Wrap dependency system manual

One of the major problems of multiplatform development is wrangling all your dependencies. This is awkward on many platforms, especially on ones that do not have a built-in package manager. The latter problem has been worked around by having third party package managers. They are not really a solution for end user deployment, because you can't tell them to install a package manager just to use your app. On these platforms you must produce self-contained applications. Same applies when destination platform is missing (up-to-date versions of) your application's dependencies.

The traditional approach to this has been to bundle dependencies inside your own project. Either as prebuilt libraries and headers or by embedding the source code inside your source tree and rewriting your build system to build them as part of your project.

This is both tedious and error prone because it is always done by hand. The Wrap dependency system of Meson aims to provide an automated way to do this.

How it works

Meson has a concept of subprojects. They are a way of nesting one Meson project inside another. Any project that builds with Meson can detect that it is built as a subproject and build itself in a way that makes it easy to use (usually this means as a static library).

To use this kind of a project as a dependency you could just copy and extract it inside your project's subprojects directory.

However there is a simpler way. You can specify a Wrap file that tells Meson how to download it for you. If you then use this subproject in your build, Meson will automatically download and extract it during build. This makes subproject embedding extremely easy.

All wrap files must have a name of <project_name>.wrap form and be in subprojects dir.

Currently Meson has four kinds of wraps:

  • wrap-file
  • wrap-git
  • wrap-hg
  • wrap-svn

wrap format

Wrap files are written in ini format, with a single header containing the type of wrap, followed by properties describing how to obtain the sources, validate them, and modify them if needed. An example wrap-file for the wrap named libfoobar would have a filename libfoobar.wrap and would look like this:

directory = libfoobar-1.0

source_url = https://example.com/foobar-1.0.tar.gz
source_filename = foobar-1.0.tar.gz
source_hash = 5ebeea0dfb75d090ea0e7ff84799b2a7a1550db3fe61eb5f6f61c2e971e57663

An example wrap-git will look like this:

url = https://github.com/libfoobar/libfoobar.git
revision = head
depth = 1

Accepted configuration properties for wraps

  • directory - name of the subproject root directory, defaults to the name of the wrap.

Since 0.55.0 those can be used in all wrap types, they were previously reserved to wrap-file:

  • patch_url - download url to retrieve an optional overlay archive
  • patch_fallback_url - fallback URL to be used when download from patch_url fails Since: 0.55.0
  • patch_filename - filename of the downloaded overlay archive
  • patch_hash - sha256 checksum of the downloaded overlay archive
  • patch_directory - Since 0.55.0 Overlay directory, alternative to patch_filename in the case files are local instead of a downloaded archive. The directory must be placed in subprojects/packagefiles.
  • diff_files - Since 0.63.0 Comma-separated list of local diff files (see Diff files below).
  • method - Since 1.3.0 The build system used by this subproject. Defaults to meson. Supported methods:
    • meson requires meson.build file.
    • cmake requires CMakeLists.txt file. See details.
    • cargo requires Cargo.toml file. See details.

Specific to wrap-file

  • source_url - download url to retrieve the wrap-file source archive
  • source_fallback_url - fallback URL to be used when download from source_url fails Since: 0.55.0
  • source_filename - filename of the downloaded source archive
  • source_hash - sha256 checksum of the downloaded source archive
  • lead_directory_missing - for wrap-file create the leading directory name. Needed when the source file does not have a leading directory.

Since 0.55.0 it is possible to use only the source_filename and patch_filename value in a .wrap file (without source_url and patch_url) to specify a local archive in the subprojects/packagefiles directory. The *_hash entries are optional when using this method. This method should be preferred over the old packagecache approach described below.

Since 0.49.0 if source_filename or patch_filename is found in the project's subprojects/packagecache directory, it will be used instead of downloading the file, even if --wrap-mode option is set to nodownload. The file's hash will be checked.

Since 1.3.0 if the MESON_PACKAGE_CACHE_DIR environment variable is set, it is used instead of the project's subprojects/packagecache. This allows sharing the cache across multiple projects. In addition it can contain an already extracted source tree as long as it has the same directory name as the directory field in the wrap file. In that case, the directory will be copied into subprojects/ before applying patches.

Specific to VCS-based wraps

  • url - name of the wrap-git repository to clone. Required.
  • revision - name of the revision to checkout. Must be either: a valid value (such as a git tag) for the VCS's checkout command, or (for git) head to track upstream's default branch. Required.

Specific to wrap-git

  • depth - shallowly clone the repository to X number of commits. This saves bandwidth and disk space, and should typically always be specified unless commit history is needed. Note that git always allow shallowly cloning branches, but in order to clone commit ids shallowly, the server must support uploadpack.allowReachableSHA1InWant=true. (since 0.52.0)
  • push-url - alternative url to configure as a git push-url. Useful if the subproject will be developed and changes pushed upstream. (since 0.37.0)
  • clone-recursive - also clone submodules of the repository (since 0.48.0)

wrap-file with Meson build patch

Unfortunately most software projects in the world do not build with Meson. Because of this Meson allows you to specify a patch URL.

For historic reasons this is called a "patch", however, it serves as an overlay to add or replace files rather than modifying them. The file must be an archive; it is downloaded and automatically extracted into the subproject. The extracted files will include a Meson build definition for the given subproject.

This approach makes it extremely simple to embed dependencies that require build system changes. You can write the Meson build definition for the dependency in total isolation. This is a lot better than doing it inside your own source tree, especially if it contains hundreds of thousands of lines of code. Once you have a working build definition, just zip up the Meson build files (and others you have changed) and put them somewhere where you can download them.

Prior to 0.55.0 Meson build patches were only supported for wrap-file mode. When using wrap-git, the repository must contain all Meson build definitions. Since 0.55.0 Meson build patches are supported for any wrap modes, including wrap-git.

Diff files

Since: 0.63.0

You can also provide local patch files in diff format. For historic reasons, they are referred to as "diff files", since the "patch" name is already used for overlay archives.

The diff files are described by the diff_files property (a comma-separated list), and must be available locally in the subprojects/packagefiles directory.

Meson will apply the diff files after extracting or cloning the project, and after applying the overlay archive (patch_*). For this feature, the patch or git command-line tool must be available.

The diff files will be applied with -p1, i.e. treating the first path component as a prefix to be stripped. This is the default for diffs produced by Git.

directory = libfoobar-1.0

source_url = https://example.com/foobar-1.0.tar.gz
source_filename = foobar-1.0.tar.gz
source_hash = 5ebeea0dfb75d090ea0e7ff84799b2a7a1550db3fe61eb5f6f61c2e971e57663

diff_files = libfoobar-1.0/0001.patch, libfoobar-1.0/0002.patch

provide section

*Since 0.55.0

Wrap files can define the dependencies it provides in the [provide] section.

dependency_names = foo-1.0

When a wrap file provides the dependency foo-1.0, as above, any call to dependency('foo-1.0') will automatically fallback to that subproject even if no fallback keyword argument is given. A wrap file named foo.wrap implicitly provides the dependency name foo even when the [provide] section is missing.

Optional dependencies, like dependency('foo-1.0', required: get_option('foo_opt')) where foo_opt is a feature option set to auto, will not fallback to the subproject defined in the wrap file, for 2 reasons:

  • It allows for looking the dependency in other ways first, for example using cc.find_library('foo'), and only fallback if that fails:
# this won't use fallback defined in foo.wrap
foo_dep = dependency('foo-1.0', required: false)
if not foo_dep.found()
  foo_dep = cc.find_library('foo', has_headers: 'foo.h', required: false)
  if not foo_dep.found()
    # This will use the fallback
    foo_dep = dependency('foo-1.0')
    # or
    foo_dep = dependency('foo-1.0', required: false, fallback: 'foo')
  • Sometimes not-found dependency is preferable to a fallback when the feature is not explicitly requested by the user. In that case dependency('foo-1.0', required: get_option('foo_opt')) will only fallback when the user sets foo_opt to enabled instead of auto. Since 0.58.0 optional dependency like above will fallback to the subproject defined in the wrap file in the case wrap_mode is set to forcefallback or force_fallback_for contains the subproject.

If it is desired to fallback for an optional dependency, the fallback or allow_fallback keyword arguments must be passed explicitly. Since 0.56.0, dependency('foo-1.0', required: get_option('foo_opt'), allow_fallback: true) will use the fallback even when foo_opt is set to auto. On version 0.55.0 the same effect could be achieved with dependency('foo-1.0', required: get_option('foo_opt'), fallback: 'foo').

This mechanism assumes the subproject calls meson.override_dependency('foo-1.0', foo_dep) so Meson knows which dependency object should be used as fallback. Since that method was introduced in version 0.54.0, as a transitional aid for projects that do not yet make use of it the variable name can be provided in the wrap file with entries in the format foo-1.0 = foo_dep.

For example when using a recent enough version of glib that uses meson.override_dependency() to override glib-2.0, gobject-2.0 and gio-2.0, a wrap file would look like:


dependency_names = glib-2.0, gobject-2.0, gio-2.0

With older version of glib dependency variable names need to be specified:



Programs can also be provided by wrap files, with the program_names key:

program_names = myprog, otherprog

With such wrap file, find_program('myprog') will automatically fallback to use the subproject, assuming it uses meson.override_find_program('myprog').

CMake wraps

Since the CMake module does not know the public name of the provided dependencies, a CMake .wrap file cannot use the dependency_names = foo syntax. Instead, the dep_name = <target_name>_dep syntax should be used, where <target_name> is the name of a CMake library with all non alphanumeric characters replaced by underscores _.

For example, a CMake project that contains add_library(foo-bar ...) in its CMakeList.txt and that applications would usually find using the dependency name foo-bar-1.0 (e.g. via pkg-config) would have a wrap file like this:

method = cmake
foo-bar-1.0 = foo_bar_dep

Cargo wraps

Cargo subprojects automatically override the <package_name>-<version>-rs dependency name:

  • package_name is defined in [package] name = ... section of the Cargo.toml.
  • version is the API version deduced from [package] version = ... as follow:
    • x.y.z -> 'x'
    • 0.x.y -> '0.x'
    • 0.0.x -> '0' It allows to make different dependencies for uncompatible versions of the same crate.
  • -rs suffix is added to distinguish from regular system dependencies, for example gstreamer-1.0 is a system pkg-config dependency and gstreamer-0.22-rs is a Cargo dependency.

That means the .wrap file should have dependency_names = foo-1-rs in their [provide] section when Cargo.toml has package name foo and version 1.2.

Note that the version component was added in Meson 1.4, previous versions were using <package_name>-rs format.

Cargo subprojects require a toml parser. Python >= 3.11 have one built-in, older Python versions require either the external tomli module or toml2json program.

For example, a Cargo project with the package name foo-bar would have a wrap file like that:

method = cargo
dependency_names = foo-bar-0.1-rs

Cargo features are exposed as Meson boolean options, with the feature- prefix. For example the default feature is named feature-default and can be set from the command line with -Dfoo-1-rs:feature-default=false. When a cargo subproject depends on another cargo subproject, it will automatically enable features it needs using the dependency('foo-1-rs', default_options: ...) mechanism. However, unlike Cargo, the set of enabled features is not managed globally. Let's assume the main project depends on foo-1-rs and bar-1-rs, and they both depend on common-1-rs. The main project will first look up foo-1-rs which itself will configure common-rs with a set of features. Later, when bar-1-rs does a lookup for common-1-rs it has already been configured and the set of features cannot be changed. If bar-1-rs wants extra features from common-1-rs, Meson will error out. It is currently the responsability of the main project to resolve those issues by enabling extra features on each subproject:

  default_options: {
    'common-1-rs:feature-something': true,

In addition, if the file meson/meson.build exists, Meson will call subdir('meson') where the project can add manual logic that would usually be part of build.rs. Some naming conventions need to be respected:

  • The extra_args variable is pre-defined and can be used to add any Rust arguments. This is typically used as extra_args += ['--cfg', 'foo'].
  • The extra_deps variable is pre-defined and can be used to add extra dependencies. This is typically used as extra_deps += dependency('foo').

Since 1.5.0 Cargo wraps can also be provided with Cargo.lock file at the root of (sub)project source tree. Meson will automatically load that file and convert it into a serie of wraps definitions.

Using wrapped projects

Wraps provide a convenient way of obtaining a project into your subproject directory. Then you use it as a regular subproject (see subprojects).

Getting wraps

Usually you don't want to write your wraps by hand.

There is an online repository called WrapDB that provides many dependencies ready to use. You can read more about WrapDB here.

There is also a Meson subcommand to get and manage wraps (see using wraptool).

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