GNU Guix Reference Manual

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GNU Guix

This document describes GNU Guix version 0.10.0, a functional package management tool written for the GNU system.

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1 Introduction

GNU Guix1 is a package management tool for the GNU system. Guix makes it easy for unprivileged users to install, upgrade, or remove packages, to roll back to a previous package set, to build packages from source, and generally assists with the creation and maintenance of software environments.

Guix provides a command-line package management interface (see Invoking guix package), a set of command-line utilities (see Utilities), a visual user interface in Emacs (see Emacs Interface), as well as Scheme programming interfaces (see Programming Interface). Its build daemon is responsible for building packages on behalf of users (see Setting Up the Daemon) and for downloading pre-built binaries from authorized sources (see Substitutes).

Guix includes package definitions for many GNU and non-GNU packages, all of which respect the user’s computing freedom. It is extensible: users can write their own package definitions (see Defining Packages) and make them available as independent package modules (see Package Modules). It is also customizable: users can derive specialized package definitions from existing ones, including from the command line (see Package Transformation Options).

You can install GNU Guix on top of an existing GNU/Linux system where it complements the available tools without interference (see Installation), or you can use it as part of the standalone Guix System Distribution or GuixSD (see GNU Distribution). With GNU GuixSD, you declare all aspects of the operating system configuration and Guix takes care of instantiating the configuration in a transactional, reproducible, and stateless fashion (see System Configuration).

Under the hood, Guix implements the functional package management discipline pioneered by Nix (see Acknowledgments). In Guix, the package build and installation process is seen as a function, in the mathematical sense. That function takes inputs, such as build scripts, a compiler, and libraries, and returns an installed package. As a pure function, its result depends solely on its inputs—for instance, it cannot refer to software or scripts that were not explicitly passed as inputs. A build function always produces the same result when passed a given set of inputs. It cannot alter the environment of the running system in any way; for instance, it cannot create, modify, or delete files outside of its build and installation directories. This is achieved by running build processes in isolated environments (or containers), where only their explicit inputs are visible.

The result of package build functions is cached in the file system, in a special directory called the store (see The Store). Each package is installed in a directory of its own in the store—by default under /gnu/store. The directory name contains a hash of all the inputs used to build that package; thus, changing an input yields a different directory name.

This approach is the foundation for the salient features of Guix: support for transactional package upgrade and rollback, per-user installation, and garbage collection of packages (see Features).

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2 Installation

GNU Guix is available for download from its website at This section describes the software requirements of Guix, as well as how to install it and get ready to use it.

Note that this section is concerned with the installation of the package manager, which can be done on top of a running GNU/Linux system. If, instead, you want to install the complete GNU operating system, see System Installation.

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2.1 Binary Installation

This section describes how to install Guix on an arbitrary system from a self-contained tarball providing binaries for Guix and for all its dependencies. This is often quicker than installing from source, which is described in the next sections. The only requirement is to have GNU tar and Xz.

Installing goes along these lines:

  1. Download the binary tarball from ‘’, where system is x86_64-linux for an x86_64 machine already running the kernel Linux, and so on.

    Make sure to download the associated .sig file and to verify the authenticity of the tarball against it, along these lines:

    $ wget
    $ gpg --verify guix-binary-0.10.0.system.tar.xz.sig

    If that command fails because you do not have the required public key, then run this command to import it:

    $ gpg --keyserver --recv-keys 3D9AEBB5

    and rerun the gpg --verify command.

  2. As root, run:
    # cd /tmp
    # tar --warning=no-timestamp -xf \
    # mv var/guix /var/ && mv gnu /

    This creates /gnu/store (see The Store) and /var/guix. The latter contains a ready-to-use profile for root (see next step.)

    Do not unpack the tarball on a working Guix system since that would overwrite its own essential files.

    The --warning=no-timestamp option makes sure GNU tar does not emit warnings about “implausibly old time stamps” (such warnings were triggered by GNU tar 1.26 and older; recent versions are fine.) They stem from the fact that all the files in the archive have their modification time set to zero (which means January 1st, 1970.) This is done on purpose to make sure the archive content is independent of its creation time, thus making it reproducible.

  3. Make root’s profile available under ~/.guix-profile:
    # ln -sf /var/guix/profiles/per-user/root/guix-profile \
  4. Create the group and user accounts for build users as explained below (see Build Environment Setup).
  5. Run the daemon, and set it to automatically start on boot.

    If your host distro uses the systemd init system, this can be achieved with these commands:

    # cp ~root/.guix-profile/lib/systemd/system/guix-daemon.service \
    # systemctl start guix-daemon && systemctl enable guix-daemon

    If your host distro uses the Upstart init system:

    # cp ~root/.guix-profile/lib/upstart/system/guix-daemon.conf /etc/init/
    # start guix-daemon

    Otherwise, you can still start the daemon manually with:

    # ~root/.guix-profile/bin/guix-daemon --build-users-group=guixbuild
  6. Make the guix command available to other users on the machine, for instance with:
    # mkdir -p /usr/local/bin
    # cd /usr/local/bin
    # ln -s /var/guix/profiles/per-user/root/guix-profile/bin/guix

    It is also a good idea to make the Info version of this manual available there:

    # mkdir -p /usr/local/share/info
    # cd /usr/local/share/info
    # for i in /var/guix/profiles/per-user/root/guix-profile/share/info/* ;
      do ln -s $i ; done

    That way, assuming /usr/local/share/info is in the search path, running info guix will open this manual (see Other Info Directories in GNU Texinfo, for more details on changing the Info search path.)

  7. To use substitutes from or one of its mirrors (see Substitutes), authorize them:
    # guix archive --authorize < ~root/.guix-profile/share/guix/

This completes root-level install of Guix. Each user will need to perform additional steps to make their Guix envionment ready for use, see Application Setup.

You can confirm that Guix is working by installing a sample package into the root profile:

# guix package -i hello

The guix package must remain available in root’s profile, or it would become subject to garbage collection—in which case you would find yourself badly handicapped by the lack of the guix command. In other words, do not remove guix by running guix package -r guix.

The binary installation tarball can be (re)produced and verified simply by running the following command in the Guix source tree:

make guix-binary.system.tar.xz

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2.2 Requirements

This section lists requirements when building Guix from source. The build procedure for Guix is the same as for other GNU software, and is not covered here. Please see the files README and INSTALL in the Guix source tree for additional details.

GNU Guix depends on the following packages:

The following dependencies are optional:

Unless --disable-daemon was passed to configure, the following packages are also needed:

When configuring Guix on a system that already has a Guix installation, be sure to specify the same state directory as the existing installation using the --localstatedir option of the configure script (see localstatedir in GNU Coding Standards). The configure script protects against unintended misconfiguration of localstatedir so you do not inadvertently corrupt your store (see The Store).

When a working installation of the Nix package manager is available, you can instead configure Guix with --disable-daemon. In that case, Nix replaces the three dependencies above.

Guix is compatible with Nix, so it is possible to share the same store between both. To do so, you must pass configure not only the same --with-store-dir value, but also the same --localstatedir value. The latter is essential because it specifies where the database that stores metadata about the store is located, among other things. The default values for Nix are --with-store-dir=/nix/store and --localstatedir=/nix/var. Note that --disable-daemon is not required if your goal is to share the store with Nix.

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2.3 Running the Test Suite

After a successful configure and make run, it is a good idea to run the test suite. It can help catch issues with the setup or environment, or bugs in Guix itself—and really, reporting test failures is a good way to help improve the software. To run the test suite, type:

make check

Test cases can run in parallel: you can use the -j option of GNU make to speed things up. The first run may take a few minutes on a recent machine; subsequent runs will be faster because the store that is created for test purposes will already have various things in cache.

It is also possible to run a subset of the tests by defining the TESTS makefile variable as in this example:

make check TESTS="tests/store.scm tests/cpio.scm"

Upon failure, please email and attach the test-suite.log file. When tests/something.scm fails, please also attach the something.log file available in the top-level build directory. Please specify the Guix version being used as well as version numbers of the dependencies (see Requirements) in your message.

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2.4 Setting Up the Daemon

Operations such as building a package or running the garbage collector are all performed by a specialized process, the build daemon, on behalf of clients. Only the daemon may access the store and its associated database. Thus, any operation that manipulates the store goes through the daemon. For instance, command-line tools such as guix package and guix build communicate with the daemon (via remote procedure calls) to instruct it what to do.

The following sections explain how to prepare the build daemon’s environment. See also Substitutes, for information on how to allow the daemon to download pre-built binaries.

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2.4.1 Build Environment Setup

In a standard multi-user setup, Guix and its daemon—the guix-daemon program—are installed by the system administrator; /gnu/store is owned by root and guix-daemon runs as root. Unprivileged users may use Guix tools to build packages or otherwise access the store, and the daemon will do it on their behalf, ensuring that the store is kept in a consistent state, and allowing built packages to be shared among users.

When guix-daemon runs as root, you may not want package build processes themselves to run as root too, for obvious security reasons. To avoid that, a special pool of build users should be created for use by build processes started by the daemon. These build users need not have a shell and a home directory: they will just be used when the daemon drops root privileges in build processes. Having several such users allows the daemon to launch distinct build processes under separate UIDs, which guarantees that they do not interfere with each other—an essential feature since builds are regarded as pure functions (see Introduction).

On a GNU/Linux system, a build user pool may be created like this (using Bash syntax and the shadow commands):

# groupadd --system guixbuild
# for i in `seq -w 1 10`;
    useradd -g guixbuild -G guixbuild           \
            -d /var/empty -s `which nologin`    \
            -c "Guix build user $i" --system    \

The number of build users determines how many build jobs may run in parallel, as specified by the --max-jobs option (see --max-jobs). The guix-daemon program may then be run as root with the following command2:

# guix-daemon --build-users-group=guixbuild

This way, the daemon starts build processes in a chroot, under one of the guixbuilder users. On GNU/Linux, by default, the chroot environment contains nothing but:

You can influence the directory where the daemon stores build trees via the TMPDIR environment variable. However, the build tree within the chroot is always called /tmp/guix-build-name.drv-0, where name is the derivation name—e.g., coreutils-8.24. This way, the value of TMPDIR does not leak inside build environments, which avoids discrepancies in cases where build processes capture the name of their build tree.

The daemon also honors the http_proxy environment variable for HTTP downloads it performs, be it for fixed-output derivations (see Derivations) or for substitutes (see Substitutes).

If you are installing Guix as an unprivileged user, it is still possible to run guix-daemon provided you pass --disable-chroot. However, build processes will not be isolated from one another, and not from the rest of the system. Thus, build processes may interfere with each other, and may access programs, libraries, and other files available on the system—making it much harder to view them as pure functions.

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2.4.2 Using the Offload Facility

When desired, the build daemon can offload derivation builds to other machines running Guix, using the offload build hook. When that feature is enabled, a list of user-specified build machines is read from /etc/guix/machines.scm; every time a build is requested, for instance via guix build, the daemon attempts to offload it to one of the machines that satisfy the constraints of the derivation, in particular its system type—e.g., x86_64-linux. Missing prerequisites for the build are copied over SSH to the target machine, which then proceeds with the build; upon success the output(s) of the build are copied back to the initial machine.

The /etc/guix/machines.scm file typically looks like this:

(list (build-machine
        (name "")
        (system "x86_64-linux")
        (user "bob")
        (speed 2.))    ; incredibly fast!

        (name "")
        (system "mips64el-linux")
        (user "alice")
         (string-append (getenv "HOME")

In the example above we specify a list of two build machines, one for the x86_64 architecture and one for the mips64el architecture.

In fact, this file is—not surprisingly!—a Scheme file that is evaluated when the offload hook is started. Its return value must be a list of build-machine objects. While this example shows a fixed list of build machines, one could imagine, say, using DNS-SD to return a list of potential build machines discovered in the local network (see Guile-Avahi in Using Avahi in Guile Scheme Programs). The build-machine data type is detailed below.

Data Type: build-machine

This data type represents build machines to which the daemon may offload builds. The important fields are:


The host name of the remote machine.


The system type of the remote machine—e.g., "x86_64-linux".


The user account to use when connecting to the remote machine over SSH. Note that the SSH key pair must not be passphrase-protected, to allow non-interactive logins.

A number of optional fields may be specified:


Port number of SSH server on the machine (default: 22).


The SSH private key file to use when connecting to the machine.

Currently offloading uses GNU lsh as its SSH client (see (GNU lsh Manual)Invoking lsh). Thus, the key file here must be an lsh key file. This may change in the future, though.


The number of builds that may run in parallel on the machine (1 by default.)


A “relative speed factor”. The offload scheduler will tend to prefer machines with a higher speed factor.


A list of strings denoting specific features supported by the machine. An example is "kvm" for machines that have the KVM Linux modules and corresponding hardware support. Derivations can request features by name, and they will be scheduled on matching build machines.

The guix command must be in the search path on the build machines, since offloading works by invoking the guix archive and guix build commands. In addition, the Guix modules must be in $GUILE_LOAD_PATH on the build machine—you can check whether this is the case by running:

lsh build-machine guile -c "'(use-modules (guix config))'"

There is one last thing to do once machines.scm is in place. As explained above, when offloading, files are transferred back and forth between the machine stores. For this to work, you first need to generate a key pair on each machine to allow the daemon to export signed archives of files from the store (see Invoking guix archive):

# guix archive --generate-key

Each build machine must authorize the key of the master machine so that it accepts store items it receives from the master:

# guix archive --authorize < master-public-key.txt

Likewise, the master machine must authorize the key of each build machine.

All the fuss with keys is here to express pairwise mutual trust relations between the master and the build machines. Concretely, when the master receives files from a build machine (and vice versa), its build daemon can make sure they are genuine, have not been tampered with, and that they are signed by an authorized key.

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2.5 Invoking guix-daemon

The guix-daemon program implements all the functionality to access the store. This includes launching build processes, running the garbage collector, querying the availability of a build result, etc. It is normally run as root like this:

# guix-daemon --build-users-group=guixbuild

For details on how to set it up, see Setting Up the Daemon.

By default, guix-daemon launches build processes under different UIDs, taken from the build group specified with --build-users-group. In addition, each build process is run in a chroot environment that only contains the subset of the store that the build process depends on, as specified by its derivation (see derivation), plus a set of specific system directories. By default, the latter contains /dev and /dev/pts. Furthermore, on GNU/Linux, the build environment is a container: in addition to having its own file system tree, it has a separate mount name space, its own PID name space, network name space, etc. This helps achieve reproducible builds (see Features).

When the daemon performs a build on behalf of the user, it creates a build directory under /tmp or under the directory specified by its TMPDIR environment variable; this directory is shared with the container for the duration of the build. Be aware that using a directory other than /tmp can affect build results—for example, with a longer directory name, a build process that uses Unix-domain sockets might hit the name length limitation for sun_path, which it would otherwise not hit.

The build directory is automatically deleted upon completion, unless the build failed and the client specified --keep-failed (see --keep-failed).

The following command-line options are supported:


Take users from group to run build processes (see build users).


Do not use substitutes for build products. That is, always build things locally instead of allowing downloads of pre-built binaries (see Substitutes).

By default substitutes are used, unless the client—such as the guix package command—is explicitly invoked with --no-substitutes.

When the daemon runs with --no-substitutes, clients can still explicitly enable substitution via the set-build-options remote procedure call (see The Store).


Consider urls the default whitespace-separated list of substitute source URLs. When this option is omitted, ‘’ is used ( is a mirror of

This means that substitutes may be downloaded from urls, as long as they are signed by a trusted signature (see Substitutes).


Do not use the build hook.

The build hook is a helper program that the daemon can start and to which it submits build requests. This mechanism is used to offload builds to other machines (see Daemon Offload Setup).


Cache build failures. By default, only successful builds are cached.

When this option is used, guix gc --list-failures can be used to query the set of store items marked as failed; guix gc --clear-failures removes store items from the set of cached failures. See Invoking guix gc.

-c n

Use n CPU cores to build each derivation; 0 means as many as available.

The default value is 0, but it may be overridden by clients, such as the --cores option of guix build (see Invoking guix build).

The effect is to define the NIX_BUILD_CORES environment variable in the build process, which can then use it to exploit internal parallelism—for instance, by running make -j$NIX_BUILD_CORES.

-M n

Allow at most n build jobs in parallel. The default value is 1. Setting it to 0 means that no builds will be performed locally; instead, the daemon will offload builds (see Daemon Offload Setup), or simply fail.


Build each derivation n times in a row, and raise an error if consecutive build results are not bit-for-bit identical. Note that this setting can be overridden by clients such as guix build (see Invoking guix build).


Produce debugging output.

This is useful to debug daemon start-up issues, but then it may be overridden by clients, for example the --verbosity option of guix build (see Invoking guix build).


Add dir to the build chroot.

Doing this may change the result of build processes—for instance if they use optional dependencies found in dir when it is available, and not otherwise. For that reason, it is not recommended to do so. Instead, make sure that each derivation declares all the inputs that it needs.


Disable chroot builds.

Using this option is not recommended since, again, it would allow build processes to gain access to undeclared dependencies. It is necessary, though, when guix-daemon is running under an unprivileged user account.


Disable compression of the build logs.

Unless --lose-logs is used, all the build logs are kept in the localstatedir. To save space, the daemon automatically compresses them with bzip2 by default. This option disables that.


Disable automatic file “deduplication” in the store.

By default, files added to the store are automatically “deduplicated”: if a newly added file is identical to another one found in the store, the daemon makes the new file a hard link to the other file. This can noticeably reduce disk usage, at the expense of slightly increased input/output load at the end of a build process. This option disables this optimization.


Tell whether the garbage collector (GC) must keep outputs of live derivations.

When set to “yes”, the GC will keep the outputs of any live derivation available in the store—the .drv files. The default is “no”, meaning that derivation outputs are kept only if they are GC roots.


Tell whether the garbage collector (GC) must keep derivations corresponding to live outputs.

When set to “yes”, as is the case by default, the GC keeps derivations—i.e., .drv files—as long as at least one of their outputs is live. This allows users to keep track of the origins of items in their store. Setting it to “no” saves a bit of disk space.

Note that when both --gc-keep-derivations and --gc-keep-outputs are used, the effect is to keep all the build prerequisites (the sources, compiler, libraries, and other build-time tools) of live objects in the store, regardless of whether these prerequisites are live. This is convenient for developers since it saves rebuilds or downloads.


On Linux-based systems, impersonate Linux 2.6. This means that the kernel’s uname system call will report 2.6 as the release number.

This might be helpful to build programs that (usually wrongfully) depend on the kernel version number.


Do not keep build logs. By default they are kept under localstatedir/guix/log.


Assume system as the current system type. By default it is the architecture/kernel pair found at configure time, such as x86_64-linux.


Listen for connections on socket, the file name of a Unix-domain socket. The default socket is localstatedir/daemon-socket/socket. This option is only useful in exceptional circumstances, such as if you need to run several daemons on the same machine.

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2.6 Application Setup

When using Guix on top of GNU/Linux distribution other than GuixSD—a so-called foreign distro—a few additional steps are needed to get everything in place. Here are some of them.

2.6.1 Locales

Packages installed via Guix will not use the locale data of the host system. Instead, you must first install one of the locale packages available with Guix and then define the GUIX_LOCPATH environment variable:

$ guix package -i glibc-locales
$ export GUIX_LOCPATH=$HOME/.guix-profile/lib/locale

Note that the glibc-locales package contains data for all the locales supported by the GNU libc and weighs in at around 110 MiB. Alternatively, the glibc-utf8-locales is smaller but limited to a few UTF-8 locales.

The GUIX_LOCPATH variable plays a role similar to LOCPATH (see LOCPATH in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). There are two important differences though:

  1. GUIX_LOCPATH is honored only by the libc in Guix, and not by the libc provided by foreign distros. Thus, using GUIX_LOCPATH allows you to make sure the programs of the foreign distro will not end up loading incompatible locale data.
  2. libc suffixes each entry of GUIX_LOCPATH with /X.Y, where X.Y is the libc version—e.g., 2.22. This means that, should your Guix profile contain a mixture of programs linked against different libc version, each libc version will only try to load locale data in the right format.

This is important because the locale data format used by different libc versions may be incompatible.

2.6.2 X11 Fonts

The majority of graphical applications use Fontconfig to locate and load fonts and perform X11-client-side rendering. The fontconfig package in Guix looks for fonts in $HOME/.guix-profile by default. Thus, to allow graphical applications installed with Guix to display fonts, you have to install fonts with Guix as well. Essential font packages include gs-fonts, font-dejavu, and font-gnu-freefont-ttf.

To display text written in Chinese languages, Japanese, or Korean in graphical applications, consider installing font-adobe-source-han-sans or font-wqy-zenhei. The former has multiple outputs, one per language family (see Packages with Multiple Outputs). For instance, the following command installs fonts for Chinese languages:

guix package -i font-adobe-source-han-sans:cn

2.6.3 Emacs Packages

When you install Emacs packages with Guix, the elisp files may be placed either in $HOME/.guix-profile/share/emacs/site-lisp/ or in sub-directories of $HOME/.guix-profile/share/emacs/site-lisp/guix.d/. The latter directory exists because potentially there may exist thousands of Emacs packages and storing all their files in a single directory may be not reliable (because of name conflicts). So we think using a separate directory for each package is a good idea. It is very similar to how the Emacs package system organizes the file structure (see Package Files in The GNU Emacs Manual).

By default, Emacs (installed with Guix) “knows” where these packages are placed, so you do not need to perform any configuration. If, for some reason, you want to avoid auto-loading Emacs packages installed with Guix, you can do so by running Emacs with --no-site-file option (see Init File in The GNU Emacs Manual).

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3 Package Management

The purpose of GNU Guix is to allow users to easily install, upgrade, and remove software packages, without having to know about their build procedures or dependencies. Guix also goes beyond this obvious set of features.

This chapter describes the main features of Guix, as well as the package management tools it provides. Two user interfaces are provided for routine package management tasks: A command-line interface described below (see guix package), as well as a visual user interface in Emacs described in a subsequent chapter (see Emacs Interface).

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3.1 Features

When using Guix, each package ends up in the package store, in its own directory—something that resembles /gnu/store/xxx-package-1.2, where xxx is a base32 string (note that Guix comes with an Emacs extension to shorten those file names, see Emacs Prettify.)

Instead of referring to these directories, users have their own profile, which points to the packages that they actually want to use. These profiles are stored within each user’s home directory, at $HOME/.guix-profile.

For example, alice installs GCC 4.7.2. As a result, /home/alice/.guix-profile/bin/gcc points to /gnu/store/…-gcc-4.7.2/bin/gcc. Now, on the same machine, bob had already installed GCC 4.8.0. The profile of bob simply continues to point to /gnu/store/…-gcc-4.8.0/bin/gcc—i.e., both versions of GCC coexist on the same system without any interference.

The guix package command is the central tool to manage packages (see Invoking guix package). It operates on the per-user profiles, and can be used with normal user privileges.

The command provides the obvious install, remove, and upgrade operations. Each invocation is actually a transaction: either the specified operation succeeds, or nothing happens. Thus, if the guix package process is terminated during the transaction, or if a power outage occurs during the transaction, then the user’s profile remains in its previous state, and remains usable.

In addition, any package transaction may be rolled back. So, if, for example, an upgrade installs a new version of a package that turns out to have a serious bug, users may roll back to the previous instance of their profile, which was known to work well. Similarly, the global system configuration on GuixSD is subject to transactional upgrades and roll-back (see Using the Configuration System).

All packages in the package store may be garbage-collected. Guix can determine which packages are still referenced by user profiles, and remove those that are provably no longer referenced (see Invoking guix gc). Users may also explicitly remove old generations of their profile so that the packages they refer to can be collected.

Finally, Guix takes a purely functional approach to package management, as described in the introduction (see Introduction). Each /gnu/store package directory name contains a hash of all the inputs that were used to build that package—compiler, libraries, build scripts, etc. This direct correspondence allows users to make sure a given package installation matches the current state of their distribution. It also helps maximize build reproducibility: thanks to the isolated build environments that are used, a given build is likely to yield bit-identical files when performed on different machines (see container).

This foundation allows Guix to support transparent binary/source deployment. When a pre-built binary for a /gnu/store item is available from an external source—a substitute, Guix just downloads it and unpacks it; otherwise, it builds the package from source, locally (see Substitutes). Because build results are usually bit-for-bit reproducible, users do not have to trust servers that provide substitutes: they can force a local build and challenge providers (see Invoking guix challenge).

Control over the build environment is a feature that is also useful for developers. The guix environment command allows developers of a package to quickly set up the right development environment for their package, without having to manually install the dependencies of the package into their profile (see Invoking guix environment).

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3.2 Invoking guix package

The guix package command is the tool that allows users to install, upgrade, and remove packages, as well as rolling back to previous configurations. It operates only on the user’s own profile, and works with normal user privileges (see Features). Its syntax is:

guix package options

Primarily, options specifies the operations to be performed during the transaction. Upon completion, a new profile is created, but previous generations of the profile remain available, should the user want to roll back.

For example, to remove lua and install guile and guile-cairo in a single transaction:

guix package -r lua -i guile guile-cairo

guix package also supports a declarative approach whereby the user specifies the exact set of packages to be available and passes it via the --manifest option (see --manifest).

For each user, a symlink to the user’s default profile is automatically created in $HOME/.guix-profile. This symlink always points to the current generation of the user’s default profile. Thus, users can add $HOME/.guix-profile/bin to their PATH environment variable, and so on. If you are not using the Guix System Distribution, consider adding the following lines to your ~/.bash_profile (see Bash Startup Files in The GNU Bash Reference Manual) so that newly-spawned shells get all the right environment variable definitions:

GUIX_PROFILE="$HOME/.guix-profile" \
source "$HOME/.guix-profile/etc/profile"

In a multi-user setup, user profiles are stored in a place registered as a garbage-collector root, which $HOME/.guix-profile points to (see Invoking guix gc). That directory is normally localstatedir/profiles/per-user/user, where localstatedir is the value passed to configure as --localstatedir, and user is the user name. The per-user directory is created when guix-daemon is started, and the user sub-directory is created by guix package.

The options can be among the following:

-i package

Install the specified packages.

Each package may specify either a simple package name, such as guile, or a package name followed by an at-sign and version number, such as guile@1.8.8 or simply guile@1.8 (in the latter case, the newest version prefixed by 1.8 is selected.)

If no version number is specified, the newest available version will be selected. In addition, package may contain a colon, followed by the name of one of the outputs of the package, as in gcc:doc or binutils@2.22:lib (see Packages with Multiple Outputs). Packages with a corresponding name (and optionally version) are searched for among the GNU distribution modules (see Package Modules).

Sometimes packages have propagated inputs: these are dependencies that automatically get installed along with the required package (see propagated-inputs in package objects, for information about propagated inputs in package definitions).

An example is the GNU MPC library: its C header files refer to those of the GNU MPFR library, which in turn refer to those of the GMP library. Thus, when installing MPC, the MPFR and GMP libraries also get installed in the profile; removing MPC also removes MPFR and GMP—unless they had also been explicitly installed by the user.

Besides, packages sometimes rely on the definition of environment variables for their search paths (see explanation of --search-paths below). Any missing or possibly incorrect environment variable definitions are reported here.

Finally, when installing a GNU package, the tool reports the availability of a newer upstream version. In the future, it may provide the option of installing directly from the upstream version, even if that version is not yet in the distribution.

-e exp

Install the package exp evaluates to.

exp must be a Scheme expression that evaluates to a <package> object. This option is notably useful to disambiguate between same-named variants of a package, with expressions such as (@ (gnu packages base) guile-final).

Note that this option installs the first output of the specified package, which may be insufficient when needing a specific output of a multiple-output package.

-f file

Install the package that the code within file evaluates to.

As an example, file might contain a definition like this (see Defining Packages):

(use-modules (guix)
             (guix build-system gnu)
             (guix licenses))

  (name "hello")
  (version "2.10")
  (source (origin
            (method url-fetch)
            (uri (string-append "mirror://gnu/hello/hello-" version
  (build-system gnu-build-system)
  (synopsis "Hello, GNU world: An example GNU package")
  (description "Guess what GNU Hello prints!")
  (home-page "")
  (license gpl3+))

Developers may find it useful to include such a guix.scm file in the root of their project source tree that can be used to test development snapshots and create reproducible development environments (see Invoking guix environment).

-r package

Remove the specified packages.

As for --install, each package may specify a version number and/or output name in addition to the package name. For instance, -r glibc:debug would remove the debug output of glibc.

--upgrade[=regexp …]
-u [regexp …]

Upgrade all the installed packages. If one or more regexps are specified, upgrade only installed packages whose name matches a regexp. Also see the --do-not-upgrade option below.

Note that this upgrades package to the latest version of packages found in the distribution currently installed. To update your distribution, you should regularly run guix pull (see Invoking guix pull).

--do-not-upgrade[=regexp …]

When used together with the --upgrade option, do not upgrade any packages whose name matches a regexp. For example, to upgrade all packages in the current profile except those containing the substring “emacs”:

$ guix package --upgrade . --do-not-upgrade emacs
-m file

Create a new generation of the profile from the manifest object returned by the Scheme code in file.

This allows you to declare the profile’s contents rather than constructing it through a sequence of --install and similar commands. The advantage is that file can be put under version control, copied to different machines to reproduce the same profile, and so on.

file must return a manifest object, which is roughly a list of packages:

(use-package-modules guile emacs)

 (list emacs
       ;; Use a specific package output.
       (list guile-2.0 "debug")))

Roll back to the previous generation of the profile—i.e., undo the last transaction.

When combined with options such as --install, roll back occurs before any other actions.

When rolling back from the first generation that actually contains installed packages, the profile is made to point to the zeroth generation, which contains no files apart from its own metadata.

After having rolled back, installing, removing, or upgrading packages overwrites previous future generations. Thus, the history of the generations in a profile is always linear.

-S pattern

Switch to a particular generation defined by pattern.

pattern may be either a generation number or a number prefixed with “+” or “-”. The latter means: move forward/backward by a specified number of generations. For example, if you want to return to the latest generation after --roll-back, use --switch-generation=+1.

The difference between --roll-back and --switch-generation=-1 is that --switch-generation will not make a zeroth generation, so if a specified generation does not exist, the current generation will not be changed.


Report environment variable definitions, in Bash syntax, that may be needed in order to use the set of installed packages. These environment variables are used to specify search paths for files used by some of the installed packages.

For example, GCC needs the CPATH and LIBRARY_PATH environment variables to be defined so it can look for headers and libraries in the user’s profile (see Environment Variables in Using the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC)). If GCC and, say, the C library are installed in the profile, then --search-paths will suggest setting these variables to profile/include and profile/lib, respectively.

The typical use case is to define these environment variables in the shell:

$ eval `guix package --search-paths`

kind may be one of exact, prefix, or suffix, meaning that the returned environment variable definitions will either be exact settings, or prefixes or suffixes of the current value of these variables. When omitted, kind defaults to exact.

This option can also be used to compute the combined search paths of several profiles. Consider this example:

$ guix package -p foo -i guile
$ guix package -p bar -i guile-json
$ guix package -p foo -p bar --search-paths

The last command above reports about the GUILE_LOAD_PATH variable, even though, taken individually, neither foo nor bar would lead to that recommendation.

-p profile

Use profile instead of the user’s default profile.


Produce verbose output. In particular, emit the build log of the environment on the standard error port.


Use the bootstrap Guile to build the profile. This option is only useful to distribution developers.

In addition to these actions, guix package supports the following options to query the current state of a profile, or the availability of packages:

-s regexp

List the available packages whose name, synopsis, or description matches regexp. Print all the metadata of matching packages in recutils format (see GNU recutils databases in GNU recutils manual).

This allows specific fields to be extracted using the recsel command, for instance:

$ guix package -s malloc | recsel -p name,version
name: glibc
version: 2.17

name: libgc
version: 7.2alpha6

Similarly, to show the name of all the packages available under the terms of the GNU LGPL version 3:

$ guix package -s "" | recsel -p name -e 'license ~ "LGPL 3"'
name: elfutils

name: gmp

It is also possible to refine search results using several -s flags. For example, the following command returns a list of board games:

$ guix package -s '\<board\>' -s game | recsel -p name
name: gnubg

If we were to omit -s game, we would also get software packages that deal with printed circuit boards; removing the angle brackets around board would further add packages that have to do with keyboards.

And now for a more elaborate example. The following command searches for cryptographic libraries, filters out Haskell, Perl, Python, and Ruby libraries, and prints the name and synopsis of the matching packages:

$ guix package -s crypto -s library | \
    recsel -e '! (name ~ "^(ghc|perl|python|ruby)")' -p name,synopsis

See Selection Expressions in GNU recutils manual, for more information on selection expressions for recsel -e.


Show details about package, taken from the list of available packages, in recutils format (see GNU recutils databases in GNU recutils manual).

$ guix package --show=python | recsel -p name,version
name: python
version: 2.7.6

name: python
version: 3.3.5

You may also specify the full name of a package to only get details about a specific version of it:

$ guix package --show=python-3.3.5 | recsel -p name,version
name: python
version: 3.3.5
-I [regexp]

List the currently installed packages in the specified profile, with the most recently installed packages shown last. When regexp is specified, list only installed packages whose name matches regexp.

For each installed package, print the following items, separated by tabs: the package name, its version string, the part of the package that is installed (for instance, out for the default output, include for its headers, etc.), and the path of this package in the store.

-A [regexp]

List packages currently available in the distribution for this system (see GNU Distribution). When regexp is specified, list only installed packages whose name matches regexp.

For each package, print the following items separated by tabs: its name, its version string, the parts of the package (see Packages with Multiple Outputs), and the source location of its definition.

-l [pattern]

Return a list of generations along with their creation dates; for each generation, show the installed packages, with the most recently installed packages shown last. Note that the zeroth generation is never shown.

For each installed package, print the following items, separated by tabs: the name of a package, its version string, the part of the package that is installed (see Packages with Multiple Outputs), and the location of this package in the store.

When pattern is used, the command returns only matching generations. Valid patterns include:

-d [pattern]

When pattern is omitted, delete all generations except the current one.

This command accepts the same patterns as --list-generations. When pattern is specified, delete the matching generations. When pattern specifies a duration, generations older than the specified duration match. For instance, --delete-generations=1m deletes generations that are more than one month old.

If the current generation matches, it is not deleted. Also, the zeroth generation is never deleted.

Note that deleting generations prevents rolling back to them. Consequently, this command must be used with care.

Finally, since guix package may actually start build processes, it supports all the common build options (see Common Build Options). It also supports package transformation options, such as --with-source (see Package Transformation Options). However, note that package transformations are lost when upgrading; to preserve transformations across upgrades, you should define your own package variant in a Guile module and add it to GUIX_PACKAGE_PATH (see Defining Packages).

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3.3 Substitutes

Guix supports transparent source/binary deployment, which means that it can either build things locally, or download pre-built items from a server. We call these pre-built items substitutes—they are substitutes for local build results. In many cases, downloading a substitute is much faster than building things locally.

Substitutes can be anything resulting from a derivation build (see Derivations). Of course, in the common case, they are pre-built package binaries, but source tarballs, for instance, which also result from derivation builds, can be available as substitutes.

The server is a front-end to a build farm that builds packages from the GNU distribution continuously for some architectures, and makes them available as substitutes (see Emacs Hydra, for information on how to query the continuous integration server). This is the default source of substitutes; it can be overridden by passing the --substitute-urls option either to guix-daemon (see guix-daemon --substitute-urls) or to client tools such as guix package (see client --substitute-urls option).

Substitute URLs can be either HTTP or HTTPS4 HTTPS is recommended because communications are encrypted; conversely, using HTTP makes all communications visible to an eavesdropper, who could use the information gathered to determine, for instance, whether your system has unpatched security vulnerabilities.

To allow Guix to download substitutes from or a mirror thereof, you must add its public key to the access control list (ACL) of archive imports, using the guix archive command (see Invoking guix archive). Doing so implies that you trust to not be compromised and to serve genuine substitutes.

This public key is installed along with Guix, in prefix/share/guix/, where prefix is the installation prefix of Guix. If you installed Guix from source, make sure you checked the GPG signature of guix-0.10.0.tar.gz, which contains this public key file. Then, you can run something like this:

# guix archive --authorize <

Once this is in place, the output of a command like guix build should change from something like:

$ guix build emacs --dry-run
The following derivations would be built:

to something like:

$ guix build emacs --dry-run
The following files would be downloaded:

This indicates that substitutes from are usable and will be downloaded, when possible, for future builds.

Guix ignores substitutes that are not signed, or that are not signed by one of the keys listed in the ACL. It also detects and raises an error when attempting to use a substitute that has been tampered with.

Substitutes are downloaded over HTTP or HTTPS. The http_proxy environment variable can be set in the environment of guix-daemon and is honored for downloads of substitutes. Note that the value of http_proxy in the environment where guix build, guix package, and other client commands are run has absolutely no effect.

When using HTTPS, the server’s X.509 certificate is not validated (in other words, the server is not authenticated), contrary to what HTTPS clients such as Web browsers usually do. This is because Guix authenticates substitute information itself, as explained above, which is what we care about (whereas X.509 certificates are about authenticating bindings between domain names and public keys.)

The substitute mechanism can be disabled globally by running guix-daemon with --no-substitutes (see Invoking guix-daemon). It can also be disabled temporarily by passing the --no-substitutes option to guix package, guix build, and other command-line tools.

On Trusting Binaries

Today, each individual’s control over their own computing is at the mercy of institutions, corporations, and groups with enough power and determination to subvert the computing infrastructure and exploit its weaknesses. While using substitutes can be convenient, we encourage users to also build on their own, or even run their own build farm, such that is less of an interesting target. One way to help is by publishing the software you build using guix publish so that others have one more choice of server to download substitutes from (see Invoking guix publish).

Guix has the foundations to maximize build reproducibility (see Features). In most cases, independent builds of a given package or derivation should yield bit-identical results. Thus, through a diverse set of independent package builds, we can strengthen the integrity of our systems. The guix challenge command aims to help users assess substitute servers, and to assist developers in finding out about non-deterministic package builds (see Invoking guix challenge). Similarly, the --check option of guix build allows users to check whether previously-installed substitutes are genuine by rebuilding them locally (see guix build --check).

In the future, we want Guix to have support to publish and retrieve binaries to/from other users, in a peer-to-peer fashion. If you would like to discuss this project, join us on

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3.4 Packages with Multiple Outputs

Often, packages defined in Guix have a single output—i.e., the source package leads to exactly one directory in the store. When running guix package -i glibc, one installs the default output of the GNU libc package; the default output is called out, but its name can be omitted as shown in this command. In this particular case, the default output of glibc contains all the C header files, shared libraries, static libraries, Info documentation, and other supporting files.

Sometimes it is more appropriate to separate the various types of files produced from a single source package into separate outputs. For instance, the GLib C library (used by GTK+ and related packages) installs more than 20 MiB of reference documentation as HTML pages. To save space for users who do not need it, the documentation goes to a separate output, called doc. To install the main GLib output, which contains everything but the documentation, one would run:

guix package -i glib

The command to install its documentation is:

guix package -i glib:doc

Some packages install programs with different “dependency footprints”. For instance, the WordNet package installs both command-line tools and graphical user interfaces (GUIs). The former depend solely on the C library, whereas the latter depend on Tcl/Tk and the underlying X libraries. In this case, we leave the command-line tools in the default output, whereas the GUIs are in a separate output. This allows users who do not need the GUIs to save space. The guix size command can help find out about such situations (see Invoking guix size). guix graph can also be helpful (see Invoking guix graph).

There are several such multiple-output packages in the GNU distribution. Other conventional output names include lib for libraries and possibly header files, bin for stand-alone programs, and debug for debugging information (see Installing Debugging Files). The outputs of a packages are listed in the third column of the output of guix package --list-available (see Invoking guix package).

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3.5 Invoking guix gc

Packages that are installed, but not used, may be garbage-collected. The guix gc command allows users to explicitly run the garbage collector to reclaim space from the /gnu/store directory. It is the only way to remove files from /gnu/store—removing files or directories manually may break it beyond repair!

The garbage collector has a set of known roots: any file under /gnu/store reachable from a root is considered live and cannot be deleted; any other file is considered dead and may be deleted. The set of garbage collector roots includes default user profiles, and may be augmented with guix build --root, for example (see Invoking guix build).

Prior to running guix gc --collect-garbage to make space, it is often useful to remove old generations from user profiles; that way, old package builds referenced by those generations can be reclaimed. This is achieved by running guix package --delete-generations (see Invoking guix package).

The guix gc command has three modes of operation: it can be used to garbage-collect any dead files (the default), to delete specific files (the --delete option), to print garbage-collector information, or for more advanced queries. The garbage collection options are as follows:

-C [min]

Collect garbage—i.e., unreachable /gnu/store files and sub-directories. This is the default operation when no option is specified.

When min is given, stop once min bytes have been collected. min may be a number of bytes, or it may include a unit as a suffix, such as MiB for mebibytes and GB for gigabytes (see size specifications in GNU Coreutils).

When min is omitted, collect all the garbage.


Attempt to delete all the store files and directories specified as arguments. This fails if some of the files are not in the store, or if they are still live.


List store items corresponding to cached build failures.

This prints nothing unless the daemon was started with --cache-failures (see --cache-failures).


Remove the specified store items from the failed-build cache.

Again, this option only makes sense when the daemon is started with --cache-failures. Otherwise, it does nothing.


Show the list of dead files and directories still present in the store—i.e., files and directories no longer reachable from any root.


Show the list of live store files and directories.

In addition, the references among existing store files can be queried:


List the references (respectively, the referrers) of store files given as arguments.


List the requisites of the store files passed as arguments. Requisites include the store files themselves, their references, and the references of these, recursively. In other words, the returned list is the transitive closure of the store files.

See Invoking guix size, for a tool to profile the size of the closure of an element. See Invoking guix graph, for a tool to visualize the graph of references.

Lastly, the following options allow you to check the integrity of the store and to control disk usage.


Verify the integrity of the store.

By default, make sure that all the store items marked as valid in the database of the daemon actually exist in /gnu/store.

When provided, options must be a comma-separated list containing one or more of contents and repair.

When passing --verify=contents, the daemon computse the content hash of each store item and compares it against its hash in the database. Hash mismatches are reported as data corruptions. Because it traverses all the files in the store, this command can take a long time, especially on systems with a slow disk drive.

Using --verify=repair or --verify=contents,repair causes the daemon to try to repair corrupt store items by fetching substitutes for them (see Substitutes). Because repairing is not atomic, and thus potentially dangerous, it is available only to the system administrator.


Optimize the store by hard-linking identical files—this is deduplication.

The daemon performs deduplication after each successful build or archive import, unless it was started with --disable-deduplication (see --disable-deduplication). Thus, this option is primarily useful when the daemon was running with --disable-deduplication.

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3.6 Invoking guix pull

Packages are installed or upgraded to the latest version available in the distribution currently available on your local machine. To update that distribution, along with the Guix tools, you must run guix pull: the command downloads the latest Guix source code and package descriptions, and deploys it.

On completion, guix package will use packages and package versions from this just-retrieved copy of Guix. Not only that, but all the Guix commands and Scheme modules will also be taken from that latest version. New guix sub-commands added by the update also become available.

Any user can update their Guix copy using guix pull, and the effect is limited to the user who run guix pull. For instance, when user root runs guix pull, this has no effect on the version of Guix that user alice sees, and vice versa5.

The guix pull command is usually invoked with no arguments, but it supports the following options:


Produce verbose output, writing build logs to the standard error output.


Download the source tarball of Guix from url.

By default, the tarball is taken from its canonical address at, for the stable branch of Guix.


Use the bootstrap Guile to build the latest Guix. This option is only useful to Guix developers.

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3.7 Invoking guix archive

The guix archive command allows users to export files from the store into a single archive, and to later import them. In particular, it allows store files to be transferred from one machine to the store on another machine.

To export store files as an archive to standard output, run:

guix archive --export options specifications...

specifications may be either store file names or package specifications, as for guix package (see Invoking guix package). For instance, the following command creates an archive containing the gui output of the git package and the main output of emacs:

guix archive --export git:gui /gnu/store/...-emacs-24.3 > great.nar

If the specified packages are not built yet, guix archive automatically builds them. The build process may be controlled with the common build options (see Common Build Options).

To transfer the emacs package to a machine connected over SSH, one would run:

guix archive --export -r emacs | ssh the-machine guix archive --import

Similarly, a complete user profile may be transferred from one machine to another like this:

guix archive --export -r $(readlink -f ~/.guix-profile) | \
  ssh the-machine guix-archive --import

However, note that, in both examples, all of emacs and the profile as well as all of their dependencies are transferred (due to -r), regardless of what is already available in the store on the target machine. The --missing option can help figure out which items are missing from the target store.

Archives are stored in the “Nix archive” or “Nar” format, which is comparable in spirit to ‘tar’, but with a few noteworthy differences that make it more appropriate for our purposes. First, rather than recording all Unix metadata for each file, the Nar format only mentions the file type (regular, directory, or symbolic link); Unix permissions and owner/group are dismissed. Second, the order in which directory entries are stored always follows the order of file names according to the C locale collation order. This makes archive production fully deterministic.

When exporting, the daemon digitally signs the contents of the archive, and that digital signature is appended. When importing, the daemon verifies the signature and rejects the import in case of an invalid signature or if the signing key is not authorized.

The main options are:


Export the specified store files or packages (see below.) Write the resulting archive to the standard output.

Dependencies are not included in the output, unless --recursive is passed.


When combined with --export, this instructs guix archive to include dependencies of the given items in the archive. Thus, the resulting archive is self-contained: it contains the closure of the exported store items.


Read an archive from the standard input, and import the files listed therein into the store. Abort if the archive has an invalid digital signature, or if it is signed by a public key not among the authorized keys (see --authorize below.)


Read a list of store file names from the standard input, one per line, and write on the standard output the subset of these files missing from the store.


Generate a new key pair for the daemon. This is a prerequisite before archives can be exported with --export. Note that this operation usually takes time, because it needs to gather enough entropy to generate the key pair.

The generated key pair is typically stored under /etc/guix, in (public key) and signing-key.sec (private key, which must be kept secret.) When parameters is omitted, an ECDSA key using the Ed25519 curve is generated, or, for Libgcrypt versions before 1.6.0, it is a 4096-bit RSA key. Alternatively, parameters can specify genkey parameters suitable for Libgcrypt (see gcry_pk_genkey in The Libgcrypt Reference Manual).


Authorize imports signed by the public key passed on standard input. The public key must be in “s-expression advanced format”—i.e., the same format as the file.

The list of authorized keys is kept in the human-editable file /etc/guix/acl. The file contains “advanced-format s-expressions” and is structured as an access-control list in the Simple Public-Key Infrastructure (SPKI).

-x directory

Read a single-item archive as served by substitute servers (see Substitutes) and extract it to directory. This is a low-level operation needed in only very narrow use cases; see below.

For example, the following command extracts the substitute for Emacs served by to /tmp/emacs:

$ wget -O - \…-emacs-24.5 \
  | bunzip2 | guix archive -x /tmp/emacs

Single-item archives are different from multiple-item archives produced by guix archive --export; they contain a single store item, and they do not embed a signature. Thus this operation does no signature verification and its output should be considered unsafe.

The primary purpose of this operation is to facilitate inspection of archive contents coming from possibly untrusted substitute servers.

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4 Emacs Interface

GNU Guix comes with several useful modules (known as “guix.el”) for GNU Emacs which are intended to make an Emacs user interaction with Guix convenient and fun.

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4.1 Initial Setup

On the Guix System Distribution (see GNU Distribution), “guix.el” is ready to use, provided Guix is installed system-wide, which is the case by default. So if that is what you’re using, you can happily skip this section and read about the fun stuff.

If you’re not yet a happy user of GuixSD, a little bit of setup is needed. To be able to use “guix.el”, you need to install the following packages:

When it is done, “guix.el” may be configured by requiring guix-autoloads file. If you install Guix in your user profile, this auto-loading is done automatically by our Emacs package (see Application Setup), so a universal recipe for configuring “guix.el” is: guix package -i guix. If you do this, there is no need to read further.

For the manual installation, you need to add the following code into your init file (see Init File in The GNU Emacs Manual):

(add-to-list 'load-path "/path/to/directory-with-guix.el")
(require 'guix-autoloads nil t)

So the only thing you need to figure out is where the directory with elisp files for Guix is placed. It depends on how you installed Guix:

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4.2 Package Management

Once “guix.el” has been successfully configured, you should be able to use a visual interface for routine package management tasks, pretty much like the guix package command (see Invoking guix package). Specifically, it makes it easy to:

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4.2.1 Commands

All commands for displaying packages and generations use the current profile, which can be changed with M-x guix-set-current-profile. Alternatively, if you call any of these commands with prefix argument (C-u), you will be prompted for a profile just for that command.

Commands for displaying packages:

M-x guix-all-available-packages
M-x guix-newest-available-packages

Display all/newest available packages.

M-x guix-installed-packages
M-x guix-installed-user-packages
M-x guix-installed-system-packages

Display installed packages. As described above, M-x guix-installed-packages uses an arbitrary profile that you can specify, while the other commands display packages installed in 2 special profiles: ~/.guix-profile and /run/current-system/profile (only on GuixSD).

M-x guix-obsolete-packages

Display obsolete packages (the packages that are installed in a profile but cannot be found among available packages).

M-x guix-packages-by-name

Display package(s) with the specified name.

M-x guix-packages-by-license

Display package(s) with the specified license.

M-x guix-search-by-regexp

Search for packages by a specified regexp. By default “name”, “synopsis” and “description” of the packages will be searched. This can be changed by modifying guix-package-search-params variable.

M-x guix-search-by-name

Search for packages with names matching a specified regexp. This command is the same as guix-search-by-regexp, except only a package “name” is searched.

By default, these commands display each output on a separate line. If you prefer to see a list of packages—i.e., a list with a package per line, use the following setting:

(setq guix-package-list-type 'package)

Commands for displaying generations:

M-x guix-generations

List all the generations.

M-x guix-last-generations

List the N last generations. You will be prompted for the number of generations.

M-x guix-generations-by-time

List generations matching time period. You will be prompted for the period using Org mode time prompt based on Emacs calendar (see The date/time prompt in The Org Manual).

Analogously on GuixSD you can also display system generations:

M-x guix-system-generations
M-x guix-last-system-generations
M-x guix-system-generations-by-time

You can also invoke the guix pull command (see Invoking guix pull) from Emacs using:

M-x guix-pull

With C-u, make it verbose.

Once guix pull has succeeded, the Guix REPL is restared. This allows you to keep using the Emacs interface with the updated Guix.

Finally, there is an Emacs variant of guix edit command (see Invoking guix edit):

M-x guix-edit

As with M-x guix-packages-by-name, you can press TAB to complete a package name.

If you are contributing to Guix, you may find it useful for M-x guix-edit to open package files from your git directory. This can be done by setting guix-directory variable. For example, after this:

(setq guix-directory "~/src/guix")

M-x guix-edit guix opens ~/src/guix/gnu/packages/package-management.scm file.

Also you can use C-u prefix argument to specify a directory just for the current M-x guix-edit command.

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4.2.2 General information

The following keys are available for both “list” and “info” types of buffers:


Go backward/forward by the history of the displayed results (this history is similar to the history of the Emacs help-mode or Info-mode).


Revert current buffer: update information about the displayed packages/generations and redisplay it.


Redisplay current buffer (without updating information).


Apply manifest to the current profile or to a specified profile, if prefix argument is used. This has the same meaning as --manifest option (see Invoking guix package).

C-c C-z

Go to the Guix REPL (see The REPL in Geiser User Manual).


Describe current mode to see all available bindings.

Hint: If you need several “list” or “info” buffers, you can simlpy M-x clone-buffer them, and each buffer will have its own history.

Warning: Name/version pairs cannot be used to identify packages (because a name is not necessarily unique), so “guix.el” uses special identifiers that live only during a guile session, so if the Guix REPL was restarted, you may want to revert “list” buffer (by pressing g).

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4.2.3 “List” buffer

An interface of a “list” buffer is similar to the interface provided by “package.el” (see Package Menu in The GNU Emacs Manual).

Default key bindings available for both “package-list” and “generation-list” buffers:


Mark the current entry (with prefix, mark all entries).


Unmark the current entry (with prefix, unmark all entries).


Unmark backward.


Sort entries by a specified column.

A “package-list” buffer additionally provides the following bindings:


Describe marked packages (display available information in a “package-info” buffer).


Mark the current package for installation.


Mark the current package for deletion.


Mark the current package for upgrading.


Mark all obsolete packages for upgrading.


Edit the definition of the curent package (go to its location). This is similar to guix edit command (see Invoking guix edit), but for opening a package recipe in the current Emacs instance.


Execute actions on the marked packages.


Display latest builds of the current package (see Emacs Hydra).

A “generation-list” buffer additionally provides the following bindings:


List packages installed in the current generation.


Describe marked generations (display available information in a “generation-info” buffer).


Switch profile to the current generation.


Mark the current generation for deletion (with prefix, mark all generations).


Execute actions on the marked generations—i.e., delete generations.


Run Ediff (see The Ediff Manual) on package outputs installed in the 2 marked generations. With prefix argument, run Ediff on manifests of the marked generations.


Run Diff (see Diff Mode in The GNU Emacs Manual) on package outputs installed in the 2 marked generations. With prefix argument, run Diff on manifests of the marked generations.


List package outputs added to the latest marked generation comparing with another marked generation.


List package outputs removed from the latest marked generation comparing with another marked generation.

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4.2.4 “Info” buffer

The interface of an “info” buffer is similar to the interface of help-mode (see Help Mode in The GNU Emacs Manual).

“Info” buffer contains some buttons (as usual you may use TAB / S-TAB to move between buttons—see Mouse References in The GNU Emacs Manual) which can be used to:

It is also possible to copy a button label (a link to an URL or a file) by pressing c on a button.

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4.2.5 Configuration

There are many variables you can modify to change the appearance or behavior of Emacs user interface. Some of these variables are described in this section. Also you can use Custom Interface (see Easy Customization in The GNU Emacs Manual) to explore/set variables (not all) and faces.

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If you have some special needs for starting a Guile process, you may set this variable, for example:

(setq guix-guile-program '("/bin/guile" "--no-auto-compile"))

Has the same meaning as --no-substitutes option (see Invoking guix build).


Has the same meaning as --dry-run option (see Invoking guix build).

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Default names of “guix.el” buffers (“*Guix …*”) may be changed with the following variables:


By default, the name of a profile is also displayed in a “list” or “info” buffer name. To change this behavior, use guix-ui-buffer-name-function variable.

For example, if you want to display all types of results in a single buffer (in such case you will probably use a history (l/r) extensively), you may do it like this:

(let ((name "Guix Universal"))
   guix-package-list-buffer-name    name
   guix-output-list-buffer-name     name
   guix-generation-list-buffer-name name
   guix-package-info-buffer-name    name
   guix-output-info-buffer-name     name
   guix-generation-info-buffer-name name))

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If you want to change default key bindings, use the following keymaps (see Init Rebinding in The GNU Emacs Manual):


Parent keymap with general keys for any buffer type.


Parent keymap with general keys for buffers used for Guix package management (for packages, outputs and generations).


Parent keymap with general keys for “list” buffers.


Keymap with specific keys for “package-list” buffers.


Keymap with specific keys for “output-list” buffers.


Keymap with specific keys for “generation-list” buffers.


Parent keymap with general keys for “info” buffers.


Keymap with specific keys for “package-info” buffers.


Keymap with specific keys for “output-info” buffers.


Keymap with specific keys for “generation-info” buffers.


Keymap with keys available when a point is placed on a button.

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You can change almost any aspect of “list” / “info” buffers using the following variables (ENTRY-TYPE means package, output or generation):


Specify the columns, their names, what and how is displayed in “list” buffers.


Various settings for “info” buffers.

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4.3 Licenses

If you want to browse the URL of a particular license, or to look at a list of licenses, you may use the following commands:

M-x guix-browse-license-url

Choose a license from a completion list to browse its URL using browse-url function (see Browse-URL in The GNU Emacs Manual).

M-x guix-licenses

Display a list of available licenses. You can press RET there to display packages with this license in the same way as M-x guix-packages-by-license would do (see Emacs Commands).

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4.4 Popup Interface

If you ever used Magit, you know what “popup interface” is (see Magit-Popup User Manual). Even if you are not acquainted with Magit, there should be no worries as it is very intuitive.

So M-x guix command provides a top-level popup interface for all available guix commands. When you select an option, you’ll be prompted for a value in the minibuffer. Many values have completions, so don’t hesitate to press TAB key. Multiple values (for example, packages or lint checkers) should be separated by commas.

After specifying all options and switches for a command, you may choose one of the available actions. The following default actions are available for all commands:

Several commands (guix graph, guix system shepherd-graph and guix system extension-graph) also have a “View graph” action, which allows you to view a generated graph using dot command (specified by guix-dot-program variable). By default a PNG file will be saved in /tmp directory and will be opened directly in Emacs. This behavior may be changed with the following variables:


Function used to open a generated graph. If you want to open a graph in an external program, you can do it by modifying this variable—for example, you can use a functionality provided by the Org Mode (see The Org Manual):

(setq guix-find-file-function 'org-open-file)
(add-to-list 'org-file-apps '("\\.png\\'" . "sxiv %s"))

Command line arguments to run dot command. If you change an output format (for example, into -Tpdf), you also need to change the next variable.


Function used to define a name of the generated graph file. Default name is /tmp/guix-emacs-graph-XXXXXX.png.

So, for example, if you want to generate and open a PDF file in your Emacs, you may change the settings like this:

(defun my-guix-pdf-graph ()

(setq guix-dot-default-arguments '("-Tpdf")
      guix-dot-file-name-function 'my-guix-pdf-graph)

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4.5 Guix Prettify Mode

GNU Guix also comes with “guix-prettify.el”. It provides a minor mode for abbreviating store file names by replacing hash sequences of symbols with “…”:

⇒ /gnu/store/…-foo-0.1

Once you set up “guix.el” (see Emacs Initial Setup), the following commands become available:

M-x guix-prettify-mode

Enable/disable prettifying for the current buffer.

M-x global-guix-prettify-mode

Enable/disable prettifying globally.

To automatically enable guix-prettify-mode globally on Emacs start, add the following line to your init file:


If you want to enable it only for specific major modes, add it to the mode hooks (see Hooks in The GNU Emacs Manual), for example:

(add-hook 'shell-mode-hook 'guix-prettify-mode)
(add-hook 'dired-mode-hook 'guix-prettify-mode)

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4.6 Build Log Mode

GNU Guix provides major and minor modes for highlighting build logs. So when you have a file with a package build output—for example, a file returned by guix build --log-file … command (see Invoking guix build), you may call M-x guix-build-log-mode command in the buffer with this file. This major mode highlights some lines specific to build output and provides the following key bindings:


Move to the next build phase.


Move to the previous build phase.


Toggle (show/hide) the body of the current build phase.


Toggle (show/hide) the bodies of all build phases.

There is also M-x guix-build-log-minor-mode which also provides the same highlighting and the same key bindings as the major mode, but prefixed with C-c. By default, this minor mode is enabled in shell buffers (see Interactive Shell in The GNU Emacs Manual). If you don’t like it, set guix-build-log-minor-mode-activate to nil.

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4.7 Shell Completions

Another feature that becomes available after configuring Emacs interface (see Emacs Initial Setup) is completing of guix subcommands, options, packages and other things in shell (see Interactive Shell in The GNU Emacs Manual) and eshell (see Eshell: The Emacs Shell).

It works the same way as other completions do. Just press TAB when your intuition tells you.

And here are some examples, where pressing TAB may complete something:

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4.8 Development

By default, when you open a Scheme file, guix-devel-mode will be activated (if you don’t want it, set guix-devel-activate-mode to nil). This minor mode provides the following key bindings:

C-c . k

Copy the name of the current Guile module into kill ring (guix-devel-copy-module-as-kill).

C-c . u

Use the current Guile module. Often after opening a Scheme file, you want to use a module it defines, so you switch to the Geiser REPL and write ,use (some module) there. You may just use this command instead (guix-devel-use-module).

C-c . b

Build a package defined by the current variable definition. The building process is run in the current Geiser REPL. If you modified the current package definition, don’t forget to reevaluate it before calling this command—for example, with C-M-x (see To eval or not to eval in Geiser User Manual) (guix-devel-build-package-definition).

C-c . s

Build a source derivation of the package defined by the current variable definition. This command has the same meaning as guix build -S shell command (see Invoking guix build) (guix-devel-build-package-source).

C-c . l

Lint (check) a package defined by the current variable definition (see Invoking guix lint) (guix-devel-lint-package).

Unluckily, there is a limitation related to long-running REPL commands. When there is a running process in a Geiser REPL, you are not supposed to evaluate anything in a scheme buffer, because this will “freeze” the REPL: it will stop producing any output (however, the evaluating process will continue—you will just not see any progress anymore). Be aware: even moving the point in a scheme buffer may “break” the REPL if Autodoc (see Autodoc and friends in Geiser User Manual) is enabled (which is the default).

So you have to postpone editing your scheme buffers until the running evaluation will be finished in the REPL.

Alternatively, to avoid this limitation, you may just run another Geiser REPL, and while something is being evaluated in the previous REPL, you can continue editing a scheme file with the help of the current one.

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4.9 Hydra

The continuous integration server at builds all the distribution packages on the supported architectures and serves them as substitutes (see Substitutes). Continuous integration is currently orchestrated by Hydra.

This section describes an Emacs interface to query Hydra to know the build status of specific packages, discover recent and ongoing builds, view build logs, and so on. This interface is mostly the same as the “list”/“info” interface for displaying packages and generations (see Emacs Package Management).

The following commands are available:

M-x guix-hydra-latest-builds

Display latest failed or successful builds (you will be prompted for a number of builds). With C-u, you will also be prompted for other parameters (project, jobset, job and system).

M-x guix-hydra-queued-builds

Display scheduled or currently running builds (you will be prompted for a number of builds).

M-x guix-hydra-jobsets

Display available jobsets (you will be prompted for a project).

In a list of builds you can press L key to display a build log of the current build. Also both a list of builds and a list of jobsets provide B key to display latest builds of the current job or jobset (don’t forget about C-u).

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5 Programming Interface

GNU Guix provides several Scheme programming interfaces (APIs) to define, build, and query packages. The first interface allows users to write high-level package definitions. These definitions refer to familiar packaging concepts, such as the name and version of a package, its build system, and its dependencies. These definitions can then be turned into concrete build actions.

Build actions are performed by the Guix daemon, on behalf of users. In a standard setup, the daemon has write access to the store—the /gnu/store directory—whereas users do not. The recommended setup also has the daemon perform builds in chroots, under a specific build users, to minimize interference with the rest of the system.

Lower-level APIs are available to interact with the daemon and the store. To instruct the daemon to perform a build action, users actually provide it with a derivation. A derivation is a low-level representation of the build actions to be taken, and the environment in which they should occur—derivations are to package definitions what assembly is to C programs. The term “derivation” comes from the fact that build results derive from them.

This chapter describes all these APIs in turn, starting from high-level package definitions.

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5.1 Defining Packages

The high-level interface to package definitions is implemented in the (guix packages) and (guix build-system) modules. As an example, the package definition, or recipe, for the GNU Hello package looks like this:

(define-module (gnu packages hello)
  #:use-module (guix packages)
  #:use-module (guix download)
  #:use-module (guix build-system gnu)
  #:use-module (guix licenses)
  #:use-module (gnu packages gawk))

(define-public hello
    (name "hello")
    (version "2.10")
    (source (origin
              (method url-fetch)
              (uri (string-append "mirror://gnu/hello/hello-" version
    (build-system gnu-build-system)
    (arguments `(#:configure-flags '("--enable-silent-rules")))
    (inputs `(("gawk" ,gawk)))
    (synopsis "Hello, GNU world: An example GNU package")
    (description "Guess what GNU Hello prints!")
    (home-page "")
    (license gpl3+)))

Without being a Scheme expert, the reader may have guessed the meaning of the various fields here. This expression binds the variable hello to a <package> object, which is essentially a record (see Scheme records in GNU Guile Reference Manual). This package object can be inspected using procedures found in the (guix packages) module; for instance, (package-name hello) returns—surprise!—"hello".

With luck, you may be able to import part or all of the definition of the package you are interested in from another repository, using the guix import command (see Invoking guix import).

In the example above, hello is defined in a module of its own, (gnu packages hello). Technically, this is not strictly necessary, but it is convenient to do so: all the packages defined in modules under (gnu packages …) are automatically known to the command-line tools (see Package Modules).

There are a few points worth noting in the above package definition:

See package Reference, for a full description of possible fields.

Once a package definition is in place, the package may actually be built using the guix build command-line tool (see Invoking guix build). You can easily jump back to the package definition using the guix edit command (see Invoking guix edit). See Packaging Guidelines, for more information on how to test package definitions, and Invoking guix lint, for information on how to check a definition for style conformance.

Finally, updating the package definition to a new upstream version can be partly automated by the guix refresh command (see Invoking guix refresh).

Behind the scenes, a derivation corresponding to the <package> object is first computed by the package-derivation procedure. That derivation is stored in a .drv file under /gnu/store. The build actions it prescribes may then be realized by using the build-derivations procedure (see The Store).

Scheme Procedure: package-derivation store package [system]

Return the <derivation> object of package for system (see Derivations).

package must be a valid <package> object, and system must be a string denoting the target system type—e.g., "x86_64-linux" for an x86_64 Linux-based GNU system. store must be a connection to the daemon, which operates on the store (see The Store).

Similarly, it is possible to compute a derivation that cross-builds a package for some other system:

Scheme Procedure: package-cross-derivation store package target [system]

Return the <derivation> object of package cross-built from system to target.

target must be a valid GNU triplet denoting the target hardware and operating system, such as "mips64el-linux-gnu" (see GNU configuration triplets in GNU Configure and Build System).

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5.1.1 package Reference

This section summarizes all the options available in package declarations (see Defining Packages).

Data Type: package

This is the data type representing a package recipe.


The name of the package, as a string.


The version of the package, as a string.


An origin object telling how the source code for the package should be acquired (see origin Reference).


The build system that should be used to build the package (see Build Systems).

arguments (default: '())

The arguments that should be passed to the build system. This is a list, typically containing sequential keyword-value pairs.

inputs (default: '())
native-inputs (default: '())
propagated-inputs (default: '())

These fields list dependencies of the package. Each one is a list of tuples, where each tuple has a label for the input (a string) as its first element, a package, origin, or derivation as its second element, and optionally the name of the output thereof that should be used, which defaults to "out" (see Packages with Multiple Outputs, for more on package outputs). For example, the list below specifies three inputs:

`(("libffi" ,libffi)
  ("libunistring" ,libunistring)
  ("glib:bin" ,glib "bin"))  ;the "bin" output of Glib

The distinction between native-inputs and inputs is necessary when considering cross-compilation. When cross-compiling, dependencies listed in inputs are built for the target architecture; conversely, dependencies listed in native-inputs are built for the architecture of the build machine.

native-inputs is typically used to list tools needed at build time, but not at run time, such as Autoconf, Automake, pkg-config, Gettext, or Bison. guix lint can report likely mistakes in this area (see Invoking guix lint).

Lastly, propagated-inputs is similar to inputs, but the specified packages will be automatically installed alongside the package they belong to (see guix package, for information on how guix package deals with propagated inputs.)

For example this is necessary when a C/C++ library needs headers of another library to compile, or when a pkg-config file refers to another one via its Requires field.

Another example where propagated-inputs is useful is for languages that lack a facility to record the run-time search path akin to the RUNPATHof ELF files; this includes Guile, Python, Perl, GHC, and more. To ensure that libraries written in those languages can find library code they depend on at run time, run-time dependencies must be listed in propagated-inputs rather than inputs.

self-native-input? (default: #f)

This is a Boolean field telling whether the package should use itself as a native input when cross-compiling.

outputs (default: '("out"))

The list of output names of the package. See Packages with Multiple Outputs, for typical uses of additional outputs.

native-search-paths (default: '())
search-paths (default: '())

A list of search-path-specification objects describing search-path environment variables honored by the package.

replacement (default: #f)

This must be either #f or a package object that will be used as a replacement for this package. See grafts, for details.


A one-line description of the package.


A more elaborate description of the package.


The license of the package; a value from (guix licenses), or a list of such values.


The URL to the home-page of the package, as a string.

supported-systems (default: %supported-systems)

The list of systems supported by the package, as strings of the form architecture-kernel, for example "x86_64-linux".

maintainers (default: '())

The list of maintainers of the package, as maintainer objects.

location (default: source location of the package form)

The source location of the package. It is useful to override this when inheriting from another package, in which case this field is not automatically corrected.

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5.1.2 origin Reference

This section summarizes all the options available in origin declarations (see Defining Packages).

Data Type: origin

This is the data type representing a source code origin.


An object containing the URI of the source. The object type depends on the method (see below). For example, when using the url-fetch method of (guix download), the valid uri values are: a URL represented as a string, or a list thereof.


A procedure that handles the URI.

Examples include:

url-fetch from (guix download)

download a file from the HTTP, HTTPS, or FTP URL specified in the uri field;

git-fetch from (guix git-download)

clone the Git version control repository, and check out the revision specified in the uri field as a git-reference object; a git-reference looks like this:

  (url "git://")
  (commit "v4.1.5.1"))

A bytevector containing the SHA-256 hash of the source. Typically the base32 form is used here to generate the bytevector from a base-32 string.

file-name (default: #f)

The file name under which the source code should be saved. When this is #f, a sensible default value will be used in most cases. In case the source is fetched from a URL, the file name from the URL will be used. For version control checkouts, it is recommended to provide the file name explicitly because the default is not very descriptive.

patches (default: '())

A list of file names containing patches to be applied to the source.

snippet (default: #f)

A quoted piece of code that will be run in the source directory to make any modifications, which is sometimes more convenient than a patch.

patch-flags (default: '("-p1"))

A list of command-line flags that should be passed to the patch command.

patch-inputs (default: #f)

Input packages or derivations to the patching process. When this is #f, the usual set of inputs necessary for patching are provided, such as GNU Patch.

modules (default: '())

A list of Guile modules that should be loaded during the patching process and while running the code in the snippet field.

imported-modules (default: '())

The list of Guile modules to import in the patch derivation, for use by the snippet.

patch-guile (default: #f)

The Guile package that should be used in the patching process. When this is #f, a sensible default is used.

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5.2 Build Systems

Each package definition specifies a build system and arguments for that build system (see Defining Packages). This build-system field represents the build procedure of the package, as well as implicit dependencies of that build procedure.

Build systems are <build-system> objects. The interface to create and manipulate them is provided by the (guix build-system) module, and actual build systems are exported by specific modules.

Under the hood, build systems first compile package objects to bags. A bag is like a package, but with less ornamentation—in other words, a bag is a lower-level representation of a package, which includes all the inputs of that package, including some that were implicitly added by the build system. This intermediate representation is then compiled to a derivation (see Derivations).

Build systems accept an optional list of arguments. In package definitions, these are passed via the arguments field (see Defining Packages). They are typically keyword arguments (see keyword arguments in Guile in GNU Guile Reference Manual). The value of these arguments is usually evaluated in the build stratum—i.e., by a Guile process launched by the daemon (see Derivations).

The main build system is gnu-build-system, which implements the standard build procedure for GNU and many other packages. It is provided by the (guix build-system gnu) module.

Scheme Variable: gnu-build-system

gnu-build-system represents the GNU Build System, and variants thereof (see configuration and makefile conventions in GNU Coding Standards).

In a nutshell, packages using it are configured, built, and installed with the usual ./configure && make && make check && make install command sequence. In practice, a few additional steps are often needed. All these steps are split up in separate phases, notably6:


Unpack the source tarball, and change the current directory to the extracted source tree. If the source is actually a directory, copy it to the build tree, and enter that directory.


Patch shebangs encountered in source files so they refer to the right store file names. For instance, this changes #!/bin/sh to #!/gnu/store/…-bash-4.3/bin/sh.


Run the configure script with a number of default options, such as --prefix=/gnu/store/…, as well as the options specified by the #:configure-flags argument.


Run make with the list of flags specified with #:make-flags. If the #:parallel-build? argument is true (the default), build with make -j.


Run make check, or some other target specified with #:test-target, unless #:tests? #f is passed. If the #:parallel-tests? argument is true (the default), run make check -j.


Run make install with the flags listed in #:make-flags.


Patch shebangs on the installed executable files.


Strip debugging symbols from ELF files (unless #:strip-binaries? is false), copying them to the debug output when available (see Installing Debugging Files).

The build-side module (guix build gnu-build-system) defines %standard-phases as the default list of build phases. %standard-phases is a list of symbol/procedure pairs, where the procedure implements the actual phase.

The list of phases used for a particular package can be changed with the #:phases parameter. For instance, passing:

#:phases (modify-phases %standard-phases (delete 'configure))

means that all the phases described above will be used, except the configure phase.

In addition, this build system ensures that the “standard” environment for GNU packages is available. This includes tools such as GCC, libc, Coreutils, Bash, Make, Diffutils, grep, and sed (see the (guix build-system gnu) module for a complete list). We call these the implicit inputs of a package, because package definitions do not have to mention them.

Other <build-system> objects are defined to support other conventions and tools used by free software packages. They inherit most of gnu-build-system, and differ mainly in the set of inputs implicitly added to the build process, and in the list of phases executed. Some of these build systems are listed below.

Scheme Variable: ant-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system ant). It implements the build procedure for Java packages that can be built with Ant build tool.

It adds both ant and the Java Development Kit (JDK) as provided by the icedtea package to the set of inputs. Different packages can be specified with the #:ant and #:jdk parameters, respectively.

When the original package does not provide a suitable Ant build file, the parameter #:jar-name can be used to generate a minimal Ant build file build.xml with tasks to build the specified jar archive.

The parameter #:build-target can be used to specify the Ant task that should be run during the build phase. By default the “jar” task will be run.

Scheme Variable: cmake-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system cmake). It implements the build procedure for packages using the CMake build tool.

It automatically adds the cmake package to the set of inputs. Which package is used can be specified with the #:cmake parameter.

The #:configure-flags parameter is taken as a list of flags passed to the cmake command. The #:build-type parameter specifies in abstract terms the flags passed to the compiler; it defaults to "RelWithDebInfo" (short for “release mode with debugging information”), which roughly means that code is compiled with -O2 -g, as is the case for Autoconf-based packages by default.

Scheme Variable: glib-or-gtk-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system glib-or-gtk). It is intended for use with packages making use of GLib or GTK+.

This build system adds the following two phases to the ones defined by gnu-build-system:


The phase glib-or-gtk-wrap ensures that programs in bin/ are able to find GLib “schemas” and GTK+ modules. This is achieved by wrapping the programs in launch scripts that appropriately set the XDG_DATA_DIRS and GTK_PATH environment variables.

It is possible to exclude specific package outputs from that wrapping process by listing their names in the #:glib-or-gtk-wrap-excluded-outputs parameter. This is useful when an output is known not to contain any GLib or GTK+ binaries, and where wrapping would gratuitously add a dependency of that output on GLib and GTK+.


The phase glib-or-gtk-compile-schemas makes sure that all GSettings schemas of GLib are compiled. Compilation is performed by the glib-compile-schemas program. It is provided by the package glib:bin which is automatically imported by the build system. The glib package providing glib-compile-schemas can be specified with the #:glib parameter.

Both phases are executed after the install phase.

Scheme Variable: python-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system python). It implements the more or less standard build procedure used by Python packages, which consists in running python build and then python install --prefix=/gnu/store/….

For packages that install stand-alone Python programs under bin/, it takes care of wrapping these programs so that their PYTHONPATH environment variable points to all the Python libraries they depend on.

Which Python package is used can be specified with the #:python parameter.

Scheme Variable: perl-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system perl). It implements the standard build procedure for Perl packages, which either consists in running perl Build.PL --prefix=/gnu/store/…, followed by Build and Build install; or in running perl Makefile.PL PREFIX=/gnu/store/…, followed by make and make install, depending on which of Build.PL or Makefile.PL is present in the package distribution. Preference is given to the former if both Build.PL and Makefile.PL exist in the package distribution. This preference can be reversed by specifying #t for the #:make-maker? parameter.

The initial perl Makefile.PL or perl Build.PL invocation passes flags specified by the #:make-maker-flags or #:module-build-flags parameter, respectively.

Which Perl package is used can be specified with #:perl.

Scheme Variable: r-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system r). It implements the build procedure used by R packages, which essentially is little more than running R CMD INSTALL --library=/gnu/store/… in an environment where R_LIBS_SITE contains the paths to all R package inputs. Tests are run after installation using the R function tools::testInstalledPackage.

Scheme Variable: ruby-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system ruby). It implements the RubyGems build procedure used by Ruby packages, which involves running gem build followed by gem install.

The source field of a package that uses this build system typically references a gem archive, since this is the format that Ruby developers use when releasing their software. The build system unpacks the gem archive, potentially patches the source, runs the test suite, repackages the gem, and installs it. Additionally, directories and tarballs may be referenced to allow building unreleased gems from Git or a traditional source release tarball.

Which Ruby package is used can be specified with the #:ruby parameter. A list of additional flags to be passed to the gem command can be specified with the #:gem-flags parameter.

Scheme Variable: waf-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system waf). It implements a build procedure around the waf script. The common phases—configure, build, and install—are implemented by passing their names as arguments to the waf script.

The waf script is executed by the Python interpreter. Which Python package is used to run the script can be specified with the #:python parameter.

Scheme Variable: haskell-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system haskell). It implements the Cabal build procedure used by Haskell packages, which involves running runhaskell Setup.hs configure --prefix=/gnu/store/… and runhaskell Setup.hs build. Instead of installing the package by running runhaskell Setup.hs install, to avoid trying to register libraries in the read-only compiler store directory, the build system uses runhaskell Setup.hs copy, followed by runhaskell Setup.hs register. In addition, the build system generates the package documentation by running runhaskell Setup.hs haddock, unless #:haddock? #f is passed. Optional Haddock parameters can be passed with the help of the #:haddock-flags parameter. If the file Setup.hs is not found, the build system looks for Setup.lhs instead.

Which Haskell compiler is used can be specified with the #:haskell parameter which defaults to ghc.

Scheme Variable: emacs-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system emacs). It implements an installation procedure similar to the packaging system of Emacs itself (see Packages in The GNU Emacs Manual).

It first creates the package-autoloads.el file, then it byte compiles all Emacs Lisp files. Differently from the Emacs packaging system, the Info documentation files are moved to the standard documentation directory and the dir file is deleted. Each package is installed in its own directory under share/emacs/site-lisp/guix.d.

Lastly, for packages that do not need anything as sophisticated, a “trivial” build system is provided. It is trivial in the sense that it provides basically no support: it does not pull any implicit inputs, and does not have a notion of build phases.

Scheme Variable: trivial-build-system

This variable is exported by (guix build-system trivial).

This build system requires a #:builder argument. This argument must be a Scheme expression that builds the package output(s)—as with build-expression->derivation (see build-expression->derivation).

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5.3 The Store

Conceptually, the store is the place where derivations that have been built successfully are stored—by default, /gnu/store. Sub-directories in the store are referred to as store items or sometimes store paths. The store has an associated database that contains information such as the store paths referred to by each store path, and the list of valid store items—results of successful builds. This database resides in localstatedir/guix/db, where localstatedir is the state directory specified via --localstatedir at configure time, usually /var.

The store is always accessed by the daemon on behalf of its clients (see Invoking guix-daemon). To manipulate the store, clients connect to the daemon over a Unix-domain socket, send requests to it, and read the result—these are remote procedure calls, or RPCs.

Note: Users must never modify files under /gnu/store directly. This would lead to inconsistencies and break the immutability assumptions of Guix’s functional model (see Introduction).

See guix gc --verify, for information on how to check the integrity of the store and attempt recovery from accidental modifications.

The (guix store) module provides procedures to connect to the daemon, and to perform RPCs. These are described below.

Scheme Procedure: open-connection [file] [#:reserve-space? #t]

Connect to the daemon over the Unix-domain socket at file. When reserve-space? is true, instruct it to reserve a little bit of extra space on the file system so that the garbage collector can still operate should the disk become full. Return a server object.

file defaults to %default-socket-path, which is the normal location given the options that were passed to configure.

Scheme Procedure: close-connection server

Close the connection to server.

Scheme Variable: current-build-output-port

This variable is bound to a SRFI-39 parameter, which refers to the port where build and error logs sent by the daemon should be written.

Procedures that make RPCs all take a server object as their first argument.

Scheme Procedure: valid-path? server path

Return #t when path designates a valid store item and #f otherwise (an invalid item may exist on disk but still be invalid, for instance because it is the result of an aborted or failed build.)

A &nix-protocol-error condition is raised if path is not prefixed by the store directory (/gnu/store).

Scheme Procedure: add-text-to-store server name text [references]

Add text under file name in the store, and return its store path. references is the list of store paths referred to by the resulting store path.

Scheme Procedure: build-derivations server derivations

Build derivations (a list of <derivation> objects or derivation paths), and return when the worker is done building them. Return #t on success.

Note that the (guix monads) module provides a monad as well as monadic versions of the above procedures, with the goal of making it more convenient to work with code that accesses the store (see The Store Monad).

This section is currently incomplete.

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5.4 Derivations

Low-level build actions and the environment in which they are performed are represented by derivations. A derivation contain the following pieces of information:

Derivations allow clients of the daemon to communicate build actions to the store. They exist in two forms: as an in-memory representation, both on the client- and daemon-side, and as files in the store whose name end in .drv—these files are referred to as derivation paths. Derivations paths can be passed to the build-derivations procedure to perform the build actions they prescribe (see The Store).

The (guix derivations) module provides a representation of derivations as Scheme objects, along with procedures to create and otherwise manipulate derivations. The lowest-level primitive to create a derivation is the derivation procedure:

Scheme Procedure: derivation store name builder args [#:outputs '("out")] [#:hash #f] [#:hash-algo #f] [#:recursive? #f] [#:inputs '()] [#:env-vars '()] [#:system (%current-system)] [#:references-graphs #f] [#:allowed-references #f] [#:disallowed-references #f] [#:leaked-env-vars #f] [#:local-build? #f] [#:substitutable? #t]

Build a derivation with the given arguments, and return the resulting <derivation> object.

When hash and hash-algo are given, a fixed-output derivation is created—i.e., one whose result is known in advance, such as a file download. If, in addition, recursive? is true, then that fixed output may be an executable file or a directory and hash must be the hash of an archive containing this output.

When references-graphs is true, it must be a list of file name/store path pairs. In that case, the reference graph of each store path is exported in the build environment in the corresponding file, in a simple text format.

When allowed-references is true, it must be a list of store items or outputs that the derivation’s output may refer to. Likewise, disallowed-references, if true, must be a list of things the outputs may not refer to.

When leaked-env-vars is true, it must be a list of strings denoting environment variables that are allowed to “leak” from the daemon’s environment to the build environment. This is only applicable to fixed-output derivations—i.e., when hash is true. The main use is to allow variables such as http_proxy to be passed to derivations that download files.

When local-build? is true, declare that the derivation is not a good candidate for offloading and should rather be built locally (see Daemon Offload Setup). This is the case for small derivations where the costs of data transfers would outweigh the benefits.

When substitutable? is false, declare that substitutes of the derivation’s output should not be used (see Substitutes). This is useful, for instance, when building packages that capture details of the host CPU instruction set.

Here’s an example with a shell script as its builder, assuming store is an open connection to the daemon, and bash points to a Bash executable in the store:

(use-modules (guix utils)
             (guix store)
             (guix derivations))

(let ((builder   ; add the Bash script to the store
        (add-text-to-store store ""
                           "echo hello world > $out\n" '())))
  (derivation store "foo"
              bash `("-e" ,builder)
              #:inputs `((,bash) (,builder))
              #:env-vars '(("HOME" . "/homeless"))))
⇒ #<derivation /gnu/store/…-foo.drv => /gnu/store/…-foo>

As can be guessed, this primitive is cumbersome to use directly. A better approach is to write build scripts in Scheme, of course! The best course of action for that is to write the build code as a “G-expression”, and to pass it to gexp->derivation. For more information, see G-Expressions.

Once upon a time, gexp->derivation did not exist and constructing derivations with build code written in Scheme was achieved with build-expression->derivation, documented below. This procedure is now deprecated in favor of the much nicer gexp->derivation.

Scheme Procedure: build-expression->derivation store name exp [#:system (%current-system)] [#:inputs '()] [#:outputs '("out")] [#:hash #f] [#:hash-algo #f] [#:recursive? #f] [#:env-vars '()] [#:modules '()] [#:references-graphs #f] [#:allowed-references #f] [#:disallowed-references #f] [#:local-build? #f] [#:substitutable? #t] [#:guile-for-build #f]

Return a derivation that executes Scheme expression exp as a builder for derivation name. inputs must be a list of (name drv-path sub-drv) tuples; when sub-drv is omitted, "out" is assumed. modules is a list of names of Guile modules from the current search path to be copied in the store, compiled, and made available in the load path during the execution of exp—e.g., ((guix build utils) (guix build gnu-build-system)).

exp is evaluated in an environment where %outputs is bound to a list of output/path pairs, and where %build-inputs is bound to a list of string/output-path pairs made from inputs. Optionally, env-vars is a list of string pairs specifying the name and value of environment variables visible to the builder. The builder terminates by passing the result of exp to exit; thus, when exp returns #f, the build is considered to have failed.

exp is built using guile-for-build (a derivation). When guile-for-build is omitted or is #f, the value of the %guile-for-build fluid is used instead.

See the derivation procedure for the meaning of references-graphs, allowed-references, disallowed-references, local-build?, and substitutable?.

Here’s an example of a single-output derivation that creates a directory containing one file:

(let ((builder '(let ((out (assoc-ref %outputs "out")))
                  (mkdir out)    ; create /gnu/store/…-goo
                  (call-with-output-file (string-append out "/test")
                    (lambda (p)
                      (display '(hello guix) p))))))
  (build-expression->derivation store "goo" builder))

⇒ #<derivation /gnu/store/…-goo.drv => …>

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5.5 The Store Monad

The procedures that operate on the store described in the previous sections all take an open connection to the build daemon as their first argument. Although the underlying model is functional, they either have side effects or depend on the current state of the store.

The former is inconvenient: the connection to the build daemon has to be carried around in all those functions, making it impossible to compose functions that do not take that parameter with functions that do. The latter can be problematic: since store operations have side effects and/or depend on external state, they have to be properly sequenced.

This is where the (guix monads) module comes in. This module provides a framework for working with monads, and a particularly useful monad for our uses, the store monad. Monads are a construct that allows two things: associating “context” with values (in our case, the context is the store), and building sequences of computations (here computations include accesses to the store.) Values in a monad—values that carry this additional context—are called monadic values; procedures that return such values are called monadic procedures.

Consider this “normal” procedure:

(define (sh-symlink store)
  ;; Return a derivation that symlinks the 'bash' executable.
  (let* ((drv (package-derivation store bash))
         (out (derivation->output-path drv))
         (sh  (string-append out "/bin/bash")))
    (build-expression->derivation store "sh"
                                  `(symlink ,sh %output))))

Using (guix monads) and (guix gexp), it may be rewritten as a monadic function:

(define (sh-symlink)
  ;; Same, but return a monadic value.
  (mlet %store-monad ((drv (package->derivation bash)))
    (gexp->derivation "sh"
                      #~(symlink (string-append #$drv "/bin/bash")

There several things to note in the second version: the store parameter is now implicit and is “threaded” in the calls to the package->derivation and gexp->derivation monadic procedures, and the monadic value returned by package->derivation is bound using mlet instead of plain let.

As it turns out, the call to package->derivation can even be omitted since it will take place implicitly, as we will see later (see G-Expressions):

(define (sh-symlink)
  (gexp->derivation "sh"
                    #~(symlink (string-append #$bash "/bin/bash")

Calling the monadic sh-symlink has no effect. As someone once said, “you exit a monad like you exit a building on fire: by running”. So, to exit the monad and get the desired effect, one must use run-with-store:

(run-with-store (open-connection) (sh-symlink))
⇒ /gnu/store/...-sh-symlink

Note that the (guix monad-repl) module extends the Guile REPL with new “meta-commands” to make it easier to deal with monadic procedures: run-in-store, and enter-store-monad. The former is used to “run” a single monadic value through the store:

scheme@(guile-user)> ,run-in-store (package->derivation hello)
$1 = #<derivation /gnu/store/…-hello-2.9.drv => …>

The latter enters a recursive REPL, where all the return values are automatically run through the store:

scheme@(guile-user)> ,enter-store-monad
store-monad@(guile-user) [1]> (package->derivation hello)
$2 = #<derivation /gnu/store/…-hello-2.9.drv => …>
store-monad@(guile-user) [1]> (text-file "foo" "Hello!")
$3 = "/gnu/store/…-foo"
store-monad@(guile-user) [1]> ,q

Note that non-monadic values cannot be returned in the store-monad REPL.

The main syntactic forms to deal with monads in general are provided by the (guix monads) module and are described below.

Scheme Syntax: with-monad monad body ...

Evaluate any >>= or return forms in body as being in monad.

Scheme Syntax: return val

Return a monadic value that encapsulates val.

Scheme Syntax: >>= mval mproc ...

Bind monadic value mval, passing its “contents” to monadic procedures mproc7. There can be one mproc or several of them, as in this example:

    (with-monad %state-monad
      (>>= (return 1)
           (lambda (x) (return (+ 1 x)))
           (lambda (x) (return (* 2 x)))))

⇒ 4
⇒ some-state
Scheme Syntax: mlet monad ((var mval) ...) body ...
Scheme Syntax: mlet* monad ((var mval) ...) body ...

Bind the variables var to the monadic values mval in body. The form (var -> val) binds var to the “normal” value val, as per let.

mlet* is to mlet what let* is to let (see Local Bindings in GNU Guile Reference Manual).

Scheme System: mbegin monad mexp ...

Bind mexp and the following monadic expressions in sequence, returning the result of the last expression.

This is akin to mlet, except that the return values of the monadic expressions are ignored. In that sense, it is analogous to begin, but applied to monadic expressions.

The (guix monads) module provides the state monad, which allows an additional value—the state—to be threaded through monadic procedure calls.

Scheme Variable: %state-monad

The state monad. Procedures in the state monad can access and change the state that is threaded.

Consider the example below. The square procedure returns a value in the state monad. It returns the square of its argument, but also increments the current state value:

(define (square x)
  (mlet %state-monad ((count (current-state)))
    (mbegin %state-monad
      (set-current-state (+ 1 count))
      (return (* x x)))))

(run-with-state (sequence %state-monad (map square (iota 3))) 0)
⇒ (0 1 4)
⇒ 3

When “run” through %state-monad, we obtain that additional state value, which is the number of square calls.

Monadic Procedure: current-state

Return the current state as a monadic value.

Monadic Procedure: set-current-state value

Set the current state to value and return the previous state as a monadic value.

Monadic Procedure: state-push value

Push value to the current state, which is assumed to be a list, and return the previous state as a monadic value.

Monadic Procedure: state-pop

Pop a value from the current state and return it as a monadic value. The state is assumed to be a list.

Scheme Procedure: run-with-state mval [state]

Run monadic value mval starting with state as the initial state. Return two values: the resulting value, and the resulting state.

The main interface to the store monad, provided by the (guix store) module, is as follows.

Scheme Variable: %store-monad

The store monad—an alias for %state-monad.

Values in the store monad encapsulate accesses to the store. When its effect is needed, a value of the store monad must be “evaluated” by passing it to the run-with-store procedure (see below.)

Scheme Procedure: run-with-store store mval [#:guile-for-build] [#:system (%current-system)]

Run mval, a monadic value in the store monad, in store, an open store connection.

Monadic Procedure: text-file name text [references]

Return as a monadic value the absolute file name in the store of the file containing text, a string. references is a list of store items that the resulting text file refers to; it defaults to the empty list.

Monadic Procedure: interned-file file [name] [#:recursive? #t]

Return the name of file once interned in the store. Use name as its store name, or the basename of file if name is omitted.

When recursive? is true, the contents of file are added recursively; if file designates a flat file and recursive? is true, its contents are added, and its permission bits are kept.

The example below adds a file to the store, under two different names:

(run-with-store (open-connection)
  (mlet %store-monad ((a (interned-file "README"))
                      (b (interned-file "README" "LEGU-MIN")))
    (return (list a b))))

⇒ ("/gnu/store/rwm…-README" "/gnu/store/44i…-LEGU-MIN")

The (guix packages) module exports the following package-related monadic procedures:

Monadic Procedure: package-file package [file] [#:system (%current-system)] [#:target #f] [#:output "out"]

Return as a monadic value in the absolute file name of file within the output directory of package. When file is omitted, return the name of the output directory of package. When target is true, use it as a cross-compilation target triplet.

Monadic Procedure: package->derivation package [system]
Monadic Procedure: package->cross-derivation package target [system]

Monadic version of package-derivation and package-cross-derivation (see Defining Packages).

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5.6 G-Expressions

So we have “derivations”, which represent a sequence of build actions to be performed to produce an item in the store (see Derivations). These build actions are performed when asking the daemon to actually build the derivations; they are run by the daemon in a container (see Invoking guix-daemon).

It should come as no surprise that we like to write these build actions in Scheme. When we do that, we end up with two strata of Scheme code8: the “host code”—code that defines packages, talks to the daemon, etc.—and the “build code”—code that actually performs build actions, such as making directories, invoking make, etc.

To describe a derivation and its build actions, one typically needs to embed build code inside host code. It boils down to manipulating build code as data, and the homoiconicity of Scheme—code has a direct representation as data—comes in handy for that. But we need more than the normal quasiquote mechanism in Scheme to construct build expressions.

The (guix gexp) module implements G-expressions, a form of S-expressions adapted to build expressions. G-expressions, or gexps, consist essentially of three syntactic forms: gexp, ungexp, and ungexp-splicing (or simply: #~, #$, and #$@), which are comparable to quasiquote, unquote, and unquote-splicing, respectivel (see quasiquote in GNU Guile Reference Manual). However, there are major differences:

This mechanism is not limited to package and derivation objects: compilers able to “lower” other high-level objects to derivations or files in the store can be defined, such that these objects can also be inserted into gexps. For example, a useful type of high-level objects that can be inserted in a gexp is “file-like objects”, which make it easy to add files to the store and to refer to them in derivations and such (see local-file and plain-file below.)

To illustrate the idea, here is an example of a gexp:

(define build-exp
      (mkdir #$output)
      (chdir #$output)
      (symlink (string-append #$coreutils "/bin/ls")

This gexp can be passed to gexp->derivation; we obtain a derivation that builds a directory containing exactly one symlink to /gnu/store/…-coreutils-8.22/bin/ls:

(gexp->derivation "the-thing" build-exp)

As one would expect, the "/gnu/store/…-coreutils-8.22" string is substituted to the reference to the coreutils package in the actual build code, and coreutils is automatically made an input to the derivation. Likewise, #$output (equivalent to (ungexp output)) is replaced by a string containing the directory name of the output of the derivation.

In a cross-compilation context, it is useful to distinguish between references to the native build of a package—that can run on the host—versus references to cross builds of a package. To that end, the #+ plays the same role as #$, but is a reference to a native package build:

(gexp->derivation "vi"
       (mkdir #$output)
       (system* (string-append #+coreutils "/bin/ln")
                (string-append #$emacs "/bin/emacs")
                (string-append #$output "/bin/vi")))
   #:target "mips64el-linux")

In the example above, the native build of coreutils is used, so that ln can actually run on the host; but then the cross-compiled build of emacs is referenced.

The syntactic form to construct gexps is summarized below.

Scheme Syntax: #~exp
Scheme Syntax: (gexp exp)

Return a G-expression containing exp. exp may contain one or more of the following forms:

(ungexp obj)

Introduce a reference to obj. obj may have one of the supported types, for example a package or a derivation, in which case the ungexp form is replaced by its output file name—e.g., "/gnu/store/…-coreutils-8.22.

If obj is a list, it is traversed and references to supported objects are substituted similarly.

If obj is another gexp, its contents are inserted and its dependencies are added to those of the containing gexp.

If obj is another kind of object, it is inserted as is.

(ungexp obj output)

This is like the form above, but referring explicitly to the output of obj—this is useful when obj produces multiple outputs (see Packages with Multiple Outputs).

(ungexp-native obj)
(ungexp-native obj output)

Same as ungexp, but produces a reference to the native build of obj when used in a cross compilation context.

(ungexp output [output])

Insert a reference to derivation output output, or to the main output when output is omitted.

This only makes sense for gexps passed to gexp->derivation.

(ungexp-splicing lst)

Like the above, but splices the contents of lst inside the containing list.

(ungexp-native-splicing lst)

Like the above, but refers to native builds of the objects listed in lst.

G-expressions created by gexp or #~ are run-time objects of the gexp? type (see below.)

Scheme Procedure: gexp? obj

Return #t if obj is a G-expression.

G-expressions are meant to be written to disk, either as code building some derivation, or as plain files in the store. The monadic procedures below allow you to do that (see The Store Monad, for more information about monads.)

Monadic Procedure: gexp->derivation name exp [#:system (%current-system)] [#:target #f] [#:graft? #t] [#:hash #f] [#:hash-algo #f] [#:recursive? #f] [#:env-vars '()] [#:modules '()] [#:module-path %load-path] [#:references-graphs #f] [#:allowed-references #f] [#:disallowed-references #f] [#:leaked-env-vars #f] [#:script-name (string-append name "-builder")] [#:local-build? #f] [#:substitutable? #t] [#:guile-for-build #f]

Return a derivation name that runs exp (a gexp) with guile-for-build (a derivation) on system; exp is stored in a file called script-name. When target is true, it is used as the cross-compilation target triplet for packages referred to by exp.

Make modules available in the evaluation context of exp; modules is a list of names of Guile modules searched in module-path to be copied in the store, compiled, and made available in the load path during the execution of exp—e.g., ((guix build utils) (guix build gnu-build-system)).

graft? determines whether packages referred to by exp should be grafted when applicable.

When references-graphs is true, it must be a list of tuples of one of the following forms:

(file-name package)
(file-name package output)
(file-name derivation)
(file-name derivation output)
(file-name store-item)

The right-hand-side of each element of references-graphs is automatically made an input of the build process of exp. In the build environment, each file-name contains the reference graph of the corresponding item, in a simple text format.

allowed-references must be either #f or a list of output names and packages. In the latter case, the list denotes store items that the result is allowed to refer to. Any reference to another store item will lead to a build error. Similarly for disallowed-references, which can list items that must not be referenced by the outputs.

The other arguments are as for derivation (see Derivations).

The local-file, plain-file, computed-file, program-file, and scheme-file procedures below return file-like objects. That is, when unquoted in a G-expression, these objects lead to a file in the store. Consider this G-expression:

#~(system* (string-append #$glibc "/sbin/nscd") "-f"
           #$(local-file "/tmp/my-nscd.conf"))

The effect here is to “intern” /tmp/my-nscd.conf by copying it to the store. Once expanded, for instance via gexp->derivation, the G-expression refers to that copy under /gnu/store; thus, modifying or removing the file in /tmp does not have any effect on what the G-expression does. plain-file can be used similarly; it differs in that the file content is directly passed as a string.

Scheme Procedure: local-file file [name] [#:recursive? #t]

Return an object representing local file file to add to the store; this object can be used in a gexp. If file is a relative file name, it is looked up relative to the source file where this form appears. file will be added to the store under name–by default the base name of file.

When recursive? is true, the contents of file are added recursively; if file designates a flat file and recursive? is true, its contents are added, and its permission bits are kept.

This is the declarative counterpart of the interned-file monadic procedure (see interned-file).

Scheme Procedure: plain-file name content

Return an object representing a text file called name with the given content (a string) to be added to the store.

This is the declarative counterpart of text-file.

Scheme Procedure: computed-file name gexp [#:modules '()] [#:options '(#:local-build? #t)]

Return an object representing the store item name, a file or directory computed by gexp. modules specifies the set of modules visible in the execution context of gexp. options is a list of additional arguments to pass to gexp->derivation.

This is the declarative counterpart of gexp->derivation.

Monadic Procedure: gexp->script name exp

Return an executable script name that runs exp using guile with modules in its search path.

The example below builds a script that simply invokes the ls command:

(use-modules (guix gexp) (gnu packages base))

(gexp->script "list-files"
              #~(execl (string-append #$coreutils "/bin/ls")

When “running” it through the store (see run-with-store), we obtain a derivation that produces an executable file /gnu/store/…-list-files along these lines:

#!/gnu/store/…-guile-2.0.11/bin/guile -ds
(execl (string-append "/gnu/store/…-coreutils-8.22"/bin/ls")
Scheme Procedure: program-file name exp [#:modules '()] [#:guile #f]

Return an object representing the executable store item name that runs gexp. guile is the Guile package used to execute that script, and modules is the list of modules visible to that script.

This is the declarative counterpart of gexp->script.

Monadic Procedure: gexp->file name exp

Return a derivation that builds a file name containing exp.

The resulting file holds references to all the dependencies of exp or a subset thereof.

Scheme Procedure: scheme-file name exp

Return an object representing the Scheme file name that contains exp.

This is the declarative counterpart of gexp->file.

Monadic Procedure: text-file* name text

Return as a monadic value a derivation that builds a text file containing all of text. text may list, in addition to strings, objects of any type that can be used in a gexp: packages, derivations, local file objects, etc. The resulting store file holds references to all these.

This variant should be preferred over text-file anytime the file to create will reference items from the store. This is typically the case when building a configuration file that embeds store file names, like this:

(define (
  ;; Return the name of a shell script in the store that
  ;; initializes the 'PATH' environment variable.
  (text-file* ""
              "export PATH=" coreutils "/bin:"
              grep "/bin:" sed "/bin\n"))

In this example, the resulting /gnu/store/… file will references coreutils, grep, and sed, thereby preventing them from being garbage-collected during its lifetime.

Scheme Procedure: mixed-text-file name text

Return an object representing store file name containing text. text is a sequence of strings and file-like objects, as in:

(mixed-text-file "profile"
                 "export PATH=" coreutils "/bin:" grep "/bin")

This is the declarative counterpart of text-file*.

Of course, in addition to gexps embedded in “host” code, there are also modules containing build tools. To make it clear that they are meant to be used in the build stratum, these modules are kept in the (guix build …) name space.

Internally, high-level objects are lowered, using their compiler, to either derivations or store items. For instance, lowering a package yields a derivation, and lowering a plain-file yields a store item. This is achieved using the lower-object monadic procedure.

Monadic Procedure: lower-object obj [system] [#:target #f]

Return as a value in %store-monad the derivation or store item corresponding to obj for system, cross-compiling for target if target is true. obj must be an object that has an associated gexp compiler, such as a <package>.

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6 Utilities

This section describes Guix command-line utilities. Some of them are primarily targeted at developers and users who write new package definitions, while others are more generally useful. They complement the Scheme programming interface of Guix in a convenient way.

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6.1 Invoking guix build

The guix build command builds packages or derivations and their dependencies, and prints the resulting store paths. Note that it does not modify the user’s profile—this is the job of the guix package command (see Invoking guix package). Thus, it is mainly useful for distribution developers.

The general syntax is:

guix build options package-or-derivation

As an example, the following command builds the latest versions of Emacs and of Guile, displays their build logs, and finally displays the resulting directories:

guix build emacs guile

Similarly, the following command builds all the available packages:

guix build --quiet --keep-going \
  `guix package -A | cut -f1,2 --output-delimiter=@`

package-or-derivation may be either the name of a package found in the software distribution such as coreutils or coreutils-8.20, or a derivation such as /gnu/store/…-coreutils-8.19.drv. In the former case, a package with the corresponding name (and optionally version) is searched for among the GNU distribution modules (see Package Modules).

Alternatively, the --expression option may be used to specify a Scheme expression that evaluates to a package; this is useful when disambiguation among several same-named packages or package variants is needed.

There may be zero or more options. The available options are described in the subsections below.

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6.1.1 Common Build Options

A number of options that control the build process are common to guix build and other commands that can spawn builds, such as guix package or guix archive. These are the following:

-L directory

Add directory to the front of the package module search path (see Package Modules).

This allows users to define their own packages and make them visible to the command-line tools.


Keep the build tree of failed builds. Thus, if a build fail, its build tree is kept under /tmp, in a directory whose name is shown at the end of the build log. This is useful when debugging build issues.


Keep going when some of the derivations fail to build; return only once all the builds have either completed or failed.

The default behavior is to stop as soon as one of the specified derivations has failed.


Do not build the derivations.


When substituting a pre-built binary fails, fall back to building packages locally.


Consider urls the whitespace-separated list of substitute source URLs, overriding the default list of URLs of guix-daemon (see guix-daemon URLs).

This means that substitutes may be downloaded from urls, provided they are signed by a key authorized by the system administrator (see Substitutes).

When urls is the empty string, substitutes are effectively disabled.


Do not use substitutes for build products. That is, always build things locally instead of allowing downloads of pre-built binaries (see Substitutes).


Do not “graft” packages. In practice, this means that package updates available as grafts are not applied. See Security Updates, for more information on grafts.


Build each derivation n times in a row, and raise an error if consecutive build results are not bit-for-bit identical.

This is a useful way to detect non-deterministic builds processes. Non-deterministic build processes are a problem because they make it practically impossible for users to verify whether third-party binaries are genuine. See Invoking guix challenge, for more.

Note that, currently, the differing build results are not kept around, so you will have to manually investigate in case of an error—e.g., by stashing one of the build results with guix archive --export, then rebuilding, and finally comparing the two results.


Do not attempt to offload builds via the “build hook” of the daemon (see Daemon Offload Setup). That is, always build things locally instead of offloading builds to remote machines.


When the build or substitution process remains silent for more than seconds, terminate it and report a build failure.


Likewise, when the build or substitution process lasts for more than seconds, terminate it and report a build failure.

By default there is no timeout. This behavior can be restored with --timeout=0.


Use the given verbosity level. level must be an integer between 0 and 5; higher means more verbose output. Setting a level of 4 or more may be helpful when debugging setup issues with the build daemon.

-c n

Allow the use of up to n CPU cores for the build. The special value 0 means to use as many CPU cores as available.

-M n

Allow at most n build jobs in parallel. See --max-jobs, for details about this option and the equivalent guix-daemon option.

Behind the scenes, guix build is essentially an interface to the package-derivation procedure of the (guix packages) module, and to the build-derivations procedure of the (guix derivations) module.

In addition to options explicitly passed on the command line, guix build and other guix commands that support building honor the GUIX_BUILD_OPTIONS environment variable.

Environment Variable: GUIX_BUILD_OPTIONS

Users can define this variable to a list of command line options that will automatically be used by guix build and other guix commands that can perform builds, as in the example below:

$ export GUIX_BUILD_OPTIONS="--no-substitutes -c 2 -L /foo/bar"

These options are parsed independently, and the result is appended to the parsed command-line options.

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6.1.2 Package Transformation Options

Another set of command-line options supported by guix build and also guix package are package transformation options. These are options that make it possible to define package variants—for instance, packages built from different source code. This is a convenient way to create customized packages on the fly without having to type in the definitions of package variants (see Defining Packages).


Use source as the source of the corresponding package. source must be a file name or a URL, as for guix download (see Invoking guix download).

The “corresponding package” is taken to be the one specified on the command line the name of which matches the base of source—e.g., if source is /src/guile-2.0.10.tar.gz, the corresponding package is guile. Likewise, the version string is inferred from source; in the previous example, it is 2.0.10.

This option allows users to try out versions of packages other than the one provided by the distribution. The example below downloads ed-1.7.tar.gz from a GNU mirror and uses that as the source for the ed package:

guix build ed --with-source=mirror://gnu/ed/ed-1.7.tar.gz

As a developer, --with-source makes it easy to test release candidates:

guix build guile --with-source=../guile-

… or to build from a checkout in a pristine environment:

$ git clone git://
$ guix build guix --with-source=./guix

Replace dependency on package by a dependency on replacement. package must be a package name, and replacement must be a package specification such as guile or guile@1.8.

For instance, the following command builds Guix, but replaces its dependency on the current stable version of Guile with a dependency on the development version of Guile, guile-next:

guix build --with-input=guile=guile-next guix

This is a recursive, deep replacement. So in this example, both guix and its dependency guile-json (which also depends on guile) get rebuilt against guile-next.

However, implicit inputs are left unchanged.

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6.1.3 Additional Build Options

The command-line options presented below are specific to guix build.


Build quietly, without displaying the build log. Upon completion, the build log is kept in /var (or similar) and can always be retrieved using the --log-file option.

-f file

Build the package or derivation that the code within file evaluates to.

As an example, file might contain a package definition like this (see Defining Packages):

(use-modules (guix)
             (guix build-system gnu)
             (guix licenses))

  (name "hello")
  (version "2.10")
  (source (origin
            (method url-fetch)
            (uri (string-append "mirror://gnu/hello/hello-" version
  (build-system gnu-build-system)
  (synopsis "Hello, GNU world: An example GNU package")
  (description "Guess what GNU Hello prints!")
  (home-page "")
  (license gpl3+))
-e expr

Build the package or derivation expr evaluates to.

For example, expr may be (@ (gnu packages guile) guile-1.8), which unambiguously designates this specific variant of version 1.8 of Guile.

Alternatively, expr may be a G-expression, in which case it is used as a build program passed to gexp->derivation (see G-Expressions).

Lastly, expr may refer to a zero-argument monadic procedure (see The Store Monad). The procedure must return a derivation as a monadic value, which is then passed through run-with-store.


Build the source derivations of the packages, rather than the packages themselves.

For instance, guix build -S gcc returns something like /gnu/store/…-gcc-4.7.2.tar.bz2, which is the GCC source tarball.

The returned source tarball is the result of applying any patches and code snippets specified in the package origin (see Defining Packages).


Fetch and return the source of package-or-derivation and all their dependencies, recursively. This is a handy way to obtain a local copy of all the source code needed to build packages, allowing you to eventually build them even without network access. It is an extension of the --source option and can accept one of the following optional argument values:


This value causes the --sources option to behave in the same way as the --source option.


Build the source derivations of all packages, including any source that might be listed as inputs. This is the default value.

$ guix build --sources tzdata
The following derivations will be built:

Build the source derivations of all packages, as well of all transitive inputs to the packages. This can be used e.g. to prefetch package source for later offline building.

$ guix build --sources=transitive tzdata
The following derivations will be built:
-s system

Attempt to build for system—e.g., i686-linux—instead of the system type of the build host.

An example use of this is on Linux-based systems, which can emulate different personalities. For instance, passing --system=i686-linux on an x86_64-linux system allows users to build packages in a complete 32-bit environment.


Cross-build for triplet, which must be a valid GNU triplet, such as "mips64el-linux-gnu" (see GNU configuration triplets in GNU Configure and Build System).


Rebuild package-or-derivation, which are already available in the store, and raise an error if the build results are not bit-for-bit identical.

This mechanism allows you to check whether previously installed substitutes are genuine (see Substitutes), or whether the build result of a package is deterministic. See Invoking guix challenge, for more background information and tools.


Return the derivation paths, not the output paths, of the given packages.

-r file

Make file a symlink to the result, and register it as a garbage collector root.


Return the build log file names or URLs for the given package-or-derivation, or raise an error if build logs are missing.

This works regardless of how packages or derivations are specified. For instance, the following invocations are equivalent:

guix build --log-file `guix build -d guile`
guix build --log-file `guix build guile`
guix build --log-file guile
guix build --log-file -e '(@ (gnu packages guile) guile-2.0)'

If a log is unavailable locally, and unless --no-substitutes is passed, the command looks for a corresponding log on one of the substitute servers (as specified with --substitute-urls.)

So for instance, imagine you want to see the build log of GDB on MIPS, but you are actually on an x86_64 machine:

$ guix build --log-file gdb -s mips64el-linux…-gdb-7.10

You can freely access a huge library of build logs!

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6.2 Invoking guix edit

So many packages, so many source files! The guix edit command facilitates the life of packagers by pointing their editor at the source file containing the definition of the specified packages. For instance:

guix edit gcc-4.8 vim

launches the program specified in the VISUAL or in the EDITOR environment variable to edit the recipe of GCC 4.8.4 and that of Vim.

If you are using Emacs, note that the Emacs user interface provides the M-x guix-edit command and a similar functionality in the “package info” and “package list” buffers created by the M-x guix-search-by-name and similar commands (see Emacs Commands).

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6.3 Invoking guix download

When writing a package definition, developers typically need to download a source tarball, compute its SHA256 hash, and write that hash in the package definition (see Defining Packages). The guix download tool helps with this task: it downloads a file from the given URI, adds it to the store, and prints both its file name in the store and its SHA256 hash.

The fact that the downloaded file is added to the store saves bandwidth: when the developer eventually tries to build the newly defined package with guix build, the source tarball will not have to be downloaded again because it is already in the store. It is also a convenient way to temporarily stash files, which may be deleted eventually (see Invoking guix gc).

The guix download command supports the same URIs as used in package definitions. In particular, it supports mirror:// URIs. https URIs (HTTP over TLS) are supported provided the Guile bindings for GnuTLS are available in the user’s environment; when they are not available, an error is raised. See how to install the GnuTLS bindings for Guile in GnuTLS-Guile, for more information.

The following option is available:

-f fmt

Write the hash in the format specified by fmt. For more information on the valid values for fmt, see Invoking guix hash.

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6.4 Invoking guix hash

The guix hash command computes the SHA256 hash of a file. It is primarily a convenience tool for anyone contributing to the distribution: it computes the cryptographic hash of a file, which can be used in the definition of a package (see Defining Packages).

The general syntax is:

guix hash option file

guix hash has the following option:

-f fmt

Write the hash in the format specified by fmt.

Supported formats: nix-base32, base32, base16 (hex and hexadecimal can be used as well).

If the --format option is not specified, guix hash will output the hash in nix-base32. This representation is used in the definitions of packages.


Compute the hash on file recursively.

In this case, the hash is computed on an archive containing file, including its children if it is a directory. Some of the metadata of file is part of the archive; for instance, when file is a regular file, the hash is different depending on whether file is executable or not. Metadata such as time stamps has no impact on the hash (see Invoking guix archive).

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6.5 Invoking guix import

The guix import command is useful for people who would like to add a package to the distribution with as little work as possible—a legitimate demand. The command knows of a few repositories from which it can “import” package metadata. The result is a package definition, or a template thereof, in the format we know (see Defining Packages).

The general syntax is:

guix import importer options

importer specifies the source from which to import package metadata, and options specifies a package identifier and other options specific to importer. Currently, the available “importers” are:


Import metadata for the given GNU package. This provides a template for the latest version of that GNU package, including the hash of its source tarball, and its canonical synopsis and description.

Additional information such as the package dependencies and its license needs to be figured out manually.

For example, the following command returns a package definition for GNU Hello:

guix import gnu hello

Specific command-line options are:


As for guix refresh, specify the policy to handle missing OpenPGP keys when verifying the package signature. See --key-download.


Import metadata from the Python Package Index9. Information is taken from the JSON-formatted description available at and usually includes all the relevant information, including package dependencies.

The command below imports metadata for the itsdangerous Python package:

guix import pypi itsdangerous

Import metadata from RubyGems10. Information is taken from the JSON-formatted description available at and includes most relevant information, including runtime dependencies. There are some caveats, however. The metadata doesn’t distinguish between synopses and descriptions, so the same string is used for both fields. Additionally, the details of non-Ruby dependencies required to build native extensions is unavailable and left as an exercise to the packager.

The command below imports metadata for the rails Ruby package:

guix import gem rails

Import metadata from MetaCPAN11. Information is taken from the JSON-formatted metadata provided through MetaCPAN’s API and includes most relevant information, such as module dependencies. License information should be checked closely. If Perl is available in the store, then the corelist utility will be used to filter core modules out of the list of dependencies.

The command command below imports metadata for the Acme::Boolean Perl module:

guix import cpan Acme::Boolean

Import metadata from CRAN, the central repository for the GNU R statistical and graphical environment.

Information is extracted from the DESCRIPTION file of the package.

The command command below imports metadata for the Cairo R package:

guix import cran Cairo

When --archive=bioconductor is added, metadata is imported from Bioconductor, a repository of R packages for for the analysis and comprehension of high-throughput genomic data in bioinformatics.

Information is extracted from the DESCRIPTION file of a package published on the web interface of the Bioconductor SVN repository.

The command below imports metadata for the GenomicRanges R package:

guix import cran --archive=bioconductor GenomicRanges

Import metadata from a local copy of the source of the Nixpkgs distribution12. Package definitions in Nixpkgs are typically written in a mixture of Nix-language and Bash code. This command only imports the high-level package structure that is written in the Nix language. It normally includes all the basic fields of a package definition.

When importing a GNU package, the synopsis and descriptions are replaced by their canonical upstream variant.

Usually, you will first need to do:

export NIX_REMOTE=daemon

so that nix-instantiate does not try to open the Nix database.

As an example, the command below imports the package definition of LibreOffice (more precisely, it imports the definition of the package bound to the libreoffice top-level attribute):

guix import nix ~/path/to/nixpkgs libreoffice

Import metadata from the Haskell community’s central package archive Hackage. Information is taken from Cabal files and includes all the relevant information, including package dependencies.

Specific command-line options are:


Read a Cabal file from standard input.


Do not include dependencies required only by the test suites.

-e alist

alist is a Scheme alist defining the environment in which the Cabal conditionals are evaluated. The accepted keys are: os, arch, impl and a string representing the name of a flag. The value associated with a flag has to be either the symbol true or false. The value associated with other keys has to conform to the Cabal file format definition. The default value associated with the keys os, arch and impl is ‘linux’, ‘x86_64’ and ‘ghc’, respectively.

The command below imports metadata for the latest version of the HTTP Haskell package without including test dependencies and specifying the value of the flag ‘network-uri’ as false:

guix import hackage -t -e "'((\"network-uri\" . false))" HTTP

A specific package version may optionally be specified by following the package name by an at-sign and a version number as in the following example:

guix import hackage mtl@

Import metadata from an Emacs Lisp Package Archive (ELPA) package repository (see Packages in The GNU Emacs Manual).

Specific command-line options are:

-a repo

repo identifies the archive repository from which to retrieve the information. Currently the supported repositories and their identifiers are:

  • - GNU, selected by the gnu identifier. This is the default.
  • - MELPA-Stable, selected by the melpa-stable identifier.
  • - MELPA, selected by the melpa identifier.

The structure of the guix import code is modular. It would be useful to have more importers for other package formats, and your help is welcome here (see Contributing).

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6.6 Invoking guix refresh

The primary audience of the guix refresh command is developers of the GNU software distribution. By default, it reports any packages provided by the distribution that are outdated compared to the latest upstream version, like this:

$ guix refresh
gnu/packages/gettext.scm:29:13: gettext would be upgraded from to
gnu/packages/glib.scm:77:12: glib would be upgraded from 2.34.3 to 2.37.0

It does so by browsing the FTP directory of each package and determining the highest version number of the source tarballs therein. The command knows how to update specific types of packages: GNU packages, ELPA packages, etc.—see the documentation for --type below. The are many packages, though, for which it lacks a method to determine whether a new upstream release is available. However, the mechanism is extensible, so feel free to get in touch with us to add a new method!

When passed --update, it modifies distribution source files to update the version numbers and source tarball hashes of those package recipes (see Defining Packages). This is achieved by downloading each package’s latest source tarball and its associated OpenPGP signature, authenticating the downloaded tarball against its signature using gpg, and finally computing its hash. When the public key used to sign the tarball is missing from the user’s keyring, an attempt is made to automatically retrieve it from a public key server; when this is successful, the key is added to the user’s keyring; otherwise, guix refresh reports an error.

The following options are supported:

-e expr

Consider the package expr evaluates to.

This is useful to precisely refer to a package, as in this example:

guix refresh -l -e '(@@ (gnu packages commencement) glibc-final)'

This command lists the dependents of the “final” libc (essentially all the packages.)


Update distribution source files (package recipes) in place. This is usually run from a checkout of the Guix source tree (see Running Guix Before It Is Installed):

$ ./pre-inst-env guix refresh -s non-core

See Defining Packages, for more information on package definitions.

-s subset

Select all the packages in subset, one of core or non-core.

The core subset refers to all the packages at the core of the distribution—i.e., packages that are used to build “everything else”. This includes GCC, libc, Binutils, Bash, etc. Usually, changing one of these packages in the distribution entails a rebuild of all the others. Thus, such updates are an inconvenience to users in terms of build time or bandwidth used to achieve the upgrade.

The non-core subset refers to the remaining packages. It is typically useful in cases where an update of the core packages would be inconvenient.

-t updater

Select only packages handled by updater (may be a comma-separated list of updaters). Currently, updater may be one of:


the updater for GNU packages;


the updater for GNOME packages;


the updater for packages;


the updater for ELPA packages;


the updater for CRAN packages;


the updater for Bioconductor R packages;


the updater for PyPI packages.


the updater for RubyGems packages.


the updater for GitHub packages.

For instance, the following command only checks for updates of Emacs packages hosted at and for updates of CRAN packages:

$ guix refresh --type=elpa,cran
gnu/packages/statistics.scm:819:13: r-testthat would be upgraded from 0.10.0 to 0.11.0
gnu/packages/emacs.scm:856:13: emacs-auctex would be upgraded from 11.88.6 to 11.88.9

In addition, guix refresh can be passed one or more package names, as in this example:

$ ./pre-inst-env guix refresh -u emacs idutils gcc-4.8.4

The command above specifically updates the emacs and idutils packages. The --select option would have no effect in this case.

When considering whether to upgrade a package, it is sometimes convenient to know which packages would be affected by the upgrade and should be checked for compatibility. For this the following option may be used when passing guix refresh one or more package names:


List available updaters and exit (see --type above.)


List top-level dependent packages that would need to be rebuilt as a result of upgrading one or more packages.

Be aware that the --list-dependent option only approximates the rebuilds that would be required as a result of an upgrade. More rebuilds might be required under some circumstances.

$ guix refresh --list-dependent flex
Building the following 120 packages would ensure 213 dependent packages are rebuilt:
hop-2.4.0 geiser-0.4 notmuch-0.18 mu- cflow-1.4 idutils-4.6 …

The command above lists a set of packages that could be built to check for compatibility with an upgraded flex package.

The following options can be used to customize GnuPG operation:


Use command as the GnuPG 2.x command. command is searched for in $PATH.


Handle missing OpenPGP keys according to policy, which may be one of:


Always download missing OpenPGP keys from the key server, and add them to the user’s GnuPG keyring.


Never try to download missing OpenPGP keys. Instead just bail out.


When a package signed with an unknown OpenPGP key is encountered, ask the user whether to download it or not. This is the default behavior.


Use host as the OpenPGP key server when importing a public key.

The github updater uses the GitHub API to query for new releases. When used repeatedly e.g. when refreshing all packages, GitHub will eventually refuse to answer any further API requests. By default 60 API requests per hour are allowed, and a full refresh on all GitHub packages in Guix requires more than this. Authentication with GitHub through the use of an API token alleviates these limits. To use an API token, set the environment variable GUIX_GITHUB_TOKEN to a token procured from or otherwise.

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6.7 Invoking guix lint

The guix lint command is meant to help package developers avoid common errors and use a consistent style. It runs a number of checks on a given set of packages in order to find common mistakes in their definitions. Available checkers include (see --list-checkers for a complete list):


Validate certain typographical and stylistic rules about package descriptions and synopses.


Identify inputs that should most likely be native inputs.


Probe home-page and source URLs and report those that are invalid. Check that the source file name is meaningful, e.g. is not just a version number or “git-checkout”, without a declared file-name (see origin Reference).


Report known vulnerabilities found in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) databases of the current and past year published by the US NIST.

To view information about a particular vulnerability, visit pages such as:

where CVE-YYYY-ABCD is the CVE identifier—e.g., CVE-2015-7554.


Warn about obvious source code formatting issues: trailing white space, use of tabulations, etc.

The general syntax is:

guix lint options package

If no package is given on the command line, then all packages are checked. The options may be zero or more of the following:


List and describe all the available checkers that will be run on packages and exit.


Only enable the checkers specified in a comma-separated list using the names returned by --list-checkers.

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6.8 Invoking guix size

The guix size command helps package developers profile the disk usage of packages. It is easy to overlook the impact of an additional dependency added to a package, or the impact of using a single output for a package that could easily be split (see Packages with Multiple Outputs). Such are the typical issues that guix size can highlight.

The command can be passed a package specification such as gcc-4.8 or guile:debug, or a file name in the store. Consider this example:

$ guix size coreutils
store item                               total    self
/gnu/store/…-coreutils-8.23          70.0    13.9  19.8%
/gnu/store/…-gmp-6.0.0a              55.3     2.5   3.6%
/gnu/store/…-acl-2.2.52              53.7     0.5   0.7%
/gnu/store/…-attr-2.4.46             53.2     0.3   0.5%
/gnu/store/…-gcc-4.8.4-lib           52.9    15.7  22.4%
/gnu/store/…-glibc-2.21              37.2    37.2  53.1%

The store items listed here constitute the transitive closure of Coreutils—i.e., Coreutils and all its dependencies, recursively—as would be returned by:

$ guix gc -R /gnu/store/…-coreutils-8.23

Here the output shows three columns next to store items. The first column, labeled “total”, shows the size in mebibytes (MiB) of the closure of the store item—that is, its own size plus the size of all its dependencies. The next column, labeled “self”, shows the size of the item itself. The last column shows the ratio of the size of the item itself to the space occupied by all the items listed here.

In this example, we see that the closure of Coreutils weighs in at 70 MiB, half of which is taken by libc. (That libc represents a large fraction of the closure is not a problem per se because it is always available on the system anyway.)

When the package passed to guix size is available in the store, guix size queries the daemon to determine its dependencies, and measures its size in the store, similar to du -ms --apparent-size (see du invocation in GNU Coreutils).

When the given package is not in the store, guix size reports information based on the available substitutes (see Substitutes). This makes it possible it to profile disk usage of store items that are not even on disk, only available remotely.

The available options are:


Use substitute information from urls. See the same option for guix build.


Write a graphical map of disk usage in PNG format to file.

For the example above, the map looks like this:

map of Coreutils disk usage
produced by guix size

This option requires that Guile-Charting be installed and visible in Guile’s module search path. When that is not the case, guix size fails as it tries to load it.

-s system

Consider packages for system—e.g., x86_64-linux.

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6.9 Invoking guix graph

Packages and their dependencies form a graph, specifically a directed acyclic graph (DAG). It can quickly become difficult to have a mental model of the package DAG, so the guix graph command provides a visual representation of the DAG. guix graph emits a DAG representation in the input format of Graphviz, so its output can be passed directly to the dot command of Graphviz. The general syntax is:

guix graph options package

For example, the following command generates a PDF file representing the package DAG for the GNU Core Utilities, showing its build-time dependencies:

guix graph coreutils | dot -Tpdf > dag.pdf

The output looks like this:

Dependency graph of the GNU Coreutils

Nice little graph, no?

But there is more than one graph! The one above is concise: it is the graph of package objects, omitting implicit inputs such as GCC, libc, grep, etc. It is often useful to have such a concise graph, but sometimes one may want to see more details. guix graph supports several types of graphs, allowing you to choose the level of detail:


This is the default type used in the example above. It shows the DAG of package objects, excluding implicit dependencies. It is concise, but filters out many details.


This is the package DAG, including implicit inputs.

For instance, the following command:

guix graph --type=bag-emerged coreutils | dot -Tpdf > dag.pdf

... yields this bigger graph:

Detailed dependency graph of the GNU Coreutils

At the bottom of the graph, we see all the implicit inputs of gnu-build-system (see gnu-build-system).

Now, note that the dependencies of these implicit inputs—that is, the bootstrap dependencies (see Bootstrapping)—are not shown here, for conciseness.


Similar to bag-emerged, but this time including all the bootstrap dependencies.


Similar to bag, but also showing origins and their dependencies.


This is the most detailed representation: It shows the DAG of derivations (see Derivations) and plain store items. Compared to the above representation, many additional nodes are visible, including build scripts, patches, Guile modules, etc.

All the types above correspond to build-time dependencies. The following graph type represents the run-time dependencies:


This is the graph of references of a package output, as returned by guix gc --references (see Invoking guix gc).

If the given package output is not available in the store, guix graph attempts to obtain dependency information from substitutes.

The available options are the following:

-t type

Produce a graph output of type, where type must be one of the values listed above.


List the supported graph types.

-e expr

Consider the package expr evaluates to.

This is useful to precisely refer to a package, as in this example:

guix graph -e '(@@ (gnu packages commencement) gnu-make-final)'

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6.10 Invoking guix environment

The purpose of guix environment is to assist hackers in creating reproducible development environments without polluting their package profile. The guix environment tool takes one or more packages, builds all of their inputs, and creates a shell environment to use them.

The general syntax is:

guix environment options package

The following example spawns a new shell set up for the development of GNU Guile:

guix environment guile

If the needed dependencies are not built yet, guix environment automatically builds them. The environment of the new shell is an augmented version of the environment that guix environment was run in. It contains the necessary search paths for building the given package added to the existing environment variables. To create a “pure” environment, in which the original environment variables have been unset, use the --pure option13.

guix environment defines the GUIX_ENVIRONMENT variable in the shell it spawns. This allows users to, say, define a specific prompt for development environments in their .bashrc (see Bash Startup Files in The GNU Bash Reference Manual):

    export PS1="\u@\h \w [dev]\$ "

Additionally, more than one package may be specified, in which case the union of the inputs for the given packages are used. For example, the command below spawns a shell where all of the dependencies of both Guile and Emacs are available:

guix environment guile emacs

Sometimes an interactive shell session is not desired. An arbitrary command may be invoked by placing the -- token to separate the command from the rest of the arguments:

guix environment guile -- make -j4

In other situations, it is more convenient to specify the list of packages needed in the environment. For example, the following command runs python from an environment containing Python 2.7 and NumPy:

guix environment --ad-hoc python2-numpy python-2.7 -- python

Furthermore, one might want the dependencies of a package and also some additional packages that are not build-time or runtime dependencies, but are useful when developing nonetheless. Because of this, the --ad-hoc flag is positional. Packages appearing before --ad-hoc are interpreted as packages whose dependencies will be added to the environment. Packages appearing after are interpreted as packages that will be added to the environment directly. For example, the following command creates a Guix development environment that additionally includes Git and strace:

guix environment guix --ad-hoc git strace

Sometimes it is desirable to isolate the environment as much as possible, for maximal purity and reproducibility. In particular, when using Guix on a host distro that is not GuixSD, it is desirable to prevent access to /usr/bin and other system-wide resources from the development environment. For example, the following command spawns a Guile REPL in a “container” where only the store and the current working directory are mounted:

guix environment --ad-hoc --container guile -- guile

Note: The --container option requires Linux-libre 3.19 or newer.

The available options are summarized below.

-e expr

Create an environment for the package or list of packages that expr evaluates to.

For example, running:

guix environment -e '(@ (gnu packages maths) petsc-openmpi)'

starts a shell with the environment for this specific variant of the PETSc package.


guix environment --ad-hoc -e '(@ (gnu) %base-packages)'

starts a shell with all the GuixSD base packages available.

The above commands only the use default output of the given packages. To select other outputs, two element tuples can be specified:

guix environment --ad-hoc -e '(list ( (gnu packages bash) bash) "include")'
-l file

Create an environment for the package or list of packages that the code within file evaluates to.

As an example, file might contain a definition like this (see Defining Packages):

(use-modules (guix)
             (gnu packages gdb)
             (gnu packages autotools)
             (gnu packages texinfo))

;; Augment the package definition of GDB with the build tools
;; needed when developing GDB (and which are not needed when
;; simply installing it.)
(package (inherit gdb)
  (native-inputs `(("autoconf" ,autoconf-2.64)
                   ("automake" ,automake)
                   ("texinfo" ,texinfo)
                   ,@(package-native-inputs gdb))))

Include all specified packages in the resulting environment, as if an ad hoc package were defined with them as inputs. This option is useful for quickly creating an environment without having to write a package expression to contain the desired inputs.

For instance, the command:

guix environment --ad-hoc guile guile-sdl -- guile

runs guile in an environment where Guile and Guile-SDL are available.

Note that this example implicitly asks for the default output of guile and guile-sdl, but it is possible to ask for a specific output—e.g., glib:bin asks for the bin output of glib (see Packages with Multiple Outputs).

This option may be composed with the default behavior of guix environment. Packages appearing before --ad-hoc are interpreted as packages whose dependencies will be added to the environment, the default behavior. Packages appearing after are interpreted as packages that will be added to the environment directly.


Unset existing environment variables when building the new environment. This has the effect of creating an environment in which search paths only contain package inputs.


Display the environment variable definitions that make up the environment.

-s system

Attempt to build for system—e.g., i686-linux.


Run command within an isolated container. The current working directory outside the container is mapped inside the container. Additionally, a dummy home directory is created that matches the current user’s home directory, and /etc/passwd is configured accordingly. The spawned process runs as the current user outside the container, but has root privileges in the context of the container.


For containers, share the network namespace with the host system. Containers created without this flag only have access to the loopback device.


For containers, expose the file system source from the host system as the read-only file system target within the container. If target is not specified, source is used as the target mount point in the container.

The example below spawns a Guile REPL in a container in which the user’s home directory is accessible read-only via the /exchange directory:

guix environment --container --expose=$HOME=/exchange guile -- guile

For containers, share the file system source from the host system as the writable file system target within the container. If target is not specified, source is used as the target mount point in the container.

The example below spawns a Guile REPL in a container in which the user’s home directory is accessible for both reading and writing via the /exchange directory:

guix environment --container --share=$HOME=/exchange guile -- guile

It also supports all of the common build options that guix build supports (see Common Build Options).

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6.11 Invoking guix publish

The purpose of guix publish is to enable users to easily share their store with others, who can then use it as a substitute server (see Substitutes).

When guix publish runs, it spawns an HTTP server which allows anyone with network access to obtain substitutes from it. This means that any machine running Guix can also act as if it were a build farm, since the HTTP interface is compatible with Hydra, the software behind the build farm.

For security, each substitute is signed, allowing recipients to check their authenticity and integrity (see Substitutes). Because guix publish uses the signing key of the system, which is only readable by the system administrator, it must be started as root; the --user option makes it drop root privileges early on.

The signing key pair must be generated before guix publish is launched, using guix archive --generate-key (see Invoking guix archive).

The general syntax is:

guix publish options

Running guix publish without any additional arguments will spawn an HTTP server on port 8080:

guix publish

Once a publishing server has been authorized (see Invoking guix archive), the daemon may download substitutes from it:

guix-daemon --substitute-urls=

The following options are available:

-p port

Listen for HTTP requests on port.


Listen on the network interface for host. The default is to accept connections from any interface.

-u user

Change privileges to user as soon as possible—i.e., once the server socket is open and the signing key has been read.

-r [port]

Spawn a Guile REPL server (see REPL Servers in GNU Guile Reference Manual) on port (37146 by default). This is used primarily for debugging a running guix publish server.

Enabling guix publish on a GuixSD system is a one-liner: just add a call to guix-publish-service in the services field of the operating-system declaration (see guix-publish-service).

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6.12 Invoking guix challenge

Do the binaries provided by this server really correspond to the source code it claims to build? Is a package build process deterministic? These are the questions the guix challenge command attempts to answer.

The former is obviously an important question: Before using a substitute server (see Substitutes), one had better verify that it provides the right binaries, and thus challenge it. The latter is what enables the former: If package builds are deterministic, then independent builds of the package should yield the exact same result, bit for bit; if a server provides a binary different from the one obtained locally, it may be either corrupt or malicious.

We know that the hash that shows up in /gnu/store file names is the hash of all the inputs of the process that built the file or directory—compilers, libraries, build scripts, etc. (see Introduction). Assuming deterministic build processes, one store file name should map to exactly one build output. guix challenge checks whether there is, indeed, a single mapping by comparing the build outputs of several independent builds of any given store item.

The command output looks like this:

$ guix challenge --substitute-urls=""
updating list of substitutes from ''... 100.0%
updating list of substitutes from ''... 100.0%
/gnu/store/…-openssl-1.0.2d contents differ:
  local hash: 0725l22r5jnzazaacncwsvp9kgf42266ayyp814v7djxs7nk963q…-openssl-1.0.2d: 0725l22r5jnzazaacncwsvp9kgf42266ayyp814v7djxs7nk963q…-openssl-1.0.2d: 1zy4fmaaqcnjrzzajkdn3f5gmjk754b43qkq47llbyak9z0qjyim
/gnu/store/…-git-2.5.0 contents differ:
  local hash: 00p3bmryhjxrhpn2gxs2fy0a15lnip05l97205pgbk5ra395hyha…-git-2.5.0: 069nb85bv4d4a6slrwjdy8v1cn4cwspm3kdbmyb81d6zckj3nq9f…-git-2.5.0: 0mdqa9w1p6cmli6976v4wi0sw9r4p5prkj7lzfd1877wk11c9c73
/gnu/store/…-pius-2.1.1 contents differ:
  local hash: 0k4v3m9z1zp8xzzizb7d8kjj72f9172xv078sq4wl73vnq9ig3ax…-pius-2.1.1: 0k4v3m9z1zp8xzzizb7d8kjj72f9172xv078sq4wl73vnq9ig3ax…-pius-2.1.1: 1cy25x1a4fzq5rk0pmvc8xhwyffnqz95h2bpvqsz2mpvlbccy0gs

In this example, guix challenge first scans the store to determine the set of locally-built derivations—as opposed to store items that were downloaded from a substitute server—and then queries all the substitute servers. It then reports those store items for which the servers obtained a result different from the local build.

As an example, always gets a different answer. Conversely, agrees with local builds, except in the case of Git. This might indicate that the build process of Git is non-deterministic, meaning that its output varies as a function of various things that Guix does not fully control, in spite of building packages in isolated environments (see Features). Most common sources of non-determinism include the addition of timestamps in build results, the inclusion of random numbers, and directory listings sorted by inode number. See, for more information.

To find out what is wrong with this Git binary, we can do something along these lines (see Invoking guix archive):

$ wget -q -O -…-git-2.5.0 \
   | guix archive -x /tmp/git
$ diff -ur --no-dereference /gnu/store/…-git.2.5.0 /tmp/git

This command shows the difference between the files resulting from the local build, and the files resulting from the build on (see Comparing and Merging Files in Comparing and Merging Files). The diff command works great for text files. When binary files differ, a better option is Diffoscope, a tool that helps visualize differences for all kinds of files.

Once you have done that work, you can tell whether the differences are due to a non-deterministic build process or to a malicious server. We try hard to remove sources of non-determinism in packages to make it easier to verify substitutes, but of course, this is a process that involves not just Guix, but a large part of the free software community. In the meantime, guix challenge is one tool to help address the problem.

If you are writing packages for Guix, you are encouraged to check whether and other substitute servers obtain the same build result as you did with:

$ guix challenge package

where package is a package specification such as guile-2.0 or glibc:debug.

The general syntax is:

guix challenge options [packages…]

The one option that matters is:


Consider urls the whitespace-separated list of substitute source URLs to compare to.

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6.13 Invoking guix container

Note: As of version 0.10.0, this tool is experimental. The interface is subject to radical change in the future.

The purpose of guix container is to manipulate processes running within an isolated environment, commonly known as a “container”, typically created by the guix environment (see Invoking guix environment) and guix system container (see Invoking guix system) commands.

The general syntax is:

guix container action options

action specifies the operation to perform with a container, and options specifies the context-specific arguments for the action.

The following actions are available:


Execute a command within the context of a running container.

The syntax is:

guix container exec pid program arguments

pid specifies the process ID of the running container. program specifies an executable file name within the root file system of the container. arguments are the additional options that will be passed to program.

The following command launches an interactive login shell inside a GuixSD container, started by guix system container, and whose process ID is 9001:

guix container exec 9001 /run/current-system/profile/bin/bash --login

Note that the pid cannot be the parent process of a container. It must be PID 1 of the container or one of its child processes.

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7 GNU Distribution

Guix comes with a distribution of the GNU system consisting entirely of free software14. The distribution can be installed on its own (see System Installation), but it is also possible to install Guix as a package manager on top of an installed GNU/Linux system (see Installation). To distinguish between the two, we refer to the standalone distribution as the Guix System Distribution, or GuixSD.

The distribution provides core GNU packages such as GNU libc, GCC, and Binutils, as well as many GNU and non-GNU applications. The complete list of available packages can be browsed on-line or by running guix package (see Invoking guix package):

guix package --list-available

Our goal is to provide a practical 100% free software distribution of Linux-based and other variants of GNU, with a focus on the promotion and tight integration of GNU components, and an emphasis on programs and tools that help users exert that freedom.

Packages are currently available on the following platforms:


Intel/AMD x86_64 architecture, Linux-Libre kernel;


Intel 32-bit architecture (IA32), Linux-Libre kernel;


ARMv7-A architecture with hard float, Thumb-2 and NEON, using the EABI hard-float application binary interface (ABI), and Linux-Libre kernel.


little-endian 64-bit MIPS processors, specifically the Loongson series, n32 ABI, and Linux-Libre kernel.

GuixSD itself is currently only available on i686 and x86_64.

For information on porting to other architectures or kernels, see Porting.

Building this distribution is a cooperative effort, and you are invited to join! See Contributing, for information about how you can help.

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7.1 System Installation

This section explains how to install the Guix System Distribution on a machine. The Guix package manager can also be installed on top of a running GNU/Linux system, see Installation.

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7.1.1 Limitations

As of version 0.10.0, the Guix System Distribution (GuixSD) is not production-ready. It may contain bugs and lack important features. Thus, if you are looking for a stable production system that respects your freedom as a computer user, a good solution at this point is to consider one of the more established GNU/Linux distributions. We hope you can soon switch to the GuixSD without fear, of course. In the meantime, you can also keep using your distribution and try out the package manager on top of it (see Installation).

Before you proceed with the installation, be aware of the following noteworthy limitations applicable to version 0.10.0:

You have been warned! But more than a disclaimer, this is an invitation to report issues (and success stories!), and to join us in improving it. See Contributing, for more info.

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7.1.2 Hardware Considerations

GNU GuixSD focuses on respecting the user’s computing freedom. It builds around the kernel Linux-libre, which means that only hardware for which free software drivers and firmware exists is supported. Nowadays, a wide range of off-the-shelf hardware is supported on GNU/Linux-libre—from keyboards to graphics cards to scanners and Ethernet controllers. Unfortunately, there are still areas where hardware vendors deny users control over their own computing, and such hardware is not supported on GuixSD.

One of the main areas where free drivers or firmware is lacking is WiFi devices. WiFi devices known to work include those using Atheros chips (AR9271 and AR7010), which corresponds to the ath9k Linux-libre driver, and for which free firmware exists and is available out-of-the-box on GuixSD, as part of %base-firmware (see firmware).

The Free Software Foundation runs Respect Your Freedom (RYF), a certification program for hardware products that respect your freedom and your privacy and ensure that you have control over your device. We encourage you to check the list of RYF-certified hardware.

Another useful resource is the H-Node web site. It contains a catalog of hardware devices with information about their support in GNU/Linux.

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7.1.3 USB Stick Installation

An installation image for USB sticks can be downloaded from ‘’, where system is one of:


for a GNU/Linux system on Intel/AMD-compatible 64-bit CPUs;


for a 32-bit GNU/Linux system on Intel-compatible CPUs.

This image contains a single partition with the tools necessary for an installation. It is meant to be copied as is to a large-enough USB stick.

To copy the image to a USB stick, follow these steps:

  1. Decompress the image using the xz command:
    xz -d guixsd-usb-install-0.10.0.system.xz
  2. Insert a USB stick of 1 GiB or more into your machine, and determine its device name. Assuming that the USB stick is known as /dev/sdX, copy the image with:
    dd if=guixsd-usb-install-0.10.0.x86_64 of=/dev/sdX

    Access to /dev/sdX usually requires root privileges.

Once this is done, you should be able to reboot the system and boot from the USB stick. The latter usually requires you to get in the BIOS’ boot menu, where you can choose to boot from the USB stick.

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7.1.4 Preparing for Installation

Once you have successfully booted the image on the USB stick, you should end up with a root prompt. Several console TTYs are configured and can be used to run commands as root. TTY2 shows this documentation, browsable using the Info reader commands (see Stand-alone GNU Info). The installation system runs the GPM mouse daemon, which allows you to select text with the left mouse button and to paste it with the middle button.

Note: Installation requires access to the Internet so that any missing dependencies of your system configuration can be downloaded. See the “Networking” section below. Keyboard Layout

The installation image uses the US qwerty keyboard layout. If you want to change it, you can use the loadkeys command. For example, the following command selects the Dvorak keyboard layout:

loadkeys dvorak

See the files under /run/current-system/profile/share/keymaps for a list of available keyboard layouts. Run man loadkeys for more information. Networking

Run the following command see what your network interfaces are called:

ifconfig -a

Wired interfaces have a name starting with ‘e’; for example, the interface corresponding to the first on-board Ethernet controller is called ‘eno1’. Wireless interfaces have a name starting with ‘w’, like ‘w1p2s0’.

Wired connection

To configure a wired network run the following command, substituting interface with the name of the wired interface you want to use.

ifconfig interface up
Wireless connection

To configure wireless networking, you can create a configuration file for the wpa_supplicant configuration tool (its location is not important) using one of the available text editors such as zile:

zile wpa_supplicant.conf

As an example, the following stanza can go to this file and will work for many wireless networks, provided you give the actual SSID and passphrase for the network you are connecting to:

  psk="the network's secret passphrase"

Start the wireless service and run it in the background with the following command (substitute interface with the name of the network interface you want to use):

wpa_supplicant -c wpa_supplicant.conf -i interface -B

Run man wpa_supplicant for more information.

At this point, you need to acquire an IP address. On a network where IP addresses are automatically assigned via DHCP, you can run:

dhclient -v interface

Try to ping a server to see if networking is up and running:

ping -c 3

Setting up network access is almost always a requirement because the image does not contain all the software and tools that may be needed. Disk Partitioning

Unless this has already been done, the next step is to partition, and then format the target partition(s).

The installation image includes several partitioning tools, including Parted (see Overview in GNU Parted User Manual), fdisk, and cfdisk. Run it and set up your disk with the partition layout you want:


Once you are done partitioning the target hard disk drive, you have to create a file system on the relevant partition(s)15.

Preferably, assign partitions a label so that you can easily and reliably refer to them in file-system declarations (see File Systems). This is typically done using the -L option of mkfs.ext4 and related commands. So, assuming the target root partition lives at /dev/sda1, a file system with the label my-root can be created with:

mkfs.ext4 -L my-root /dev/sda1

In addition to e2fsprogs, the suite of tools to manipulate ext2/ext3/ext4 file systems, the installation image includes Cryptsetup/LUKS for disk encryption.

Once that is done, mount the target root partition under /mnt with a command like (again, assuming /dev/sda1 is the root partition):

mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

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7.1.5 Proceeding with the Installation

With the target partitions ready and the target root mounted on /mnt, we’re ready to go. First, run:

herd start cow-store /mnt

This makes /gnu/store copy-on-write, such that packages added to it during the installation phase are written to the target disk on /mnt rather than kept in memory. This is necessary because the first phase of the guix system init command (see below) entails downloads or builds to /gnu/store which, initially, is an in-memory file system.

Next, you have to edit a file and provide the declaration of the operating system to be installed. To that end, the installation system comes with two text editors: GNU nano (see GNU nano Manual), and GNU Zile, an Emacs clone. We strongly recommend storing that file on the target root file system, say, as /mnt/etc/config.scm. Failing to do that, you will have lost your configuration file once you have rebooted into the newly-installed system.

See Using the Configuration System, for an overview of the configuration file. The example configurations discussed in that section are available under /etc/configuration in the installation image. Thus, to get started with a system configuration providing a graphical display server (a “desktop” system), you can run something along these lines:

# mkdir /mnt/etc
# cp /etc/configuration/desktop.scm /mnt/etc/config.scm
# zile /mnt/etc/config.scm

You should pay attention to what your configuration file contains, and in particular:

Once you are done preparing the configuration file, the new system must be initialized (remember that the target root file system is mounted under /mnt):

guix system init /mnt/etc/config.scm /mnt

This copies all the necessary files and installs GRUB on /dev/sdX, unless you pass the --no-grub option. For more information, see Invoking guix system. This command may trigger downloads or builds of missing packages, which can take some time.

Once that command has completed—and hopefully succeeded!—you can run reboot and boot into the new system. The root password in the new system is initially empty; other users’ passwords need to be initialized by running the passwd command as root, unless your configuration specifies otherwise (see user account passwords).

Join us on #guix on the Freenode IRC network or on to share your experience—good or not so good.

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7.1.6 Building the Installation Image

The installation image described above was built using the guix system command, specifically:

guix system disk-image --image-size=1G gnu/system/install.scm

Have a look at gnu/system/install.scm in the source tree, and see also Invoking guix system for more information about the installation image.

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7.2 System Configuration

The Guix System Distribution supports a consistent whole-system configuration mechanism. By that we mean that all aspects of the global system configuration—such as the available system services, timezone and locale settings, user accounts—are declared in a single place. Such a system configuration can be instantiated—i.e., effected.

One of the advantages of putting all the system configuration under the control of Guix is that it supports transactional system upgrades, and makes it possible to roll back to a previous system instantiation, should something go wrong with the new one (see Features). Another advantage is that it makes it easy to replicate the exact same configuration across different machines, or at different points in time, without having to resort to additional administration tools layered on top of the own tools of the system.

This section describes this mechanism. First we focus on the system administrator’s viewpoint—explaining how the system is configured and instantiated. Then we show how this mechanism can be extended, for instance to support new system services.

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7.2.1 Using the Configuration System

The operating system is configured by providing an operating-system declaration in a file that can then be passed to the guix system command (see Invoking guix system). A simple setup, with the default system services, the default Linux-Libre kernel, initial RAM disk, and boot loader looks like this:

;; This is an operating system configuration template
;; for a "bare bones" setup, with no X11 display server.

(use-modules (gnu))
(use-service-modules networking ssh)
(use-package-modules admin)

  (host-name "komputilo")
  (timezone "Europe/Berlin")
  (locale "en_US.UTF-8")

  ;; Assuming /dev/sdX is the target hard disk, and "my-root" is
  ;; the label of the target root file system.
  (bootloader (grub-configuration (device "/dev/sdX")))
  (file-systems (cons (file-system
                        (device "my-root")
                        (title 'label)
                        (mount-point "/")
                        (type "ext4"))

  ;; This is where user accounts are specified.  The "root"
  ;; account is implicit, and is initially created with the
  ;; empty password.
  (users (cons (user-account
                (name "alice")
                (comment "Bob's sister")
                (group "users")

                ;; Adding the account to the "wheel" group
                ;; makes it a sudoer.  Adding it to "audio"
                ;; and "video" allows the user to play sound
                ;; and access the webcam.
                (supplementary-groups '("wheel"
                                        "audio" "video"))
                (home-directory "/home/alice"))

  ;; Globally-installed packages.
  (packages (cons tcpdump %base-packages))

  ;; Add services to the baseline: a DHCP client and
  ;; an SSH server.
  (services (cons* (dhcp-client-service)
                   (lsh-service #:port-number 2222)

This example should be self-describing. Some of the fields defined above, such as host-name and bootloader, are mandatory. Others, such as packages and services, can be omitted, in which case they get a default value.

Below we discuss the effect of some of the most important fields (see operating-system Reference, for details about all the available fields), and how to instantiate the operating system using guix system.

Globally-Visible Packages

The packages field lists packages that will be globally visible on the system, for all user accounts—i.e., in every user’s PATH environment variable—in addition to the per-user profiles (see Invoking guix package). The %base-packages variable provides all the tools one would expect for basic user and administrator tasks—including the GNU Core Utilities, the GNU Networking Utilities, the GNU Zile lightweight text editor, find, grep, etc. The example above adds tcpdump to those, taken from the (gnu packages admin) module (see Package Modules).

Referring to packages by variable name, like tcpdump above, has the advantage of being unambiguous; it also allows typos and such to be diagnosed right away as “unbound variables”. The downside is that one needs to know which module defines which package, and to augment the use-package-modules line accordingly. To avoid that, one can use the specification->package procedure of the (gnu packages) module, which returns the best package for a given name or name and version:

(use-modules (gnu packages))

  ;; ...
  (packages (append (map specification->package
                         '("tcpdump" "htop" "gnupg-2.0"))

System Services

The services field lists system services to be made available when the system starts (see Services). The operating-system declaration above specifies that, in addition to the basic services, we want the lshd secure shell daemon listening on port 2222 (see lsh-service). Under the hood, lsh-service arranges so that lshd is started with the right command-line options, possibly with supporting configuration files generated as needed (see Defining Services).

Occasionally, instead of using the base services as is, you will want to customize them. To do this, use modify-services (see modify-services) to modify the list.

For example, suppose you want to modify guix-daemon and Mingetty (the console log-in) in the %base-services list (see %base-services). To do that, you can write the following in your operating system declaration:

(define %my-services
  ;; My very own list of services.
  (modify-services %base-services
    (guix-service-type config =>
                        (inherit config)
                        (use-substitutes? #f)
                        (extra-options '("--gc-keep-derivations"))))
    (mingetty-service-type config =>
                            (inherit config)
                            (motd (plain-file "motd" "Howdy!"))))))

  ;; …
  (services %my-services))

This changes the configuration—i.e., the service parameters—of the guix-service-type instance, and that of all the mingetty-service-type instances in the %base-services list. Observe how this is accomplished: first, we arrange for the original configuration to be bound to the identifier config in the body, and then we write the body so that it evaluates to the desired configuration. In particular, notice how we use inherit to create a new configuration which has the same values as the old configuration, but with a few modifications.

The configuration for a typical “desktop” usage, with the X11 display server, GNOME and Xfce (users can choose which of these desktop environments to use at the log-in screen by pressing F1), network management, power management, and more, would look like this:

;; This is an operating system configuration template
;; for a "desktop" setup with GNOME and Xfce.

(use-modules (gnu) (gnu system nss))
(use-service-modules desktop)
(use-package-modules certs)

  (host-name "antelope")
  (timezone "Europe/Paris")
  (locale "en_US.UTF-8")

  ;; Assuming /dev/sdX is the target hard disk, and "my-root"
  ;; is the label of the target root file system.
  (bootloader (grub-configuration (device "/dev/sdX")))
  (file-systems (cons (file-system
                        (device "my-root")
                        (title 'label)
                        (mount-point "/")
                        (type "ext4"))

  (users (cons (user-account
                (name "bob")
                (comment "Alice's brother")
                (group "users")
                (supplementary-groups '("wheel" "netdev"
                                        "audio" "video"))
                (home-directory "/home/bob"))

  ;; This is where we specify system-wide packages.
  (packages (cons* nss-certs         ;for HTTPS access

  ;; Add GNOME and/or Xfce---we can choose at the log-in
  ;; screen with F1.  Use the "desktop" services, which
  ;; include the X11 log-in service, networking with Wicd,
  ;; and more.
  (services (cons* (gnome-desktop-service)

  ;; Allow resolution of '.local' host names with mDNS.
  (name-service-switch %mdns-host-lookup-nss))

A graphical environment with a choice of lightweight window managers instead of full-blown desktop environments would look like this:

;; This is an operating system configuration template
;; for a "desktop" setup without full-blown desktop
;; environments.

(use-modules (gnu) (gnu system nss))
(use-service-modules desktop)
(use-package-modules wm ratpoison certs)

  (host-name "antelope")
  (timezone "Europe/Paris")
  (locale "en_US.UTF-8")

  ;; Assuming /dev/sdX is the target hard disk, and "my-root"
  ;; is the label of the target root file system.
  (bootloader (grub-configuration (device "/dev/sdX")))

  (file-systems (cons (file-system
                        (device "my-root")
                        (title 'label)
                        (mount-point "/")
                        (type "ext4"))

  (users (cons (user-account
                (name "alice")
                (comment "Bob's brother")
                (group "users")
                (supplementary-groups '("wheel" "netdev"
                                        "audio" "video"))
                (home-directory "/home/alice"))

  ;; Add a bunch of window managers; we can choose one at
  ;; the log-in screen with F1.
  (packages (cons* ratpoison i3-wm xmonad  ;window managers
                   nss-certs               ;for HTTPS access

  ;; Use the "desktop" services, which include the X11
  ;; log-in service, networking with Wicd, and more.
  (services %desktop-services)

  ;; Allow resolution of '.local' host names with mDNS.
  (name-service-switch %mdns-host-lookup-nss))

See Desktop Services, for the exact list of services provided by %desktop-services. See X.509 Certificates, for background information about the nss-certs package that is used here.

Again, %desktop-services is just a list of service objects. If you want to remove services from there, you can do so using the procedures for list filtering (see SRFI-1 Filtering and Partitioning in GNU Guile Reference Manual). For instance, the following expression returns a list that contains all the services in %desktop-services minus the Avahi service:

(remove (lambda (service)
          (eq? (service-kind service) avahi-service-type))

Instantiating the System

Assuming the operating-system declaration is stored in the my-system-config.scm file, the guix system reconfigure my-system-config.scm command instantiates that configuration, and makes it the default GRUB boot entry (see Invoking guix system).

The normal way to change the system configuration is by updating this file and re-running guix system reconfigure. One should never have to touch files in /etc or to run commands that modify the system state such as useradd or grub-install. In fact, you must avoid that since that would not only void your warranty but also prevent you from rolling back to previous versions of your system, should you ever need to.

Speaking of roll-back, each time you run guix system reconfigure, a new generation of the system is created—without modifying or deleting previous generations. Old system generations get an entry in the GRUB boot menu, allowing you to boot them in case something went wrong with the latest generation. Reassuring, no? The guix system list-generations command lists the system generations available on disk.

The Programming Interface

At the Scheme level, the bulk of an operating-system declaration is instantiated with the following monadic procedure (see The Store Monad):

Monadic Procedure: operating-system-derivation os

Return a derivation that builds os, an operating-system object (see Derivations).

The output of the derivation is a single directory that refers to all the packages, configuration files, and other supporting files needed to instantiate os.

This procedure is provided by the (gnu system) module. Along with (gnu services) (see Services), this module contains the guts of GuixSD. Make sure to visit it!

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7.2.2 operating-system Reference

This section summarizes all the options available in operating-system declarations (see Using the Configuration System).

Data Type: operating-system

This is the data type representing an operating system configuration. By that, we mean all the global system configuration, not per-user configuration (see Using the Configuration System).

kernel (default: linux-libre)

The package object of the operating system kernel to use16.

kernel-arguments (default: '())

List of strings or gexps representing additional arguments to pass on the command-line of the kernel—e.g., ("console=ttyS0").


The system bootloader configuration object. See GRUB Configuration.

initrd (default: base-initrd)

A two-argument monadic procedure that returns an initial RAM disk for the Linux kernel. See Initial RAM Disk.

firmware (default: %base-firmware)

List of firmware packages loadable by the operating system kernel.

The default includes firmware needed for Atheros-based WiFi devices (Linux-libre module ath9k). See Hardware Considerations, for more info on supported hardware.


The host name.


A file-like object (see file-like objects) for use as /etc/hosts (see Host Names in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). The default is a file with entries for localhost and host-name.

mapped-devices (default: '())

A list of mapped devices. See Mapped Devices.


A list of file systems. See File Systems.

swap-devices (default: '())

A list of strings identifying devices to be used for “swap space” (see Memory Concepts in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). For example, '("/dev/sda3").

users (default: %base-user-accounts)
groups (default: %base-groups)

List of user accounts and groups. See User Accounts.

skeletons (default: (default-skeletons))

A monadic list of pairs of target file name and files. These are the files that will be used as skeletons as new accounts are created.

For instance, a valid value may look like this:

(mlet %store-monad ((bashrc (text-file "bashrc" "\
     export PATH=$HOME/.guix-profile/bin")))
  (return `((".bashrc" ,bashrc))))
issue (default: %default-issue)

A string denoting the contents of the /etc/issue file, which is displayed when users log in on a text console.

packages (default: %base-packages)

The set of packages installed in the global profile, which is accessible at /run/current-system/profile.

The default set includes core utilities and it is good practice to install non-core utilities in user profiles (see Invoking guix package).


A timezone identifying string—e.g., "Europe/Paris".

You can run the tzselect command to find out which timezone string corresponds to your region. Choosing an invalid timezone name causes guix system to fail.

locale (default: "en_US.utf8")

The name of the default locale (see Locale Names in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). See Locales, for more information.

locale-definitions (default: %default-locale-definitions)

The list of locale definitions to be compiled and that may be used at run time. See Locales.

locale-libcs (default: (list glibc))

The list of GNU libc packages whose locale data and tools are used to build the locale definitions. See Locales, for compatibility considerations that justify this option.

name-service-switch (default: %default-nss)

Configuration of the libc name service switch (NSS)—a <name-service-switch> object. See Name Service Switch, for details.

services (default: %base-services)

A list of service objects denoting system services. See Services.

pam-services (default: (base-pam-services))

Linux pluggable authentication module (PAM) services.

setuid-programs (default: %setuid-programs)

List of string-valued G-expressions denoting setuid programs. See Setuid Programs.

sudoers-file (default: %sudoers-specification)

The contents of the /etc/sudoers file as a file-like object (see local-file and plain-file).

This file specifies which users can use the sudo command, what they are allowed to do, and what privileges they may gain. The default is that only root and members of the wheel group may use sudo.

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7.2.3 File Systems

The list of file systems to be mounted is specified in the file-systems field of the operating system declaration (see Using the Configuration System). Each file system is declared using the file-system form, like this:

  (mount-point "/home")
  (device "/dev/sda3")
  (type "ext4"))

As usual, some of the fields are mandatory—those shown in the example above—while others can be omitted. These are described below.

Data Type: file-system

Objects of this type represent file systems to be mounted. They contain the following members:


This is a string specifying the type of the file system—e.g., "ext4".


This designates the place where the file system is to be mounted.


This names the “source” of the file system. By default it is the name of a node under /dev, but its meaning depends on the title field described below.

title (default: 'device)

This is a symbol that specifies how the device field is to be interpreted.

When it is the symbol device, then the device field is interpreted as a file name; when it is label, then device is interpreted as a partition label name; when it is uuid, device is interpreted as a partition unique identifier (UUID).

UUIDs may be converted from their string representation (as shown by the tune2fs -l command) using the uuid form17, like this:

  (mount-point "/home")
  (type "ext4")
  (title 'uuid)
  (device (uuid "4dab5feb-d176-45de-b287-9b0a6e4c01cb")))

The label and uuid options offer a way to refer to disk partitions without having to hard-code their actual device name18.

However, when the source of a file system is a mapped device (see Mapped Devices), its device field must refer to the mapped device name—e.g., /dev/mapper/root-partition—and consequently title must be set to 'device. This is required so that the system knows that mounting the file system depends on having the corresponding device mapping established.

flags (default: '())

This is a list of symbols denoting mount flags. Recognized flags include read-only, bind-mount, no-dev (disallow access to special files), no-suid (ignore setuid and setgid bits), and no-exec (disallow program execution.)

options (default: #f)

This is either #f, or a string denoting mount options.

mount? (default: #t)

This value indicates whether to automatically mount the file system when the system is brought up. When set to #f, the file system gets an entry in /etc/fstab (read by the mount command) but is not automatically mounted.

needed-for-boot? (default: #f)

This Boolean value indicates whether the file system is needed when booting. If that is true, then the file system is mounted when the initial RAM disk (initrd) is loaded. This is always the case, for instance, for the root file system.

check? (default: #t)

This Boolean indicates whether the file system needs to be checked for errors before being mounted.

create-mount-point? (default: #f)

When true, the mount point is created if it does not exist yet.

dependencies (default: '())

This is a list of <file-system> objects representing file systems that must be mounted before (and unmounted after) this one.

As an example, consider a hierarchy of mounts: /sys/fs/cgroup is a dependency of /sys/fs/cgroup/cpu and /sys/fs/cgroup/memory.

The (gnu system file-systems) exports the following useful variables.

Scheme Variable: %base-file-systems

These are essential file systems that are required on normal systems, such as %pseudo-terminal-file-system and %immutable-store (see below.) Operating system declarations should always contain at least these.

Scheme Variable: %pseudo-terminal-file-system

This is the file system to be mounted as /dev/pts. It supports pseudo-terminals created via openpty and similar functions (see Pseudo-Terminals in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). Pseudo-terminals are used by terminal emulators such as xterm.

Scheme Variable: %shared-memory-file-system

This file system is mounted as /dev/shm and is used to support memory sharing across processes (see shm_open in The GNU C Library Reference Manual).

Scheme Variable: %immutable-store

This file system performs a read-only “bind mount” of /gnu/store, making it read-only for all the users including root. This prevents against accidental modification by software running as root or by system administrators.

The daemon itself is still able to write to the store: it remounts it read-write in its own “name space.”

Scheme Variable: %binary-format-file-system

The binfmt_misc file system, which allows handling of arbitrary executable file types to be delegated to user space. This requires the binfmt.ko kernel module to be loaded.

Scheme Variable: %fuse-control-file-system

The fusectl file system, which allows unprivileged users to mount and unmount user-space FUSE file systems. This requires the fuse.ko kernel module to be loaded.

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7.2.4 Mapped Devices

The Linux kernel has a notion of device mapping: a block device, such as a hard disk partition, can be mapped into another device, with additional processing over the data that flows through it19. A typical example is encryption device mapping: all writes to the mapped device are encrypted, and all reads are deciphered, transparently.

Mapped devices are declared using the mapped-device form:

  (source "/dev/sda3")
  (target "home")
  (type luks-device-mapping))

This example specifies a mapping from /dev/sda3 to /dev/mapper/home using LUKS—the Linux Unified Key Setup, a standard mechanism for disk encryption. The /dev/mapper/home device can then be used as the device of a file-system declaration (see File Systems). The mapped-device form is detailed below.

Data Type: mapped-device

Objects of this type represent device mappings that will be made when the system boots up.


This string specifies the name of the block device to be mapped, such as "/dev/sda3".


This string specifies the name of the mapping to be established. For example, specifying "my-partition" will lead to the creation of the "/dev/mapper/my-partition" device.


This must be a mapped-device-kind object, which specifies how source is mapped to target.

Scheme Variable: luks-device-mapping

This defines LUKS block device encryption using the cryptsetup command from the package with the same name. It relies on the dm-crypt Linux kernel module.

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7.2.5 User Accounts

User accounts and groups are entirely managed through the operating-system declaration. They are specified with the user-account and user-group forms:

  (name "alice")
  (group "users")
  (supplementary-groups '("wheel"   ;allow use of sudo, etc.
                          "audio"   ;sound card
                          "video"   ;video devices such as webcams
                          "cdrom")) ;the good ol' CD-ROM
  (comment "Bob's sister")
  (home-directory "/home/alice"))

When booting or upon completion of guix system reconfigure, the system ensures that only the user accounts and groups specified in the operating-system declaration exist, and with the specified properties. Thus, account or group creations or modifications made by directly invoking commands such as useradd are lost upon reconfiguration or reboot. This ensures that the system remains exactly as declared.

Data Type: user-account

Objects of this type represent user accounts. The following members may be specified:


The name of the user account.


This is the name (a string) or identifier (a number) of the user group this account belongs to.

supplementary-groups (default: '())

Optionally, this can be defined as a list of group names that this account belongs to.

uid (default: #f)

This is the user ID for this account (a number), or #f. In the latter case, a number is automatically chosen by the system when the account is created.

comment (default: "")

A comment about the account, such as the account owner’s full name.


This is the name of the home directory for the account.

shell (default: Bash)

This is a G-expression denoting the file name of a program to be used as the shell (see G-Expressions).

system? (default: #f)

This Boolean value indicates whether the account is a “system” account. System accounts are sometimes treated specially; for instance, graphical login managers do not list them.

password (default: #f)

You would normally leave this field to #f, initialize user passwords as root with the passwd command, and then let users change it with passwd. Passwords set with passwd are of course preserved across reboot and reconfiguration.

If you do want to have a preset password for an account, then this field must contain the encrypted password, as a string. See crypt in The GNU C Library Reference Manual, for more information on password encryption, and Encryption in GNU Guile Reference Manual, for information on Guile’s crypt procedure.

User group declarations are even simpler:

(user-group (name "students"))
Data Type: user-group

This type is for, well, user groups. There are just a few fields:


The name of the group.

id (default: #f)

The group identifier (a number). If #f, a new number is automatically allocated when the group is created.

system? (default: #f)

This Boolean value indicates whether the group is a “system” group. System groups have low numerical IDs.

password (default: #f)

What, user groups can have a password? Well, apparently yes. Unless #f, this field specifies the password of the group.

For convenience, a variable lists all the basic user groups one may expect:

Scheme Variable: %base-groups

This is the list of basic user groups that users and/or packages expect to be present on the system. This includes groups such as “root”, “wheel”, and “users”, as well as groups used to control access to specific devices such as “audio”, “disk”, and “cdrom”.

Scheme Variable: %base-user-accounts

This is the list of basic system accounts that programs may expect to find on a GNU/Linux system, such as the “nobody” account.

Note that the “root” account is not included here. It is a special-case and is automatically added whether or not it is specified.

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7.2.6 Locales

A locale defines cultural conventions for a particular language and region of the world (see Locales in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). Each locale has a name that typically has the form language_territory.codeset—e.g., fr_LU.utf8 designates the locale for the French language, with cultural conventions from Luxembourg, and using the UTF-8 encoding.

Usually, you will want to specify the default locale for the machine using the locale field of the operating-system declaration (see locale).

The selected locale is automatically added to the locale definitions known to the system if needed, with its codeset inferred from its name—e.g., bo_CN.utf8 will be assumed to use the UTF-8 codeset. Additional locale definitions can be specified in the locale-definitions slot of operating-system—this is useful, for instance, if the codeset could not be inferred from the locale name. The default set of locale definitions includes some widely used locales, but not all the available locales, in order to save space.

For instance, to add the North Frisian locale for Germany, the value of that field may be:

(cons (locale-definition
        (name "fy_DE.utf8") (source "fy_DE"))

Likewise, to save space, one might want locale-definitions to list only the locales that are actually used, as in:

(list (locale-definition
        (name "ja_JP.eucjp") (source "ja_JP")
        (charset "EUC-JP")))

The compiled locale definitions are available at /run/current-system/locale/X.Y, where X.Y is the libc version, which is the default location where the GNU libc provided by Guix looks for locale data. This can be overridden using the LOCPATH environment variable (see LOCPATH and locale packages).

The locale-definition form is provided by the (gnu system locale) module. Details are given below.

Data Type: locale-definition

This is the data type of a locale definition.


The name of the locale. See Locale Names in The GNU C Library Reference Manual, for more information on locale names.


The name of the source for that locale. This is typically the language_territory part of the locale name.

charset (default: "UTF-8")

The “character set” or “code set” for that locale, as defined by IANA.

Scheme Variable: %default-locale-definitions

A list of commonly used UTF-8 locales, used as the default value of the locale-definitions field of operating-system declarations.

These locale definitions use the normalized codeset for the part that follows the dot in the name (see normalized codeset in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). So for instance it has uk_UA.utf8 but not, say, uk_UA.UTF-8. Locale Data Compatibility Considerations

operating-system declarations provide a locale-libcs field to specify the GNU libc packages that are used to compile locale declarations (see operating-system Reference). “Why would I care?”, you may ask. Well, it turns out that the binary format of locale data is occasionally incompatible from one libc version to another.

For instance, a program linked against libc version 2.21 is unable to read locale data produced with libc 2.22; worse, that program aborts instead of simply ignoring the incompatible locale data20. Similarly, a program linked against libc 2.22 can read most, but not all, the locale data from libc 2.21 (specifically, LC_COLLATE data is incompatible); thus calls to setlocale may fail, but programs will not abort.

The “problem” in GuixSD is that users have a lot of freedom: They can choose whether and when to upgrade software in their profiles, and might be using a libc version different from the one the system administrator used to build the system-wide locale data.

Fortunately, unprivileged users can also install their own locale data and define GUIX_LOCPATH accordingly (see GUIX_LOCPATH and locale packages).

Still, it is best if the system-wide locale data at /run/current-system/locale is built for all the libc versions actually in use on the system, so that all the programs can access it—this is especially crucial on a multi-user system. To do that, the administrator can specify several libc packages in the locale-libcs field of operating-system:

(use-package-modules base)

  ;; …
  (locale-libcs (list glibc-2.21 (canonical-package glibc))))

This example would lead to a system containing locale definitions for both libc 2.21 and the current version of libc in /run/current-system/locale.

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7.2.7 Services

An important part of preparing an operating-system declaration is listing system services and their configuration (see Using the Configuration System). System services are typically daemons launched when the system boots, or other actions needed at that time—e.g., configuring network access.

Services are managed by the GNU Shepherd (see Introduction in The GNU Shepherd Manual). On a running system, the herd command allows you to list the available services, show their status, start and stop them, or do other specific operations (see Jump Start in The GNU Shepherd Manual). For example:

# herd status

The above command, run as root, lists the currently defined services. The herd doc command shows a synopsis of the given service:

# herd doc nscd
Run libc's name service cache daemon (nscd).

The start, stop, and restart sub-commands have the effect you would expect. For instance, the commands below stop the nscd service and restart the Xorg display server:

# herd stop nscd
Service nscd has been stopped.
# herd restart xorg-server
Service xorg-server has been stopped.
Service xorg-server has been started.

The following sections document the available services, starting with the core services, that may be used in an operating-system declaration.

Next: , Up: Services   [Contents][Index] Base Services

The (gnu services base) module provides definitions for the basic services that one expects from the system. The services exported by this module are listed below.

Scheme Variable: %base-services

This variable contains a list of basic services (see Service Types and Services, for more information on service objects) one would expect from the system: a login service (mingetty) on each tty, syslogd, the libc name service cache daemon (nscd), the udev device manager, and more.

This is the default value of the services field of operating-system declarations. Usually, when customizing a system, you will want to append services to %base-services, like this:

(cons* (avahi-service) (lsh-service) %base-services)
Scheme Procedure: host-name-service name

Return a service that sets the host name to name.

Scheme Procedure: mingetty-service config

Return a service to run mingetty according to config, a <mingetty-configuration> object, which specifies the tty to run, among other things.

Data Type: mingetty-configuration

This is the data type representing the configuration of Mingetty, which implements console log-in.


The name of the console this Mingetty runs on—e.g., "tty1".


A file-like object containing the “message of the day”.

auto-login (default: #f)

When true, this field must be a string denoting the user name under which the system automatically logs in. When it is #f, a user name and password must be entered to log in.

login-program (default: #f)

This must be either #f, in which case the default log-in program is used (login from the Shadow tool suite), or a gexp denoting the name of the log-in program.

login-pause? (default: #f)

When set to #t in conjunction with auto-login, the user will have to press a key before the log-in shell is launched.

mingetty (default: mingetty)

The Mingetty package to use.

Scheme Procedure: nscd-service [config] [#:glibc glibc] [#:name-services '()]

Return a service that runs the libc name service cache daemon (nscd) with the given config—an <nscd-configuration> object. See Name Service Switch, for an example.

Scheme Variable: %nscd-default-configuration

This is the default <nscd-configuration> value (see below) used by nscd-service. It uses the caches defined by %nscd-default-caches; see below.

Data Type: nscd-configuration

This is the data type representing the name service cache daemon (nscd) configuration.

name-services (default: '())

List of packages denoting name services that must be visible to the nscd—e.g., (list nss-mdns).

glibc (default: glibc)

Package object denoting the GNU C Library providing the nscd command.

log-file (default: "/var/log/nscd.log")

Name of the nscd log file. This is where debugging output goes when debug-level is strictly positive.

debug-level (default: 0)

Integer denoting the debugging levels. Higher numbers mean that more debugging output is logged.

caches (default: %nscd-default-caches)

List of <nscd-cache> objects denoting things to be cached; see below.

Data Type: nscd-cache

Data type representing a cache database of nscd and its parameters.


This is a symbol representing the name of the database to be cached. Valid values are passwd, group, hosts, and services, which designate the corresponding NSS database (see NSS Basics in The GNU C Library Reference Manual).

negative-time-to-live (default: 20)

A number representing the number of seconds during which a positive or negative lookup result remains in cache.

check-files? (default: #t)

Whether to check for updates of the files corresponding to database.

For instance, when database is hosts, setting this flag instructs nscd to check for updates in /etc/hosts and to take them into account.

persistent? (default: #t)

Whether the cache should be stored persistently on disk.

shared? (default: #t)

Whether the cache should be shared among users.

max-database-size (default: 32 MiB)

Maximum size in bytes of the database cache.

Scheme Variable: %nscd-default-caches

List of <nscd-cache> objects used by default by nscd-configuration (see above).

It enables persistent and aggressive caching of service and host name lookups. The latter provides better host name lookup performance, resilience in the face of unreliable name servers, and also better privacy—often the result of host name lookups is in local cache, so external name servers do not even need to be queried.

Scheme Procedure: syslog-service [#:config-file %default-syslog.conf]

Return a service that runs syslogd. If the configuration file name config-file is not specified, use some reasonable default settings.

See syslogd invocation in GNU Inetutils, for more information on the configuration file syntax.

Data Type: guix-configuration

This data type represents the configuration of the Guix build daemon. See Invoking guix-daemon, for more information.

guix (default: guix)

The Guix package to use.

build-group (default: "guixbuild")

Name of the group for build user accounts.

build-accounts (default: 10)

Number of build user accounts to create.

authorize-key? (default: #t)

Whether to authorize the substitute key for (see Substitutes).

use-substitutes? (default: #t)

Whether to use substitutes.

substitute-urls (default: %default-substitute-urls)

The list of URLs where to look for substitutes by default.

extra-options (default: '())

List of extra command-line options for guix-daemon.

lsof (default: lsof)
lsh (default: lsh)

The lsof and lsh packages to use.

Scheme Procedure: guix-service config

Return a service that runs the Guix build daemon according to config.

Scheme Procedure: udev-service [#:udev udev]

Run udev, which populates the /dev directory dynamically.

Scheme Procedure: console-keymap-service file

Return a service to load console keymap from file using loadkeys command.

Scheme Procedure: gpm-service-type [#:gpm gpm] [#:options]

Run gpm, the general-purpose mouse daemon, with the given command-line options. GPM allows users to use the mouse in the console, notably to select, copy, and paste text. The default value of options uses the ps2 protocol, which works for both USB and PS/2 mice.

This service is not part of %base-services.

Scheme Procedure: guix-publish-service [#:guix guix] [#:port 80] [#:host "localhost"]

Return a service that runs guix publish listening on host and port (see Invoking guix publish).

This assumes that /etc/guix already contains a signing key pair as created by guix archive --generate-key (see Invoking guix archive). If that is not the case, the service will fail to start.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Services   [Contents][Index] Networking Services

The (gnu services networking) module provides services to configure the network interface.

Scheme Procedure: dhcp-client-service [#:dhcp isc-dhcp]

Return a service that runs dhcp, a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) client, on all the non-loopback network interfaces.

Scheme Procedure: static-networking-service interface ip [#:gateway #f] [#:name-services '()]

Return a service that starts interface with address ip. If gateway is true, it must be a string specifying the default network gateway.

Scheme Procedure: wicd-service [#:wicd wicd]

Return a service that runs Wicd, a network management daemon that aims to simplify wired and wireless networking.

This service adds the wicd package to the global profile, providing several commands to interact with the daemon and configure networking: wicd-client, a graphical user interface, and the wicd-cli and wicd-curses user interfaces.

Scheme Procedure: network-manager-service [#:network-manager network-manager]

Return a service that runs NetworkManager, a network connection manager attempting to keep network connectivity active when available.

Scheme Procedure: ntp-service [#:ntp ntp] [#:name-service %ntp-servers]

Return a service that runs the daemon from ntp, the Network Time Protocol package. The daemon will keep the system clock synchronized with that of servers.

Scheme Variable: %ntp-servers

List of host names used as the default NTP servers.

Scheme Procedure: tor-service [config-file] [#:tor tor]

Return a service to run the Tor anonymous networking daemon.

The daemon runs as the tor unprivileged user. It is passed config-file, a file-like object, with an additional User tor line and lines for hidden services added via tor-hidden-service. Run man tor for information about the configuration file.

Scheme Procedure: tor-hidden-service name mapping

Define a new Tor hidden service called name and implementing mapping. mapping is a list of port/host tuples, such as:

 '((22 "")
   (80 ""))

In this example, port 22 of the hidden service is mapped to local port 22, and port 80 is mapped to local port 8080.

This creates a /var/lib/tor/hidden-services/name directory, where the hostname file contains the .onion host name for the hidden service.

See the Tor project’s documentation for more information.

Scheme Procedure: bitlbee-service [#:bitlbee bitlbee] [#:interface ""] [#:port 6667] [#:extra-settings ""]

Return a service that runs BitlBee, a daemon that acts as a gateway between IRC and chat networks.

The daemon will listen to the interface corresponding to the IP address specified in interface, on port. means that only local clients can connect, whereas means that connections can come from any networking interface.

In addition, extra-settings specifies a string to append to the configuration file.

Furthermore, (gnu services ssh) provides the following service.

Scheme Procedure: lsh-service [#:host-key "/etc/lsh/host-key"] [#:daemonic? #t] [#:interfaces '()] [#:port-number 22] [#:allow-empty-passwords? #f] [#:root-login? #f] [#:syslog-output? #t] [#:x11-forwarding? #t] [#:tcp/ip-forwarding? #t] [#:password-authentication? #t] [#:public-key-authentication? #t] [#:initialize? #t]

Run the lshd program from lsh to listen on port port-number. host-key must designate a file containing the host key, and readable only by root.

When daemonic? is true, lshd will detach from the controlling terminal and log its output to syslogd, unless one sets syslog-output? to false. Obviously, it also makes lsh-service depend on existence of syslogd service. When pid-file? is true, lshd writes its PID to the file called pid-file.

When initialize? is true, automatically create the seed and host key upon service activation if they do not exist yet. This may take long and require interaction.

When initialize? is false, it is up to the user to initialize the randomness generator (see lsh-make-seed in LSH Manual), and to create a key pair with the private key stored in file host-key (see lshd basics in LSH Manual).

When interfaces is empty, lshd listens for connections on all the network interfaces; otherwise, interfaces must be a list of host names or addresses.

allow-empty-passwords? specifies whether to accept log-ins with empty passwords, and root-login? specifies whether to accept log-ins as root.

The other options should be self-descriptive.

Scheme Variable: %facebook-host-aliases

This variable contains a string for use in /etc/hosts (see Host Names in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). Each line contains a entry that maps a known server name of the Facebook on-line service—e.g.,—to the local host— or its IPv6 equivalent, ::1.

This variable is typically used in the hosts-file field of an operating-system declaration (see /etc/hosts):

(use-modules (gnu) (guix))

  (host-name "mymachine")
  ;; ...
    ;; Create a /etc/hosts file with aliases for "localhost"
    ;; and "mymachine", as well as for Facebook servers.
    (plain-file "hosts"
                (string-append (local-host-aliases host-name)

This mechanism can prevent programs running locally, such as Web browsers, from accessing Facebook.

The (gnu services avahi) provides the following definition.

Scheme Procedure: avahi-service [#:avahi avahi] [#:host-name #f] [#:publish? #t] [#:ipv4? #t] [#:ipv6? #t] [#:wide-area? #f] [#:domains-to-browse '()]

Return a service that runs avahi-daemon, a system-wide mDNS/DNS-SD responder that allows for service discovery and "zero-configuration" host name lookups (see, and extends the name service cache daemon (nscd) so that it can resolve .local host names using nss-mdns. Additionally, add the avahi package to the system profile so that commands such as avahi-browse are directly usable.

If host-name is different from #f, use that as the host name to publish for this machine; otherwise, use the machine’s actual host name.

When publish? is true, publishing of host names and services is allowed; in particular, avahi-daemon will publish the machine’s host name and IP address via mDNS on the local network.

When wide-area? is true, DNS-SD over unicast DNS is enabled.

Boolean values ipv4? and ipv6? determine whether to use IPv4/IPv6 sockets.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Services   [Contents][Index] X Window

Support for the X Window graphical display system—specifically Xorg—is provided by the (gnu services xorg) module. Note that there is no xorg-service procedure. Instead, the X server is started by the login manager, currently SLiM.

Scheme Procedure: slim-service [#:allow-empty-passwords? #f] [#:auto-login? #f] [#:default-user ""] [#:startx] [#:theme %default-slim-theme] [#:theme-name %default-slim-theme-name]

Return a service that spawns the SLiM graphical login manager, which in turn starts the X display server with startx, a command as returned by xorg-start-command.

SLiM automatically looks for session types described by the .desktop files in /run/current-system/profile/share/xsessions and allows users to choose a session from the log-in screen using F1. Packages such as xfce, sawfish, and ratpoison provide .desktop files; adding them to the system-wide set of packages automatically makes them available at the log-in screen.

In addition, ~/.xsession files are honored. When available, ~/.xsession must be an executable that starts a window manager and/or other X clients.

When allow-empty-passwords? is true, allow logins with an empty password. When auto-login? is true, log in automatically as default-user.

If theme is #f, use the default log-in theme; otherwise theme must be a gexp denoting the name of a directory containing the theme to use. In that case, theme-name specifies the name of the theme.

Scheme Variable: %default-theme
Scheme Variable: %default-theme-name

The G-Expression denoting the default SLiM theme and its name.

Scheme Procedure: xorg-start-command [#:guile] [#:configuration-file #f] [#:xorg-server xorg-server]

Return a derivation that builds a guile script to start the X server from xorg-server. configuration-file is the server configuration file or a derivation that builds it; when omitted, the result of xorg-configuration-file is used.

Usually the X server is started by a login manager.

Scheme Procedure: xorg-configuration-file [#:drivers '()] [#:resolutions '()] [#:extra-config '()]

Return a configuration file for the Xorg server containing search paths for all the common drivers.

drivers must be either the empty list, in which case Xorg chooses a graphics driver automatically, or a list of driver names that will be tried in this order—e.g., (\"modesetting\" \"vesa\").

Likewise, when resolutions is the empty list, Xorg chooses an appropriate screen resolution; otherwise, it must be a list of resolutions—e.g., ((1024 768) (640 480)).

Last, extra-config is a list of strings or objects appended to the text-file* argument list. It is used to pass extra text to be added verbatim to the configuration file.

Scheme Procedure: screen-locker-service package [name]

Add package, a package for a screen-locker or screen-saver whose command is program, to the set of setuid programs and add a PAM entry for it. For example:

(screen-locker-service xlockmore "xlock")

makes the good ol’ XlockMore usable.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Services   [Contents][Index] Desktop Services

The (gnu services desktop) module provides services that are usually useful in the context of a “desktop” setup—that is, on a machine running a graphical display server, possibly with graphical user interfaces, etc. It also defines services that provide specific desktop environments like GNOME and XFCE.

To simplify things, the module defines a variable containing the set of services that users typically expect on a machine with a graphical environment and networking:

Scheme Variable: %desktop-services

This is a list of services that builds upon %base-services and adds or adjusts services for a typical “desktop” setup.

In particular, it adds a graphical login manager (see slim-service), screen lockers, a network management tool (see wicd-service), energy and color management services, the elogind login and seat manager, the Polkit privilege service, the GeoClue location service, an NTP client (see Networking Services), the Avahi daemon, and has the name service switch service configured to be able to use nss-mdns (see mDNS).

The %desktop-services variable can be used as the services field of an operating-system declaration (see services).

Additionally, the gnome-desktop-service and xfce-desktop-service procedures can add GNOME and/or XFCE to a system. To “add GNOME” means that system-level services like the backlight adjustment helpers and the power management utilities are added to the system, extending polkit and dbus appropriately, allowing GNOME to operate with elevated privileges on a limited number of special-purpose system interfaces. Additionally, adding a service made by gnome-desktop-service adds the GNOME metapackage to the system profile. Likewise, adding the XFCE service not only adds the xfce metapackage to the system profile, but it also gives the Thunar file manager the ability to open a “root-mode” file management window, if the user authenticates using the administrator’s password via the standard polkit graphical interface.

Scheme Procedure: gnome-desktop-service

Return a service that adds the gnome package to the system profile, and extends polkit with the actions from gnome-settings-daemon.

Scheme Procedure: xfce-desktop-service

Return a service that adds the xfce package to the system profile, and extends polkit with the abilit for thunar to manipulate the file system as root from within a user session, after the user has authenticated with the administrator’s password.

Because the GNOME and XFCE desktop services pull in so many packages, the default %desktop-services variable doesn’t include either of them by default. To add GNOME or XFCE, just cons them onto %desktop-services in the services field of your operating-system:

(use-modules (gnu))
(use-service-modules desktop)
  ;; cons* adds items to the list given as its last argument.
  (services (cons* (gnome-desktop-service)

These desktop environments will then be available as options in the graphical login window.

The actual service definitions included in %desktop-services and provided by (gnu services dbus) and (gnu services desktop) are described below.

Scheme Procedure: dbus-service [#:dbus dbus] [#:services '()]

Return a service that runs the “system bus”, using dbus, with support for services.

D-Bus is an inter-process communication facility. Its system bus is used to allow system services to communicate and to be notified of system-wide events.

services must be a list of packages that provide an etc/dbus-1/system.d directory containing additional D-Bus configuration and policy files. For example, to allow avahi-daemon to use the system bus, services must be equal to (list avahi).

Scheme Procedure: elogind-service [#:config config]

Return a service that runs the elogind login and seat management daemon. Elogind exposes a D-Bus interface that can be used to know which users are logged in, know what kind of sessions they have open, suspend the system, inhibit system suspend, reboot the system, and other tasks.

Elogind handles most system-level power events for a computer, for example suspending the system when a lid is closed, or shutting it down when the power button is pressed.

The config keyword argument specifies the configuration for elogind, and should be the result of an (elogind-configuration (parameter value)...) invocation. Available parameters and their default values are:
































(* 30 60)








("mem" "standby" "freeze")






("platform" "shutdown")




("suspend" "platform" "shutdown")

Scheme Procedure: polkit-service [#:polkit polkit]

Return a service that runs the Polkit privilege management service, which allows system administrators to grant access to privileged operations in a structured way. By querying the Polkit service, a privileged system component can know when it should grant additional capabilities to ordinary users. For example, an ordinary user can be granted the capability to suspend the system if the user is logged in locally.

Scheme Procedure: upower-service [#:upower upower] [#:watts-up-pro? #f] [#:poll-batteries? #t] [#:ignore-lid? #f] [#:use-percentage-for-policy? #f] [#:percentage-low 10] [#:percentage-critical 3] [#:percentage-action 2] [#:time-low 1200] [#:time-critical 300] [#:time-action 120] [#:critical-power-action 'hybrid-sleep]

Return a service that runs upowerd, a system-wide monitor for power consumption and battery levels, with the given configuration settings. It implements the org.freedesktop.UPower D-Bus interface, and is notably used by GNOME.

Scheme Procedure: udisks-service [#:udisks udisks]

Return a service for UDisks, a disk management daemon that provides user interfaces with notifications and ways to mount/unmount disks. Programs that talk to UDisks include the udisksctl command, part of UDisks, and GNOME Disks.

Scheme Procedure: colord-service [#:colord colord]

Return a service that runs colord, a system service with a D-Bus interface to manage the color profiles of input and output devices such as screens and scanners. It is notably used by the GNOME Color Manager graphical tool. See the colord web site for more information.

Scheme Procedure: geoclue-application name [#:allowed? #t] [#:system? #f] [#:users '()]

Return a configuration allowing an application to access GeoClue location data. name is the Desktop ID of the application, without the .desktop part. If allowed? is true, the application will have access to location information by default. The boolean system? value indicates whether an application is a system component or not. Finally users is a list of UIDs of all users for which this application is allowed location info access. An empty users list means that all users are allowed.

Scheme Variable: %standard-geoclue-applications

The standard list of well-known GeoClue application configurations, granting authority to the GNOME date-and-time utility to ask for the current location in order to set the time zone, and allowing the IceCat and Epiphany web browsers to request location information. IceCat and Epiphany both query the user before allowing a web page to know the user’s location.

Scheme Procedure: geoclue-service [#:colord colord] [#:whitelist '()] [#:wifi-geolocation-url ""] [#:submit-data? #f]

[#:wifi-submission-url ""]   [#:submission-nick "geoclue"]   [#:applications %standard-geoclue-applications] Return a service that runs the GeoClue location service. This service provides a D-Bus interface to allow applications to request access to a user’s physical location, and optionally to add information to online location databases. See the GeoClue web site for more information.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Services   [Contents][Index] Database Services

The (gnu services databases) module provides the following service.

Scheme Procedure: postgresql-service [#:postgresql postgresql] [#:config-file] [#:data-directory ``/var/lib/postgresql/data'']

Return a service that runs postgresql, the PostgreSQL database server.

The PostgreSQL daemon loads its runtime configuration from config-file and stores the database cluster in data-directory.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Services   [Contents][Index] Mail Services

The (gnu services mail) module provides Guix service definitions for mail services. Currently the only implemented service is Dovecot, an IMAP, POP3, and LMTP server.

Guix does not yet have a mail transfer agent (MTA), although for some lightweight purposes the esmtp relay-only MTA may suffice. Help is needed to properly integrate a full MTA, such as Postfix. Patches welcome!

To add an IMAP/POP3 server to a GuixSD system, add a dovecot-service to the operating system definition:

Scheme Procedure: dovecot-service [#:config (dovecot-configuration)]

Return a service that runs the Dovecot IMAP/POP3/LMTP mail server.

By default, Dovecot does not need much configuration; the default configuration object created by (dovecot-configuration) will suffice if your mail is delivered to ~/Maildir. A self-signed certificate will be generated for TLS-protected connections, though Dovecot will also listen on cleartext ports by default. There are a number of options, though, which mail administrators might need to change, and as is the case with other services, Guix allows the system administrator to specify these parameters via a uniform Scheme interface.

For example, to specify that mail is located at maildir~/.mail, one would instantiate the Dovecot service like this:

(dovecot-service #:config
                  (mail-location "maildir:~/.mail")))

The available configuration parameters follow. Each parameter definition is preceded by its type; for example, ‘string-list foo’ indicates that the foo parameter should be specified as a list of strings. There is also a way to specify the configuration as a string, if you have an old dovecot.conf file that you want to port over from some other system; see the end for more details.

Available dovecot-configuration fields are:

dovecot-configuration parameter: package dovecot

The dovecot package.

dovecot-configuration parameter: comma-separated-string-list listen

A list of IPs or hosts where to listen for connections. ‘*’ listens on all IPv4 interfaces, ‘::’ listens on all IPv6 interfaces. If you want to specify non-default ports or anything more complex, customize the address and port fields of the ‘inet-listener’ of the specific services you are interested in.

dovecot-configuration parameter: protocol-configuration-list protocols

List of protocols we want to serve. Available protocols include ‘imap’, ‘pop3’, and ‘lmtp’.

Available protocol-configuration fields are:

protocol-configuration parameter: string name

The name of the protocol.

protocol-configuration parameter: string auth-socket-path

UNIX socket path to the master authentication server to find users. This is used by imap (for shared users) and lda. It defaults to ‘"/var/run/dovecot/auth-userdb"’.

protocol-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list mail-plugins

Space separated list of plugins to load.

protocol-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer mail-max-userip-connections

Maximum number of IMAP connections allowed for a user from each IP address. NOTE: The username is compared case-sensitively. Defaults to ‘10’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: service-configuration-list services

List of services to enable. Available services include ‘imap’, ‘imap-login’, ‘pop3’, ‘pop3-login’, ‘auth’, and ‘lmtp’.

Available service-configuration fields are:

service-configuration parameter: string kind

The service kind. Valid values include director, imap-login, pop3-login, lmtp, imap, pop3, auth, auth-worker, dict, tcpwrap, quota-warning, or anything else.

service-configuration parameter: listener-configuration-list listeners

Listeners for the service. A listener is either a unix-listener-configuration, a fifo-listener-configuration, or an inet-listener-configuration. Defaults to ‘()’.

Available unix-listener-configuration fields are:

unix-listener-configuration parameter: file-name path

The file name on which to listen.

unix-listener-configuration parameter: string mode

The access mode for the socket. Defaults to ‘"0600"’.

unix-listener-configuration parameter: string user

The user to own the socket. Defaults to ‘""’.

unix-listener-configuration parameter: string group

The group to own the socket. Defaults to ‘""’.

Available fifo-listener-configuration fields are:

fifo-listener-configuration parameter: file-name path

The file name on which to listen.

fifo-listener-configuration parameter: string mode

The access mode for the socket. Defaults to ‘"0600"’.

fifo-listener-configuration parameter: string user

The user to own the socket. Defaults to ‘""’.

fifo-listener-configuration parameter: string group

The group to own the socket. Defaults to ‘""’.

Available inet-listener-configuration fields are:

inet-listener-configuration parameter: string protocol

The protocol to listen for.

inet-listener-configuration parameter: string address

The address on which to listen, or empty for all addresses. Defaults to ‘""’.

inet-listener-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer port

The port on which to listen.

inet-listener-configuration parameter: boolean ssl?

Whether to use SSL for this service; ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘required’. Defaults to ‘#t’.

service-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer service-count

Number of connections to handle before starting a new process. Typically the only useful values are 0 (unlimited) or 1. 1 is more secure, but 0 is faster. <doc/wiki/LoginProcess.txt>. Defaults to ‘1’.

service-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer process-min-avail

Number of processes to always keep waiting for more connections. Defaults to ‘0’.

service-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer vsz-limit

If you set ‘service-count 0’, you probably need to grow this. Defaults to ‘256000000’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: dict-configuration dict

Dict configuration, as created by the dict-configuration constructor.

Available dict-configuration fields are:

dict-configuration parameter: free-form-fields entries

A list of key-value pairs that this dict should hold. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: passdb-configuration-list passdbs

A list of passdb configurations, each one created by the passdb-configuration constructor.

Available passdb-configuration fields are:

passdb-configuration parameter: string driver

The driver that the passdb should use. Valid values include ‘pam’, ‘passwd’, ‘shadow’, ‘bsdauth’, and ‘static’. Defaults to ‘"pam"’.

passdb-configuration parameter: free-form-args args

A list of key-value args to the passdb driver. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: userdb-configuration-list userdbs

List of userdb configurations, each one created by the userdb-configuration constructor.

Available userdb-configuration fields are:

userdb-configuration parameter: string driver

The driver that the userdb should use. Valid values include ‘passwd’ and ‘static’. Defaults to ‘"passwd"’.

userdb-configuration parameter: free-form-args args

A list of key-value args to the userdb driver. Defaults to ‘()’.

userdb-configuration parameter: free-form-args override-fields

Override fields from passwd. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: plugin-configuration plugin-configuration

Plug-in configuration, created by the plugin-configuration constructor.

dovecot-configuration parameter: list-of-namespace-configuration namespaces

List of namespaces. Each item in the list is created by the namespace-configuration constructor.

Available namespace-configuration fields are:

namespace-configuration parameter: string name

Name for this namespace.

namespace-configuration parameter: string type

Namespace type: ‘private’, ‘shared’ or ‘public’. Defaults to ‘"private"’.

namespace-configuration parameter: string separator

Hierarchy separator to use. You should use the same separator for all namespaces or some clients get confused. ‘/’ is usually a good one. The default however depends on the underlying mail storage format. Defaults to ‘""’.

namespace-configuration parameter: string prefix

Prefix required to access this namespace. This needs to be different for all namespaces. For example ‘Public/’. Defaults to ‘""’.

namespace-configuration parameter: string location

Physical location of the mailbox. This is in the same format as mail_location, which is also the default for it. Defaults to ‘""’.

namespace-configuration parameter: boolean inbox?

There can be only one INBOX, and this setting defines which namespace has it. Defaults to ‘#f’.

namespace-configuration parameter: boolean hidden?

If namespace is hidden, it’s not advertised to clients via NAMESPACE extension. You’ll most likely also want to set ‘list? #f’. This is mostly useful when converting from another server with different namespaces which you want to deprecate but still keep working. For example you can create hidden namespaces with prefixes ‘~/mail/’, ‘~%u/mail/’ and ‘mail/’. Defaults to ‘#f’.

namespace-configuration parameter: boolean list?

Show the mailboxes under this namespace with the LIST command. This makes the namespace visible for clients that do not support the NAMESPACE extension. The special children value lists child mailboxes, but hides the namespace prefix. Defaults to ‘#t’.

namespace-configuration parameter: boolean subscriptions?

Namespace handles its own subscriptions. If set to #f, the parent namespace handles them. The empty prefix should always have this as #t). Defaults to ‘#t’.

namespace-configuration parameter: mailbox-configuration-list mailboxes

List of predefined mailboxes in this namespace. Defaults to ‘()’.

Available mailbox-configuration fields are:

mailbox-configuration parameter: string name

Name for this mailbox.

mailbox-configuration parameter: string auto

create’ will automatically create this mailbox. ‘subscribe’ will both create and subscribe to the mailbox. Defaults to ‘"no"’.

mailbox-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list special-use

List of IMAP SPECIAL-USE attributes as specified by RFC 6154. Valid values are \All, \Archive, \Drafts, \Flagged, \Junk, \Sent, and \Trash. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: file-name base-dir

Base directory where to store runtime data. Defaults to ‘"/var/run/dovecot/"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string login-greeting

Greeting message for clients. Defaults to ‘"Dovecot ready."’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list login-trusted-networks

List of trusted network ranges. Connections from these IPs are allowed to override their IP addresses and ports (for logging and for authentication checks). ‘disable-plaintext-auth’ is also ignored for these networks. Typically you would specify your IMAP proxy servers here. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list login-access-sockets

List of login access check sockets (e.g. tcpwrap). Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean verbose-proctitle?

Show more verbose process titles (in ps). Currently shows user name and IP address. Useful for seeing who is actually using the IMAP processes (e.g. shared mailboxes or if the same uid is used for multiple accounts). Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean shutdown-clients?

Should all processes be killed when Dovecot master process shuts down. Setting this to #f means that Dovecot can be upgraded without forcing existing client connections to close (although that could also be a problem if the upgrade is e.g. due to a security fix). Defaults to ‘#t’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer doveadm-worker-count

If non-zero, run mail commands via this many connections to doveadm server, instead of running them directly in the same process. Defaults to ‘0’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string doveadm-socket-path

UNIX socket or host:port used for connecting to doveadm server. Defaults to ‘"doveadm-server"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list import-environment

List of environment variables that are preserved on Dovecot startup and passed down to all of its child processes. You can also give key=value pairs to always set specific settings.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean disable-plaintext-auth?

Disable LOGIN command and all other plaintext authentications unless SSL/TLS is used (LOGINDISABLED capability). Note that if the remote IP matches the local IP (i.e. you’re connecting from the same computer), the connection is considered secure and plaintext authentication is allowed. See also ssl=required setting. Defaults to ‘#t’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer auth-cache-size

Authentication cache size (e.g. ‘#e10e6’). 0 means it’s disabled. Note that bsdauth, PAM and vpopmail require ‘cache-key’ to be set for caching to be used. Defaults to ‘0’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-cache-ttl

Time to live for cached data. After TTL expires the cached record is no longer used, *except* if the main database lookup returns internal failure. We also try to handle password changes automatically: If user’s previous authentication was successful, but this one wasn’t, the cache isn’t used. For now this works only with plaintext authentication. Defaults to ‘"1 hour"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-cache-negative-ttl

TTL for negative hits (user not found, password mismatch). 0 disables caching them completely. Defaults to ‘"1 hour"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list auth-realms

List of realms for SASL authentication mechanisms that need them. You can leave it empty if you don’t want to support multiple realms. Many clients simply use the first one listed here, so keep the default realm first. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-default-realm

Default realm/domain to use if none was specified. This is used for both SASL realms and appending @domain to username in plaintext logins. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-username-chars

List of allowed characters in username. If the user-given username contains a character not listed in here, the login automatically fails. This is just an extra check to make sure user can’t exploit any potential quote escaping vulnerabilities with SQL/LDAP databases. If you want to allow all characters, set this value to empty. Defaults to ‘"abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ01234567890.-_@"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-username-translation

Username character translations before it’s looked up from databases. The value contains series of from -> to characters. For example ‘#@/@’ means that ‘#’ and ‘/’ characters are translated to ‘@’. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-username-format

Username formatting before it’s looked up from databases. You can use the standard variables here, e.g. %Lu would lowercase the username, %n would drop away the domain if it was given, or ‘%n-AT-%d’ would change the ‘@’ into ‘-AT-’. This translation is done after ‘auth-username-translation’ changes. Defaults to ‘"%Lu"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-master-user-separator

If you want to allow master users to log in by specifying the master username within the normal username string (i.e. not using SASL mechanism’s support for it), you can specify the separator character here. The format is then <username><separator><master username>. UW-IMAP uses ‘*’ as the separator, so that could be a good choice. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-anonymous-username

Username to use for users logging in with ANONYMOUS SASL mechanism. Defaults to ‘"anonymous"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer auth-worker-max-count

Maximum number of dovecot-auth worker processes. They’re used to execute blocking passdb and userdb queries (e.g. MySQL and PAM). They’re automatically created and destroyed as needed. Defaults to ‘30’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-gssapi-hostname

Host name to use in GSSAPI principal names. The default is to use the name returned by gethostname(). Use ‘$ALL’ (with quotes) to allow all keytab entries. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-krb5-keytab

Kerberos keytab to use for the GSSAPI mechanism. Will use the system default (usually /etc/krb5.keytab) if not specified. You may need to change the auth service to run as root to be able to read this file. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean auth-use-winbind?

Do NTLM and GSS-SPNEGO authentication using Samba’s winbind daemon and ‘ntlm-auth’ helper. <doc/wiki/Authentication/Mechanisms/Winbind.txt>. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: file-name auth-winbind-helper-path

Path for Samba’s ‘ntlm-auth’ helper binary. Defaults to ‘"/usr/bin/ntlm_auth"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string auth-failure-delay

Time to delay before replying to failed authentications. Defaults to ‘"2 secs"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean auth-ssl-require-client-cert?

Require a valid SSL client certificate or the authentication fails. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean auth-ssl-username-from-cert?

Take the username from client’s SSL certificate, using X509_NAME_get_text_by_NID() which returns the subject’s DN’s CommonName. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list auth-mechanisms

List of wanted authentication mechanisms. Supported mechanisms are: ‘plain’, ‘login’, ‘digest-md5’, ‘cram-md5’, ‘ntlm’, ‘rpa’, ‘apop’, ‘anonymous’, ‘gssapi’, ‘otp’, ‘skey’, and ‘gss-spnego’. NOTE: See also ‘disable-plaintext-auth’ setting.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list director-servers

List of IPs or hostnames to all director servers, including ourself. Ports can be specified as ip:port. The default port is the same as what director service’s ‘inet-listener’ is using. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list director-mail-servers

List of IPs or hostnames to all backend mail servers. Ranges are allowed too, like Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string director-user-expire

How long to redirect users to a specific server after it no longer has any connections. Defaults to ‘"15 min"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer director-doveadm-port

TCP/IP port that accepts doveadm connections (instead of director connections) If you enable this, you’ll also need to add ‘inet-listener’ for the port. Defaults to ‘0’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string director-username-hash

How the username is translated before being hashed. Useful values include %Ln if user can log in with or without @domain, %Ld if mailboxes are shared within domain. Defaults to ‘"%Lu"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string log-path

Log file to use for error messages. ‘syslog’ logs to syslog, ‘/dev/stderr’ logs to stderr. Defaults to ‘"syslog"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string info-log-path

Log file to use for informational messages. Defaults to ‘log-path’. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string debug-log-path

Log file to use for debug messages. Defaults to ‘info-log-path’. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string syslog-facility

Syslog facility to use if you’re logging to syslog. Usually if you don’t want to use ‘mail’, you’ll use local0..local7. Also other standard facilities are supported. Defaults to ‘"mail"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean auth-verbose?

Log unsuccessful authentication attempts and the reasons why they failed. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean auth-verbose-passwords?

In case of password mismatches, log the attempted password. Valid values are no, plain and sha1. sha1 can be useful for detecting brute force password attempts vs. user simply trying the same password over and over again. You can also truncate the value to n chars by appending ":n" (e.g. sha1:6). Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean auth-debug?

Even more verbose logging for debugging purposes. Shows for example SQL queries. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean auth-debug-passwords?

In case of password mismatches, log the passwords and used scheme so the problem can be debugged. Enabling this also enables ‘auth-debug’. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mail-debug?

Enable mail process debugging. This can help you figure out why Dovecot isn’t finding your mails. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean verbose-ssl?

Show protocol level SSL errors. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string log-timestamp

Prefix for each line written to log file. % codes are in strftime(3) format. Defaults to ‘"\"%b %d %H:%M:%S \""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list login-log-format-elements

List of elements we want to log. The elements which have a non-empty variable value are joined together to form a comma-separated string.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string login-log-format

Login log format. %s contains ‘login-log-format-elements’ string, %$ contains the data we want to log. Defaults to ‘"%$: %s"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-log-prefix

Log prefix for mail processes. See doc/wiki/Variables.txt for list of possible variables you can use. Defaults to ‘"\"%s(%u): \""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string deliver-log-format

Format to use for logging mail deliveries. You can use variables:


Delivery status message (e.g. ‘saved to INBOX’)






From address


Physical size


Virtual size.

Defaults to ‘"msgid=%m: %$"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-location

Location for users’ mailboxes. The default is empty, which means that Dovecot tries to find the mailboxes automatically. This won’t work if the user doesn’t yet have any mail, so you should explicitly tell Dovecot the full location.

If you’re using mbox, giving a path to the INBOX file (e.g. /var/mail/%u) isn’t enough. You’ll also need to tell Dovecot where the other mailboxes are kept. This is called the "root mail directory", and it must be the first path given in the ‘mail-location’ setting.

There are a few special variables you can use, eg.:




user part in user@domain, same as %u if there’s no domain


domain part in user@domain, empty if there’s no domain


home director

See doc/wiki/Variables.txt for full list. Some examples:


Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-uid

System user and group used to access mails. If you use multiple, userdb can override these by returning uid or gid fields. You can use either numbers or names. <doc/wiki/UserIds.txt>. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-gid

Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-privileged-group

Group to enable temporarily for privileged operations. Currently this is used only with INBOX when either its initial creation or dotlocking fails. Typically this is set to "mail" to give access to /var/mail. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-access-groups

Grant access to these supplementary groups for mail processes. Typically these are used to set up access to shared mailboxes. Note that it may be dangerous to set these if users can create symlinks (e.g. if "mail" group is set here, ln -s /var/mail ~/mail/var could allow a user to delete others’ mailboxes, or ln -s /secret/shared/box ~/mail/mybox would allow reading it). Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mail-full-filesystem-access?

Allow full filesystem access to clients. There’s no access checks other than what the operating system does for the active UID/GID. It works with both maildir and mboxes, allowing you to prefix mailboxes names with e.g. /path/ or ~user/. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mmap-disable?

Don’t use mmap() at all. This is required if you store indexes to shared filesystems (NFS or clustered filesystem). Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean dotlock-use-excl?

Rely on ‘O_EXCL’ to work when creating dotlock files. NFS supports ‘O_EXCL’ since version 3, so this should be safe to use nowadays by default. Defaults to ‘#t’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-fsync

When to use fsync() or fdatasync() calls:


Whenever necessary to avoid losing important data


Useful with e.g. NFS when write()s are delayed


Never use it (best performance, but crashes can lose data).

Defaults to ‘"optimized"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mail-nfs-storage?

Mail storage exists in NFS. Set this to yes to make Dovecot flush NFS caches whenever needed. If you’re using only a single mail server this isn’t needed. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mail-nfs-index?

Mail index files also exist in NFS. Setting this to yes requires ‘mmap-disable? #t’ and ‘fsync-disable? #f’. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string lock-method

Locking method for index files. Alternatives are fcntl, flock and dotlock. Dotlocking uses some tricks which may create more disk I/O than other locking methods. NFS users: flock doesn’t work, remember to change ‘mmap-disable’. Defaults to ‘"fcntl"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: file-name mail-temp-dir

Directory in which LDA/LMTP temporarily stores incoming mails >128 kB. Defaults to ‘"/tmp"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer first-valid-uid

Valid UID range for users. This is mostly to make sure that users can’t log in as daemons or other system users. Note that denying root logins is hardcoded to dovecot binary and can’t be done even if ‘first-valid-uid’ is set to 0. Defaults to ‘500’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer last-valid-uid

Defaults to ‘0’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer first-valid-gid

Valid GID range for users. Users having non-valid GID as primary group ID aren’t allowed to log in. If user belongs to supplementary groups with non-valid GIDs, those groups are not set. Defaults to ‘1’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer last-valid-gid

Defaults to ‘0’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer mail-max-keyword-length

Maximum allowed length for mail keyword name. It’s only forced when trying to create new keywords. Defaults to ‘50’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: colon-separated-file-name-list valid-chroot-dirs

List of directories under which chrooting is allowed for mail processes (i.e. /var/mail will allow chrooting to /var/mail/foo/bar too). This setting doesn’t affect ‘login-chroot’ ‘mail-chroot’ or auth chroot settings. If this setting is empty, "/./" in home dirs are ignored. WARNING: Never add directories here which local users can modify, that may lead to root exploit. Usually this should be done only if you don’t allow shell access for users. <doc/wiki/Chrooting.txt>. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-chroot

Default chroot directory for mail processes. This can be overridden for specific users in user database by giving /./ in user’s home directory (e.g. /home/./user chroots into /home). Note that usually there is no real need to do chrooting, Dovecot doesn’t allow users to access files outside their mail directory anyway. If your home directories are prefixed with the chroot directory, append "/." to ‘mail-chroot’. <doc/wiki/Chrooting.txt>. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: file-name auth-socket-path

UNIX socket path to master authentication server to find users. This is used by imap (for shared users) and lda. Defaults to ‘"/var/run/dovecot/auth-userdb"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: file-name mail-plugin-dir

Directory where to look up mail plugins. Defaults to ‘"/usr/lib/dovecot"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list mail-plugins

List of plugins to load for all services. Plugins specific to IMAP, LDA, etc. are added to this list in their own .conf files. Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer mail-cache-min-mail-count

The minimum number of mails in a mailbox before updates are done to cache file. This allows optimizing Dovecot’s behavior to do less disk writes at the cost of more disk reads. Defaults to ‘0’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mailbox-idle-check-interval

When IDLE command is running, mailbox is checked once in a while to see if there are any new mails or other changes. This setting defines the minimum time to wait between those checks. Dovecot can also use dnotify, inotify and kqueue to find out immediately when changes occur. Defaults to ‘"30 secs"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mail-save-crlf?

Save mails with CR+LF instead of plain LF. This makes sending those mails take less CPU, especially with sendfile() syscall with Linux and FreeBSD. But it also creates a bit more disk I/O which may just make it slower. Also note that if other software reads the mboxes/maildirs, they may handle the extra CRs wrong and cause problems. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean maildir-stat-dirs?

By default LIST command returns all entries in maildir beginning with a dot. Enabling this option makes Dovecot return only entries which are directories. This is done by stat()ing each entry, so it causes more disk I/O. (For systems setting struct ‘dirent->d_type’ this check is free and it’s done always regardless of this setting). Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean maildir-copy-with-hardlinks?

When copying a message, do it with hard links whenever possible. This makes the performance much better, and it’s unlikely to have any side effects. Defaults to ‘#t’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean maildir-very-dirty-syncs?

Assume Dovecot is the only MUA accessing Maildir: Scan cur/ directory only when its mtime changes unexpectedly or when we can’t find the mail otherwise. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list mbox-read-locks

Which locking methods to use for locking mbox. There are four available:


Create <mailbox>.lock file. This is the oldest and most NFS-safe solution. If you want to use /var/mail/ like directory, the users will need write access to that directory.


Same as dotlock, but if it fails because of permissions or because there isn’t enough disk space, just skip it.


Use this if possible. Works with NFS too if lockd is used.


May not exist in all systems. Doesn’t work with NFS.


May not exist in all systems. Doesn’t work with NFS.

You can use multiple locking methods; if you do the order they’re declared in is important to avoid deadlocks if other MTAs/MUAs are using multiple locking methods as well. Some operating systems don’t allow using some of them simultaneously.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list mbox-write-locks
dovecot-configuration parameter: string mbox-lock-timeout

Maximum time to wait for lock (all of them) before aborting. Defaults to ‘"5 mins"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mbox-dotlock-change-timeout

If dotlock exists but the mailbox isn’t modified in any way, override the lock file after this much time. Defaults to ‘"2 mins"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mbox-dirty-syncs?

When mbox changes unexpectedly we have to fully read it to find out what changed. If the mbox is large this can take a long time. Since the change is usually just a newly appended mail, it’d be faster to simply read the new mails. If this setting is enabled, Dovecot does this but still safely fallbacks to re-reading the whole mbox file whenever something in mbox isn’t how it’s expected to be. The only real downside to this setting is that if some other MUA changes message flags, Dovecot doesn’t notice it immediately. Note that a full sync is done with SELECT, EXAMINE, EXPUNGE and CHECK commands. Defaults to ‘#t’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mbox-very-dirty-syncs?

Like ‘mbox-dirty-syncs’, but don’t do full syncs even with SELECT, EXAMINE, EXPUNGE or CHECK commands. If this is set, ‘mbox-dirty-syncs’ is ignored. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mbox-lazy-writes?

Delay writing mbox headers until doing a full write sync (EXPUNGE and CHECK commands and when closing the mailbox). This is especially useful for POP3 where clients often delete all mails. The downside is that our changes aren’t immediately visible to other MUAs. Defaults to ‘#t’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer mbox-min-index-size

If mbox size is smaller than this (e.g. 100k), don’t write index files. If an index file already exists it’s still read, just not updated. Defaults to ‘0’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer mdbox-rotate-size

Maximum dbox file size until it’s rotated. Defaults to ‘2000000’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mdbox-rotate-interval

Maximum dbox file age until it’s rotated. Typically in days. Day begins from midnight, so 1d = today, 2d = yesterday, etc. 0 = check disabled. Defaults to ‘"1d"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean mdbox-preallocate-space?

When creating new mdbox files, immediately preallocate their size to ‘mdbox-rotate-size’. This setting currently works only in Linux with some filesystems (ext4, xfs). Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-attachment-dir

sdbox and mdbox support saving mail attachments to external files, which also allows single instance storage for them. Other backends don’t support this for now.

WARNING: This feature hasn’t been tested much yet. Use at your own risk.

Directory root where to store mail attachments. Disabled, if empty. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer mail-attachment-min-size

Attachments smaller than this aren’t saved externally. It’s also possible to write a plugin to disable saving specific attachments externally. Defaults to ‘128000’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-attachment-fs

Filesystem backend to use for saving attachments:


No SiS done by Dovecot (but this might help FS’s own deduplication)

sis posix

SiS with immediate byte-by-byte comparison during saving

sis-queue posix

SiS with delayed comparison and deduplication.

Defaults to ‘"sis posix"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string mail-attachment-hash

Hash format to use in attachment filenames. You can add any text and variables: %{md4}, %{md5}, %{sha1}, %{sha256}, %{sha512}, %{size}. Variables can be truncated, e.g. %{sha256:80} returns only first 80 bits. Defaults to ‘"%{sha1}"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer default-process-limit

Defaults to ‘100’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer default-client-limit

Defaults to ‘1000’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer default-vsz-limit

Default VSZ (virtual memory size) limit for service processes. This is mainly intended to catch and kill processes that leak memory before they eat up everything. Defaults to ‘256000000’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string default-login-user

Login user is internally used by login processes. This is the most untrusted user in Dovecot system. It shouldn’t have access to anything at all. Defaults to ‘"dovenull"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string default-internal-user

Internal user is used by unprivileged processes. It should be separate from login user, so that login processes can’t disturb other processes. Defaults to ‘"dovecot"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl?

SSL/TLS support: yes, no, required. <doc/wiki/SSL.txt>. Defaults to ‘"required"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-cert

PEM encoded X.509 SSL/TLS certificate (public key). Defaults to ‘"</etc/dovecot/default.pem"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-key

PEM encoded SSL/TLS private key. The key is opened before dropping root privileges, so keep the key file unreadable by anyone but root. Defaults to ‘"</etc/dovecot/private/default.pem"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-key-password

If key file is password protected, give the password here. Alternatively give it when starting dovecot with -p parameter. Since this file is often world-readable, you may want to place this setting instead to a different. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-ca

PEM encoded trusted certificate authority. Set this only if you intend to use ‘ssl-verify-client-cert? #t’. The file should contain the CA certificate(s) followed by the matching CRL(s). (e.g. ‘ssl-ca </etc/ssl/certs/ca.pem’). Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean ssl-require-crl?

Require that CRL check succeeds for client certificates. Defaults to ‘#t’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean ssl-verify-client-cert?

Request client to send a certificate. If you also want to require it, set ‘auth-ssl-require-client-cert? #t’ in auth section. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-cert-username-field

Which field from certificate to use for username. commonName and x500UniqueIdentifier are the usual choices. You’ll also need to set ‘auth-ssl-username-from-cert? #t’. Defaults to ‘"commonName"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: hours ssl-parameters-regenerate

How often to regenerate the SSL parameters file. Generation is quite CPU intensive operation. The value is in hours, 0 disables regeneration entirely. Defaults to ‘168’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-protocols

SSL protocols to use. Defaults to ‘"!SSLv2"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-cipher-list

SSL ciphers to use. Defaults to ‘"ALL:!LOW:!SSLv2:!EXP:!aNULL"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string ssl-crypto-device

SSL crypto device to use, for valid values run "openssl engine". Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string postmaster-address

Address to use when sending rejection mails. Default is postmaster@<your domain>. %d expands to recipient domain. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string hostname

Hostname to use in various parts of sent mails (e.g. in Message-Id) and in LMTP replies. Default is the system’s real hostname@domain. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean quota-full-tempfail?

If user is over quota, return with temporary failure instead of bouncing the mail. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: file-name sendmail-path

Binary to use for sending mails. Defaults to ‘"/usr/sbin/sendmail"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string submission-host

If non-empty, send mails via this SMTP host[:port] instead of sendmail. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string rejection-subject

Subject: header to use for rejection mails. You can use the same variables as for ‘rejection-reason’ below. Defaults to ‘"Rejected: %s"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string rejection-reason

Human readable error message for rejection mails. You can use variables:






original subject



Defaults to ‘"Your message to <%t> was automatically rejected:%n%r"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string recipient-delimiter

Delimiter character between local-part and detail in email address. Defaults to ‘"+"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string lda-original-recipient-header

Header where the original recipient address (SMTP’s RCPT TO: address) is taken from if not available elsewhere. With dovecot-lda -a parameter overrides this. A commonly used header for this is X-Original-To. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean lda-mailbox-autocreate?

Should saving a mail to a nonexistent mailbox automatically create it?. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: boolean lda-mailbox-autosubscribe?

Should automatically created mailboxes be also automatically subscribed?. Defaults to ‘#f’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: non-negative-integer imap-max-line-length

Maximum IMAP command line length. Some clients generate very long command lines with huge mailboxes, so you may need to raise this if you get "Too long argument" or "IMAP command line too large" errors often. Defaults to ‘64000’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string imap-logout-format

IMAP logout format string:


total number of bytes read from client


total number of bytes sent to client.

Defaults to ‘"in=%i out=%o"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string imap-capability

Override the IMAP CAPABILITY response. If the value begins with ’+’, add the given capabilities on top of the defaults (e.g. +XFOO XBAR). Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string imap-idle-notify-interval

How long to wait between "OK Still here" notifications when client is IDLEing. Defaults to ‘"2 mins"’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string imap-id-send

ID field names and values to send to clients. Using * as the value makes Dovecot use the default value. The following fields have default values currently: name, version, os, os-version, support-url, support-email. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string imap-id-log

ID fields sent by client to log. * means everything. Defaults to ‘""’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: space-separated-string-list imap-client-workarounds

Workarounds for various client bugs:


Send EXISTS/RECENT new mail notifications only when replying to NOOP and CHECK commands. Some clients ignore them otherwise, for example OSX Mail (<v2.1). Outlook Express breaks more badly though, without this it may show user "Message no longer in server" errors. Note that OE6 still breaks even with this workaround if synchronization is set to "Headers Only".


Thunderbird gets somehow confused with LAYOUT=fs (mbox and dbox) and adds extra ‘/’ suffixes to mailbox names. This option causes Dovecot to ignore the extra ‘/’ instead of treating it as invalid mailbox name.


Show \Noselect flags for LSUB replies with LAYOUT=fs (e.g. mbox). This makes Thunderbird realize they aren’t selectable and show them greyed out, instead of only later giving "not selectable" popup error.

Defaults to ‘()’.

dovecot-configuration parameter: string imap-urlauth-host

Host allowed in URLAUTH URLs sent by client. "*" allows all. Defaults to ‘""’.

Whew! Lots of configuration options. The nice thing about it though is that GuixSD has a complete interface to Dovecot’s configuration language. This allows not only a nice way to declare configurations, but also offers reflective capabilities as well: users can write code to inspect and transform configurations from within Scheme.

However, it could be that you just want to get a dovecot.conf up and running. In that case, you can pass an opaque-dovecot-configuration as the #:config paramter to dovecot-service. As its name indicates, an opaque configuration does not have easy reflective capabilities.

Available opaque-dovecot-configuration fields are:

opaque-dovecot-configuration parameter: package dovecot

The dovecot package.

opaque-dovecot-configuration parameter: string string

The contents of the dovecot.conf, as a string.

For example, if your dovecot.conf is just the empty string, you could instantiate a dovecot service like this:

(dovecot-service #:config
                  (string "")))

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The (gnu services web) module provides the following service:

Scheme Procedure: nginx-service [#:nginx nginx] [#:log-directory ``/var/log/nginx''] [#:run-directory ``/var/run/nginx''] [#:config-file]

Return a service that runs nginx, the nginx web server.

The nginx daemon loads its runtime configuration from config-file. Log files are written to log-directory and temporary runtime data files are written to run-directory. For proper operation, these arguments should match what is in config-file to ensure that the directories are created when the service is activated.

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The (gnu services lirc) module provides the following service.

Scheme Procedure: lirc-service [#:lirc lirc] [#:device #f] [#:driver #f] [#:config-file #f] [#:extra-options '()]

Return a service that runs LIRC, a daemon that decodes infrared signals from remote controls.

Optionally, device, driver and config-file (configuration file name) may be specified. See lircd manual for details.

Finally, extra-options is a list of additional command-line options passed to lircd.

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7.2.8 Setuid Programs

Some programs need to run with “root” privileges, even when they are launched by unprivileged users. A notorious example is the passwd program, which users can run to change their password, and which needs to access the /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow files—something normally restricted to root, for obvious security reasons. To address that, these executables are setuid-root, meaning that they always run with root privileges (see How Change Persona in The GNU C Library Reference Manual, for more info about the setuid mechanism.)

The store itself cannot contain setuid programs: that would be a security issue since any user on the system can write derivations that populate the store (see The Store). Thus, a different mechanism is used: instead of changing the setuid bit directly on files that are in the store, we let the system administrator declare which programs should be setuid root.

The setuid-programs field of an operating-system declaration contains a list of G-expressions denoting the names of programs to be setuid-root (see Using the Configuration System). For instance, the passwd program, which is part of the Shadow package, can be designated by this G-expression (see G-Expressions):

#~(string-append #$shadow "/bin/passwd")

A default set of setuid programs is defined by the %setuid-programs variable of the (gnu system) module.

Scheme Variable: %setuid-programs

A list of G-expressions denoting common programs that are setuid-root.

The list includes commands such as passwd, ping, su, and sudo.

Under the hood, the actual setuid programs are created in the /run/setuid-programs directory at system activation time. The files in this directory refer to the “real” binaries, which are in the store.

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7.2.9 X.509 Certificates

Web servers available over HTTPS (that is, HTTP over the transport-layer security mechanism, TLS) send client programs an X.509 certificate that the client can then use to authenticate the server. To do that, clients verify that the server’s certificate is signed by a so-called certificate authority (CA). But to verify the CA’s signature, clients must have first acquired the CA’s certificate.

Web browsers such as GNU IceCat include their own set of CA certificates, such that they are able to verify CA signatures out-of-the-box.

However, most other programs that can talk HTTPS—wget, git, w3m, etc.—need to be told where CA certificates can be found.

In GuixSD, this is done by adding a package that provides certificates to the packages field of the operating-system declaration (see operating-system Reference). GuixSD includes one such package, nss-certs, which is a set of CA certificates provided as part of Mozilla’s Network Security Services.

Note that it is not part of %base-packages, so you need to explicitly add it. The /etc/ssl/certs directory, which is where most applications and libraries look for certificates by default, points to the certificates installed globally.

Unprivileged users can also install their own certificate package in their profile. A number of environment variables need to be defined so that applications and libraries know where to find them. Namely, the OpenSSL library honors the SSL_CERT_DIR and SSL_CERT_FILE variables. Some applications add their own environment variables; for instance, the Git version control system honors the certificate bundle pointed to by the GIT_SSL_CAINFO environment variable.

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7.2.10 Name Service Switch

The (gnu system nss) module provides bindings to the configuration file of the libc name service switch or NSS (see NSS Configuration File in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). In a nutshell, the NSS is a mechanism that allows libc to be extended with new “name” lookup methods for system databases, which includes host names, service names, user accounts, and more (see System Databases and Name Service Switch in The GNU C Library Reference Manual).

The NSS configuration specifies, for each system database, which lookup method is to be used, and how the various methods are chained together—for instance, under which circumstances NSS should try the next method in the list. The NSS configuration is given in the name-service-switch field of operating-system declarations (see name-service-switch).

As an example, the declaration below configures the NSS to use the nss-mdns back-end, which supports host name lookups over multicast DNS (mDNS) for host names ending in .local:

   (hosts (list %files    ;first, check /etc/hosts

                ;; If the above did not succeed, try
                ;; with 'mdns_minimal'.
                  (name "mdns_minimal")

                  ;; 'mdns_minimal' is authoritative for
                  ;; '.local'.  When it returns "not found",
                  ;; no need to try the next methods.
                  (reaction (lookup-specification
                             (not-found => return))))

                ;; Then fall back to DNS.
                  (name "dns"))

                ;; Finally, try with the "full" 'mdns'.
                  (name "mdns")))))

Do not worry: the %mdns-host-lookup-nss variable (see below) contains this configuration, so you will not have to type it if all you want is to have .local host lookup working.

Note that, in this case, in addition to setting the name-service-switch of the operating-system declaration, you also need to use avahi-service (see avahi-service), or %desktop-services, which includes it (see Desktop Services). Doing this makes nss-mdns accessible to the name service cache daemon (see nscd-service).

For convenience, the following variables provide typical NSS configurations.

Scheme Variable: %default-nss

This is the default name service switch configuration, a name-service-switch object.

Scheme Variable: %mdns-host-lookup-nss

This is the name service switch configuration with support for host name lookup over multicast DNS (mDNS) for host names ending in .local.

The reference for name service switch configuration is given below. It is a direct mapping of the configuration file format of the C library , so please refer to the C library manual for more information (see NSS Configuration File in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). Compared to the configuration file format of libc NSS, it has the advantage not only of adding this warm parenthetic feel that we like, but also static checks: you will know about syntax errors and typos as soon as you run guix system.

Data Type: name-service-switch

This is the data type representation the configuration of libc’s name service switch (NSS). Each field below represents one of the supported system databases.


The system databases handled by the NSS. Each of these fields must be a list of <name-service> objects (see below).

Data Type: name-service

This is the data type representing an actual name service and the associated lookup action.


A string denoting the name service (see Services in the NSS configuration in The GNU C Library Reference Manual).

Note that name services listed here must be visible to nscd. This is achieved by passing the #:name-services argument to nscd-service the list of packages providing the needed name services (see nscd-service).


An action specified using the lookup-specification macro (see Actions in the NSS configuration in The GNU C Library Reference Manual). For example:

(lookup-specification (unavailable => continue)
                      (success => return))

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7.2.11 Initial RAM Disk

For bootstrapping purposes, the Linux-Libre kernel is passed an initial RAM disk, or initrd. An initrd contains a temporary root file system as well as an initialization script. The latter is responsible for mounting the real root file system, and for loading any kernel modules that may be needed to achieve that.

The initrd field of an operating-system declaration allows you to specify which initrd you would like to use. The (gnu system linux-initrd) module provides two ways to build an initrd: the high-level base-initrd procedure, and the low-level expression->initrd procedure.

The base-initrd procedure is intended to cover most common uses. For example, if you want to add a bunch of kernel modules to be loaded at boot time, you can define the initrd field of the operating system declaration like this:

(initrd (lambda (file-systems . rest)
          ;; Create a standard initrd that has modules "foo.ko"
          ;; and "bar.ko", as well as their dependencies, in
          ;; addition to the modules available by default.
          (apply base-initrd file-systems
                 #:extra-modules '("foo" "bar")

The base-initrd procedure also handles common use cases that involves using the system as a QEMU guest, or as a “live” system with volatile root file system.

The initial RAM disk produced by base-initrd honors several options passed on the Linux kernel command line (that is, arguments passed via the linux command of GRUB, or the -append option) of QEMU, notably:


Tell the initial RAM disk to load boot, a file containing a Scheme program, once it has mounted the root file system.

GuixSD uses this option to yield control to a boot program that runs the service activation programs and then spawns the GNU Shepherd, the initialization system.


Mount root as the root file system. root can be a device name like /dev/sda1, a partition label, or a partition UUID.


Have /run/booted-system and /run/current-system point to system.


Instruct the initial RAM disk as well as the modprobe command (from the kmod package) to refuse to load modules. modules must be a comma-separated list of module names—e.g., usbkbd,9pnet.


Start a read-eval-print loop (REPL) from the initial RAM disk before it tries to load kernel modules and to mount the root file system. Our marketing team calls it boot-to-Guile. The Schemer in you will love it. See Using Guile Interactively in GNU Guile Reference Manual, for more information on Guile’s REPL.

Now that you know all the features that initial RAM disks produced by base-initrd provide, here is how to use it and customize it further.

Monadic Procedure: base-initrd file-systems [#:qemu-networking? #f] [#:virtio? #t] [#:volatile-root? #f] [#:extra-modules '()] [#:mapped-devices '()]

Return a monadic derivation that builds a generic initrd. file-systems is a list of file systems to be mounted by the initrd, possibly in addition to the root file system specified on the kernel command line via --root. mapped-devices is a list of device mappings to realize before file-systems are mounted (see Mapped Devices).

When qemu-networking? is true, set up networking with the standard QEMU parameters. When virtio? is true, load additional modules so that the initrd can be used as a QEMU guest with para-virtualized I/O drivers.

When volatile-root? is true, the root file system is writable but any changes to it are lost.

The initrd is automatically populated with all the kernel modules necessary for file-systems and for the given options. However, additional kernel modules can be listed in extra-modules. They will be added to the initrd, and loaded at boot time in the order in which they appear.

Needless to say, the initrds we produce and use embed a statically-linked Guile, and the initialization program is a Guile program. That gives a lot of flexibility. The expression->initrd procedure builds such an initrd, given the program to run in that initrd.

Monadic Procedure: expression->initrd exp [#:guile %guile-static-stripped] [#:name "guile-initrd"] [#:modules '()]

Return a derivation that builds a Linux initrd (a gzipped cpio archive) containing guile and that evaluates exp, a G-expression, upon booting. All the derivations referenced by exp are automatically copied to the initrd.

modules is a list of Guile module names to be embedded in the initrd.

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7.2.12 GRUB Configuration

The operating system uses GNU GRUB as its boot loader (see overview of GRUB in GNU GRUB Manual). It is configured using a grub-configuration declaration. This data type is exported by the (gnu system grub) module and described below.

Data Type: grub-configuration

The type of a GRUB configuration declaration.


This is a string denoting the boot device. It must be a device name understood by the grub-install command, such as /dev/sda or (hd0) (see Invoking grub-install in GNU GRUB Manual).

menu-entries (default: ())

A possibly empty list of menu-entry objects (see below), denoting entries to appear in the GRUB boot menu, in addition to the current system entry and the entry pointing to previous system generations.

default-entry (default: 0)

The index of the default boot menu entry. Index 0 is for the entry of the current system.

timeout (default: 5)

The number of seconds to wait for keyboard input before booting. Set to 0 to boot immediately, and to -1 to wait indefinitely.

theme (default: %default-theme)

The grub-theme object describing the theme to use.

Should you want to list additional boot menu entries via the menu-entries field above, you will need to create them with the menu-entry form:

Data Type: menu-entry

The type of an entry in the GRUB boot menu.


The label to show in the menu—e.g., "GNU".


The Linux kernel to boot.

linux-arguments (default: ())

The list of extra Linux kernel command-line arguments—e.g., ("console=ttyS0").


A G-Expression or string denoting the file name of the initial RAM disk to use (see G-Expressions).

Themes are created using the grub-theme form, which is not documented yet.

Scheme Variable: %default-theme

This is the default GRUB theme used by the operating system, with a fancy background image displaying the GNU and Guix logos.

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7.2.13 Invoking guix system

Once you have written an operating system declaration as seen in the previous section, it can be instantiated using the guix system command. The synopsis is:

guix system optionsaction file

file must be the name of a file containing an operating-system declaration. action specifies how the operating system is instantiated. Currently the following values are supported:


Build the operating system described in file, activate it, and switch to it21.

This effects all the configuration specified in file: user accounts, system services, global package list, setuid programs, etc. The command starts system services specified in file that are not currently running; if a service is currently running, it does not attempt to upgrade it since this would not be possible without stopping it first.

It also adds a GRUB menu entry for the new OS configuration, and moves entries for older configurations to a submenu—unless --no-grub is passed.

Note: It is highly recommended to run guix pull once before you run guix system reconfigure for the first time (see Invoking guix pull). Failing to do that you would see an older version of Guix once reconfigure has completed.


Build the derivation of the operating system, which includes all the configuration files and programs needed to boot and run the system. This action does not actually install anything.


Populate the given directory with all the files necessary to run the operating system specified in file. This is useful for first-time installations of GuixSD. For instance:

guix system init my-os-config.scm /mnt

copies to /mnt all the store items required by the configuration specified in my-os-config.scm. This includes configuration files, packages, and so on. It also creates other essential files needed for the system to operate correctly—e.g., the /etc, /var, and /run directories, and the /bin/sh file.

This command also installs GRUB on the device specified in my-os-config, unless the --no-grub option was passed.


Build a virtual machine that contains the operating system declared in file, and return a script to run that virtual machine (VM). Arguments given to the script are passed to QEMU.

The VM shares its store with the host system.

Additional file systems can be shared between the host and the VM using the --share and --expose command-line options: the former specifies a directory to be shared with write access, while the latter provides read-only access to the shared directory.

The example below creates a VM in which the user’s home directory is accessible read-only, and where the /exchange directory is a read-write mapping of $HOME/tmp on the host:

guix system vm my-config.scm \
   --expose=$HOME --share=$HOME/tmp=/exchange

On GNU/Linux, the default is to boot directly to the kernel; this has the advantage of requiring only a very tiny root disk image since the store of the host can then be mounted.

The --full-boot option forces a complete boot sequence, starting with the bootloader. This requires more disk space since a root image containing at least the kernel, initrd, and bootloader data files must be created. The --image-size option can be used to specify the size of the image.


Return a virtual machine or disk image of the operating system declared in file that stands alone. Use the --image-size option to specify the size of the image.

When using vm-image, the returned image is in qcow2 format, which the QEMU emulator can efficiently use. See Running GuixSD in a VM, for more information on how to run the image in a virtual machine.

When using disk-image, a raw disk image is produced; it can be copied as is to a USB stick, for instance. Assuming /dev/sdc is the device corresponding to a USB stick, one can copy the image to it using the following command:

# dd if=$(guix system disk-image my-os.scm) of=/dev/sdc

Return a script to run the operating system declared in file within a container. Containers are a set of lightweight isolation mechanisms provided by the kernel Linux-libre. Containers are substantially less resource-demanding than full virtual machines since the kernel, shared objects, and other resources can be shared with the host system; this also means they provide thinner isolation.

Currently, the script must be run as root in order to support more than a single user and group. The container shares its store with the host system.

As with the vm action (see guix system vm), additional file systems to be shared between the host and container can be specified using the --share and --expose options:

guix system container my-config.scm \
   --expose=$HOME --share=$HOME/tmp=/exchange

Note: This option requires Linux-libre 3.19 or newer.

options can contain any of the common build options (see Common Build Options). In addition, options can contain one of the following:

-s system

Attempt to build for system instead of the host system type. This works as per guix build (see Invoking guix build).


Return the derivation file name of the given operating system without building anything.


For the vm-image and disk-image actions, create an image of the given size. size may be a number of bytes, or it may include a unit as a suffix (see size specifications in GNU Coreutils).


Apply strategy when an error occurs when reading file. strategy may be one of the following:


Report the error concisely and exit. This is the default strategy.


Likewise, but also display a backtrace.


Report the error and enter Guile’s debugger. From there, you can run commands such as ,bt to get a backtrace, ,locals to display local variable values, and more generally inspect the state of the program. See Debug Commands in GNU Guile Reference Manual, for a list of available debugging commands.

Note that all the actions above, except build and init, rely on KVM support in the Linux-Libre kernel. Specifically, the machine should have hardware virtualization support, the corresponding KVM kernel module should be loaded, and the /dev/kvm device node must exist and be readable and writable by the user and by the build users of the daemon.

Once you have built, configured, re-configured, and re-re-configured your GuixSD installation, you may find it useful to list the operating system generations available on disk—and that you can choose from the GRUB boot menu:


List a summary of each generation of the operating system available on disk, in a human-readable way. This is similar to the --list-generations option of guix package (see Invoking guix package).

Optionally, one can specify a pattern, with the same syntax that is used in guix package --list-generations, to restrict the list of generations displayed. For instance, the following command displays generations that are up to 10 days old:

$ guix system list-generations 10d

The guix system command has even more to offer! The following sub-commands allow you to visualize how your system services relate to each other:


Emit in Dot/Graphviz format to standard output the service extension graph of the operating system defined in file (see Service Composition, for more information on service extensions.)

The command:

$ guix system extension-graph file | dot -Tpdf > services.pdf

produces a PDF file showing the extension relations among services.


Emit in Dot/Graphviz format to standard output the dependency graph of shepherd services of the operating system defined in file. See Shepherd Services, for more information and for an example graph.

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7.2.14 Running GuixSD in a Virtual Machine

One way to run GuixSD in a virtual machine (VM) is to build a GuixSD virtual machine image using guix system vm-image (see Invoking guix system). The returned image is in qcow2 format, which the QEMU emulator can efficiently use.

To run the image in QEMU, copy it out of the store (see The Store) and give yourself permission to write to the copy. When invoking QEMU, you must choose a system emulator that is suitable for your hardware platform. Here is a minimal QEMU invocation that will boot the result of guix system vm-image on x86_64 hardware:

$ qemu-system-x86_64 \
   -net user -net nic,model=virtio \
   -enable-kvm -m 256 /tmp/qemu-image

Here is what each of these options means:


This specifies the hardware platform to emulate. This should match the host.

-net user

Enable the unprivileged user-mode network stack. The guest OS can access the host but not vice versa. This is the simplest way to get the guest OS online. If you do not choose a network stack, the boot will fail.

-net nic,model=virtio

You must create a network interface of a given model. If you do not create a NIC, the boot will fail. Assuming your hardware platform is x86_64, you can get a list of available NIC models by running qemu-system-x86_64 -net nic,model=help.


If your system has hardware virtualization extensions, enabling the virtual machine support (KVM) of the Linux kernel will make things run faster.

-m 256

RAM available to the guest OS, in mebibytes. Defaults to 128 MiB, which may be insufficent for some operations.


The file name of the qcow2 image.

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7.2.15 Defining Services

The previous sections show the available services and how one can combine them in an operating-system declaration. But how do we define them in the first place? And what is a service anyway?

Next: , Up: Defining Services   [Contents][Index] Service Composition

Here we define a service as, broadly, something that extends the functionality of the operating system. Often a service is a process—a daemon—started when the system boots: a secure shell server, a Web server, the Guix build daemon, etc. Sometimes a service is a daemon whose execution can be triggered by another daemon—e.g., an FTP server started by inetd or a D-Bus service activated by dbus-daemon. Occasionally, a service does not map to a daemon. For instance, the “account” service collects user accounts and makes sure they exist when the system runs; the “udev” service collects device management rules and makes them available to the eudev daemon; the /etc service populates the /etc directory of the system.

GuixSD services are connected by extensions. For instance, the secure shell service extends the Shepherd—the GuixSD initialization system, running as PID 1—by giving it the command lines to start and stop the secure shell daemon (see lsh-service); the UPower service extends the D-Bus service by passing it its .service specification, and extends the udev service by passing it device management rules (see upower-service); the Guix daemon service extends the Shepherd by passing it the command lines to start and stop the daemon, and extends the account service by passing it a list of required build user accounts (see Base Services).

All in all, services and their “extends” relations form a directed acyclic graph (DAG). If we represent services as boxes and extensions as arrows, a typical system might provide something like this:

Typical service extension graph.

At the bottom, we see the system service, which produces the directory containing everything to run and boot the system, as returned by the guix system build command. See Service Reference, to learn about the other service types shown here. See the guix system extension-graph command, for information on how to generate this representation for a particular operating system definition.

Technically, developers can define service types to express these relations. There can be any number of services of a given type on the system—for instance, a system running two instances of the GNU secure shell server (lsh) has two instances of lsh-service-type, with different parameters.

The following section describes the programming interface for service types and services.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Defining Services   [Contents][Index] Service Types and Services

A service type is a node in the DAG described above. Let us start with a simple example, the service type for the Guix build daemon (see Invoking guix-daemon):

(define guix-service-type
   (name 'guix)
    (list (service-extension shepherd-root-service-type guix-shepherd-service)
          (service-extension account-service-type guix-accounts)
          (service-extension activation-service-type guix-activation)))))

It defines two things:

  1. A name, whose sole purpose is to make inspection and debugging easier.
  2. A list of service extensions, where each extension designates the target service type and a procedure that, given the parameters of the service, returns a list of objects to extend the service of that type.

    Every service type has at least one service extension. The only exception is the boot service type, which is the ultimate service.

In this example, guix-service-type extends three services:


The guix-shepherd-service procedure defines how the Shepherd service is extended. Namely, it returns a <shepherd-service> object that defines how guix-daemon is started and stopped (see Shepherd Services).


This extension for this service is computed by guix-accounts, which returns a list of user-group and user-account objects representing the build user accounts (see Invoking guix-daemon).


Here guix-activation is a procedure that returns a gexp, which is a code snippet to run at “activation time”—e.g., when the service is booted.

A service of this type is instantiated like this:

(service guix-service-type
           (build-accounts 5)
           (use-substitutes? #f)))

The second argument to the service form is a value representing the parameters of this specific service instance. See guix-configuration, for information about the guix-configuration data type.

guix-service-type is quite simple because it extends other services but is not extensible itself.

The service type for an extensible service looks like this:

(define udev-service-type
  (service-type (name 'udev)
                 (list (service-extension shepherd-root-service-type

                (compose concatenate)       ;concatenate the list of rules
                (extend (lambda (config rules)
                          (match config
                            (($ <udev-configuration> udev initial-rules)
                              (udev udev)   ;the udev package to use
                              (rules (append initial-rules rules)))))))))

This is the service type for the eudev device management daemon. Compared to the previous example, in addition to an extension of shepherd-root-service-type, we see two new fields:


This is the procedure to compose the list of extensions to services of this type.

Services can extend the udev service by passing it lists of rules; we compose those extensions simply by concatenating them.


This procedure defines how the value of the service is extended with the composition of the extensions.

Udev extensions are composed into a list of rules, but the udev service value is itself a <udev-configuration> record. So here, we extend that record by appending the list of rules it contains to the list of contributed rules.

There can be only one instance of an extensible service type such as udev-service-type. If there were more, the service-extension specifications would be ambiguous.

Still here? The next section provides a reference of the programming interface for services.

Next: , Previous: , Up: Defining Services   [Contents][Index] Service Reference

We have seen an overview of service types (see Service Types and Services). This section provides a reference on how to manipulate services and service types. This interface is provided by the (gnu services) module.

Scheme Procedure: service type value

Return a new service of type, a <service-type> object (see below.) value can be any object; it represents the parameters of this particular service instance.

Scheme Procedure: service? obj

Return true if obj is a service.

Scheme Procedure: service-kind service

Return the type of service—i.e., a <service-type> object.

Scheme Procedure: service-parameters service

Return the value associated with service. It represents its parameters.

Here is an example of how a service is created and manipulated:

(define s
  (service nginx-service-type
            (nginx nginx)
            (log-directory log-directory)
            (run-directory run-directory)
            (file config-file))))

(service? s)
⇒ #t

(eq? (service-kind s) nginx-service-type)
⇒ #t

The modify-services form provides a handy way to change the parameters of some of the services of a list such as %base-services (see %base-services). It evalutes to a list of services. Of course, you could always use standard list combinators such as map and fold to do that (see List Library in GNU Guile Reference Manual); modify-services simply provides a more concise form for this common pattern.

Scheme Syntax: modify-services services (type variable => body) …

Modify the services listed in services according to the given clauses. Each clause has the form:

(type variable => body)

where type is a service type—e.g., guix-service-type—and variable is an identifier that is bound within the body to the service parameters—e.g., a guix-configuration instance—of the original service of that type.

The body should evaluate to the new service parameters, which will be used to configure the new service. This new service will replace the original in the resulting list. Because a service’s service parameters are created using define-record-type*, you can write a succint body that evaluates to the new service parameters by using the inherit feature that define-record-type* provides.

See Using the Configuration System, for example usage.

Next comes the programming interface for service types. This is something you want to know when writing new service definitions, but not necessarily when simply looking for ways to customize your operating-system declaration.

Data Type: service-type

This is the representation of a service type (see Service Types and Services).


This is a symbol, used only to simplify inspection and debugging.


A non-empty list of <service-extension> objects (see below).

compose (default: #f)

If this is #f, then the service type denotes services that cannot be extended—i.e., services that do not receive “values” from other services.

Otherwise, it must be a one-argument procedure. The procedure is called by fold-services and is passed a list of values collected from extensions. It must return a value that is a valid parameter value for the service instance.

extend (default: #f)

If this is #f, services of this type cannot be extended.

Otherwise, it must be a two-argument procedure: fold-services calls it, passing it the initial value of the service as the first argument and the result of applying compose to the extension values as the second argument.

See Service Types and Services, for examples.

Scheme Procedure: service-extension target-type compute

Return a new extension for services of type target-type. compute must be a one-argument procedure: fold-services calls it, passing it the value associated with the service that provides the extension; it must return a valid value for the target service.

Scheme Procedure: service-extension? obj

Return true if obj is a service extension.

At the core of the service abstraction lies the fold-services procedure, which is responsible for “compiling” a list of services down to a single directory that contains everything needed to boot and run the system—the directory shown by the guix system build command (see Invoking guix system). In essence, it propagates service extensions down the service graph, updating each node parameters on the way, until it reaches the root node.

Scheme Procedure: fold-services services [#:target-type system-service-type]

Fold services by propagating their extensions down to the root of type target-type; return the root service adjusted accordingly.

Lastly, the (gnu services) module also defines several essential service types, some of which are listed below.

Scheme Variable: system-service-type

This is the root of the service graph. It produces the system directory as returned by the guix system build command.

Scheme Variable: boot-service-type

The type of the “boot service”, which produces the boot script. The boot script is what the initial RAM disk runs when booting.

Scheme Variable: etc-service-type

The type of the /etc service. This service can be extended by passing it name/file tuples such as:

(list `("issue" ,(plain-file "issue" "Welcome!\n")))

In this example, the effect would be to add an /etc/issue file pointing to the given file.

Scheme Variable: setuid-program-service-type

Type for the “setuid-program service”. This service collects lists of executable file names, passed as gexps, and adds them to the set of setuid-root programs on the system (see Setuid Programs).

Scheme Variable: profile-service-type

Type of the service that populates the system profile—i.e., the programs under /run/current-system/profile. Other services can extend it by passing it lists of packages to add to the system profile.

Previous: , Up: Defining Services   [Contents][Index] Shepherd Services

The (gnu services shepherd) module provides a way to define services managed by the GNU Shepherd, which is the GuixSD initialization system—the first process that is started when the system boots, also known as PID 1 (see Introduction in The GNU Shepherd Manual).

Services in the Shepherd can depend on each other. For instance, the SSH daemon may need to be started after the syslog daemon has been started, which in turn can only happen once all the file systems have been mounted. The simple operating system defined earlier (see Using the Configuration System) results in a service graph like this:

Typical shepherd service graph.

You can actually generate such a graph for any operating system definition using the guix system shepherd-graph command (see guix system shepherd-graph).

The %shepherd-root-service is a service object representing PID 1, of type shepherd-root-service-type; it can be extended by passing it lists of <shepherd-service> objects.

Data Type: shepherd-service

The data type representing a service managed by the Shepherd.


This is a list of symbols denoting what the service provides.

These are the names that may be passed to herd start, herd status, and similar commands (see Invoking herd in The GNU Shepherd Manual). See the provides slot in The GNU Shepherd Manual, for details.

requirements (default: '())

List of symbols denoting the Shepherd services this one depends on.

respawn? (default: #t)

Whether to restart the service when it stops, for instance when the underlying process dies.

stop (default: #~(const #f))

The start and stop fields refer to the Shepherd’s facilities to start and stop processes (see Service De- and Constructors in The GNU Shepherd Manual). They are given as G-expressions that get expanded in the Shepherd configuration file (see G-Expressions).


A documentation string, as shown when running:

herd doc service-name

where service-name is one of the symbols in provision (see Invoking herd in The GNU Shepherd Manual).

modules (default: %default-modules)

This is the list of modules that must be in scope when start and stop are evaluated.

imported-modules (default: %default-imported-modules)

This is the list of modules to import in the execution environment of the Shepherd.

Scheme Variable: shepherd-root-service-type

The service type for the Shepherd “root service”—i.e., PID 1.

This is the service type that extensions target when they want to create shepherd services (see Service Types and Services, for an example). Each extension must pass a list of <shepherd-service>.

Scheme Variable: %shepherd-root-service

This service represents PID 1.

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7.3 Installing Debugging Files

Program binaries, as produced by the GCC compilers for instance, are typically written in the ELF format, with a section containing debugging information. Debugging information is what allows the debugger, GDB, to map binary code to source code; it is required to debug a compiled program in good conditions.

The problem with debugging information is that is takes up a fair amount of disk space. For example, debugging information for the GNU C Library weighs in at more than 60 MiB. Thus, as a user, keeping all the debugging info of all the installed programs is usually not an option. Yet, space savings should not come at the cost of an impediment to debugging—especially in the GNU system, which should make it easier for users to exert their computing freedom (see GNU Distribution).

Thankfully, the GNU Binary Utilities (Binutils) and GDB provide a mechanism that allows users to get the best of both worlds: debugging information can be stripped from the binaries and stored in separate files. GDB is then able to load debugging information from those files, when they are available (see Separate Debug Files in Debugging with GDB).

The GNU distribution takes advantage of this by storing debugging information in the lib/debug sub-directory of a separate package output unimaginatively called debug (see Packages with Multiple Outputs). Users can choose to install the debug output of a package when they need it. For instance, the following command installs the debugging information for the GNU C Library and for GNU Guile:

guix package -i glibc:debug guile:debug

GDB must then be told to look for debug files in the user’s profile, by setting the debug-file-directory variable (consider setting it from the ~/.gdbinit file, see Startup in Debugging with GDB):

(gdb) set debug-file-directory ~/.guix-profile/lib/debug

From there on, GDB will pick up debugging information from the .debug files under ~/.guix-profile/lib/debug.

In addition, you will most likely want GDB to be able to show the source code being debugged. To do that, you will have to unpack the source code of the package of interest (obtained with guix build --source, see Invoking guix build), and to point GDB to that source directory using the directory command (see directory in Debugging with GDB).

The debug output mechanism in Guix is implemented by the gnu-build-system (see Build Systems). Currently, it is opt-in—debugging information is available only for the packages with definitions explicitly declaring a debug output. This may be changed to opt-out in the future if our build farm servers can handle the load. To check whether a package has a debug output, use guix package --list-available (see Invoking guix package).

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7.4 Security Updates

Occasionally, important security vulnerabilities are discovered in software packages and must be patched. Guix developers try hard to keep track of known vulnerabilities and to apply fixes as soon as possible in the master branch of Guix (we do not yet provide a “stable” branch containing only security updates.) The guix lint tool helps developers find out about vulnerable versions of software packages in the distribution:

$ guix lint -c cve
gnu/packages/base.scm:652:2: glibc-2.21: probably vulnerable to CVE-2015-1781, CVE-2015-7547
gnu/packages/gcc.scm:334:2: gcc-4.9.3: probably vulnerable to CVE-2015-5276
gnu/packages/image.scm:312:2: openjpeg-2.1.0: probably vulnerable to CVE-2016-1923, CVE-2016-1924

See Invoking guix lint, for more information.

Note: As of version 0.10.0, the feature described below is considered “beta”.

Guix follows a functional package management discipline (see Introduction), which implies that, when a package is changed, every package that depends on it must be rebuilt. This can significantly slow down the deployment of fixes in core packages such as libc or Bash, since basically the whole distribution would need to be rebuilt. Using pre-built binaries helps (see Substitutes), but deployment may still take more time than desired.

To address this, Guix implements grafts, a mechanism that allows for fast deployment of critical updates without the costs associated with a whole-distribution rebuild. The idea is to rebuild only the package that needs to be patched, and then to “graft” it onto packages explicitly installed by the user and that were previously referring to the original package. The cost of grafting is typically very low, and order of magnitudes lower than a full rebuild of the dependency chain.

For instance, suppose a security update needs to be applied to Bash. Guix developers will provide a package definition for the “fixed” Bash, say bash-fixed, in the usual way (see Defining Packages). Then, the original package definition is augmented with a replacement field pointing to the package containing the bug fix:

(define bash
    (name "bash")
    ;; …
    (replacement bash-fixed)))

From there on, any package depending directly or indirectly on Bash—as reported by guix gc --requisites (see Invoking guix gc)—that is installed is automatically “rewritten” to refer to bash-fixed instead of bash. This grafting process takes time proportional to the size of the package, usually less than a minute for an “average” package on a recent machine. Grafting is recursive: when an indirect dependency requires grafting, then grafting “propagates” up to the package that the user is installing.

Currently, the graft and the package it replaces (bash-fixed and bash in the example above) must have the exact same name and version fields. This restriction mostly comes from the fact that grafting works by patching files, including binary files, directly. Other restrictions may apply: for instance, when adding a graft to a package providing a shared library, the original shared library and its replacement must have the same SONAME and be binary-compatible.

The --no-grafts command-line option allows you to forcefully avoid grafting (see --no-grafts). Thus, the command:

guix build bash --no-grafts

returns the store file name of the original Bash, whereas:

guix build bash

returns the store file name of the “fixed”, replacement Bash. This allows you to distinguish between the two variants of Bash.

To verify which Bash your whole profile refers to, you can run (see Invoking guix gc):

guix gc -R `readlink -f ~/.guix-profile` | grep bash

… and compare the store file names that you get with those above. Likewise for a complete GuixSD system generation:

guix gc -R `guix system build my-config.scm` | grep bash

Lastly, to check which Bash running processes are using, you can use the lsof command:

lsof | grep /gnu/store/.*bash

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7.5 Package Modules

From a programming viewpoint, the package definitions of the GNU distribution are provided by Guile modules in the (gnu packages …) name space22 (see Guile modules in GNU Guile Reference Manual). For instance, the (gnu packages emacs) module exports a variable named emacs, which is bound to a <package> object (see Defining Packages).

The (gnu packages …) module name space is automatically scanned for packages by the command-line tools. For instance, when running guix package -i emacs, all the (gnu packages …) modules are scanned until one that exports a package object whose name is emacs is found. This package search facility is implemented in the (gnu packages) module.

Users can store package definitions in modules with different names—e.g., (my-packages emacs)23. These package definitions will not be visible by default. Users can invoke commands such as guix package and guix build with the -e option so that they know where to find the package. Better yet, they can use the -L option of these commands to make those modules visible (see --load-path), or define the GUIX_PACKAGE_PATH environment variable. This environment variable makes it easy to extend or customize the distribution and is honored by all the user interfaces.

Environment Variable: GUIX_PACKAGE_PATH

This is a colon-separated list of directories to search for additional package modules. Directories listed in this variable take precedence over the own modules of the distribution.

The distribution is fully bootstrapped and self-contained: each package is built based solely on other packages in the distribution. The root of this dependency graph is a small set of bootstrap binaries, provided by the (gnu packages bootstrap) module. For more information on bootstrapping, see Bootstrapping.

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7.6 Packaging Guidelines

The GNU distribution is nascent and may well lack some of your favorite packages. This section describes how you can help make the distribution grow. See Contributing, for additional information on how you can help.

Free software packages are usually distributed in the form of source code tarballs—typically tar.gz files that contain all the source files. Adding a package to the distribution means essentially two things: adding a recipe that describes how to build the package, including a list of other packages required to build it, and adding package metadata along with that recipe, such as a description and licensing information.

In Guix all this information is embodied in package definitions. Package definitions provide a high-level view of the package. They are written using the syntax of the Scheme programming language; in fact, for each package we define a variable bound to the package definition, and export that variable from a module (see Package Modules). However, in-depth Scheme knowledge is not a prerequisite for creating packages. For more information on package definitions, see Defining Packages.

Once a package definition is in place, stored in a file in the Guix source tree, it can be tested using the guix build command (see Invoking guix build). For example, assuming the new package is called gnew, you may run this command from the Guix build tree (see Running Guix Before It Is Installed):

./pre-inst-env guix build gnew --keep-failed

Using --keep-failed makes it easier to debug build failures since it provides access to the failed build tree. Another useful command-line option when debugging is --log-file, to access the build log.

If the package is unknown to the guix command, it may be that the source file contains a syntax error, or lacks a define-public clause to export the package variable. To figure it out, you may load the module from Guile to get more information about the actual error:

./pre-inst-env guile -c '(use-modules (gnu packages gnew))'

Once your package builds correctly, please send us a patch (see Contributing). Well, if you need help, we will be happy to help you too. Once the patch is committed in the Guix repository, the new package automatically gets built on the supported platforms by our continuous integration system.

Users can obtain the new package definition simply by running guix pull (see Invoking guix pull). When is done building the package, installing the package automatically downloads binaries from there (see Substitutes). The only place where human intervention is needed is to review and apply the patch.

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7.6.1 Software Freedom

The GNU operating system has been developed so that users can have freedom in their computing. GNU is free software, meaning that users have the four essential freedoms: to run the program, to study and change the program in source code form, to redistribute exact copies, and to distribute modified versions. Packages found in the GNU distribution provide only software that conveys these four freedoms.

In addition, the GNU distribution follow the free software distribution guidelines. Among other things, these guidelines reject non-free firmware, recommendations of non-free software, and discuss ways to deal with trademarks and patents.

Some otherwise free upstream package sources contain a small and optional subset that violates the above guidelines, for instance because this subset is itself non-free code. When that happens, the offending items are removed with appropriate patches or code snippets in the origin form of the package (see Defining Packages). This way, guix build --source returns the “freed” source rather than the unmodified upstream source.

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7.6.2 Package Naming

A package has actually two names associated with it: First, there is the name of the Scheme variable, the one following define-public. By this name, the package can be made known in the Scheme code, for instance as input to another package. Second, there is the string in the name field of a package definition. This name is used by package management commands such as guix package and guix build.

Both are usually the same and correspond to the lowercase conversion of the project name chosen upstream, with underscores replaced with hyphens. For instance, GNUnet is available as gnunet, and SDL_net as sdl-net.

We do not add lib prefixes for library packages, unless these are already part of the official project name. But see Python Modules and Perl Modules for special rules concerning modules for the Python and Perl languages.

Font package names are handled differently, see Fonts.

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7.6.3 Version Numbers

We usually package only the latest version of a given free software project. But sometimes, for instance for incompatible library versions, two (or more) versions of the same package are needed. These require different Scheme variable names. We use the name as defined in Package Naming for the most recent version; previous versions use the same name, suffixed by - and the smallest prefix of the version number that may distinguish the two versions.

The name inside the package definition is the same for all versions of a package and does not contain any version number.

For instance, the versions 2.24.20 and 3.9.12 of GTK+ may be packaged as follows:

(define-public gtk+
    (name "gtk+")
    (version "3.9.12")
(define-public gtk+-2
    (name "gtk+")
    (version "2.24.20")

If we also wanted GTK+ 3.8.2, this would be packaged as

(define-public gtk+-3.8
    (name "gtk+")
    (version "3.8.2")

Occasionally, we package snapshots of upstream’s version control system (VCS) instead of formal releases. This should remain exceptional, because it is up to upstream developers to clarify what the stable release is. Yet, it is sometimes necessary. So, what should we put in the version field?

Clearly, we need to make the commit identifier of the VCS snapshot visible in the version string, but we also need to make sure that the version string is monotonically increasing so that guix package --upgrade can determine which version is newer. Since commit identifiers, notably with Git, are not monotonically increasing, we add a revision number that we increase each time we upgrade to a newer snapshot. The resulting version string looks like this:

  ^    ^    ^
  |    |    `-- upstream commit ID
  |    |
  |    `--- Guix package revision
latest upstream version

It is a good idea to strip commit identifiers in the version field to, say, 7 digits. It avoids an aesthetic annoyance (assuming aesthetics have a role to play here) as well as problems related to OS limits such as the maximum shebang length (127 bytes for the Linux kernel.) It is best to use the full commit identifiers in origins, though, to avoid ambiguities. A typical package definition may look like this:

(define my-package
  (let ((commit "c3f29bc928d5900971f65965feaae59e1272a3f7"))
      (version (string-append "0.9-1."
                              (string-take commit 7)))
      (source (origin
                (method git-fetch)
                (uri (git-reference
                      (url "git://")
                      (commit commit)))
                (sha256 (base32 "1mbikn…"))
                (file-name (string-append "my-package-" version
      ;; …

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7.6.4 Synopses and Descriptions

As we have seen before, each package in GNU Guix includes a synopsis and a description (see Defining Packages). Synopses and descriptions are important: They are what guix package --search searches, and a crucial piece of information to help users determine whether a given package suits their needs. Consequently, packagers should pay attention to what goes into them.

Synopses must start with a capital letter and must not end with a period. They must not start with “a” or “the”, which usually does not bring anything; for instance, prefer “File-frobbing tool” over “A tool that frobs files”. The synopsis should say what the package is—e.g., “Core GNU utilities (file, text, shell)”—or what it is used for—e.g., the synopsis for GNU grep is “Print lines matching a pattern”.

Keep in mind that the synopsis must be meaningful for a very wide audience. For example, “Manipulate alignments in the SAM format” might make sense for a seasoned bioinformatics researcher, but might be fairly unhelpful or even misleading to a non-specialized audience. It is a good idea to come up with a synopsis that gives an idea of the application domain of the package. In this example, this might give something like “Manipulate nucleotide sequence alignments”, which hopefully gives the user a better idea of whether this is what they are looking for.

Descriptions should take between five and ten lines. Use full sentences, and avoid using acronyms without first introducing them. Descriptions can include Texinfo markup, which is useful to introduce ornaments such as @code or @dfn, bullet lists, or hyperlinks (see Overview in GNU Texinfo). However you should be careful when using some characters for example ‘@’ and curly braces which are the basic special characters in Texinfo (see Special Characters in GNU Texinfo). User interfaces such as guix package --show take care of rendering it appropriately.

Synopses and descriptions are translated by volunteers at the Translation Project so that as many users as possible can read them in their native language. User interfaces search them and display them in the language specified by the current locale.

Translation is a lot of work so, as a packager, please pay even more attention to your synopses and descriptions as every change may entail additional work for translators. In order to help them, it is possible to make recommendations or instructions visible to them by inserting special comments like this (see xgettext Invocation in GNU Gettext):

;; TRANSLATORS: "X11 resize-and-rotate" should not be translated.
(description "ARandR is designed to provide a simple visual front end
for the X11 resize-and-rotate (RandR) extension. …")

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7.6.5 Python Modules

We currently package Python 2 and Python 3, under the Scheme variable names python-2 and python as explained in Version Numbers. To avoid confusion and naming clashes with other programming languages, it seems desirable that the name of a package for a Python module contains the word python.

Some modules are compatible with only one version of Python, others with both. If the package Foo compiles only with Python 3, we name it python-foo; if it compiles only with Python 2, we name it python2-foo. If it is compatible with both versions, we create two packages with the corresponding names.

If a project already contains the word python, we drop this; for instance, the module python-dateutil is packaged under the names python-dateutil and python2-dateutil.

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7.6.6 Perl Modules

Perl programs standing for themselves are named as any other package, using the lowercase upstream name. For Perl packages containing a single class, we use the lowercase class name, replace all occurrences of :: by dashes and prepend the prefix perl-. So the class XML::Parser becomes perl-xml-parser. Modules containing several classes keep their lowercase upstream name and are also prepended by perl-. Such modules tend to have the word perl somewhere in their name, which gets dropped in favor of the prefix. For instance, libwww-perl becomes perl-libwww.

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7.6.7 Fonts

For fonts that are in general not installed by a user for typesetting purposes, or that are distributed as part of a larger software package, we rely on the general packaging rules for software; for instance, this applies to the fonts delivered as part of the X.Org system or fonts that are part of TeX Live.

To make it easier for a user to search for fonts, names for other packages containing only fonts are constructed as follows, independently of the upstream package name.

The name of a package containing only one font family starts with font-; it is followed by the foundry name and a dash - if the foundry is known, and the font family name, in which spaces are replaced by dashes (and as usual, all upper case letters are transformed to lower case). For example, the Gentium font family by SIL is packaged under the name font-sil-gentium.

For a package containing several font families, the name of the collection is used in the place of the font family name. For instance, the Liberation fonts consist of three families, Liberation Sans, Liberation Serif and Liberation Mono. These could be packaged separately under the names font-liberation-sans and so on; but as they are distributed together under a common name, we prefer to package them together as font-liberation.

In the case where several formats of the same font family or font collection are packaged separately, a short form of the format, prepended by a dash, is added to the package name. We use -ttf for TrueType fonts, -otf for OpenType fonts and -type1 for PostScript Type 1 fonts.

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7.7 Bootstrapping

Bootstrapping in our context refers to how the distribution gets built “from nothing”. Remember that the build environment of a derivation contains nothing but its declared inputs (see Introduction). So there’s an obvious chicken-and-egg problem: how does the first package get built? How does the first compiler get compiled? Note that this is a question of interest only to the curious hacker, not to the regular user, so you can shamelessly skip this section if you consider yourself a “regular user”.

The GNU system is primarily made of C code, with libc at its core. The GNU build system itself assumes the availability of a Bourne shell and command-line tools provided by GNU Coreutils, Awk, Findutils, ‘sed’, and ‘grep’. Furthermore, build programs—programs that run ./configure, make, etc.—are written in Guile Scheme (see Derivations). Consequently, to be able to build anything at all, from scratch, Guix relies on pre-built binaries of Guile, GCC, Binutils, libc, and the other packages mentioned above—the bootstrap binaries.

These bootstrap binaries are “taken for granted”, though we can also re-create them if needed (more on that later).

Preparing to Use the Bootstrap Binaries

Dependency graph of the early bootstrap derivations

The figure above shows the very beginning of the dependency graph of the distribution, corresponding to the package definitions of the (gnu packages bootstrap) module. A similar figure can be generated with guix graph (see Invoking guix graph), along the lines of:

guix graph -t derivation \
  -e '(@@ (gnu packages bootstrap) %bootstrap-gcc)' \
  | dot -Tps >

At this level of detail, things are slightly complex. First, Guile itself consists of an ELF executable, along with many source and compiled Scheme files that are dynamically loaded when it runs. This gets stored in the guile-2.0.7.tar.xz tarball shown in this graph. This tarball is part of Guix’s “source” distribution, and gets inserted into the store with add-to-store (see The Store).

But how do we write a derivation that unpacks this tarball and adds it to the store? To solve this problem, the guile-bootstrap-2.0.drv derivation—the first one that gets built—uses bash as its builder, which runs, which in turn calls tar to unpack the tarball. Thus, bash, tar, xz, and mkdir are statically-linked binaries, also part of the Guix source distribution, whose sole purpose is to allow the Guile tarball to be unpacked.

Once guile-bootstrap-2.0.drv is built, we have a functioning Guile that can be used to run subsequent build programs. Its first task is to download tarballs containing the other pre-built binaries—this is what the .tar.xz.drv derivations do. Guix modules such as ftp-client.scm are used for this purpose. The module-import.drv derivations import those modules in a directory in the store, using the original layout. The module-import-compiled.drv derivations compile those modules, and write them in an output directory with the right layout. This corresponds to the #:modules argument of build-expression->derivation (see Derivations).

Finally, the various tarballs are unpacked by the derivations gcc-bootstrap-0.drv, glibc-bootstrap-0.drv, etc., at which point we have a working C tool chain.

Building the Build Tools

Bootstrapping is complete when we have a full tool chain that does not depend on the pre-built bootstrap tools discussed above. This no-dependency requirement is verified by checking whether the files of the final tool chain contain references to the /gnu/store directories of the bootstrap inputs. The process that leads to this “final” tool chain is described by the package definitions found in the (gnu packages commencement) module.

The guix graph command allows us to “zoom out” compared to the graph above, by looking at the level of package objects instead of individual derivations—remember that a package may translate to several derivations, typically one derivation to download its source, one to build the Guile modules it needs, and one to actually build the package from source. The command:

guix graph -t bag \
  -e '(@@ (gnu packages commencement)
          glibc-final-with-bootstrap-bash)' | dot -Tps >

produces the dependency graph leading to the “final” C library24, depicted below.

Dependency graph of the early packages

The first tool that gets built with the bootstrap binaries is GNU Make—noted make-boot0 above—which is a prerequisite for all the following packages. From there Findutils and Diffutils get built.

Then come the first-stage Binutils and GCC, built as pseudo cross tools—i.e., with --target equal to --host. They are used to build libc. Thanks to this cross-build trick, this libc is guaranteed not to hold any reference to the initial tool chain.

From there the final Binutils and GCC (not shown above) are built. GCC uses ld from the final Binutils, and links programs against the just-built libc. This tool chain is used to build the other packages used by Guix and by the GNU Build System: Guile, Bash, Coreutils, etc.

And voilà! At this point we have the complete set of build tools that the GNU Build System expects. These are in the %final-inputs variable of the (gnu packages commencement) module, and are implicitly used by any package that uses gnu-build-system (see gnu-build-system).

Building the Bootstrap Binaries

Because the final tool chain does not depend on the bootstrap binaries, those rarely need to be updated. Nevertheless, it is useful to have an automated way to produce them, should an update occur, and this is what the (gnu packages make-bootstrap) module provides.

The following command builds the tarballs containing the bootstrap binaries (Guile, Binutils, GCC, libc, and a tarball containing a mixture of Coreutils and other basic command-line tools):

guix build bootstrap-tarballs

The generated tarballs are those that should be referred to in the (gnu packages bootstrap) module mentioned at the beginning of this section.

Still here? Then perhaps by now you’ve started to wonder: when do we reach a fixed point? That is an interesting question! The answer is unknown, but if you would like to investigate further (and have significant computational and storage resources to do so), then let us know.

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7.8 Porting to a New Platform

As discussed above, the GNU distribution is self-contained, and self-containment is achieved by relying on pre-built “bootstrap binaries” (see Bootstrapping). These binaries are specific to an operating system kernel, CPU architecture, and application binary interface (ABI). Thus, to port the distribution to a platform that is not yet supported, one must build those bootstrap binaries, and update the (gnu packages bootstrap) module to use them on that platform.

Fortunately, Guix can cross compile those bootstrap binaries. When everything goes well, and assuming the GNU tool chain supports the target platform, this can be as simple as running a command like this one:

guix build --target=armv5tel-linux-gnueabi bootstrap-tarballs

For this to work, the glibc-dynamic-linker procedure in (gnu packages bootstrap) must be augmented to return the right file name for libc’s dynamic linker on that platform; likewise, system->linux-architecture in (gnu packages linux) must be taught about the new platform.

Once these are built, the (gnu packages bootstrap) module needs to be updated to refer to these binaries on the target platform. That is, the hashes and URLs of the bootstrap tarballs for the new platform must be added alongside those of the currently supported platforms. The bootstrap Guile tarball is treated specially: it is expected to be available locally, and has rules do download it for the supported architectures; a rule for the new platform must be added as well.

In practice, there may be some complications. First, it may be that the extended GNU triplet that specifies an ABI (like the eabi suffix above) is not recognized by all the GNU tools. Typically, glibc recognizes some of these, whereas GCC uses an extra --with-abi configure flag (see gcc.scm for examples of how to handle this). Second, some of the required packages could fail to build for that platform. Lastly, the generated binaries could be broken for some reason.

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8 Contributing

This project is a cooperative effort, and we need your help to make it grow! Please get in touch with us on and #guix on the Freenode IRC network. We welcome ideas, bug reports, patches, and anything that may be helpful to the project. We particularly welcome help on packaging (see Packaging Guidelines).

We want to provide a warm, friendly, and harassment-free environment, so that anyone can contribute to the best of their abilities. To this end our project uses a “Contributor Covenant”, which was adapted from You can find a local version in the CODE-OF-CONDUCT file in the source tree.

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8.1 Building from Git

If you want to hack Guix itself, it is recommended to use the latest version from the Git repository. When building Guix from a checkout, the following packages are required in addition to those mentioned in the installation instructions (see Requirements).

The easiest way to set up a development environment for Guix is, of course, by using Guix! The following command starts a new shell where all the dependencies and appropriate environment variables are set up to hack on Guix:

guix environment guix

See Invoking guix environment, for more information on that command. Extra dependencies can be added with --ad-hoc:

guix environment guix --ad-hoc help2man git strace

Run ./bootstrap to generate the build system infrastructure using Autoconf and Automake. If you get an error like this one: error: possibly undefined macro: PKG_CHECK_MODULES

it probably means that Autoconf couldn’t find pkg.m4, which is provided by pkg-config. Make sure that pkg.m4 is available. The same holds for the guile.m4 set of macros provided by Guile. For instance, if you installed Automake in /usr/local, it wouldn’t look for .m4 files in /usr/share. In that case, you have to invoke the following command:

export ACLOCAL_PATH=/usr/share/aclocal

See Macro Search Path in The GNU Automake Manual, for more information.

Then, run ./configure as usual.

Finally, you have to invoke make check to run tests. If anything fails, take a look at installation instructions (see Installation) or send a message to the mailing list.

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8.2 Running Guix Before It Is Installed

In order to keep a sane working environment, you will find it useful to test the changes made in your local source tree checkout without actually installing them. So that you can distinguish between your “end-user” hat and your “motley” costume.

To that end, all the command-line tools can be used even if you have not run make install. To do that, prefix each command with ./pre-inst-env (the pre-inst-env script lives in the top build tree of Guix), as in:

$ sudo ./pre-inst-env guix-daemon --build-users-group=guixbuild
$ ./pre-inst-env guix build hello

Similarly, for a Guile session using the Guix modules:

$ ./pre-inst-env guile -c '(use-modules (guix utils)) (pk (%current-system))'

;;; ("x86_64-linux")

… and for a REPL (see Using Guile Interactively in Guile Reference Manual):

$ ./pre-inst-env guile
scheme@(guile-user)> ,use(guix)
scheme@(guile-user)> ,use(gnu)
scheme@(guile-user)> (define snakes
                         (lambda (package lst)
                           (if (string-prefix? "python"
                                               (package-name package))
                               (cons package lst)
scheme@(guile-user)> (length snakes)
$1 = 361

The pre-inst-env script sets up all the environment variables necessary to support this, including PATH and GUILE_LOAD_PATH.

Note that ./pre-inst-env guix pull does not upgrade the local source tree; it simply updates the ~/.config/guix/latest symlink (see Invoking guix pull). Run git pull instead if you want to upgrade your local source tree.25

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8.3 The Perfect Setup

The Perfect Setup to hack on Guix is basically the perfect setup used for Guile hacking (see Using Guile in Emacs in Guile Reference Manual). First, you need more than an editor, you need Emacs, empowered by the wonderful Geiser.

Geiser allows for interactive and incremental development from within Emacs: code compilation and evaluation from within buffers, access to on-line documentation (docstrings), context-sensitive completion, M-. to jump to an object definition, a REPL to try out your code, and more (see Introduction in Geiser User Manual). For convenient Guix development, make sure to augment Guile’s load path so that it finds source files from your checkout:

;; Assuming the Guix checkout is in ~/src/guix.
(with-eval-after-load 'geiser-guile
  (add-to-list 'geiser-guile-load-path "~/src/guix"))

To actually edit the code, Emacs already has a neat Scheme mode. But in addition to that, you must not miss Paredit. It provides facilities to directly operate on the syntax tree, such as raising an s-expression or wrapping it, swallowing or rejecting the following s-expression, etc.

GNU Guix also comes with a minor mode that provides some additional functionality for Scheme buffers (see Emacs Development).

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8.4 Coding Style

In general our code follows the GNU Coding Standards (see GNU Coding Standards). However, they do not say much about Scheme, so here are some additional rules.

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8.4.1 Programming Paradigm

Scheme code in Guix is written in a purely functional style. One exception is code that involves input/output, and procedures that implement low-level concepts, such as the memoize procedure.

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8.4.2 Modules

Guile modules that are meant to be used on the builder side must live in the (guix build …) name space. They must not refer to other Guix or GNU modules. However, it is OK for a “host-side” module to use a build-side module.

Modules that deal with the broader GNU system should be in the (gnu …) name space rather than (guix …).

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8.4.3 Data Types and Pattern Matching

The tendency in classical Lisp is to use lists to represent everything, and then to browse them “by hand” using car, cdr, cadr, and co. There are several problems with that style, notably the fact that it is hard to read, error-prone, and a hindrance to proper type error reports.

Guix code should define appropriate data types (for instance, using define-record-type*) rather than abuse lists. In addition, it should use pattern matching, via Guile’s (ice-9 match) module, especially when matching lists.

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8.4.4 Formatting Code

When writing Scheme code, we follow common wisdom among Scheme programmers. In general, we follow the Riastradh’s Lisp Style Rules. This document happens to describe the conventions mostly used in Guile’s code too. It is very thoughtful and well written, so please do read it.

Some special forms introduced in Guix, such as the substitute* macro, have special indentation rules. These are defined in the .dir-locals.el file, which Emacs automatically uses. If you do not use Emacs, please make sure to let your editor know the rules.

We require all top-level procedures to carry a docstring. This requirement can be relaxed for simple private procedures in the (guix build …) name space, though.

Procedures should not have more than four positional parameters. Use keyword parameters for procedures that take more than four parameters.

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8.5 Submitting Patches

Development is done using the Git distributed version control system. Thus, access to the repository is not strictly necessary. We welcome contributions in the form of patches as produced by git format-patch sent to the mailing list. Please write commit logs in the ChangeLog format (see Change Logs in GNU Coding Standards); you can check the commit history for examples.

Before submitting a patch that adds or modifies a package definition, please run through this check list:

  1. Take some time to provide an adequate synopsis and description for the package. See Synopses and Descriptions, for some guidelines.
  2. Run guix lint package, where package is the name of the new or modified package, and fix any errors it reports (see Invoking guix lint).
  3. Make sure the package builds on your platform, using guix build package.
  4. Take a look at the profile reported by guix size (see Invoking guix size). This will allow you to notice references to other packages unwillingly retained. It may also help determine whether to split the package (see Packages with Multiple Outputs), and which optional dependencies should be used.
  5. For important changes, check that dependent package (if applicable) are not affected by the change; guix refresh --list-dependent package will help you do that (see Invoking guix refresh).
  6. Check whether the package’s build process is deterministic. This typically means checking whether an independent build of the package yields the exact same result that you obtained, bit for bit.

    A simple way to do that is by building the same package several times in a row on your machine (see Invoking guix build):

    guix build --rounds=2 my-package

    This is enough to catch a class of common non-determinism issues, such as timestamps or randomly-generated output in the build result.

    Another option is to use guix challenge (see Invoking guix challenge). You may run it once the package has been committed and built by to check whether it obtains the same result as you did. Better yet: Find another machine that can build it and run guix publish. Since the remote build machine is likely different from yours, this can catch non-determinism issues related to the hardware—e.g., use of different instruction set extensions—or to the operating system kernel—e.g., reliance on uname or /proc files.

When posting a patch to the mailing list, use ‘[PATCH] …’ as a subject. You may use your email client or the git send-email command.

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9 Acknowledgments

Guix is based on the Nix package manager, which was designed and implemented by Eelco Dolstra, with contributions from other people (see the nix/AUTHORS file in Guix.) Nix pioneered functional package management, and promoted unprecedented features, such as transactional package upgrades and rollbacks, per-user profiles, and referentially transparent build processes. Without this work, Guix would not exist.

The Nix-based software distributions, Nixpkgs and NixOS, have also been an inspiration for Guix.

GNU Guix itself is a collective work with contributions from a number of people. See the AUTHORS file in Guix for more information on these fine people. The THANKS file lists people who have helped by reporting bugs, taking care of the infrastructure, providing artwork and themes, making suggestions, and more—thank you!

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Appendix A GNU Free Documentation License

Version 1.3, 3 November 2008
Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

    The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document free in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others.

    This License is a kind of “copyleft”, which means that derivative works of the document must themselves be free in the same sense. It complements the GNU General Public License, which is a copyleft license designed for free software.

    We have designed this License in order to use it for manuals for free software, because free software needs free documentation: a free program should come with manuals providing the same freedoms that the software does. But this License is not limited to software manuals; it can be used for any textual work, regardless of subject matter or whether it is published as a printed book. We recommend this License principally for works whose purpose is instruction or reference.


    This License applies to any manual or other work, in any medium, that contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it can be distributed under the terms of this License. Such a notice grants a world-wide, royalty-free license, unlimited in duration, to use that work under the conditions stated herein. The “Document”, below, refers to any such manual or work. Any member of the public is a licensee, and is addressed as “you”. You accept the license if you copy, modify or distribute the work in a way requiring permission under copyright law.

    A “Modified Version” of the Document means any work containing the Document or a portion of it, either copied verbatim, or with modifications and/or translated into another language.

    A “Secondary Section” is a named appendix or a front-matter section of the Document that deals exclusively with the relationship of the publishers or authors of the Document to the Document’s overall subject (or to related matters) and contains nothing that could fall directly within that overall subject. (Thus, if the Document is in part a textbook of mathematics, a Secondary Section may not explain any mathematics.) The relationship could be a matter of historical connection with the subject or with related matters, or of legal, commercial, philosophical, ethical or political position regarding them.

    The “Invariant Sections” are certain Secondary Sections whose titles are designated, as being those of Invariant Sections, in the notice that says that the Document is released under this License. If a section does not fit the above definition of Secondary then it is not allowed to be designated as Invariant. The Document may contain zero Invariant Sections. If the Document does not identify any Invariant Sections then there are none.

    The “Cover Texts” are certain short passages of text that are listed, as Front-Cover Texts or Back-Cover Texts, in the notice that says that the Document is released under this License. A Front-Cover Text may be at most 5 words, and a Back-Cover Text may be at most 25 words.

    A “Transparent” copy of the Document means a machine-readable copy, represented in a format whose specification is available to the general public, that is suitable for revising the document straightforwardly with generic text editors or (for images composed of pixels) generic paint programs or (for drawings) some widely available drawing editor, and that is suitable for input to text formatters or for automatic translation to a variety of formats suitable for input to text formatters. A copy made in an otherwise Transparent file format whose markup, or absence of markup, has been arranged to thwart or discourage subsequent modification by readers is not Transparent. An image format is not Transparent if used for any substantial amount of text. A copy that is not “Transparent” is called “Opaque”.

    Examples of suitable formats for Transparent copies include plain ASCII without markup, Texinfo input format, LaTeX input format, SGML or XML using a publicly available DTD, and standard-conforming simple HTML, PostScript or PDF designed for human modification. Examples of transparent image formats include PNG, XCF and JPG. Opaque formats include proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary word processors, SGML or XML for which the DTD and/or processing tools are not generally available, and the machine-generated HTML, PostScript or PDF produced by some word processors for output purposes only.

    The “Title Page” means, for a printed book, the title page itself, plus such following pages as are needed to hold, legibly, the material this License requires to appear in the title page. For works in formats which do not have any title page as such, “Title Page” means the text near the most prominent appearance of the work’s title, preceding the beginning of the body of the text.

    The “publisher” means any person or entity that distributes copies of the Document to the public.

    A section “Entitled XYZ” means a named subunit of the Document whose title either is precisely XYZ or contains XYZ in parentheses following text that translates XYZ in another language. (Here XYZ stands for a specific section name mentioned below, such as “Acknowledgements”, “Dedications”, “Endorsements”, or “History”.) To “Preserve the Title” of such a section when you modify the Document means that it remains a section “Entitled XYZ” according to this definition.

    The Document may include Warranty Disclaimers next to the notice which states that this License applies to the Document. These Warranty Disclaimers are considered to be included by reference in this License, but only as regards disclaiming warranties: any other implication that these Warranty Disclaimers may have is void and has no effect on the meaning of this License.


    You may copy and distribute the Document in any medium, either commercially or noncommercially, provided that this License, the copyright notices, and the license notice saying this License applies to the Document are reproduced in all copies, and that you add no other conditions whatsoever to those of this License. You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute. However, you may accept compensation in exchange for copies. If you distribute a large enough number of copies you must also follow the conditions in section 3.

    You may also lend copies, under the same conditions stated above, and you may publicly display copies.


    If you publish printed copies (or copies in media that commonly have printed covers) of the Document, numbering more than 100, and the Document’s license notice requires Cover Texts, you must enclose the copies in covers that carry, clearly and legibly, all these Cover Texts: Front-Cover Texts on the front cover, and Back-Cover Texts on the back cover. Both covers must also clearly and legibly identify you as the publisher of these copies. The front cover must present the full title with all words of the title equally prominent and visible. You may add other material on the covers in addition. Copying with changes limited to the covers, as long as they preserve the title of the Document and satisfy these conditions, can be treated as verbatim copying in other respects.

    If the required texts for either cover are too voluminous to fit legibly, you should put the first ones listed (as many as fit reasonably) on the actual cover, and continue the rest onto adjacent pages.

    If you publish or distribute Opaque copies of the Document numbering more than 100, you must either include a machine-readable Transparent copy along with each Opaque copy, or state in or with each Opaque copy a computer-network location from which the general network-using public has access to download using public-standard network protocols a complete Transparent copy of the Document, free of added material. If you use the latter option, you must take reasonably prudent steps, when you begin distribution of Opaque copies in quantity, to ensure that this Transparent copy will remain thus accessible at the stated location until at least one year after the last time you distribute an Opaque copy (directly or through your agents or retailers) of that edition to the public.

    It is requested, but not required, that you contact the authors of the Document well before redistributing any large number of copies, to give them a chance to provide you with an updated version of the Document.


    You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Document under the conditions of sections 2 and 3 above, provided that you release the Modified Version under precisely this License, with the Modified Version filling the role of the Document, thus licensing distribution and modification of the Modified Version to whoever possesses a copy of it. In addition, you must do these things in the Modified Version:

    1. Use in the Title Page (and on the covers, if any) a title distinct from that of the Document, and from those of previous versions (which should, if there were any, be listed in the History section of the Document). You may use the same title as a previous version if the original publisher of that version gives permission.
    2. List on the Title Page, as authors, one or more persons or entities responsible for authorship of the modifications in the Modified Version, together with at least five of the principal authors of the Document (all of its principal authors, if it has fewer than five), unless they release you from this requirement.
    3. State on the Title page the name of the publisher of the Modified Version, as the publisher.
    4. Preserve all the copyright notices of the Document.
    5. Add an appropriate copyright notice for your modifications adjacent to the other copyright notices.
    6. Include, immediately after the copyright notices, a license notice giving the public permission to use the Modified Version under the terms of this License, in the form shown in the Addendum below.
    7. Preserve in that license notice the full lists of Invariant Sections and required Cover Texts given in the Document’s license notice.
    8. Include an unaltered copy of this License.
    9. Preserve the section Entitled “History”, Preserve its Title, and add to it an item stating at least the title, year, new authors, and publisher of the Modified Version as given on the Title Page. If there is no section Entitled “History” in the Document, create one stating the title, year, authors, and publisher of the Document as given on its Title Page, then add an item describing the Modified Version as stated in the previous sentence.
    10. Preserve the network location, if any, given in the Document for public access to a Transparent copy of the Document, and likewise the network locations given in the Document for previous versions it was based on. These may be placed in the “History” section. You may omit a network location for a work that was published at least four years before the Document itself, or if the original publisher of the version it refers to gives permission.
    11. For any section Entitled “Acknowledgements” or “Dedications”, Preserve the Title of the section, and preserve in the section all the substance and tone of each of the contributor acknowledgements and/or dedications given therein.
    12. Preserve all the Invariant Sections of the Document, unaltered in their text and in their titles. Section numbers or the equivalent are not considered part of the section titles.
    13. Delete any section Entitled “Endorsements”. Such a section may not be included in the Modified Version.
    14. Do not retitle any existing section to be Entitled “Endorsements” or to conflict in title with any Invariant Section.
    15. Preserve any Warranty Disclaimers.

    If the Modified Version includes new front-matter sections or appendices that qualify as Secondary Sections and contain no material copied from the Document, you may at your option designate some or all of these sections as invariant. To do this, add their titles to the list of Invariant Sections in the Modified Version’s license notice. These titles must be distinct from any other section titles.

    You may add a section Entitled “Endorsements”, provided it contains nothing but endorsements of your Modified Version by various parties—for example, statements of peer review or that the text has been approved by an organization as the authoritative definition of a standard.

    You may add a passage of up to five words as a Front-Cover Text, and a passage of up to 25 words as a Back-Cover Text, to the end of the list of Cover Texts in the Modified Version. Only one passage of Front-Cover Text and one of Back-Cover Text may be added by (or through arrangements made by) any one entity. If the Document already includes a cover text for the same cover, previously added by you or by arrangement made by the same entity you are acting on behalf of, you may not add another; but you may replace the old one, on explicit permission from the previous publisher that added the old one.

    The author(s) and publisher(s) of the Document do not by this License give permission to use their names for publicity for or to assert or imply endorsement of any Modified Version.


    You may combine the Document with other documents released under this License, under the terms defined in section 4 above for modified versions, provided that you include in the combination all of the Invariant Sections of all of the original documents, unmodified, and list them all as Invariant Sections of your combined work in its license notice, and that you preserve all their Warranty Disclaimers.

    The combined work need only contain one copy of this License, and multiple identical Invariant Sections may be replaced with a single copy. If there are multiple Invariant Sections with the same name but different contents, make the title of each such section unique by adding at the end of it, in parentheses, the name of the original author or publisher of that section if known, or else a unique number. Make the same adjustment to the section titles in the list of Invariant Sections in the license notice of the combined work.

    In the combination, you must combine any sections Entitled “History” in the various original documents, forming one section Entitled “History”; likewise combine any sections Entitled “Acknowledgements”, and any sections Entitled “Dedications”. You must delete all sections Entitled “Endorsements.”


    You may make a collection consisting of the Document and other documents released under this License, and replace the individual copies of this License in the various documents with a single copy that is included in the collection, provided that you follow the rules of this License for verbatim copying of each of the documents in all other respects.

    You may extract a single document from such a collection, and distribute it individually under this License, provided you insert a copy of this License into the extracted document, and follow this License in all other respects regarding verbatim copying of that document.


    A compilation of the Document or its derivatives with other separate and independent documents or works, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, is called an “aggregate” if the copyright resulting from the compilation is not used to limit the legal rights of the compilation’s users beyond what the individual works permit. When the Document is included in an aggregate, this License does not apply to the other works in the aggregate which are not themselves derivative works of the Document.

    If the Cover Text requirement of section 3 is applicable to these copies of the Document, then if the Document is less than one half of the entire aggregate, the Document’s Cover Texts may be placed on covers that bracket the Document within the aggregate, or the electronic equivalent of covers if the Document is in electronic form. Otherwise they must appear on printed covers that bracket the whole aggregate.


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    The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. See

    Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License “or any later version” applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document specifies that a proxy can decide which future versions of this License can be used, that proxy’s public statement of acceptance of a version permanently authorizes you to choose that version for the Document.


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    An MMC is “eligible for relicensing” if it is licensed under this License, and if all works that were first published under this License somewhere other than this MMC, and subsequently incorporated in whole or in part into the MMC, (1) had no cover texts or invariant sections, and (2) were thus incorporated prior to November 1, 2008.

    The operator of an MMC Site may republish an MMC contained in the site under CC-BY-SA on the same site at any time before August 1, 2009, provided the MMC is eligible for relicensing.

ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:

  Copyright (C)  year  your name.
  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
  under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
  or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
  with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
  Texts.  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU
  Free Documentation License''.

If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover Texts, replace the “with…Texts.” line with this:

    with the Invariant Sections being list their titles, with
    the Front-Cover Texts being list, and with the Back-Cover Texts
    being list.

If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.

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Concept Index

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Index Entry  Section

.local, host name lookup: Name Service Switch

authorizing, archives: Invoking guix archive

bag (low-level package representation): Build Systems
Bioconductor: Invoking guix import
black list, of kernel modules: Initial RAM Disk
boot loader: GRUB Configuration
bootstrap binaries: Bootstrapping
bootstrapping: Bootstrapping
build code quoting: G-Expressions
build daemon: Introduction
build environment: Invoking guix-daemon
build hook: Daemon Offload Setup
build hook: Invoking guix-daemon
build phases: Build Systems
build system: Build Systems
build users: Build Environment Setup

chroot: Build Environment Setup
chroot: Invoking guix-daemon
closure: Invoking guix gc
closure: Invoking guix size
code of conduct, of contributors: Contributing
container: Invoking guix environment
container: Invoking guix container
container, build environment: Invoking guix-daemon
contributor covenant: Contributing
CPAN: Invoking guix import
CRAN: Invoking guix import
cross compilation: G-Expressions
cross compilation, package dependencies: package Reference
cross-compilation: Defining Packages
cross-compilation: Additional Build Options
customization of packages: Introduction
customization, of packages: Package Modules
customization, of services: Using the Configuration System
CVE, Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures: Invoking guix lint

daemon: Setting Up the Daemon
daemons: Service Composition
DAG: Invoking guix graph
debugging files: Installing Debugging Files
deduplication: Invoking guix-daemon
deduplication: Invoking guix gc
derivation: Programming Interface
derivation path: Derivations
derivations: Derivations
determinism, checking: Additional Build Options
determinism, of build processes: Submitting Patches
development environments: Invoking guix environment
device mapping: Mapped Devices
DHCP, networking service: Networking Services
digital signatures: Substitutes
disk encryption: Mapped Devices

elpa: Invoking guix import
Emacs: Emacs Interface
extensibility of the distribution: Introduction

file-like objects: G-Expressions
firmware: operating-system Reference
functional package management: Introduction

G-expression: G-Expressions
garbage collector: Invoking guix gc
gem: Invoking guix import
GNU Build System: Defining Packages
grafts: Security Updates
GRUB: GRUB Configuration
Guix System Distribution: Introduction
Guix System Distribution: GNU Distribution
Guix System Distribution: System Installation
GuixSD: Introduction
GuixSD: GNU Distribution

hackage: Invoking guix import
hardware support on GuixSD: Hardware Considerations
hidden service: Networking Services
hosts file: operating-system Reference
HTTPS, certificates: X.509 Certificates

importing packages: Invoking guix import
incompatibility, of locale data: Locales
init system: Shepherd Services
initial RAM disk (initrd): Initial RAM Disk
initrd (initial RAM disk): Initial RAM Disk
inputs, of packages: package Reference
integrity checking: Invoking guix gc
integrity, of the store: Invoking guix gc
invalid store items: The Store

keyboard layout: Preparing for Installation
keyboard layout: Base Services

locale: Locales
locale definition: Locales
locale name: Locales
locales, when not on GuixSD: Application Setup
lowering, of high-level objects in gexps: G-Expressions
lowering, of high-level objects in gexps: G-Expressions
LUKS: Mapped Devices

mapped devices: Mapped Devices
module, black-listing: Initial RAM Disk
monad: The Store Monad
monadic functions: The Store Monad
monadic values: The Store Monad
multiple-output packages: Packages with Multiple Outputs

name service cache daemon: Base Services
name service switch: Name Service Switch
network management: Networking Services
NetworkManager: Networking Services
non-determinism, in package builds: Invoking guix challenge
normalized codeset in locale names: Locales
nscd: Base Services
NSS: Name Service Switch
nss-certs: X.509 Certificates
nss-mdns: Name Service Switch

offloading: Daemon Offload Setup

package conversion: Invoking guix import
package definition, editing: Invoking guix edit
package import: Invoking guix import
package module search path: Package Modules
package outputs: Packages with Multiple Outputs
package variants: Package Transformation Options
PAM: operating-system Reference
patches: Defining Packages
PID 1: Shepherd Services
pluggable authentication modules: operating-system Reference
pre-built binaries: Substitutes
profile declaration: Invoking guix package
profile manifest: Invoking guix package
propagated inputs: Invoking guix package
purpose: Introduction
pypi: Invoking guix import

read-eval-print loop: Emacs General info
read-eval-print loop: Running Guix Before It Is Installed
repairing the store: Invoking guix gc
REPL: Emacs General info
REPL: Running Guix Before It Is Installed
replacements of packages, for grafts: Security Updates
reproducibility: Features
reproducibility, checking: Additional Build Options
reproducible build environments: Invoking guix environment
reproducible builds: Invoking guix-daemon
reproducible builds: Features
reproducible builds: Invoking guix challenge
reproducible builds, checking: Submitting Patches
roll-back, of the operating system: Using the Configuration System
RYF, Respects Your Freedom: Hardware Considerations

search paths: Invoking guix package
search paths: Invoking guix package
searching for packages: Invoking guix package
security: Substitutes
security updates: Security Updates
security vulnerabilities: Invoking guix lint
security vulnerabilities: Security Updates
service extensions: Service Composition
service type: Service Reference
service types: Service Composition
services: Service Composition
setuid programs: Setuid Programs
signing, archives: Invoking guix archive
state monad: The Store Monad
store: Introduction
store: The Store
store items: The Store
store paths: The Store
strata of code: G-Expressions
substituter: Packaging Guidelines
substitutes: Invoking guix-daemon
substitutes: Features
substitutes: Substitutes
sudoers file: operating-system Reference
swap devices: operating-system Reference
system configuration: System Configuration
system service: Service Composition
system services: Services

Texinfo markup, in package descriptions: Synopses and Descriptions
TLS: X.509 Certificates

user interfaces: Introduction

verifiable builds: Invoking guix challenge
version number, for VCS snapshots: Version Numbers
virtual machine: Invoking guix system
VM: Invoking guix system

wicd: Networking Services
WiFi, hardware support: Hardware Considerations

X session: X Window
X.509 certificates: X.509 Certificates

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Previous: , Up: Top   [Contents][Index]

Programming Index

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Index Entry  Section

#~exp: G-Expressions

%base-file-systems: File Systems
%base-groups: User Accounts
%base-packages: Using the Configuration System
%base-services: Using the Configuration System
%base-services: Base Services
%base-user-accounts: User Accounts
%binary-format-file-system: File Systems
%default-locale-definitions: Locales
%default-nss: Name Service Switch
%default-theme: X Window
%default-theme: GRUB Configuration
%default-theme-name: X Window
%desktop-services: Desktop Services
%facebook-host-aliases: Networking Services
%fuse-control-file-system: File Systems
%immutable-store: File Systems
%mdns-host-lookup-nss: Name Service Switch
%nscd-default-caches: Base Services
%nscd-default-configuration: Base Services
%ntp-servers: Networking Services
%pseudo-terminal-file-system: File Systems
%setuid-programs: Setuid Programs
%shared-memory-file-system: File Systems
%shepherd-root-service: Shepherd Services
%standard-geoclue-applications: Desktop Services
%standard-phases: Build Systems
%state-monad: The Store Monad
%store-monad: The Store Monad

(gexp: G-Expressions

>>=: The Store Monad

add-text-to-store: The Store
address: Mail Services
ant-build-system: Build Systems
args: Mail Services
args: Mail Services
auth-anonymous-username: Mail Services
auth-cache-negative-ttl: Mail Services
auth-cache-size: Mail Services
auth-cache-ttl: Mail Services
auth-debug-passwords?: Mail Services
auth-debug?: Mail Services
auth-default-realm: Mail Services
auth-failure-delay: Mail Services
auth-gssapi-hostname: Mail Services
auth-krb5-keytab: Mail Services
auth-master-user-separator: Mail Services
auth-mechanisms: Mail Services
auth-realms: Mail Services
auth-socket-path: Mail Services
auth-socket-path: Mail Services
auth-ssl-require-client-cert?: Mail Services
auth-ssl-username-from-cert?: Mail Services
auth-use-winbind?: Mail Services
auth-username-chars: Mail Services
auth-username-format: Mail Services
auth-username-translation: Mail Services
auth-verbose-passwords?: Mail Services
auth-verbose?: Mail Services
auth-winbind-helper-path: Mail Services
auth-worker-max-count: Mail Services
auto: Mail Services
avahi-service: Networking Services

base-dir: Mail Services
base-initrd: Initial RAM Disk
bitlbee-service: Networking Services
boot-service-type: Service Reference
build-derivations: The Store
build-expression->derivation: Derivations
build-machine: Daemon Offload Setup

close-connection: The Store
cmake-build-system: Build Systems
colord-service: Desktop Services
computed-file: G-Expressions
console-keymap-service: Base Services
current-build-output-port: The Store
current-state: The Store Monad

dbus-service: Desktop Services
debug-log-path: Mail Services
default-client-limit: Mail Services
default-internal-user: Mail Services
default-login-user: Mail Services
default-process-limit: Mail Services
default-vsz-limit: Mail Services
deliver-log-format: Mail Services
derivation: Derivations
dhcp-client-service: Networking Services
dict: Mail Services
director-doveadm-port: Mail Services
director-mail-servers: Mail Services
director-servers: Mail Services
director-user-expire: Mail Services
director-username-hash: Mail Services
disable-plaintext-auth?: Mail Services
dotlock-use-excl?: Mail Services
doveadm-socket-path: Mail Services
doveadm-worker-count: Mail Services
dovecot: Mail Services
dovecot: Mail Services
dovecot-service: Mail Services
driver: Mail Services
driver: Mail Services

elogind-service: Desktop Services
emacs-build-system: Build Systems
entries: Mail Services
etc-service-type: Service Reference
expression->initrd: Initial RAM Disk

file-system: File Systems
first-valid-gid: Mail Services
first-valid-uid: Mail Services
fold-services: Service Reference

geoclue-application: Desktop Services
geoclue-service: Desktop Services
gexp->derivation: G-Expressions
gexp->file: G-Expressions
gexp->script: G-Expressions
gexp?: G-Expressions
glib-or-gtk-build-system: Build Systems
gnome-desktop-service: Desktop Services
gnu-build-system: Build Systems
gpm-service-type: Base Services
group: Mail Services
group: Mail Services
grub-configuration: GRUB Configuration
guix-configuration: Base Services
guix-publish-service: Base Services
guix-service: Base Services
GUIX_BUILD_OPTIONS: Common Build Options
GUIX_ENVIRONMENT: Invoking guix environment
GUIX_LOCPATH: Application Setup
GUIX_PACKAGE_PATH: Package Modules

haskell-build-system: Build Systems
hidden?: Mail Services
host-name-service: Base Services
hostname: Mail Services
http_proxy: Build Environment Setup
http_proxy: Substitutes

imap-capability: Mail Services
imap-client-workarounds: Mail Services
imap-id-log: Mail Services
imap-id-send: Mail Services
imap-idle-notify-interval: Mail Services
imap-logout-format: Mail Services
imap-max-line-length: Mail Services
imap-urlauth-host: Mail Services
import-environment: Mail Services
inbox?: Mail Services
info-log-path: Mail Services
interned-file: The Store Monad

kind: Mail Services

last-valid-gid: Mail Services
last-valid-uid: Mail Services
lda-mailbox-autocreate?: Mail Services
lda-mailbox-autosubscribe?: Mail Services
lda-original-recipient-header: Mail Services
lirc-service: Various Services
list?: Mail Services
listen: Mail Services
listeners: Mail Services
local-file: G-Expressions
locale-definition: Locales
location: Mail Services
lock-method: Mail Services
LOCPATH: Application Setup
LOCPATH: Locales
log-path: Mail Services
log-timestamp: Mail Services
login-access-sockets: Mail Services
login-greeting: Mail Services
login-log-format: Mail Services
login-log-format-elements: Mail Services
login-trusted-networks: Mail Services
lower-object: G-Expressions
lsh-service: Networking Services
luks-device-mapping: Mapped Devices

mail-access-groups: Mail Services
mail-attachment-dir: Mail Services
mail-attachment-fs: Mail Services
mail-attachment-hash: Mail Services
mail-attachment-min-size: Mail Services
mail-cache-min-mail-count: Mail Services
mail-chroot: Mail Services
mail-debug?: Mail Services
mail-fsync: Mail Services
mail-full-filesystem-access?: Mail Services
mail-gid: Mail Services
mail-location: Mail Services
mail-log-prefix: Mail Services
mail-max-keyword-length: Mail Services
mail-max-userip-connections: Mail Services
mail-nfs-index?: Mail Services
mail-nfs-storage?: Mail Services
mail-plugin-dir: Mail Services
mail-plugins: Mail Services
mail-plugins: Mail Services
mail-privileged-group: Mail Services
mail-save-crlf?: Mail Services
mail-temp-dir: Mail Services
mail-uid: Mail Services
mailbox-idle-check-interval: Mail Services
mailboxes: Mail Services
maildir-copy-with-hardlinks?: Mail Services
maildir-stat-dirs?: Mail Services
maildir-very-dirty-syncs?: Mail Services
mapped-device: Mapped Devices
mbegin: The Store Monad
mbox-dirty-syncs?: Mail Services
mbox-dotlock-change-timeout: Mail Services
mbox-lazy-writes?: Mail Services
mbox-lock-timeout: Mail Services
mbox-min-index-size: Mail Services
mbox-read-locks: Mail Services
mbox-very-dirty-syncs?: Mail Services
mbox-write-locks: Mail Services
mdbox-preallocate-space?: Mail Services
mdbox-rotate-interval: Mail Services
mdbox-rotate-size: Mail Services
menu-entry: GRUB Configuration
mingetty-configuration: Base Services
mingetty-service: Base Services
mixed-text-file: G-Expressions
mlet: The Store Monad
mlet*: The Store Monad
mmap-disable?: Mail Services
mode: Mail Services
mode: Mail Services
modify-services: Using the Configuration System
modify-services: Service Reference

name: Mail Services
name: Mail Services
name: Mail Services
name-service: Name Service Switch
name-service-switch: Name Service Switch
namespaces: Mail Services
network-manager-service: Networking Services
nginx-service: Web Services
nscd-cache: Base Services
nscd-configuration: Base Services
nscd-service: Base Services
ntp-service: Networking Services

open-connection: The Store
operating-system: operating-system Reference
operating-system: Using the Configuration System
operating-system-derivation: Using the Configuration System
origin: origin Reference
override-fields: Mail Services

package: package Reference
package->cross-derivation: The Store Monad
package->derivation: The Store Monad
package-cross-derivation: Defining Packages
package-derivation: Defining Packages
package-file: The Store Monad
packages->manifest: Invoking guix package
passdbs: Mail Services
path: Mail Services
path: Mail Services
perl-build-system: Build Systems
plain-file: G-Expressions
plugin-configuration: Mail Services
polkit-service: Desktop Services
port: Mail Services
postgresql-service: Database Services
postmaster-address: Mail Services
prefix: Mail Services
process-min-avail: Mail Services
profile-service-type: Service Reference
program-file: G-Expressions
protocol: Mail Services
protocols: Mail Services
python-build-system: Build Systems

quota-full-tempfail?: Mail Services

r-build-system: Build Systems
recipient-delimiter: Mail Services
rejection-reason: Mail Services
rejection-subject: Mail Services
return: The Store Monad
ruby-build-system: Build Systems
run-with-state: The Store Monad
run-with-store: The Store Monad

scheme-file: G-Expressions
screen-locker-service: X Window
sendmail-path: Mail Services
separator: Mail Services
service: Service Reference
service-count: Mail Services
service-extension: Service Reference
service-extension?: Service Reference
service-kind: Service Reference
service-parameters: Service Reference
service-type: Service Reference
service?: Service Reference
services: Mail Services
set-current-state: The Store Monad
setuid-program-service-type: Service Reference
shepherd-root-service-type: Shepherd Services
shepherd-service: Shepherd Services
shutdown-clients?: Mail Services
slim-service: X Window
special-use: Mail Services
specification->package: Using the Configuration System
ssl-ca: Mail Services
ssl-cert: Mail Services
ssl-cert-username-field: Mail Services
ssl-cipher-list: Mail Services
ssl-crypto-device: Mail Services
ssl-key: Mail Services
ssl-key-password: Mail Services
ssl-parameters-regenerate: Mail Services
ssl-protocols: Mail Services
ssl-require-crl?: Mail Services
ssl-verify-client-cert?: Mail Services
ssl?: Mail Services
ssl?: Mail Services
state-pop: The Store Monad
state-push: The Store Monad
static-networking-service: Networking Services
string: Mail Services
submission-host: Mail Services
subscriptions?: Mail Services
syslog-facility: Mail Services
syslog-service: Base Services
system-service-type: Service Reference

text-file: The Store Monad
text-file*: G-Expressions
tor-hidden-service: Networking Services
tor-service: Networking Services
trivial-build-system: Build Systems
type: Mail Services

udev-service: Base Services
udisks-service: Desktop Services
upower-service: Desktop Services
user: Mail Services
user: Mail Services
user-account: User Accounts
user-group: User Accounts
userdbs: Mail Services

valid-chroot-dirs: Mail Services
valid-path?: The Store
verbose-proctitle?: Mail Services
verbose-ssl?: Mail Services
vsz-limit: Mail Services

waf-build-system: Build Systems
wicd-service: Networking Services
with-monad: The Store Monad

xfce-desktop-service: Desktop Services
xorg-configuration-file: X Window
xorg-start-command: X Window

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“Guix” is pronounced like “geeks”, or “ɡiːks” using the international phonetic alphabet (IPA).


If your machine uses the systemd init system, dropping the prefix/lib/systemd/system/guix-daemon.service file in /etc/systemd/system will ensure that guix-daemon is automatically started. Similarly, if your machine uses the Upstart init system, drop the prefix/lib/upstart/system/guix-daemon.conf file in /etc/init.


“Mostly”, because while the set of files that appear in the chroot’s /dev is fixed, most of these files can only be created if the host has them.


For HTTPS access, the Guile bindings of GnuTLS must be installed. See Requirements.


Under the hood, guix pull updates the ~/.config/guix/latest symbolic link to point to the latest Guix, and the guix command loads code from there.


Please see the (guix build gnu-build-system) modules for more details about the build phases.


This operation is commonly referred to as “bind”, but that name denotes an unrelated procedure in Guile. Thus we use this somewhat cryptic symbol inherited from the Haskell language.


The term stratum in this context was coined by Manuel Serrano et al. in the context of their work on Hop. Oleg Kiselyov, who has written insightful essays and code on this topic, refers to this kind of code generation as staging.


This functionality requires Guile-JSON to be installed. See Requirements.


This functionality requires Guile-JSON to be installed. See Requirements.


This functionality requires Guile-JSON to be installed. See Requirements.


This relies on the nix-instantiate command of Nix.


Users sometimes wrongfully augment environment variables such as PATH in their ~/.bashrc file. As a consequence, when guix environment launches it, Bash may read ~/.bashrc, thereby introducing “impurities” in these environment variables. It is an error to define such environment variables in .bashrc; instead, they should be defined in .bash_profile, which is sourced only by log-in shells. See Bash Startup Files in The GNU Bash Reference Manual, for details on Bash start-up files.


The term “free” here refers to the freedom provided to users of that software.


Currently GuixSD pretty much assumes an ext4 file system. In particular, code that reads partition UUIDs and labels only works with ext4. This will be fixed in the future.


Currently only the Linux-libre kernel is supported. In the future, it will be possible to use the GNU Hurd.


The uuid form expects 16-byte UUIDs as defined in RFC 4122. This is the form of UUID used by the ext2 family of file systems and others, but it is different from “UUIDs” found in FAT file systems, for instance.


Note that, while it is tempting to use /dev/disk/by-uuid and similar device names to achieve the same result, this is not recommended: These special device nodes are created by the udev daemon and may be unavailable at the time the device is mounted.


Note that the GNU Hurd makes no difference between the concept of a “mapped device” and that of a file system: both boil down to translating input/output operations made on a file to operations on its backing store. Thus, the Hurd implements mapped devices, like file systems, using the generic translator mechanism (see Translators in The GNU Hurd Reference Manual).


Versions 2.23 and later of GNU libc will simply skip the incompatible locale data, which is already an improvement.


This action is usable only on systems already running GuixSD.


Note that packages under the (gnu packages …) module name space are not necessarily “GNU packages”. This module naming scheme follows the usual Guile module naming convention: gnu means that these modules are distributed as part of the GNU system, and packages identifies modules that define packages.


Note that the file name and module name must match. For instance, the (my-packages emacs) module must be stored in a my-packages/emacs.scm file relative to the load path specified with --load-path or GUIX_PACKAGE_PATH. See Modules and the File System in GNU Guile Reference Manual, for details.


You may notice the glibc-intermediate label, suggesting that it is not quite final, but as a good approximation, we will consider it final.


If you would like to set up guix to use your Git checkout, you can point the ~/.config/guix/latest symlink to your Git checkout directory. If you are the sole user of your system, you may also consider pointing the /root/.config/guix/latest symlink to point to ~/.config/guix/latest; this way it will always use the same guix as your user does.