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Tuesday, 21 June 2016


The language-agnostic, universal package manager
gx is a packaging tool built around the distributed, content addressed filesystem IPFS. It aims to be flexible, powerful and simple.
gx is Alpha Quality. It's not perfect yet, but it's proven dependable enough for managing dependencies in go-ipfs and ready for pioneering developers and early users to try out and explore.

Table of Contents


gx was originally designed to handle dependencies in Go projects in a distributed fashion, and pulls ideas from other beloved package managers (like npm).
gx was designed with the following major goals in mind:
  1. Be language/ecosystem agnostic by providing git-like hooks for adding new ecosystems.
  2. Built-in semantic versioning.
  3. Use a flexible, distributed storage backend.


Users are encouraged to have a running IPFS daemon of at least version 0.4.0 on their machines. If not present, gx will use the public gateway. If you wish to publish a package, a local running daemon is a hard requirement.


$ go get -u
This will download the source into $GOPATH/src/ and build and install a binary to $GOPATH/bin. To modify gx, just change the source in that directory, and run go build.


Creating and publishing new generic package:
$ gx init
$ gx publish
This will output a 'package-hash' which is unique to the exact content of your package at the time of publishing. If someone were to download your package and republish it, it would produce the exact same hash.


To add a dependency of another package to your package, simply import it by its hash:
$ gx import QmaDFJvcHAnxpnMwcEh6VStYN4v4PB4S16j4pAuC2KSHVr
This downloads the package specified by the hash into the vendor directory in your workspace. It also adds an entry referencing the package to the local package.json.


Updating packages in gx is simple:
$ gx update mypkg QmbH7fpAV1FgMp6J7GZXUV6rj6Lck5tDix9JJGBSjFPgUd
This looks into your package.json for a dependency named mypkg and replaces its hash reference with the one given.
Note, this will not touch your code at all, so any references to that hash you have in your code will need to be updated. If you have a language tool (e.g. gx-go) installed, and it has a post-update hook, references to the given package should be updated correctly. If not, you may have to run sed over the package to update everything. The bright side of that is that you are very unlikely to have those hashes sitting around for any other reason so a global find-replace should be just fine.


gx supports named packages via user configured repositories. A repository is simply an ipfs object whose links name package hashes. You can add a repository as either an ipns or ipfs path.


Add a new repo
$ gx repo add myrepo /ipns/QmPupmUqXHBxikXxuptYECKaq8tpGNDSetx1Ed44irmew3
List configured repos
$ gx repo list
myrepo       /ipns/QmPupmUqXHBxikXxuptYECKaq8tpGNDSetx1Ed44irmew3
List packages in a given repo
$ gx repo list myrepo
events      QmeJjwRaGJfx7j6LkPLjyPfzcD2UHHkKehDPkmizqSpcHT
smalltree   QmRgTZA6jGi49ipQxorkmC75d3pLe69N6MZBKfQaN6grGY
stump       QmebiJS1saSNEPAfr9AWoExvpfGoEK4QCtdLKCK4z6Qw7U
Import a package from a repo:
$ gx repo import events


gx can support a wide array of use cases by having sane defaults that are extensible based on the scenario you are in. To this end, gx has hooks that get called during certain operations.
These hooks are language specific, and gx will attempt to make calls to a helper binary matching your language to execute the hooks, for example, when writing go, gx calls gx-go hook <hookname> <args> for any given hook.
Currently available hooks are:
  • post-import
    • called after a new package is imported and its info written to package.json.
    • takes the hash of the newly imported package as an argument.
  • post-init
    • called after a new package is initialized.
    • takes an optional argument of the directory of the newly init'ed package.
  • pre-publish
    • called during gx publish before the package is bundled up and added to ipfs.
    • currently takes no arguments.
  • post-publish
    • called during gx publish after the package has been added to ipfs.
    • takes the hash of the newly published package as an argument.
  • post-update
    • called during gx update after a dependency has been updated.
    • takes the old package ref and the new hash as arguments.
  • post-install
    • called after a new package is downloaded, during install and import.
    • takes the path to the new package as an argument.
  • install-path
    • called during package installs and imports.
    • sets the location for gx to install packages to.

Package directories

Gx by default will install packages 'locally'. This means that it will create a folder in the current directory named vendorand install things to it. When running gx install in the directory of your package will recursively fetch all of the dependencies specified in the package.json and save them to the local package directory.
The location of this directory is not set in stone, if for your specific environment you'd like it somewhere else, simply add a hook to your environments extension tool named install-path (see above) and gx will use that path instead.
Gx also supports a global installation path, to set this one you must handle the --global flag on your install-pathhook. Global gx packages are shared across all packages that depend on them.

Ignoring files from a publish

You can use a .gxignore file to make gx ignore certain files during a publish. This has the same behaviour as a .gitignore.
Gx also respects a .gitignore file if present, and will not publish any file excluded by it.

Using gx as a Go package manager

If you want (like me) to use gx as a package manager for go, its pretty easy. You will need the gx go extensions before starting your project:
$ go get -u
Once thats installed, use gx like normal to import dependencies. You can import code from the vendor directory using:
import "gx/ipfs/<hash>/packagename"
for example, if i have a package foobar, you can import with gx it like so:
$ gx import QmR5FHS9TpLbL9oYY8ZDR3A7UWcHTBawU1FJ6pu9SvTcPa
And then in your go code, you can use it with:
import "gx/ipfs/QmR5FHS9TpLbL9oYY8ZDR3A7UWcHTBawU1FJ6pu9SvTcPa/foobar"
Then simply set the environment variable GO15VENDOREXPERIMENT to 1 and run go build or go install like you normally would. Alternatively, install your dependencies globally (gx install --global) and you can leave off the environment variable part.
See the gx-go repo for more details.

Using gx as a package manager for language/environment X

If you want to extend gx to work with any other language or environment, you can implement the relevant hooks in a binary named gx-X where the 'X' is the name of your environment. After that, any package whose language is set to 'X' will call out to that tools hooks during normal gx operations. For example, a 'go' package would call gx-go hook pre-publishduring a gx publish invocation before the package is actually published. For more information on hooks, check out the hooks section above.

Why is it called gx?

No reason. "gx" stands for nothing.

Getting Involved

If you're interested in gx, please stop by #gx and #ipfs on free node irc。