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CPack Package Generators

CPack may generate several kind of package on behalf of various CPack Generators. All generators share common properties explained below. Some if not all generators do have specific features or restriction which are explained in specific sections.

Overall usage (common to all generators)

Information about CPACK_xxx variables used for CPack configuration may be found there: CPackConfiguration

The CPACK_GENERATOR variable has different meanings in different contexts. In your CMakeLists.txt file, CPACK_GENERATOR is a list of generators: when run with no other arguments, CPack will iterate over that list and produce one package for each generator. In a CPACK_PROJECT_CONFIG_FILE, though, CPACK_GENERATOR is a string naming a single generator. If you need per-cpack-generator logic to control other cpack settings, then you need a CPACK_PROJECT_CONFIG_FILE. For example it may be used to switch on/off component packaging for a specific generator.

The CMake source tree itself contains a CPACK_PROJECT_CONFIG_FILE. See the top level file for an example.

If set, the CPACK_PROJECT_CONFIG_FILE is included automatically on a per-generator basis. It only needs to contain overrides.

Here's how it works:

  1. cpack runs
  2. it includes CPackConfig.cmake (usually found in the build tree)
  3. it iterates over the generators listed in that file's CPACK_GENERATOR list variable (unless told to use just a specific one via -G on the command line...), then for each generator it:
    1. sets CPACK_GENERATOR to the one currently being iterated over. This is the key: For each generator listed in CPACK_GENERATOR in CPackConfig.cmake, cpack will reset CPACK_GENERATOR internally to the one currently being used and then include the CPACK_PROJECT_CONFIG_FILE.
    2. includes the CPACK_PROJECT_CONFIG_FILE
    3. produces the package for that generator

Archive Generators

The archive generators are a family of CPack generators derived from the same base class generator. These generators use the libarchive library to produce various archive file formats. These generators share common properties which are explained in this section. Specific features are explained in sections corresponding to the specific generator.


Tar GZip compressed packages.


Self extracting Tar GZip compressed packages (needs /bin/sh, tar, gunzip and tail for extracting).


Tar BZip2 compressed packages. Requires bzip2 for creating the package.


Tar UNIX compress compressed packages.


ZIP compressed packages. CMake 2.4.x required zip, WinZip or 7Zip for creating the package. CMake 2.8.x built-in libarchive support does not need external programs in order to build ZIP.


Nullsoft Installer. Requires NSIS for creating the package.

NSIS Generator Specifics settings

Variable Name Description Example
CPACK_NSIS_MUI_ICON The icon file (.ico) for the generated install program. Both this and CPACK_NSIS_MUI_UNIICON need to set for this to have any effect. installer.ico
CPACK_NSIS_MUI_UNIICON The icon file (.ico) for the generated uninstall program. Both this and CPACK_NSIS_MUI_ICON need to set for this to have any effect. uninstaller.ico
CPACK_PACKAGE_ICON A branding image that will be displayed on the top bar inside the installer. installer.bmp
CPACK_NSIS_EXTRA_INSTALL_COMMANDS Extra NSIS commands that will be added to the install Section. ExecWait '\\\"$INSTDIR\\\\vcredist_x86.exe\\\" /q:a'
CPACK_NSIS_EXTRA_UNINSTALL_COMMANDS Extra NSIS commands that will be added to the uninstall Section.
CPACK_NSIS_COMPRESSOR The arguments that will be passed to the NSIS SetCompressor command. /SOLID lzma
CPACK_NSIS_MODIFY_PATH If this is set to "ON", then an extra page will appear in the installer that will allow the user to choose whether the program directory should be added to the system PATH variable. ON
CPACK_NSIS_INSTALLED_ICON_NAME Set the icon used for the Windows "Add or Remove Programs" tool. "bin\\\\MyExecutable.exe"
CPACK_NSIS_HELP_LINK Adds link to registry. URI. "http:\\\\\\\\"
CPACK_NSIS_URL_INFO_ABOUT Adds link to registry and the vendor in add/remove programs' "Click here for support information" in program entry links here. "http:\\\\\\\\"
CPACK_NSIS_CONTACT Adds link to add/remove programs' "Click here for support information" in program entry. ""
CPACK_NSIS_CREATE_ICONS_EXTRA Additional NSIS commands for creating start menu shortcuts. set(CPACK_NSIS_CREATE_ICONS "CreateShortCut '\$SMPROGRAMS\\\\$STARTMENU_FOLDER\\\\${PROJECT_NAME}.lnk' '\$INSTDIR\\\\${PROJECT_NAME}.exe'")
CPACK_NSIS_DELETE_ICONS_EXTRA Undocumented. Possibly: Additional NSIS commands to uninstall start menu shortcuts.
CPACK_NSIS_MENU_LINKS Used to override the Start Menu links. "doc/cmake-@CMake_VERSION_MAJOR@.@CMake_VERSION_MINOR@/CMakeSetup.html" "CMakeSetup Help"
CPACK_NSIS_MUI_FINISHPAGE_RUN If used, will make it possible for user to choose (on an additional page, displayed at the end of the installation) to run intalled program. Should point to program name to run, seemingly without any sub-directories of the installation directory in case program installed in such sub-directories (but please check generated NSIS script if you can't make it work). "MyExecutable.exe"

DragNDrop (OSX only)

Mac OSX Drag and Drop installer. Similar to the Bundle generator except that this generator doesn't create the bundle for you. To make a bundle, use the MACOSX_BUNDLE parameter in add_executable(), and to specify icon, plist, and other bundle properties, just set them with a set_target_properties() call. It also supports creating a folder that contains multiple bundles and other files.

PackageMaker (OSX only)

Mac OSX Package Maker packages. Requires Package Maker for creating the package.

Some of the variables that you can use to customize the Package Maker generated package:

Variable Name Description Default value
CPACK_PREFLIGHT_SCRIPT This script is launched just after the user clicked on the "Install" button. -
CPACK_POSTFLIGHT_SCRIPT This script is launched after the postinstall / postupgrade script or when the package has been -
CPACK_POSTUPGRADE_SCRIPT This script is launched after the files in the package have been installed. (Isn't an option for a postinstall script missing? According to Apple documentation, postinstall is executed the first time a package is installed and postupgrade all subsequent times) -
CPACK_OSX_PACKAGE_VERSION Set to the minimum OS X version you support. Choices are currently 10.3, 10.4 and 10.5 10.3, unless you specified features that require a higher OS X version (CPACK_DOWNLOAD_SITE, CPACK_COMPONENTS_ALL)

This is a useful site that describes where the scripts get executed and what the arguments to the scripts are. See section "What about scripts?". . In summary the arguments correspond to $0 Script path, $1 Package path, $2 Target location, and $3 Target Volume.

OSXX11 (OSX only)

Mac OSX X11 Bundle. Requires hdiutil for creating the package.

Bundle (OSX only)


The Bundle generator (introduced in CMake 2.6) creates a compressed disk image containing an OSX bundle, whose contents are populated with CMake INSTALL() commands. This makes it possible to create bundles of arbitrary complexity while minimizing differences with installation on other platforms. For example, a bundle created with the bundle generator can contain multiple executable files, libraries generated by the build, third-party dependencies, etc.

Important Note: Do not use the MACOSX_BUNDLE property on executables that will be packaged using the bundle-generator! Specifying MACOSX_BUNDLE creates a separate bundle for each individual executable at build-time; the structure of these bundles becomes redundant when the bundle generator consolidates multiple executables into a single bundle.

Bundle Layout

    Info.plist (copied from ${CPACK_BUNDLE_PLIST})
      (file contents defined by CMake INSTALL() commands)
  • CPACK_BUNDLE_PLIST is the name of a file that becomes the Info.plist for the bundle. This could be a hard-coded file included with the program sources, a file generated with CONFIGURE_FILE, etc. Rationale: Info.plist can become arbitrarily complex, applications need to be able to specify its contents directly.
  • The bundle's Resources/ directory is populated with the files installed with CMake INSTALL() commands. Rationale: integrate well with CMake and other package generators (such as NSIS). Makes it easy to incorporate external dependencies (Qt, GTK) into the bundle.
  • CPACK_BUNDLE_STARTUP_COMMAND is the name of a file that will be executed when the user opens the bundle. It could be a binary or a script. Rationale: for most non-trivial applications, simply running a binary is not enough. The following sample script demonstrates several common startup operations:
    • Starts X11 (required by GTK).
    • Updates DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH so that the application can locate libraries that are included in the bundle. This eliminates the need to run install_name_tool on libraries in the bundle, which is messy and error-prone. Useful for either Qt or GTK.
    • Updates PATH so the "main" application can easily run "child" binaries included in the bundle.
    • Sets-up some temporary files and environment variables required by (in this case) GTK.
    • Passes information to the application via the command line (in this case, paths to several application resources located in the bundle).
# Author: Aaron Voisine <>
# Inkscape Modifications: Michael Wybrow <>
# K-3D Modifications: Timothy M. Shead <>

K3D_BUNDLE="`echo "$0" | sed -e 's/\/Contents\/MacOS\/K-3D//'`"

echo "running $0"

# Start X11 ...
ps -wx -ocommand | grep -e '[X]' > /dev/null
if [ "$?" != "0" -a ! -f ~/.xinitrc ]; then
    echo "rm -f ~/.xinitrc" > ~/.xinitrc
    sed 's/xterm/# xterm/' /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xinit/xinitrc >> ~/.xinitrc

mkdir -p $K3D_TEMP
mkdir -p "$K3D_TEMP"

if [ "\$DISPLAY"x == "x" ]; then
    echo :0 > "$K3D_TEMP/display"
    echo \$DISPLAY > "$K3D_TEMP/display"
chmod +x "$K3D_TEMP/"
rm -f $K3D_TEMP/display
open-x11 $K3D_TEMP/ || \
open -a XDarwin $K3D_TEMP/ || \
echo ":0" > $K3D_TEMP/display

while [ "$?" == "0" -a ! -f $K3D_TEMP/display ];
  #echo "Waiting for display $K3D_TEMP/display"
  sleep 1;
export "DISPLAY=`cat $K3D_TEMP/display`"

ps -wx -ocommand | grep -e '[X]11' > /dev/null || exit 11

# Setup temporary runtime files
rm -rf "$K3D_TEMP"

# Because the bundle could be located anywhere at runtime, we have to
# create temporary copies of the Pango configuration files that
# reflect our current location
mkdir -p "$K3D_ETC/pango"
sed -e 's|/opt/local/etc|'"$K3D_ETC|g" "$K3D_RESOURCES/etc/pango/pangorc" > "$K3D_ETC/pango/pangorc"
sed -e 's|/opt/local|\"'"$K3D_RESOURCES|g" -e "s/\.so/.so\"/g" "$K3D_RESOURCES/etc/pango/pango.modules" > "$K3D_ETC/pango/pango.modules"
cp -f "$K3D_RESOURCES/etc/pango/pangox.aliases" "$K3D_ETC/pango/pangox.aliases"

export "PATH=$K3D_RESOURCES/bin:$PATH"

exec "$K3D_RESOURCES/bin/k3d" "--log-level=debug" "--plugins=$K3D_RESOURCES/lib/k3d/plugins" "--share=$K3D_RESOURCES/share/k3d" "--ui=$K3D_RESOURCES/lib/k3d/uiplugins/k3d-ngui.module"
  • The bundle is then stored in a compressed disk image. Rationale: de-facto standard mechanism for distributing bundles.

Required CMake Variables

The prototype bundle generator uses the following variables:

  • CPACK_PACKAGE_FILE_NAME - provides the name of the final compressed disk image (the name of the file that is distributed).
  • CPACK_PACKAGE_ICON - provides the icon for the mounted disk image (appears after the user mounts the disk image).
  • CPACK_BUNDLE_NAME - provides the bundle name (displayed in the finder underneath the bundle icon).
  • CPACK_BUNDLE_ICON - provides the bundle icon (displayed in the /Applications folder, on the dock, etc).
  • CPACK_BUNDLE_PLIST - path to a file that will become the bundle plist.
  • CPACK_BUNDLE_STARTUP_COMMAND - path to a file that will be executed when the user opens the bundle. Could be a shell-script or a binary.

Known Issues


  • Detect attempts to use the bundle generator with MACOSX_BUNDLE.
  • Generate a default Info.plist file if CPACK_BUNDLE_PLIST is not defined.
  • Support fixing-up binaries with install_name_tool, eliminating the need to run a script that sets DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH.
  • Add arbitrary files (such as background images, READMEs, etc) to the disk image - this use-case is distinct from adding files to the bundle with INSTALL().
  • Provide an option or alternative to CPACK_BUNDLE_STARTUP_COMMAND that simply executes one of the files installed in the bundle. Presumably, this should be a symlink to a binary or script.

CygwinBinary (Cygwin only)

Tar Bzip2 compressed Cygwin package. Requires bzip2 for creating the package.

CygwinSource (Cygwin only)

Tar Bzip2 compressed Cygwin source package. Requires bzip2 for creating the package.

DEB (UNIX only)

Debian packages (2.0 version only, see the debian-binary file). In CMake cvs since July 2007, will be in 2.6.0. With CPack 2.4.x you can use the approach described in CMakeUserUseDebian (Requires only ar for creating the package). Warning: due to an incompatibility between GNU-ar and BSD-ar this is not a long-term recommended solution. Instead you should switch to the solution implemented in 2.6.x where a BSD-ar implementation was integrated in CPack.

Reference: [libapt-inst] Should support both BSD and SysV ar formats

Note: Only binary package are supported. source package do not really make sense since build process is cmake driven.

Here are the variables needed for a binary package:

control file (aka DEBIAN/control) for binary package

Specific variables are needed to generate the control file for debian package. This file is created automatically using the following variables, some of which are mandatory and some are optional. See also: [1]

package name

  • debian policy enforce lower case for package name
  • Package: (mandatory)
  • if CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_NAME is not set CPACK_PACKAGE_NAME (lower case will be used)


  • Version: (mandatory)


  • Architecture: (mandatory)
  • if not set CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_ARCHITECTURE will be set to i386


  • should be set via: dpkg --print-architecture
  • There is no such thing as i686 architecture on debian, you should use i386 instead


  • Depends:
  • eg.:
   SET(CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_DEPENDS "libc6 (>= 2.3.1-6), libgcc1 (>= 1:3.4.2-12)")


  • have a look at GET_PROPERTY(result GLOBAL ENABLED_FEATURES), this returns the successful FIND_PACKAGE() calls, maybe this can help
  • TODO: automate 'objdump -p | grep NEEDED'


  • Maintainer: (mandatory)
    • valid email is required


  • Description: (mandatory)


  • Section: (recommended)
  • if not set CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_SECTION will default to 'devel'


  • Priority: (recommended)
  • if not set CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_PRIORITY will be set to "optional"


  • Recommends:


  • Suggests:

Control Extra

  • Additional control files (optional)
  • In order to perform pre-, or post-install configuration, certain files can be provided in the DEBIAN/ folder in the debian package (postinst, preinst, postrm, prerm)
  • E.g.

Source (for reference only)

Here are the variables needed for a source package (not implemented):

  • .dsc
  • see also [2]

Most of them are identical with the binary package, with exception:


  • eg.:
"debhelper (>> 5.0.0), libncurses5-dev, tcl8.4"

Debian Generator specific settings

Variable Name Description Example
CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_MAINTAINER The maintenainer informations Firstname Lastname <>
CPACK_PACKAGE_DESCRIPTION_SUMMARY Package short description Here is my short description
CPACK_PACKAGE_DESCRIPTION Package description Here is my long description
CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_DEPENDS Package dependencies (use dpkg -s <packagename> to retrieve version) libc6 (>= 2.7-18)
CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_CONTROL_EXTRA This variable allow advanced user to add custom script to the control.tar.gz (inside the .deb archive) ${CMAKE_CURRENT_SOURCE_DIR}/postinst
CPACK_DEBIAN_PACKAGE_SECTION Package section (see Network

External references

RPM (Unix Only)

Binary RPM packages are supported by CMake (more precisely by CPack) since CMake 2.6.0. If you use CMake 2.4.x (or you want to build source RPM) you may use the CMakeUserUseRPMTools module.

The CPack RPM generator supports CPack Component installation. You can find details about the implementation [here].

CPack RPM usage

The CPack RPM generator is similar to other CPack generators. Its execution is controlled using:

  • generic CPACK_xxxx variables see CPack variables
  • specific CPACK_RPM_xxxx variables see generator specific wiki pages

Since CMake/CPack 2.8.0, a detailed description of how to use the CPACK_RPM_xxxx is available in this article or from the CMake command line:

 cmake --help-module CPackRPM

If you use CPack with CMake with the Makefile generator you usually launch:

 cd build_dir
 make package

However if you want more command line control over the CPack run you may launch:

 cd build_dir

this will launch CPack with additionnal CPACK_RPM_xxxx variables definitions which may be used by CPack RPM generator.

CPack RPM generators specific settings

CPack RPM specific variables are used to generate an RPM spec file which will be processed by the rpmbuild tool. A specific variable may be

  • optional, the variable may or may not be set and its value is not needed for building a valid spec file.
  • mandatory, the variable must be set because we need a value for building a valid spec file.
    • mandatory with default value, the variable must be set but a default value is provided.
    • mandatory, the variable must be set and no default value is provided.

Here is the list of CPack RPM specific variables (some variable are not yet supported because there are some patches pending):

Variable Name Description Default value
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_ARCHITECTURE The RPM package architecture. This may be set to "noarch" if you know you are building a noarch package. -
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_RELEASE The RPM package release. This is the numbering of the RPM package itself, i.e. the version of the packaging and not the version of the content (see CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_VERSION). One may change the default value if the previous packaging was buggy and/or you want to put here a fancy Linux distro specific numbering. 1
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_LICENSE The RPM package license policy. "unknown"
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_GROUP The RPM package group (see /usr/share/doc/rpm-*/GROUPS ) "unknown"
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_VENDOR The RPM package vendor CPACK_PACKAGE_VENDOR if set or "unknown" if not set
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_DESCRIPTION The RPM package description The content of CPACK_PACKAGE_DESCRIPTION_FILE if set or "no package description available" if not set
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_REQUIRES May be used to set RPM dependencies. see [RPM dependencies specification]) for precise syntax. Note that you must enclose the complete requires string between quotes, for example:
set(CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_REQUIRES "python >= 2.5.0, cmake >= 2.8")
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_PROVIDES May be used to set the virtual packages provided by the RPM. It is somewhat complimentary to CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_REQUIRES, but note that you do not need to list things like libraries, etc. here, since rpmbuild will figure that out by itself when generating the RPM. Most packages leave this blank. NOTE: This variable was added in cmake 2.8.1 (see [Bug9584]). -
CPACK_RPM_SPEC_INSTALL_POST May be used to set an RPM post-install command inside the spec file. For example setting it to "/bin/true" may be used to prevent rpmbuild to strip binaries (see [Bug7435]) -
CPACK_RPM_SPEC_MORE_DEFINE May be used to add any %define lines to the generated spec file. -
CPACK_RPM_USER_BINARY_SPECFILE May be used to specify a user provided spec file instead of generating one. This is an feature which currently needs a patch see [Bug9679] -
CPACK_RPM_GENERATE_USER_BINARY_SPECFILE_TEMPLATE May be used to generate a template for a user provided spec file. This is an feature which currently needs a patch see [Bug9679] -
CPACK_RPM_<POST/PRE>_<UN>INSTALL_SCRIPT_FILE The content of the specified files will be embedded in the RPM spec file in the appropriate sections. This is an feature which currently needs a patch see [Bug8988] -
CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_DEBUG May be set when invoking cpack in order to trace debug informations during CPack RPM run. For example you may launch CPack like this cpack -D CPACK_RPM_PACKAGE_DEBUG=1 -G RPM -

CPack RPM currently pending bugs/features

Here the may-be-incomplete lists of pendings bugs/features request linked to CPackRPM:

CPack RPM Historical Notes

CPackRPM included along with CMake 2.8.1 is provided many new features and bug fixes --Erk 14:33, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

The binary CPackRPM generator should now work for many RPM based distribution and rpmbuild version. Erk was granted CVS commit right for CPackRPM and he's maintaining and improving it as long as spare time is available --Erk 14:30, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

The built-in CPack support for RPM is based on the work done in the RPM module. The built-in CPack 2.6.x support for RPM is for binary package only but the binary RPM package built faster using CPack than CMakeUserUseRPMTools module. This restriction is due to both a lack of time of the implementor (--Erk 05:01, 7 September 2007 (EDT)) and some design issues in current CPack .

The CMakeUserUseRPMTools module should be usable both with CMake 2.4.x and forthcoming CMake 2.6.x.

For an enhanced version of these modules, take a look at this discussion