The OpenWrt system is maintained and distributed as a collection of packages.
Almost all pieces of software found in a typical OpenWrt firmware image are provided by such a package with notable exception being the Linux kernel itself.
The term OpenWrt package may either refer to one of two things:
.rpmfiles used in other package managers
OpenWrt binary packages are almost exclusively produced from source packages by invoking either the OpenWrt buildroot or the OpenWrt SDK in order to translate the source package Makefile descriptions into executable binary artifacts tailored for a given target system.
Although it is possible to manually assemble binary packages by invoking tools such as tar and placing the appropriate control files in the correct directories, it is strongly discouraged to do so since such binary packages are usually not easily reproducible and verifiable.
Source packages are developed in multiple OpenWrt package feeds hosted in different locations and following different purposes. Each package feed is a collection of source package definitions residing within a publicly or privately reachable source code repository.
Source packages describe how a piece of software has to be downloaded, patched, compiled and packaged in order to form a binary software artifact suitable for use on a running target system. They also describe relations to other source packages required either at build time or at run time.
Each source package should have a globally unique name closely resembling the name of the software described by it. OpenWrt often follows the lead of other distributions when deciding about the naming of packages and sticks to the same naming conventions in many cases.
A source package is a subdirectory within its corresponding package feed
containing at least one Openwrt
Makefile and optionally
An OpenWrt source package Makefile contains a series of header variable assignments, action recipes and one or multiple OpenWrt specific signature footer lines identifying it as OpenWrt specific package Makefile.
See Creating packages for details on Makefile contents.
Static files accompanying a source package, such as OpenWrt specific init scripts or
configuration files, must be placed inside a directory called
files, residing within
the same subdirectory as the
Makefile. There are no strict rules on how such static
files are to be named and organized within the
files directory but by convention,
.conf is used for OpenWrt UCI configration files and the extension
.init is used to denote OpenWrt specific init scripts.
The actual placement and naming of the resources within the
files directory on the
target system is controlled by the source package Makefile and unrelated to the structure
and naming within the
patches directory must be placed in the same parent directory as the
file and may only contain patch files used to modify the source code being packaged.
Patch files must be in unified diff format and carry the extension
The file names must also carry a numerical prefix to denote the order in which the patch
files must be applied. Patch file names should be short and concise and avoid special
characters such as white spaces, special characters and so on.
Suitable patch file names could look like:
It is recommended to use Quilt to manage source package patch collections.
Some packages do not actually fetch their program code from an external source but bundle the code to be compiled and packages directly within the package feed. This is usually done for packages which are specific to OpenWrt and do not exist outside of their respective package feed.
src directory may also be used to supply additional code to the compilation
process, in addition to the program code fetched from external sources.
If present, the OpenWrt build system will automatically copy the contents of the
directory verbatim to the compilation scratch directory (build directory) of the package,
retaining the structure and naming of the files.
Many OpenWrt supported devices still have only a few megabytes of flash and ram available which makes it important to shrink the packages as much as possible. Opt for the lowest common denominator whenever possible.
Some general considerations when packaging a new piece of software are:
ICUwhich weighs around 12MB and is an optional dependency for Unicode multi language support in various packages
procdfacilities to run a service as a different user
Often it is tempting to add various
menuconfig configuration options to allow the customization of the package features by the users compiling their own variant of OpenWrt but it should be kept in mind that large parts of the userbase will use the package solely by installing binary archives from the OpenWrt repositories.
Binary packages in the official OpenWrt repositories are always built with the default settings of a package so a maintainer should ensure that the default feature selection represents a fair balance between resource requirements and most common user needs.
Historically, packages for OpenWrt used to contain a copyright notice at the top of the Makefile, stating something like:
# Copyright (C) 2007-2010 OpenWrt.org This is free software, licensed under the GNU General Public License v2. See /LICENSE for more information.
Since contributors likely do not have a formal contract with OpenWrt to develop packages, they cannot disclaim their own copyrights and assign them to the project.
When adding new packages please don't simply copy the statement from another package but add either your own in the form:
# Copyright (C) 2016 Joe Random <email@example.com>
or omit it entirely.
There are a number of Makefile variables influencing the visible version of the resulting packages. When packaging upstream release tarballs, the
PKG_VERSION variable should be set to the version of the upstream software being packaged. If for example the
openssl package compiles the released
openssl-1.0.2q.tar.gz archive, then
PKG_VERSION variable should be set to the value
When there are no upstream release tarballs available or when software is packaged straight from a source code repository, the
PKG_SOURCE_VERSION variables should be used instead. The
PKG_SOURCE_DATE value must correspond to the modification date in the format
YYYY-MM-DD of the source repository revision being packaged and
PKG_SOURCE_VERSION must be set to the corresponding revision identifier of the repository, e.g. the commit hash for Git or the revision number for SVN repositories. If for example the
ubus package clones from Git revision https://git.openwrt.org/?p=project/ubus.git;a=commitdiff;h=221ce7e7ff1bd1a0c9995fa9d32f58e865f7207f, then its Makefile should specify
The build system will combine these variables into a common version identifier and truncate the revision identifier if needed. Given the values in the example, the resulting version identifier will be
2018-10-06-221ce7e7. This is done to make repository revision identifiers comparable to each other since SCM systems like Git or Mercurial use SHA hashes to identify revisions which are no monotonically increasing numerical values.
Source packages must specify a
PKG_RELEASE value identifying the revision of the source package. In contrast to the
PKG_SOURCE_VERSION variables which are identifying the upstream version of the program code being packaged, the
PKG_RELEASE variable denotes the revision of the package itself.
The package revision should start with the value
1 and must be increased whenever modifications are made to the package which might cause changes to the executables or other files contained within the resulting binary packages. When the package is updated to a newer
PKG_RELEASE must be reset back to
Some examples for dealing with the
–disable-aclto the configure arguments →
PKG_RELEASEis reset to
When declaring the source download method in the Makefile, direct tarball downloads via HTTP or HTTPS are the preferred way to acquire package sources, Git or other SCM clones should be avoided, mainly to keep the locally cached source downloads reproducible.
If direct Git cloning is required (for example because there is no release tarballs available upstream) then Git via HTTPS is preferred over Git via HTTP is preferred over Git via its native protocol. Many OpenWrt users are behind corporate firewalls which disallow Git native traffic (TCP 9418).
The use of mirror sites for tarball download locations is encouraged and helps to reduce the traffic load on upstream project sites. When choosing mirrors for a package, please try to ensure that:
Multiple mirrors can be specified in a package Makefile by assigning a white-space separated list of URLs to the
PKG_SOURCE_URL variable. It is a good convention to assign the upstream project site itself to the end of the mirror list, to have a canonical fallback location in case a new version has not yet propagated to all mirrors, and to convey the original download location to casual readers.
Try to limit the amount of mirror sites to 3 to 5 different locations, including the main download site.
The build recipes in a source package should adhere to the OpenWrt defaults as much as possible. This ensures that source package declarations remain compact and free of copy-pasted boilerplate code.
By default, the build system uses a set of standard
make invocations to build packages in a refined manner. Most of these steps can be influenced through a number of variables to alter the way the actual commands are executed.
Please refer to package-defaults.mk to learn how the default recipes are implemented.
Whenever possible, try to avoid redefining the default macros but use the provided variables to encode functional differences.
Example for a bad redefinition:
define Build/Compile (cd $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/nonstandard/dir/; make) endef
Example for achieving the same using variable overrides:
MAKE_PATH := nonstandard/dir/
Likewise, do not attempt to override
Build/Configure but use
CONFIGURE_ARGS to pass switches like
CONFIGURE_ARGS += –enable-acl or
CONFIGURE_ARGS += –without-systemd and
CONFIGURE_VARS to pass environment variables to the configuration script, like
CONFIGURE_VARS += ac_cv_func_snprintf=yes.
In some cases it is possible to arrange things before e.g. the
./configure script is invoked in order to touch files, remove things
or echo values into stampfiles. In such cases it is permissible to
redefine the recipe in order to achieve the desired result. Use the
default implementations of the macros to call the original behaviour
after the custom work is done. Refer to the examples below for some
common use cases.
define Build/Prepare echo "1.2.3" > $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/version.txt $(call Build/Prepare/Default) endef
define Build/Prepare $(call Build/Prepare/Default) rm -f $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/m4/libtool.m4 cp $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/make/Makefile.linux $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/Makefile endef
define Build/Configure touch $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/ChangeLog $(call Build/Configure/Default) endef
define Build/Compile $(call Build/Compile/Default) cp $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/src/libfoo.so.1.2 $(PKG_BUILD_DIR)/src/libfoo.so endef
Many open source projects rely on GNU autoconf and automake as their build system which may lead to a number of problems in a cross compilation setting.
Usual problems revolve around:
configurescripts attempting to call programs to test certain features which might fail if the called program has been built for another architecture
configurescripts embedding faulty and possibly outdated versions of
libtoolcausing runtime problems on the target system
unameto figure out the kernel version or endianess
autogen.sh which make certain assumptions about the host system or try to call the improper version of utilities like
autoconf,leading to macro errors and version mismatches when executing the generated configure scripts and Makefiles
Due to the complex nature of the GNU autoconf/automake system there is no single set of solutions to a given problem but rather a general list of guidelines and best practices to adhere to.
configurescript but fix the underlying
configure.infiles and rely on the
PKG_FIXUP:=autoreconffacility to regenerated the config script. This also has the nice side-effect of updating embedded
libtoolversion and using a cross-compile-safe set of standard macros, replacing unsafe ones in many cases
./configureinvocations as explicit as possible by forcibly disabling or enabling any feature which depends on the presence of an external library, e.g.
–disable-aclto build a given package without
libaclsupport on both systems having
libaclin their staging directory and systems not providing this library. Failure to do so will result in errors like
Package example is missing dependencies for the following libraries: libfoo.so.1on systems that happen to build
libfoobefore building example.
configuretests that cannot be reliably determined in a cross-compile setting. Properly written autoconf test macros can be overridden by cache-variables in the form
ac_cv_somename=value- use this facility to skip tests which would otherwise fail or result in host-system specific values. For example the
./configurefrom calling the host systems
unamein order to figure out the kernel version. The names of the involved cache variables can be found in the
config.logfile within the package build directory or by inspecting the generated shell code of the
configureprogram. Use the
CONFIGURE_VARSvariable to pass the cache variables down to the actual
autogen.shand similar scripts, rather use
PKG_FIXUP:=autoreconfto (re)generate configure script and automake templates and encode additionally needed steps in the appropriate build recipes.
A source package may depend on a number of other packages, either to satisfy compilation requirements or to enforce the presence of specific functionality, such as shared libraries or support programs at runtime on the target system.
There are two kinds of dependencies; build dependencies, specified by the
PKG_BUILD_DEPENDS Makefile variable and runtime dependencies, declared in the
DEPENDS variable of the corresponding
define Package/… Makefile sections.
Build dependencies are resolved at package compilation time and instruct the build system
to download, patch and compile each mentioned dependency before the source package itself
is compiled. This is required when the compilation process of a package depends on resources
such as header files from another package. Build dependencies are not transformed into
runtime dependencies and should only be used when the resources of the packages being
depended upon are solely required at compilation time. This usually is the case for header-only
libraries such as the C++ Boost project or static
.a library archives that result in no
dynamic runtime requirements.
Runtime dependencies on the other hand specify the relation of binary packages,
instructing the package manager to fetch and install the listed dependencies before installing
the binary package itself. A runtime dependency automatically implies a build
dependency, so if a
DEPENDS variable within a
define Package/… section of a given
source package specifies the name of a
define Package/… section of another source
package, the build system will take care of compiling the other package before compiling
the source package specifiying the runtime dependency.
Package dependencies, regardless of whether they're build-time or runtime ones, should only
require packages within the same package feed or provided by the base feed located
within the main OpenWrt
Dependencies among packages in different, non-base feeds are strongly discouraged as it is not guaranteed that each build system has access to all feeds.
Packages providing shared libraries require additional care to ensure that software depending on these libraries remains functional and is not accidentally broken by incompatible updates, changed APIs, removed functionality and so on.
While the package dependency mechanisms will ensure that the build system compiles library packages before the program packages requiring them, they do not guarantee that such programs are getting rebuilt when the library package itself is updated.
Also, in the case of binary package repositories, installing a newer, incompatible version of library packages would break installed programs relying on this library unless an additional version constraint is applied to the dependency.
The OpenWrt build system introduced the concept of an
ABI_VERSION to address the issue
of program dependencies on specific versions of a shared library, requiring exactly the ABI
the program was initially compiled and linked against. The
ABI_VERSION value is supposed
to reflect the
SONAME of the library being packaged.
Most upstream libraries contain an ELF SONAME
attribute denoting the canonical name of the library including a version suffix specifying
the version of the exposed ABI. Changes breaking the exposed ABI usually result in a change
When a program is linked against such a library, the linker will resolve the
the requested shared object and put it into the
DT_NEEDED section of the resulting program
executable. Upon starting the program, the dynamic linker on the target system will consult the
DT_NEEDED section to find the required libraries within the standard library search path.
ABI_VERSION variable on a library package definition will cause the buildsystem
to track the value of this variable and trigger recompilations in all packages depending on
this library package whenever the value is incremented. This is useful to force re-linking of
all programs after a library has been changed to an incompatible version.
ABI_VERSION value is also appended to the binary package name and all dependencies
mentioning the binary library package will be automatically expanded to contain the
ABI_VERSION suffix. If for example a library package
ABI_VERSION:=1.0, the resulting binary package will be called
libfoo1.0 and when a
DEPENDS:=+libfoo, the resulting runtime dependency will be
This ensures that incompatible updates to the
libfoo library, denoted by an
increase, will cause programs linked against it from then on to have a different runtime dependency, allowing the OpenWrt package manager to notice the change.
libfoo is updated to a new, incompatible version and its
ABI_VERSION should be increased
1.1, causing the resulting
liboo runtime package to be called
libfoo1.1. Source packages linking
libfoo from then on, will have runtime dependencies
When a shared library is packaged, the
ABI_VERSION variable of the corresponding
define Package/lib… section should be set to the
SONAME of the
.so library file
contained within the binary package. The
SONAME usually reflects the libraries internal
ABI version and is incremented whenever incompatible changes to the public APIs are made
within the library, e.g. when changing a function call signature or when removing exported
The public ABI tracker is useful to
decide whether an
ABI_VERSION change is required when updating an existing library package
to a newer upstream version.
Some upstream library projects do not use a
SONAME at all or do not properly version
their libraries, in such cases, the
ABI_VERSION must be set to a value in the form
reflecting the source code change date of the last incompatible change being made.
In order to allow multiple versions of binary library packages to coexist on the same system,
each library package should only contain shared object files specific to the
of the library getting packaged.
A typical upstream library
libbar with version 1.2.3 and
will usually provide these files after compilation:
libbar.so -> libbar.so.1.2.3 (symlink) libbar.so.1 -> libbar.so.1.2.3 (symlink) libbar.so.1.2.3 (shared library object)
libbar1 package should only contain
libbar.so symlink would clash with a
libbar2 package providing version
Versionless symlinks are usually not needed for libraries using the
and are only used during the linking phase when compiling programs depending on the library.
$(INSTALL_BIN) will currently copy the file contents instead of the
symlink itself, so prefer
$(CP) when copying the library symlinks. Consider the example
above, if you run
$(INSTALL_BIN) $(PKG_INSTALL_DIR)/usr/lib/libbar.so.* $(1)/usr/lib/
it will result in two copies of the library in regular files:
libbar.so.1 (regular file) libbar.so.1.2.3 (regular file)
$(CP) $(PKG_INSTALL_DIR)/usr/lib/libbar.so.* $(1)/usr/lib/
and you'll get the intended result:
libbar.so.1 -> libbar.so.1.2.3 (symlink) libbar.so.1.2.3 (regular file)
While there has been a proposal to change
$(CP) will continue
Source packages defining binary packages shipping shared libraries should declare a
recipe copying all resources required to discover and link the shared libraries into the staging directory.
InstallDev recipe usually copies all library symlinks (including the unversioned ones),
header files and, in case they're provided, pkg-config (