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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

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.

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 a hyphen and version number, such as guile-1.8.8. 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.

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 independently.

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.

-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.

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).


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 meta-data.

Installing, removing, or upgrading packages from a generation that has been rolled back to overwrites previous future generations. Thus, the history of a profile’s generations 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.

-p profile

Use profile instead of the user’s default profile.


Produce verbose output. In particular, emit the environment’s build log 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 synopsis or description matches regexp. Print all the meta-data 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

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 software distribution (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 deleted atomically—i.e., by switching to the previous available generation. Note that the zeroth generation is never deleted.

Note that deleting generations prevents roll-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 that guix build supports (see common build options).

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