Building conda packages for general code projects


Conda packages can be built from projects written in any language. This tutorial will show you how to write a recipe for the postgis package. At the end you will build the package, upload it to and install the package through conda.

Who is this for?

This tutorial is designed for Linux and Mac users who wish to make conda packages for source code projects in languages other than Python. The user should already know how to configure, compile and install C/C++ packages.

Conda build summary

Building a conda package from a general source code package can be done in four steps.

  1. Before you start
  2. Dependencies
  3. Conda recipe
  4. Build script
  5. Build the package
  6. Distribute and Install the package
  7. Troubleshooting and Additional Information

Before you start

You should already have installed Miniconda or Anaconda.

Install conda-build:

conda install conda-build

It is recommended that you use the latest versions of conda and conda-build. To upgrade both packages run:

conda upgrade conda
conda upgrade conda-build

Now you are ready to start building your own conda packages.


When creating conda recipes the most important aspect is to correctly list the dependencies.

The README.postgis file states that the following packages are required along with the minimum required version.

postgresql version 9.1
proj4 version 4.0.6
geos version 3.4
libxml2 version 2.5
json-c version 0.9
gdal version 1.9

There must exist a conda package for each of these dependencies that is available for install using conda-install. This is because conda-build will create a private environment from which the source code for postgis will be installed and conda must install all required dependencies into that environment.

We begin by searching for each of these packages using conda-search. The only package that cannot be found in the default channel is json-c. To install this package you will have to add the jlaura channel using the conda-config command.

conda config --add channels jlaura

Now that you have identified that all of the dependent packages can be installed the next step is to write the conda recipe.

Conda recipe

The first step is to create a directory to store conda recipe files.

mkdir postgis
cd postgis

The conda recipe has three main components, the package name and version, the location of the source code and the dependent packages that are required to build and run the package being built.

There are a number of ways to specify the location of the source code in a conda recipe. Here we are going to provide the path to the Github repository and the specific revision tag we wish to use.

NOTE: Not all Github repositories make use of revision tags. In some cases the most recent commit is suitable.

Open a text editor and write the following to a file called meta.yaml inside the postgis directory.

   name: postgis
   version: "2.2.2"

   git_rev: 2.2.2

   number: 0

    - gdal
    - geos
    - proj4
    - json-c
    - libxml2
    - postgresql >=9.1
    - gdal
    - geos
    - proj4
    - json-c
    - libxml2
    - postgresql >=9.1

   license: GPL2

NOTE: Conda-build will build the package in an isolated environment, which is created from the packages specified as build dependencies. Installing the packages into your own working environment does not affect conda-build at all.

Build script

The final step in preparing the conda build recipe is to write the build script. Since postgis is being build for Linux and Mac we are only going to write a file in the postgis directory.

The build script file contains all of the commands required to configure, build and install the source project. This script must run without user intervention.

By Looking at the postgis compilation documentation you can see that several flags need to be provided to the configure command to indicate the location of the dependent packages.

During execution of the conda-build command the $PREFIX environment variable is used to refer to the install path of conda packages. We will use $PREFIX to inform the configure command of the location of the dependent packages listed in the build and run requirements of the conda recipe.

In a text editor make a new file called with the following content in the postgis directory.

./configure \
  --prefix=$PREFIX \
  --with-pgconfig=$PREFIX/bin/pg_config \
  --with-gdalconfig=$PREFIX/bin/gdal-config \
  --with-xml2config=$PREFIX/bin/xml2-config \
  --with-geosconfig=$PREFIX/bin/geos-config \
  --with-projdir=$PREFIX \
  --with-jsondir=$PREFIX \
  --without-raster \

make install

NOTE: without references to the $PREFIX environment variable the configure command would look in the default system directories for required packages and even if the package were to build correctly there is no guarantee that other users could install the compiled conda package correctly.

NOTE: You will have to install a C/C++ compiler, autoconf and automake in order to run conda-build on this recipe. These packages must be installed at the system level and not through conda.

Build the package

Now that the recipe is complete you can build the conda package with the conda-build command from within the postgis directory.

conda build .

The start of the conda-build output should read

Removing old build environment
Removing old work directory
BUILD START: postgis-2.2.2-0
Using Anaconda Cloud api site
Fetching package metadata: ..........
Solving package specifications: .........

If conda-build was able to successfully install the dependent packages and compile the source code conda-build should terminate with the following message.

Mac users:

BUILD END: postgis-2.2.2-0
Nothing to test for: postgis-2.2.2-0
# If you want to upload this package to later, type:
# $ anaconda upload /Users/adefusco/Applications/anaconda3/conda-bld/osx-64/postgis-2.2.2-0.tar.bz2
# To have conda build upload to automatically, use
# $ conda config --set anaconda_upload yes

Linux users:

BUILD END: postgis-2.2.2-0
Nothing to test for: postgis-2.2.2-0
# If you want to upload this package to later, type:
# $ anaconda upload /home/adefusco/anaconda3/conda-bld/linux-64/postgis-2.2.2-0.tar.bz2
# To have conda build upload to automatically, use
# $ conda config --set anaconda_upload yes

NOTE: Your path may be different depending on the install location of Anaconda.

NOTE: See the troubleshooting section for help diagnosing conda-build errors.

NOTE: The package can only be installed on systems of the same architecture. You will have run the conda-build command separately on Mac and Linux systems to make packages for both architectures.

Distribute and Install the package

At this point you can install the package on your local machine by running the following command

conda install postgis --use-local

Alternatively, you can upload the package to your channel by using the anaconda-upload command displayed at the end of the conda-build output. This will make the package available to install by any user with the following command.

conda install -c CHANNEL postgis

NOTE: Change CHANNEL to your username.

Troubleshooting and Additional Information

The troubleshooting page contains helpful hints for cases where conda-build fails.

See the full conda recipe documentation and the sample recipes page for more options that are available in the conda recipe meta.yaml file.