The Package Configuration Manager Tool flx_pkgconfig

Felix uses a configuration database to locate resources required to build and run programs. The code to inspect this database is built in to the flx tool, however there is a standalone executable, flx_pkgconfig you can use from the command line.


To run the flx_pkgconfig tool, it needs to be on your $PATH. This should be the case if you have installed Felix, or, if you have set Felix up for in-place operation. You should try this to verify if the system can locate it:

flx_pkgconfig --help

which should output something like this:

flx_pkgconfig [options] pkg pkg ...
  returns code 1 if any packages are missing unless --noerror is specified
  prints package or field list to standard output on one line
options: (follows GNU conventions)
  --path=dirname        set database directory name
  --path+=dirname       append database directory name
  --extension=fpc       set resource descriptor extensions,
                          default 'fpc' use 'pc' for pkgconfig databases
  --hide                only process first package in path with a given name
                          default, process all occurences
  --list                list available packages from specified set
  --missing             list missing packages from specified set
  --noerror             do not return 1 because of missing packages
  --rec                 form transitive closure of specified set based on Requires field
  --rec=field           form transitive closure of specified set based on specified field
  --backwards           process specified packages in reverse order
  --field=field         collate values of field in package set
  --keepleftmost        remove duplicate values in output keeping only leftmost occurrence
  --keeprightmost       remove duplicate values in output keeping only rightmost occurrence
  --keepall             keep duplicate values in output
  @filename             Replace with arguments from filename, one line per argument

flx_pkgconfig queries configuration databases for information about packages. From the repository root, try this:

~/felix>flx_pkgconfig --path=build/release/host/config --field=Requires flx_run
flx_pthread flx flx_gc flx_dynlink flx_strutil

This causes flx_pkgconfig to search the configuration database in the directory build/release/host/config, and find all the packages on which the package flx_run depends.

It does this by seeking the field Requires in flx_run.fpc, and then recursively examining all the packages required, as specified by that field.

Now try this:

~/felix>flx_pkgconfig --path=build/release/host/config --field=provides_slib -r flx_gc
-lflx_gc_static -ljudy_static -lflx_exceptions_static

Here, we want to find the contents of the field provides_slib. We have to use the -r switch to also make flx_pkgconfig recursively follow all the Requires fields. The result is the list of all the values of any provides_slib fields found in the transivitive closure of the recursive search.

You would use this command to generate the flags needed to pass to your linker, in order to link library flx_gc statically. On the other hand to link dynamically you would use this instead:

~/felix>flx_pkgconfig --path=build/release/host/config --field=provides_dlib flx_gc

The reason is that shared libraries link their own dependencies. It is important not to specify the transitive closure, because that would pre-empt the linker, and might pick the wrong version.

flx_pkgconfig is not a special purpose program, unlike its precursor, pkgconfig. It is, in fact, a fully general, if simplistic, database query tool, for databases consisting of records represented by files with lines of fields, each field having a name and one or more values.

Here is a sample .fpc file:

~/felix>cat build/release/host/config/flx_gc.fpc
Generated_from: 2403 "/Users/skaller/felix/src/packages/gc.fdoc"
Name: flx_gc
Platform: Unix
Description: Felix default garbage collector (Unix)
provides_dlib: -lflx_gc_dynamic
provides_slib: -lflx_gc_static
includes: '"flx_gc.hpp"'
library: flx_gc
macros: BUILD_FLX_GC
Requires: judy flx_exceptions
srcdir: src/gc
src: .*\.cpp

This file contains more than information required to use the Felix garbage collector. It also contains enough information for the Felix build system to build it. Normally with third party libraries, you build it with the vendors build instructions, but for Felix own components, those build instructions are put in the fpc file to localise the information about the library in one place.


The –path= and –path+= switches are used to set the search path used by flx_pkgconfig. The first switch specifies the first directory on the search path. The second can be used to add directories to the end of the search path. When looking for a package, the directories are searched in order.

The –extension= switch species the extension of the filename to use, excluing the .. This is fpc for Felix databases, or pc for those constructed for pkconfig. Examination of the latter may or may not succeed.

The –hide or -h switch specifies package hiding. This means, once a package is found, its contents are the final, total, record of fields. By default, flx_pkgconfig finds all occurences of a package, so that a field named field, if not found in the first record of the package, may still be found in the second.

By default, if a field is present in both packages, and the query is for a list of values, the values of the fields of both packages will be merged. This machinery allows extending a database with auxilliary information, without modifying it.


By default, flx_pkgconfig only searches the specified list of packages. If the -rec or -r switch is given, however, the search extends to dependent packages, based on the field named Requires. This is the only field with a special meaning.

If the switch -rec= is used, the specified field name is used for recursion instead of Requires.


The default action of flx_pkgconfig is simply to verify that a list of packages given exists. It returns 0 if all the packages exist, or 1 if one or more is missing.

The –noerror switch suppresses error checking.

The –list option causes flx_pkgconfig to list, on a single line, all the packages it finds. Used with the -r switch, this will provide the transitive closure over dependencies specified by the Requires field.

The –field= switch specifies to output the contents of the specified field, instead of the package name. Nothing is output if the field is missing from a package.

Order of output

If the –keepleftmost switch is specified, then the leftmost occurence of a value in the output is retained, and duplicates to its right are dropped.

If the –keeprightmost switch is specified, then the rightmost occurence of a value in the output is retained, and duplicates to its left are dropped.

If the –keepall switch is specified, then duplicates are kept.

If the -b or –backwards switch is specified, then the final list of values to be output is reversed just before printing it.

flx_pkgconfig accumulates field values as it sees them. It processes a file from top up to any Requires field. If recursion is enabled, then it will process any packages specified in the Requires field next, before continuing to process the current file. This means field specified before a Requires field are gathered before dependencies, and fields specified after a Requires field follow those dependencies.

Unix linkers normally requires that a library A requiring a library B be specified first. This means that when processing object files or libraries, the linker gather external references as it progresses from left to right in the link order, and satifies them as it finds external definitions. Thus, a definition seen prior to a reference will not satisfy it.

Other linkers require that external definitions be given first, so that when a reference is seen it is immediately satisfied. If the definition comes later, it will not resolve the reference.

Some linkers allow gathering of all the definitions and references in any order and then satify the references from the currently gathered set.

Because the ordering can matter, you must order fields in a flx_pkgconfig data base carefully, and use the order control switches.

Batched requests

Because searches can be long, you can put any sequence of switches and package names that would appear in a particular order into a control file. In this case, newlines may also separate the options. The sequence can then be includes by specifying the control filename prefixed by @. Control files can also refer to control files. Take care that inclusion is acyclic. Unlike Require fields, flx_pkgconfig follows inclusions without checking for cycles.


By default, if -keepall is not specified, duplicate field values are merged so a value will only occur once in the output.

Field specification

A field specification consists of a field name, followed by a colon : and then a list of values. If the list of values is too long for your taste, the list can be split over any number of field specifications, that is, the field name can be repeated.

Values are usually separated by spaces. If the value need to contain spaces, it can be quoted with single quote makes or double quote marks . Quoting is also necessary if the value must contain quote marks. This is often the case for include file names, so you will see:

for example. Without the outer single quotes the first entry would lose the inner quotes which are part of a C include file specification.

Comments and ignored lines

Fpc files can contain blank linkes anywhere. You can also put lines starting with # as comments.


Flx_pkgconfig also allows substitutions. A line consisting of an identifier, followed by an = sign, followed by a value, defines a macro.

When processing field values, flx_pkgconfig replaces ${macroname} with the specified value of a macro, if it exists.

Special Field handling

On some systems, options are given by two successive arguments. For example on OSX, frameworks are specified by

-framework OpenGL

Unfortunately, flx_pkgconfig cannot be given two values, –framework and OpenGL because the result would usually be a single –framework value and a lot of frameworks. On the other hand, you cannot specify a single value with quotation, because although this will collate correctly, the output to the flx tool, unlike the command line output, will be a single word which is passed to the shell, causing the compiler to get one argument, when it needs two in order.

The convention is to code this as:


that is, a single value, with a triple leading - character, and spaces replaced by = character. This is the format sane systems would use. Then, the two leading dashes are stripped off, and the remainder split by the equals character. flx uses this convention when processing results returned by flx_pkgconfig internally under program control. This is not part of the flx_pkgconfig system or tool, but a way to post-process the results if necessary.