.tar.Z) and copy it into ${DISTDIR}. Always use mainstream sources when and where you can.

If you cannot find a ftp/http site that is well-connected to the net, or can only find sites that have irritatingly non-standard formats, you might want to put a copy on a reliable http or ftp server that you control. If you are a FreeBSD committer, your public_html directory on freefall is ideal. Make sure you set MASTER_SITE to reflect your choice! If you cannot find somewhere convenient and reliable to put the distfile, we can `house' it ourselves by putting it on
as the last resort. Please refer to this location as ${MASTER_SITE_LOCAL}. Send mail to the FreeBSD ports mailing list <freebsd-ports@FreeBSD.ORG>if you are not sure what to do.

If your port requires some additional `patches' that are available on the Internet, fetch them too and put them in ${DISTDIR}. Do not worry if they come from site other than where you got the main source tarball, we have a way to handle these situations (see the description of ${PATCHFILES} below).

Modifying the port

Unpack a copy of the tarball in a private directory and make whatever changes are necessary to get the port to compile properly under the current version of FreeBSD. Keep careful track of everything you do, as you will be automating the process shortly. Everything, including the deletion, addition or modification of files should be doable using an automated script or patch file when your port is finished.

If your port requires significant user interaction/customization to compile or install, you should take a look at one of Larry Wall's classic Configure scripts and perhaps do something similar yourself. The goal of the new ports collection is to make each port as `plug-and-play' as possible for the end-user while using a minimum of disk space.

Note: Unless explicitly stated, patch files, scripts, and other files you have created and contributed to the FreeBSD ports collection are assumed to be covered by the standard BSD copyright conditions.


In the preparation of the port, files that have been added or changed can be picked up with a recursive diff for later feeding to patch. Each set of patches you wish to apply should be collected into a file named `patch-<xx>' where <xx> denotes the sequence in which the patches will be applied -- these are done in alphabetical order, thus `aa' first, `ab' second and so on. These files should be stored in ${PATCHDIR}, from where they will be automatically applied. All patches should be relative to ${WRKSRC} (generally the directory your port's tarball unpacks itself into, that being where the build is done). To make fixes and upgrades easier you should avoid having more than one patch fix the same file (e.g., patch-aa and patch-ab both changing ${WRKSRC}/foobar.c).


Include any additional customization commands to your configure script and save it in the `scripts' subdirectory. As mentioned above, you can also do this as Makefile targets and/or scripts with the name pre-configure or post-configure.

Handling user input

If your port requires user input to build, configure or install, then set IS_INTERACTIVE in your Makefile. This will allow `overnight builds' to skip your port if the user sets the variable BATCH in his environment (and if the user sets the variable INTERACTIVE, then only those ports requiring interaction are built). Configuring the Makefile

Configuring the Makefile is pretty simple, and again we suggest that you look at existing examples before starting. Also, there is a sample Makefile in this handbook, so take a look and please follow the ordering of variables and sections in that template to make your port easier for others to read.

Now, consider the following problems in sequence as you design your new Makefile:

The original source

Does it live in ${DISTDIR} as a standard gzip'd tarball? If so, you can go on to the next step. If not, you should look at overriding any of the ${EXTRACT_CMD}, ${EXTRACT_BEFORE_ARGS}, ${EXTRACT_AFTER_ARGS}, ${EXTRACT_SUFX}, or ${DISTFILES} variables, depending on how alien a format your port's distribution file is. (The most common case is `EXTRACT_SUFX=.tar.Z', when the tarball is condensed by regular compress, not gzip.)

In the worst case, you can simply create your own `do-extract' target to override the default, though this should be rarely, if ever, necessary.


You should set ${DISTNAME} to be the base name of your port. The default rules expect the distribution file list (${DISTFILES}) to be named ${DISTNAME}${EXTRACT_SUFX} by default which, if it is a normal tarball, is going to be something like:

for a setting of `DISTNAME=foozolix-1.0'.

The default rules also expect the tarball(s) to extract into a subdirectory called work/${DISTNAME}, e.g.


All this behavior can be overridden, of course; it simply represents the most common time-saving defaults. For a port requiring multiple distribution files, simply set ${DISTFILES} explicitly. If only a subset of ${DISTFILES} are actual extractable archives, then set them up in ${EXTRACT_ONLY}, which will override the ${DISTFILES} list when it comes to extraction, and the rest will be just left in ${DISTDIR} for later use.


When a package is created, it is put under /usr/ports/packages/All and links are made from one or more subdirectories of /usr/ports/packages. The names of these subdirectories are specified by the variable ${CATEGORIES}. It is intended to make life easier for the user when he is wading through the pile of packages on the ftp site or the CD-ROM. Please take a look at the existing categories (you can find them in the ports page) and pick the ones that are suitable for your port. If your port truly belongs to something that is different from all the existing ones, you can even create a new category name.


Record the directory part of the ftp/http-URL pointing at the original tarball in ${MASTER_SITES}. Do not forget the trailing slash (/)!

The make macros will try to use this specification for grabbing the distribution file with ${FETCH} if they cannot find it already on the system.

It is recommended that you put multiple sites on this list, preferably from different continents. This will safeguard against wide-area network problems, and we are even planning to add support for automatically determining the closest master site and fetching from there!

If the original tarball is part of one of the following popular archives: X-contrib, GNU, Perl CPAN, TeX CTAN, or Linux Sunsite, you refer to those sites in an easy compact form using MASTER_SITE_XCONTRIB, MASTER_SITE_GNU, MASTER_SITE_PERL_CPAN, MASTER_SITE_TEX_CTAN, and MASTER_SITE_SUNSITE. Simply set MASTER_SITE_SUBDIR to the path with in the archive. Here is an example:

MASTER_SITE_SUBDIR=   applications

The user can also set the MASTER_SITE_* variables in /etc/make.conf to override our choices, and use their favorite mirrors of these popular archives instead.


If your port requires some additional patches that are available by ftp or http, set ${PATCHFILES} to the names of the files and ${PATCH_SITES} to the URL of the directory that contains them (the format is the same as ${MASTER_SITES}).

If the patch is not relative to the top of the source tree (i.e., ${WKRSRC}) because it contains some extra pathnames, set ${PATCH_DIST_STRIP} accordingly. For instance, if all the pathnames in the patch has an extra `foozolix-1.0/' in front of the filenames, then set `PATCH_DIST_STRIP=-p1'.

Do not worry if the patches are compressed, they will be decompressed automatically if the filenames end with `.gz' or `.Z'.

If the patch is distributed with some other files, such as documentation, in a gzip'd tarball, you can't just use ${PATCHFILES}. If that is the case, add the name and the location of the patch tarball to ${DISTFILES} and ${MASTER_SITES}. Then, from the pre-patch target, apply the patch either by running the patch command from there, or copying the patch file into the ${PATCHDIR} directory and calling it patch-<xx>. (Note the tarball will have been extracted alongside the regular source by then, so there is no need to explicitly extract it if it is a regular gzip'd or compress'd tarball.) If you do the latter, take extra care not to overwrite something that already exists in that directory. Also do not forget to add a command to remove the copied patch in the pre-clean target.


Set your mail-address here. Please. :)

For detailed description of the responsibility of maintainers, refer to MAINTAINER on Makefiles section.


Many ports depend on other ports. There are five variables that you can use to ensure that all the required bits will be on the user's machine.


This variable specifies the shared libraries this port depends on. It is a list of `lib:dir' pairs where lib is the name of the shared library, and dir is the directory in which to find it in case it is not available. For example,

LIB_DEPENDS=    jpeg\\.6\\.:${PORTSDIR}/graphics/jpeg
will check for a shared jpeg library with major version 6, and descend into the graphics/jpeg subdirectory of your ports tree to build and install it if it is not found.

Note that the lib part is just an argument given to `ldconfig -r | grep', so periods should be escaped by two backslashes like in the example above.

The dependency is checked from within the extract target. Also, the name of the dependency is put in to the package so that pkg_add will automatically install it if it is not on the user's system.


This variable specifies executables or files this port depends on during run-time. It is a list of `path:dir' pairs where path is the name of the executable or file, and dir is the directory in which to find it in case it is not available. If path starts with a slash (/), it is treated as a file and its existence is tested with `test -e'; otherwise, it is assumed to be an executable, and `which -s' is used to determine if the program exists in the user's search path.

For example,

RUN_DEPENDS=	${PREFIX}/etc/innd:${PORTSDIR}/news/inn \
will check if the file `/usr/local/etc/innd' exists, and build and install it from the news/inn subdirectory of the ports tree if it is not found. It will also see if an executable called `wish' is in your search path, and descend into the x11/tk subdirectory of your ports tree to build and install it if it is not found. (Note that in this case, `innd' is actually an executable; if an executable is in a place that is not expected to be in a normal user's search path, you should use the full pathname.)

The dependency is checked from within the install target. Also, the name of the dependency is put in to the package so that pkg_add will automatically install it if it is not on the user's system.


This variable specifies executables or files this port requires to build. Like RUN_DEPENDS, it is a list of `path:dir' pairs. For example,

BUILD_DEPENDS=  unzip:${PORTSDIR}/archivers/unzip
will check for an executable called `unzip', and descend into the archivers/unzip subdirectory of your ports tree to build and install it if it is not found.

Note that `build' here means everything from extracting to compilation. The dependency is checked from within the extract target.


This variable specifies executables or files this port requires to fetch. Like the previous two, it is a list of `path:dir' pairs. For example,

FETCH_DEPENDS=   ncftp2:${PORTSDIR}/net/ncftp2
will check for an executable called `ncftp2', and descend into the net/ncftp2 subdirectory of your ports tree to build and install it if it is not found.

The dependency is checked from within the fetch target.


If there is a dependency that does not fall into either of the above four categories, or your port requires to have the source of the other port extracted (i.e., having them installed is not enough), then use this variable. This is just a list of directories, as there is nothing to check, unlike the previous four.

Building mechanisms

If your package uses GNU make, set `USE_GMAKE=yes'. If your package uses GNU configure, set `GNU_CONFIGURE=yes'. If you want to give some extra arguments to GNU configure (other than the default `--prefix=${PREFIX}'), set those extra arguments in ${CONFIGURE_ARGS}.

If your package is an X application that creates Makefiles from Imakefiles using imake, then set `USE_IMAKE=yes'. This will cause the configure stage to automatically do an xmkmf -a. If the `-a' flag is a problem for your port, set `XMKMF=xmkmf'.

If your port's source Makefile has something else than `all' as the main build target, set ${ALL_TARGET} accordingly. Same goes for `install' and ${INSTALL_TARGET}.


If the port uses imake but does not understand the `' target, `NO_INSTALL_MANPAGES=yes' should be set. In addition, the author of the original port should be shot. :> Ports that require Motif

There are many programs that require a Motif library (available from several commercial vendors, while there is (at least) one effort to create a free clone) to compile. Since it is a popular toolkit and their licenses usually permit redistribution of statically linked binaries, we have made special provisions for handling ports that require Motif in a way that we can easily compile binaries linked either dynamically or statically.


If your port requires Motif, define this variable in the Makefile. This will prevent people who don't own a copy of Motif from even attempting to build it.


This variable will be set by to be the appropriate reference to the Motif library. Please patch the source to use this wherever the Motif library is referenced in the Makefile or Imakefile.

There are two common cases:

  1. If the port refers to the Motif library as `-lXm' in its Makefile or Imakefile, simply substitute `${MOTIFLIB}' for it.
  2. If the port uses `XmClientLibs' in its Imakefile, change it to `${MOTIFLIB} ${XTOOLLIB} ${XLIB}'.

Note that ${MOTIFLIB} (usually) expands to `-L/usr/X11R6/lib -lXm' or `/usr/X11R6/lib/libXm.a', so there is no need to add `-L' or `-l' in front. Info files

The new version of texinfo (included in 2.2.2-RELEASE and onwards) contains a utility called `install-info' to add and delete entries to the `dir' file. If your port installs any info documents, please follow these instructions so your port/package will correctly update the user's ${PREFIX}/info/dir file. (Sorry for the length of this section, but it is imperative to weave all the info files together. If done correctly, it will produce a beautiful listing, so please bear with me! :)

First, this is what you (as a porter) need to know:

% install-info --help
install-info [OPTION]... [INFO-FILE [DIR-FILE]]
  Install INFO-FILE in the Info directory file DIR-FILE.

--delete          Delete existing entries in INFO-FILE;
                    don't insert any new entries.
--entry=TEXT      Insert TEXT as an Info directory entry.
--section=SEC     Put this file's entries in section SEC of the directory.

Note that this program will not actually install info files; it merely inserts or deletes entries in the dir file.

Here's a seven-step procedure to convert ports to use install-info. I will use editors/emacs as an example.

  1. Look at the texinfo sources and make a patch to insert @dircategory and @direntry statements to files that don't have them. This is part of my patch:
    --- ./man/	Fri Jun 16 15:31:11 1995
    +++ ./man/vip.texi	Tue May 20 01:28:33 1997
    @@ -2,6 +2,10 @@
     @setfilename ../info/vip
     @settitle VIP
    +@dircategory The Emacs editor and associated tools
    +* VIP: (vip).		A VI-emulation for Emacs.
    +@end direntry

    The format should be self-explanatory. Many authors leave a dir file in the source tree that contains all the entries you need, so look around before you try to write your own. Also, make sure you look into related ports and make the section names and entry indentations consistent (we recommend that all entry text start at the 4th tab stop).

    Note that you can put only one info entry per file because of a bug in `install-info --delete' that deletes only the first entry if you specify multiple entries in the @direntry section.

    You can give the dir entries to install-info as arguments (--section and --entry) instead of patching the texinfo sources. I do not think this is a good idea for ports because you need to duplicate the same information in three places (Makefile and @exec/@unexec of PLIST; see below). However, if you have a Japanese (or other multibyte encoding) info files, you will have to use the extra arguments to install-info because makeinfo can't handle those texinfo sources. (See Makefile and PLIST of japanese/skk for examples on how to do this).

  2. Go back to the port directory and do a `make clean; make' and verify that the info files are regenerated from the texinfo sources. Since the texinfo sources are newer than the info files, they should be rebuilt when you type make; but many Makefiles don't include correct dependencies for info files. In emacs' case, I had to patch the main so it will descend into the man subdirectory to rebuild the info pages.
    --- ./	Mon Aug 19 21:12:19 1996
    +++ ./	Tue Apr 15 00:15:28 1997
    @@ -184,7 +184,7 @@
     # Subdirectories to make recursively.  `lisp' is not included
     # because the compiled lisp files are part of the distribution
     # and you cannot remake them without installing Emacs first.
    -SUBDIR = lib-src src
    +SUBDIR = lib-src src man
     # The makefiles of the directories in $SUBDIR.
     SUBDIR_MAKEFILES = lib-src/Makefile man/Makefile src/Makefile oldXMenu/Makefile lwlib/Makefile
    --- ./man/	Thu Jun 27 15:27:19 1996
    +++ ./man/	Tue Apr 15 00:29:52 1997
    @@ -66,6 +66,7 @@
     	${srcdir}/gnu1.texi \
    +all: info
     info: $(INFO_TARGETS)
     dvi: $(DVI_TARGETS)

    The second hunk was necessary because the default target in the man subdir is called info, while the main Makefile wants to call all. I also deleted the installation of the info info file because we already have one with the same name in /usr/share/info (that patch is not shown here).

  3. If there is a place in the Makefile that is installing the dir file, delete it. Your port may not be doing it. Also, remove any commands that are otherwise mucking around with the dir file.
    --- ./	Mon Aug 19 21:12:19 1996
    +++ ./	Mon Apr 14 23:38:07 1997
    @@ -368,14 +368,8 @@
     	if [ `(cd ${srcdir}/info && /bin/pwd)` != `(cd ${infodir} && /bin/pwd)` ]; \
     	then \
     	  (cd ${infodir};  \
    -	   if [ -f dir ]; then \
    -	     if [ ! -f dir.old ]; then mv -f dir dir.old; \
    -	     else mv -f dir dir.bak; fi; \
    -	   fi; \
     	   cd ${srcdir}/info ; \
    -	   (cd $${thisdir}; ${INSTALL_DATA} ${srcdir}/info/dir ${infodir}/dir); \
    -	   (cd $${thisdir}; chmod a+r ${infodir}/dir); \
     	   for f in ccmode* cl* dired-x* ediff* emacs* forms* gnus* info* message* mh-e* sc* vip*; do \
     	     (cd $${thisdir}; \
     	      ${INSTALL_DATA} ${srcdir}/info/$$f ${infodir}/$$f; \
     	      chmod a+r ${infodir}/$$f); \
  4. (This step is only necessary if you are modifying an existing port.) Take a look at pkg/PLIST and delete anything that is trying to patch up info/dir. They may be in pkg/INSTALL or some other file, so search extensively.
    Index: pkg/PLIST
    RCS file: /usr/cvs/ports/editors/emacs/pkg/PLIST,v
    retrieving revision 1.15
    diff -u -r1.15 PLIST
    --- PLIST	1997/03/04 08:04:00	1.15
    +++ PLIST	1997/04/15 06:32:12
    @@ -15,9 +15,6 @@
    -@unexec cp %D/info/dir %D/info/dir.bak
    -@unexec cp %D/info/dir.bak %D/info/dir
  5. Add a post-install target to the Makefile to create a dir file if it is not there. Also, call install-info with the installed info files.
    Index: Makefile
    RCS file: /usr/cvs/ports/editors/emacs/Makefile,v
    retrieving revision 1.26
    diff -u -r1.26 Makefile
    --- Makefile	1996/11/19 13:14:40	1.26
    +++ Makefile	1997/05/20 10:25:09	1.28
    @@ -20,5 +20,11 @@
     .for file in emacs-19.34 emacsclient etags ctags b2m
     	strip ${PREFIX}/bin/${file}
    +	if [ ! -f ${PREFIX}/info/dir ]; then \
    +	  ${SED} -ne '1,/Menu:/p' /usr/share/info/dir > ${PREFIX}/info/dir; \
    +	fi
    +.for info in emacs vip viper forms gnus mh-e cl sc dired-x ediff ccmode
    +	install-info ${PREFIX}/info/${info} ${PREFIX}/info/dir
     .include <>

    Do not use anything other than /usr/share/info/dir and the above command to create a new info file. In fact, I'd add the first three lines of the above patch to if you (the porter) wouldn't have to do it in PLIST by yourself anyway.

  6. Edit PLIST and add equivalent @exec statements and also @unexec for pkg_delete. You do not need to delete info/dir with @unexec.
    Index: pkg/PLIST
    RCS file: /usr/cvs/ports/editors/emacs/pkg/PLIST,v
    retrieving revision 1.15
    diff -u -r1.15 PLIST
    --- PLIST	1997/03/04 08:04:00	1.15
    +++ PLIST	1997/05/20 10:25:12	1.17
    @@ -16,7 +14,15 @@
    +@unexec install-info --delete %D/info/emacs %D/info/dir
    +@unexec install-info --delete %D/info/ccmode %D/info/dir
    @@ -87,6 +94,18 @@
    +@exec [ -f %D/info/dir ] || sed -ne '1,/Menu:/p' /usr/share/info/dir > %D/info/dir
    +@exec install-info %D/info/emacs %D/info/dir
    +@exec install-info %D/info/ccmode %D/info/dir

    Note that the `@unexec install-info --delete' commands have to be listed before the info files themselves so they can read the files. Also, the `@exec install-info' commands have to be after the info files and the @exec command that creates the the dir file.

  7. Test and admire your work. :) The sequence I recommend is: `make package', `pkg_delete', then `pkg_add'. Check the dir file before and after each step. Licensing Problems

Some software packages have restrictive licenses or can be in violation to the law (PKP's patent on public key crypto, ITAR (export of crypto software) to name just two of them). What we can do with them vary a lot, depending on the exact wordings of the respective licenses.

Note that it is your responsibility as a porter to read the licensing terms of the software and make sure that the FreeBSD project will not be held accountable of violating them by redistributing the source or compiled binaries either via ftp or CD-ROM. If in doubt, please contact the FreeBSD ports mailing list <freebsd-ports@FreeBSD.ORG>.

There are two variables you can set in the Makefile to handle the situations that arise frequently:

  1. If the port has a `do not sell for profit' type of license, set the variable NO_CDROM. We will make sure such ports won't go into the CD-ROM come release time. The distfile and package will still be available via ftp.
  2. If the resulting package needs to be built uniquely for each site, or the resulting binary package can't be distributed due to licensing; set the variable NO_PACKAGE. We will make sure such packages won't go on the ftp site, nor into the CD-ROM come release time. The distfile will still be included on both however.
  3. If the port has legal restrictions on who can use it (e.g., crypto stuff) or has a `no commercial use' license, set the variable RESTRICTED to be the string describing the reason why. For such ports, the distfiles/packages will not be available even from our ftp sites.

Note: The GNU General Public License (GPL), both version 1 and 2, should not be a problem for ports.

Note: If you are a committer, make sure you update the ports/LEGAL file too. Upgrading

When you notice that a port is out of date compared to the latest version from the original authors, first make sure you have the latest port. You can find them in the ports-current directory of the ftp mirror sites.

The next step is to send a mail to the maintainer, if one is listed in the port's Makefile. That person may already be working on an upgrade, or have a reason to not upgrade the port right now (because of, for example, stability problems of the new version).

If the maintainer asks you to do the upgrade or there isn't any such person to begin with, please make the upgrade and send the recursive diff (either unified or context diff is fine, but port committers appear to prefer unified diff more) of the new and old ports directories to us (e.g., if your modified port directory is called `superedit' and the original as in our tree is `superedit.bak', then send us the result of `diff -ruN superedit.bak superedit'). Please examine the output to make sure all the changes make sense. The best way to send us the diff is by including it to send-pr(1) (category `ports'). Please mention any added or deleted files in the message, as they have to be explicitly specified to CVS when doing a commit. If the diff is more than about 20KB, please compress and uuencode it; otherwise, just include it in as is in the PR. Do's and Dont's

Here is a list of common do's and dont's that you encounter during the porting process. You should check your own port against this list, but you can also check ports in the PR database that others have submitted. Submit any comments on ports you check as described in Bug Reports and General Commentary. Checking ports in the PR database will both make it faster for us to commit them, and prove that you know what you are doing.


Do not leave anything valuable lying around in the work subdirectory, `make clean' will nuke it completely! If you need auxiliary files that are not scripts or patches, put them in the ${FILESDIR} subdirectory (files by default) and use the post-extract target to copy them to the work subdirectory.

Portlint Clean

Do use portlint! The portlint program is part of the ports collection.

Compress manpages, strip binaries

Do compress manpages and strip binaries. If the original source already strips the binary, fine; otherwise, you can add a post-install rule to do it yourself. Here is an example:

	 strip ${PREFIX}/bin/xdl

Use the file command on the installed executable to check whether the binary is stripped or not. If it does not say `not stripped', it is stripped.

To automagically compress the manpages, use the MAN[1-9LN] variables. They will check the variable NOMANCOMPRESS that the user can set in /etc/make.conf to disable man page compression. Place them last in the section below the MAINTAINER variable. Here is an example:

MAN1=      foo.1 bar.1
MAN5=      foo.conf.5
MAN8=      baz.8

Note that this is not usually necessary with ports that are X applications and use Imake to build.

If your port anchors its man tree somewhere other than PREFIX, you can use the MANPREFIX to set it. Also, if only manpages in certain section go in a non-standard place, such as many Perl modules ports, you can set individual man paths using MANsectPREFIX (where sect is one of 1-9, L or N).

INSTALL_* macros

Do use the macros provided in to ensure correct modes and ownership of files in your own *-install targets. They are:

These are basically the install command with all the appropriate flags. See below for an example on how to use them.

INSTALL package script

If your port needs execute commands when the binary package is installed with pkg_add you can do with via the pkg/INSTALL script. This script will automatically be added to the package, and will be run twice by pkg_add. The first time will as `INSTALL ${PKGNAME} PRE-INSTALL' and the second time as `INSTALL ${PKGNAME} POST-INSTALL'. `$2' can be tested to determine which mode the script is being run in. The `PKG_PREFIX' environmental variable will be set to the package installation directory. See man pkg_add(1) for additional information. Note, that this script is not run automatically if you install the port with `make install'. If you are depending on it being run, you will have to explicitly call it on your port's Makefile.

REQ package script

If your port needs to determine if it should install or not, you can create a pkg/REQ ``requirements'' script. It will be invoked automatically at installation/deinstallation time to determine whether or not installation/deinstallation should proceed. See man pkg_create(1) and man pkg_add(1) for more information.

Install additional documentation

If your software has some documentation other than the standard man and info pages that you think is useful for the user, install it under ${PREFIX}/share/doc. This can be done, like the previous item, in the post-install target.

Create a new directory for your port. The directory name should reflect what the port is. This usually means ${PKGNAME} minus the version part. However, if you think the user might want different versions of the port to be installed at the same time, you can use the whole ${PKGNAME}.

Make the installation dependent to the variable NOPORTDOCS so that users can disable it in /etc/make.conf, like this:

 .if !defined(NOPORTDOCS)
	 ${MKDIR} ${PREFIX}/share/doc/xv
	 ${INSTALL_MAN} ${WRKSRC}/docs/ ${PREFIX}/share/doc/xv

Do not forget to add them to pkg/PLIST too! (Do not worry about NOPORTDOCS here; there is currently no way for the packages to read variables from /etc/make.conf.)

If you need to display a message to the installer, you may place the message in pkg/MESSAGE. This capability is often useful to display additional installation steps to be taken after a pkg_add, or to display licensing information. (note: the MESSAGE file does not need to be added to pkg/PLIST).


Do not let your port clutter /usr/ports/distfiles. If your port requires a lot of files to be fetched, or contains a file that has a name that might conflict with other ports (e.g., `Makefile'), set ${DIST_SUBDIR} to the name of the port (${PKGNAME} without the version part should work fine). This will change ${DISTDIR} from the default /usr/ports/distfiles to /usr/ports/distfiles/${DIST_SUBDIR}, and in effect puts everything that is required for your port into that subdirectory.

It will also look at the subdirectory with the same name on the backup master site at (Setting ${DISTDIR} explicitly in your Makefile will not accomplish this, so please use ${DIST_SUBDIR}.)

Note this does not affect the ${MASTER_SITES} you define in your Makefile.


Do send applicable changes/patches to the original author/maintainer for inclusion in next release of the code. This will only make your job that much easier for the next release.

RCS strings

Do not put RCS strings in patches. CVS will mangle them when we put the files into the ports tree, and when we check them out again, they will come out different and the patch will fail. RCS strings are surrounded by dollar (`$') signs, and typically start with `$Id' or `$RCS'.

Recursive diff

Using the recurse (`-r') option to diff to generate patches is fine, but please take a look at the resulting patches to make sure you don't have any unnecessary junk in there. In particular, diffs between two backup files, Makefiles when the port uses Imake or GNU configure, etc., are unnecessary and should be deleted. Also, if you had to delete a file, then you can do it in the post-extract target rather than as part of the patch. Once you are happy with the resulting diff, please split it up into one source file per patch file.


Do try to make your port install relative to ${PREFIX}. (The value of this variable will be set to ${LOCALBASE} (default /usr/local), unless ${USE_IMAKE} or ${USE_X11} is set, in which case it will be ${X11BASE} (default /usr/X11R6).)

Not hard-coding `/usr/local' or `/usr/X11R6' anywhere in the source will make the port much more flexible and able to cater to the needs of other sites. For X ports that use imake, this is automatic; otherwise, this can often be done by simply replacing the occurrences of `/usr/local' (or `/usr/X11R6' for X ports that do not use imake) in the various scripts/Makefiles in the port to read `${PREFIX}', as this variable is automatically passed down to every stage of the build and install processes.

The variable ${PREFIX} can be reassigned in your Makefile or in the user's environment. However, it is strongly discouraged for individual ports to set this variable explicitly in the Makefiles. (If your port is an X port but does not use imake, set USE_X11=yes; this is quite different from setting PREFIX=/usr/X11R6.)

Also, refer to programs/files from other ports with the variables mentioned above, not explicit pathnames. For instance, if your port requires a macro PAGER to be the full pathname of less, use the compiler flag:

if this is an X port, instead of
This way it will have a better chance of working if the system administrator has moved the whole `/usr/local' tree somewhere else.


Try to let the port put things in the right subdirectories of ${PREFIX}. Some ports lump everything and put it in the subdirectory with the port's name, which is incorrect. Also, many ports put everything except binaries, header files and manual pages in the a subdirectory of `lib', which does not bode well with the BSD paradigm. Many of the files should be moved to one of the following: `etc' (setup/configuration files), `libexec' (executables started internally), `sbin' (executables for superusers/managers), `info' (documentation for info browser) or `share' (architecture independent files). See man hier(7) for details, the rule governing /usr pretty much applies to /usr/local too. The exception are ports dealing with USENET `news'. They may use ${PREFIX}/news as a destination for their files.


If your port installs a shared library, add a post-install target to your Makefile that runs `/sbin/ldconfig -m' on the directory where the new library is installed (usually ${PREFIX}/lib) to register it into the shared library cache.

Also, add an @exec line to your pkg/PLIST file so that a user who installed the package can start using the shared library immediately. This line should immediately follow the line for the shared library itself, as in:

@exec /sbin/ldconfig -m %D/lib

Never, ever, ever add a line that says `ldconfig' without any arguments to your Makefile or pkg/PLIST. This will reset the shared library cache to the contents of /usr/lib only, and will royally screw up the user's machine ("Help, xinit does not run anymore after I install this port!"). Anybody who does this will be shot and cut into 65,536 pieces by a rusty knife and have his liver chopped out by a bunch of crows and will eternally rot to death in the deepest bowels of hell (not necessarily in that order)....


If your port requires a certain user ID to be on the installed system, let the pkg/INSTALL script call pw to create it automatically. Look at japanese/Wnn or net/cvsup-mirror for examples. It is customary to use UIDs in the upper 2-digit range (i.e., from around 50 to 99) for this purpose.

Make sure you don't use a UID already used by the system or other ports. This is the current list of UIDs between 50 and 99.

majordom:*:54:1024:Majordomo Pseudo User:/usr/local/majordomo:/nonexistent
cyrus:*:60:248:the cyrus mail server:/nonexistent:/nonexistent
gnats:*:61:1:GNATS database owner:/usr/local/share/gnats/gnats-db:/bin/sh
uucp:*:66:66:UUCP pseudo-user:/var/spool/uucppublic:/usr/libexec/uucp/uucico
xten:*:67:67:X-10 daemon:/usr/local/xten:/nonexistent
pop:*:68:6:Post Office Owner:/nonexistent:/nonexistent
ifmail:*:70:66:Ifmail user:/nonexistent:/nonexistent
pgsql:*:71:246:PostgreSQL pseudo-user:/usr/local/pgsql:/bin/sh
msql:*:80:249:mSQL-2 pseudo-user:/var/db/msqldb:/bin/sh

Please send a notice to FreeBSD ports mailing list <freebsd-ports@FreeBSD.ORG> if you submit or commit a port that allocates a new UID in this range so we can keep this list up to date.

Do things rationally

The Makefile should do things simply and reasonably. If you can make it a couple of lines shorter or more readable, then do so. Examples include using a make `.if' construct instead of a shell `if' construct, not redefining do-extract if you can redefine ${EXTRACT*} instead, and using $GNU_CONFIGURE instead of `CONFIGURE_ARGS += --prefix=${PREFIX}'.

Respect CFLAGS

The port should respect the ${CFLAGS} variable. If it doesn't, please add `NO_PACKAGE=ignores cflags' to the Makefile.


The files pkg/DESCR, pkg/COMMENT, and pkg/PLIST should each be double-checked. If you are reviewing a port and feel they can be worded better, do so.

Don't copy more copies of the GNU General Public License into our system, please.

Please be careful to note any legal issues! Don't let us illegally distribute software!

If you are stuck....

Do look at existing examples and the file before asking us questions! ;)

Do ask us questions if you have any trouble! Do not just beat your head against a wall! :) A Sample Makefile

Here is a sample Makefile that you can use to create a new port. Make sure you remove all the extra comments (ones between brackets)!

It is recommended that you follow this format (ordering of variables, empty lines between sections, etc.). Not all of the existing Makefiles are in this format (mostly old ones), but we are trying to uniformize how they look. This format is designed so that the most important information is easy to locate.

 [the header...just to make it easier for us to identify the ports.]
 # New ports collection makefile for:	xdvi
 [the version required header should updated when upgrading a port.]
 # Version required:	pl18 [things like "1.5alpha" are fine here too]
 [this is the date when the first version of this Makefile was created. 
  Never change this when doing an update of the port.]
 # Date created:		26 May 1995
 [this is the person who did the original port to FreeBSD, in particular, the
  person who wrote the first version of this Makefile.  Remember, this should
  not be changed when upgrading the port later.]
 # Whom:			Satoshi Asami <asami@FreeBSD.ORG>
 # $Id$
 [ ^^^^ This will be automatically replaced with RCS ID string by CVS 
  when it is committed to our repository.]
 [section to describe the port itself and the master site - DISTNAME
  is always first, followed by PKGNAME (if necessary), CATEGORIES,
  and then MASTER_SITES, which can be followed by MASTER_SITE_SUBDIR.
  After those, one of EXTRACT_SUFX or DISTFILES can be specified too.]
 PKGNAME=	xdvi-pl18
 [do not forget the trailing slash ("/")! 
  if you aren't using MASTER_SITE_* macros]
 MASTER_SITE_SUBDIR= applications
 [set this if the source is not in the standard ".tar.gz" form]
 [section for distributed patches -- can be empty]
 PATCHFILES=	xdvi-18.patch1.gz xdvi-18.patch2.gz
 [maintainer; *mandatory*!  This is the person (preferably with commit
  privileges) who a user can contact for questions and bug reports - this
  person should be the porter or someone who can forward questions to the
  original porter reasonably promptly.  If you really do not want to have
  your address here, set it to "ports@FreeBSD.ORG".]
 [dependencies -- can be empty]
 RUN_DEPENDS=	gs:${PORTSDIR}/print/ghostscript
 LIB_DEPENDS=	Xpm\\.4\\.:${PORTSDIR}/graphics/xpm
 [this section is for other standard variables that do not
  belong to any of the above]
 [If it asks questions during configure, build, install...]
 [If it extracts to a directory other than ${DISTNAME}...]
 WRKSRC=		${WRKDIR}/xdvi-new
 [If the distributed patches were not made relative to ${WRKSRC}, you
  may need to tweak this]
 [If it requires a "configure" script generated by GNU autoconf to be run]
 [If it requires GNU make, not /usr/bin/make, to build...]
 [If it is an X application and requires "xmkmf -a" to be run...]
 [et cetera.]
 [non-standard variables to be used in the rules below]
 MY_FAVORITE_RESPONSE=	"yeah, right"
 [then the special rules, in the order they are called]
	 i go fetch something, yeah
	 i need to do something after patch, great
	 and then some more stuff before installing, wow
 [and then the epilogue]
 .include <> Package Names

The following are the conventions you should follow in naming your packages. This is to have our package directory easy to scan, as there are already lots and lots of packages and users are going to turn away if they hurt their eyes!

The package name should look like


If your ${DISTNAME} doesn't look like that, set ${PKGNAME} to something in that format.

  1. FreeBSD strives to support the native language of its users. The `<language>' part should be a two letter abbreviation of the natural language defined by ISO-639 if the port is specific to a certain language. Examples are `ja' for Japanese, `ru' for Russian, `vi' for Vietnamese, `zh' for Chinese, `ko' for Korean and `de' for German.
  2. The `<name>' part should be all lowercases, except for a really large package (with lots of programs in it). Things like XFree86 (yes there really is a package of it, check it out) and ImageMagick fall into this category. Otherwise, convert the name (or at least the first letter) to lowercase. If the capital letters are important to the name (for example, with one-letter names like R or V) you may use capital letters at your discretion. There is a tradition of naming Perl 5 modules by prepending `p5-' and converting the double-colon separator to a hyphen; for example, the `Data::Dumper' module becomes `p5-Data-Dumper'. If the software in question has numbers, hyphens, or underscores in its name, you may include them as well (like `kinput2').
  3. If the port can be built with different hardcoded defaults (usually specified as environment variables or on the make command line), the `<compiled.specifics>' part should state the compiled-in defaults (the hyphen is optional). Examples are papersize and font units.
  4. The version string should be a period-separated list of integers and single lowercase alphabetics. The only exception is the string `pl' (meaning `patchlevel'), which can be used only when there are no major and minor version numbers in the software.

Here are some (real) examples on how to convert a ${DISTNAME} into a suitable ${PKGNAME}:

mule-2.2.2	mule-2.2.2		no prob at all
XFree86-3.1.2	XFree86-3.1.2		ditto
EmiClock-1.0.2	emiclock-1.0.2		no uppercase names for single programs
gmod1.4		gmod-1.4		need hyphen after `<name>'
xmris.4.02	xmris-4.02		ditto
rdist-1.3alpha	rdist-1.3a		no strings like `alpha' allowed
es-0.9-beta1	es-0.9b1		ditto
v3.3beta021.src	tiff-3.3		what the heck was that anyway? ;)
tvtwm		tvtwm-pl11		version string always required
piewm		piewm-1.0		ditto
xvgr-2.10pl1	xvgr-2.10.1		`pl' allowed only when no maj/minor numbers
gawk-2.15.6	ja-gawk-2.15.6		Japanese language version
psutils-1.13	psutils-letter-1.13	papersize hardcoded at package build time
pkfonts		pkfonts300-1.0		package for 300dpi fonts

If there is absolutely no trace of version information in the original source and it is unlikely that the original author will ever release another version, just set the version string to `1.0' (like the piewm example above). Otherwise, ask the original author or use the date string (`') as the version. That is It, Folks!

Boy, this sure was a long tutorial, wasn't it? Thanks for following us to here, really.

Well, now that you know how to do a port, let us go at it and convert everything in the world into ports! That is the easiest way to start contributing to the FreeBSD Project! :)

FreeBSD Handbook : Contributing to FreeBSD : How to Contribute : Porting an existing piece of free software
Previous: New code or major value-added packages
Next: Money, Hardware or Internet access
Updated July 7, 1998