Creating and publishing opam packages

An opam package is defined by a <pkgname>.opam, or simply opam file, containing its metadata. This short guide will get you through writing this definition, testing it, and publishing to the opam-repository.

Creating a package definition file

For complete documentation of the format, see [the manual]((Manual.html#Packagedefinitions).

If your project does not yet have a package definition, get to the root of its source, and then either

  • run opam pin . to create and edit a template, and test your definition right away,
  • or create a <pkgname>.opam file and edit it by hand.

The file follows a simple field: <value> format:

opam-version: "2.0"
name: "project"
version: "0.1"
synopsis: "One-line description"
description: """
Longer description
maintainer: "Name <email>"
authors: "Name <email>"
license: ""
homepage: ""
bug-reports: ""
dev-repo: ""
depends: [ "ocaml" "ocamlfind" ]
build: [
  ["./configure" "--prefix=%{prefix}%"]
install: [make "install"]

The depends:, build: and install: are the most important fields here. If your project uses dune, skip install: and use:

build: ["dune" "build" "-p" name]

See below for more on the format.


Make sure you have committed everything if using a version-control system (e.g. git add *.opam && git commit), and just run

opam install .

from the root of your project. This will attempt to install the newly-defined package so you can check it goes as expected.


Publishing is done using Github's pull-request mechanism, which allows automated checks to be run, and discussion to happen with the maintainers before your contribution is merged. You will need a Github account.

Submitting is most easily done using the opam-publish plugin. Run opam publish --help for more options.

If the project is hosted on Github

First tag the project. Assuming this is version 0.1:

git tag -a 0.1
git push 0.1

Alternatively, you can create a release using the web UI (

Then just run opam publish from your source directory and follow the steps.

If not

Assuming your release is available as an archive at, run:

opam publish .

from your source directory. The final . argument indicates to search for package definitions in the current directory rather than in the archive.

opam publish can be re-run any number of times to update an existing submission, or propose changes to an already released package.

Without opam-publish

First, you will need to add a section in the following format to the package definition, to specify where to retrieve the source of the package:

url {
  src: "https://address/of/project.1.0.tar.gz"
  checksum: "md5=3ffed1987a040024076c08f4a7af9b21"

Then get to and select Fork on the top-right. Clone the resulting repository, add your package definition, and push back, as such:

git clone --branch 2.0.0
cd opam-repository
git add packages
git commit
git push origin HEAD:add-pkg-NAME

Then, back to the web UI, Github should propose to file a pull-request for your newly pushed branch. If not, select the new pull request button on the left. Make sure to file your pull-request against the 2.0.0 base branch, since package definitions in 1.2 format are not yet accepted on master.

The file format in more detail

The basics

The opam-version and maintainer fields are mandatory; you should remove the others rather than leave them empty.

  • synopsis should be a one-line description of what your package does, used in listings. It is recommended to also add a description field for a longer explanation (hint: you may delimit long strings with triple-quotation mark delimiters """ to avoid escaping issues).
  • You'll probably be the maintainer for now, so give a way to contact you in case your package needs maintenance.
  • Most interesting is the build field, that tells opam how to compile the project. Each element of the list is a single command in square brackets, containing arguments either as a string ("./configure") or a variable name (make, defined by default to point at the chosen "make" command -- think $(MAKE) in Makefiles). %{prefix}% is another syntax to replace variables within strings. opam config list will give you a list of available variables. build instructions shouldn't need to write outside of the package's source directory.
  • install is similar to build, but tells opam how to install. The example above should indeed be install: [ [make "install"] ], but the extra square brackets are optional when there is a single element. This field can be skipped if your package generates a <pkgname>.install file, like is the case when using dune.
  • depends should be a list of existing opam package names that your package relies on to build and run. You'll be guaranteed those are there when you execute the build instructions, and won't be changed or removed while your package is installed. If contributing to the default repository at, it is quite unlikely that you don't need at least "ocaml" there.

Note: when running local shell scripts during e.g. build:, it is preferable to use build: ["sh" "-exc" "./SCRIPT"] than call the script directly.

A few other fields are available, but that should be enough to get started. Like install, most fields may contain lists in square brackets rather than a single element: maintainer, author, homepage, bug-reports, license and depends. You may add a remove field, but since opam 2.0, removal of installed files is done automatically, so that should only be needed if your install modified existing files.

Advanced usage

This is just a very short introduction, don't be afraid to consult the reference for details and more:

  • Version constraints: an optional version constraint can be added after any package name in depends: simply write "package" {>= "3.2"}. Warning, versions are strings too, don't forget the quotes.

  • Formulas: depends are by default a conjunction (all of them are required), but you can use the logical "and" & and "or" | operators, and even group with parentheses. The same is true for version constraints: ("pkg1" & "pkg2") | "pkg3" {>= "3.2" & != "3.7"}.

  • Build depends: you may add, among others, the key build in the version constraints, e.g. "package" {build & >= "3.2"}, to indicate that there is no run-time dependency to this package: it is required but won't trigger rebuilds of your package when changed.

  • OS constraints: The available field is a formula that determines your package's availability based on the operating system or other global opam variables. For example:

    available: [ os != "macos" ]
  • Conflicts: some packages just can't coexist. The conflicts field is a list of packages, with optional version constraints. See also conflict-class for families of incompatible packages.

  • Optional dependencies: they change the way your package builds, but are not mandatory. The depopts field is a package formula like depends. simple list of package names. If you require specific versions, add a conflicts field with the ones that won't work.

  • Variables: you can get a list of predefined variables that you can use in your opam rules with opam config list.

  • Filters: dependencies, commands and single command arguments may need to be omitted depending on the environment. This uses the same optional argument syntax as above, postfix curly braces, with boolean conditions:

    ["./configure" "--with-foo" {ocaml-version > "3.12"} "--prefix=%{prefix}%"]
    [make "byte"] { !ocaml-native }
    [make "native"] { ocaml-native }