Chapter 3. Quick Porting

This section describes how to quickly create a new port. For applications where this quick method is not adequate, the full "Slow Porting" process is described in Slow Porting.

First, get the original tarball and put it into DISTDIR, which defaults to /usr/ports/distfiles.

These steps assume that the software compiled out-of-the-box. In other words, absolutely no changes were required for the application to work on a FreeBSD system. If anything had to be changed, refer to Slow Porting.

It is recommended to set the DEVELOPER make(1) variable in /etc/make.conf before getting into porting.

# echo DEVELOPER=yes >> /etc/make.conf

This setting enables the "developer mode" that displays deprecation warnings and activates some further quality checks on calling make.

3.1. Writing the Makefile

The minimal Makefile would look something like this:


COMMENT=	Cat chasing a mouse all over the screen

.include <>

Try to figure it out. A more detailed example is shown in the sample Makefile section.

3.2. Writing the Description Files

There are two description files that are required for any port, whether they actually package or not. They are pkg-descr and pkg-plist. Their pkg- prefix distinguishes them from other files.

3.2.1. pkg-descr

This is a longer description of the port. One to a few paragraphs concisely explaining what the port does is sufficient.

This is not a manual or an in-depth description on how to use or compile the port! Please be careful when copying from the README or manpage. Too often they are not a concise description of the port or are in an awkward format. For example, manpages have justified spacing, which looks particularly bad with monospaced fonts.

On the other hand, the content of pkg-descr must be longer than the COMMENT line from the Makefile. It must explain in more depth what the port is all about.

A well-written pkg-descr describes the port completely enough that users would not have to consult the documentation or visit the website to understand what the software does, how it can be useful, or what particularly nice features it has. Mentioning certain requirements like a graphical toolkit, heavy dependencies, runtime environment, or implementation languages help users decide whether this port will work for them.

The URL that used to be included as the last line of the pkg-descr file has been moved to the Makefile.

3.2.2. pkg-plist

This file lists all the files installed by the port. It is also called the "packing list" because the package is generated by packing the files listed here. The pathnames are relative to the installation prefix (usually /usr/local).

Here is a small example:


Refer to the pkg-create(8) manual page for details on the packing list.

It is recommended to keep all the filenames in this file sorted alphabetically. It will make verifying changes when upgrading the port much easier. The sorting should be applied after variable expansion takes place. The framework does this correctly when the package list is generated automatically.

Creating a packing list manually can be a very tedious task. If the port installs a large numbers of files, creating the packing list automatically might save time.

There is only one case when pkg-plist can be omitted from a port. If the port installs just a handful of files, list them in PLIST_FILES, within the port’s Makefile. For instance, we could get along without pkg-plist in the above oneko port by adding these lines to the Makefile:

PLIST_FILES=	bin/oneko \
		man/man1/oneko.1.gz \
		lib/X11/app-defaults/Oneko \
		lib/X11/oneko/cat1.xpm \
		lib/X11/oneko/cat2.xpm \

Usage of PLIST_FILES should not be abused. When looking for the origin of a file, people usually try to grep through the pkg-plist files in the ports tree. Listing files in PLIST_FILES in the Makefile makes that search more difficult.

If a port needs to create an empty directory, or creates directories outside of ${PREFIX} during installation, refer to Cleaning Up Empty Directories for more information.

As PLIST_FILES is a make(1) variable, any entry with spaces must be quoted. For example, if using keywords described in pkg-create(8) and Expanding Package List with Keywords, the entry must be quoted.

PLIST_FILES=	"@sample ${ETCDIR}/oneko.conf.sample"

Later we will see how pkg-plist and PLIST_FILES can be used to fulfill more sophisticated tasks.

3.3. Creating the Checksum File

Just type make makesum. The ports framework will automatically generate distinfo. Do not try to generate the file manually.

3.4. Testing the Port

Make sure that the port rules do exactly what is desired, including packaging up the port. These are the important points to verify:

  • pkg-plist does not contain anything not installed by the port.

  • pkg-plist contains everything that is installed by the port.

  • The port can be installed using the install target. This verifies that the install script works correctly.

  • The port can be deinstalled properly using the deinstall target. This verifies that the deinstall script works correctly.

  • The port only has access to network resources during the fetch target phase. This is important for package builders, such as ports-mgmt/poudriere.

  • Make sure that make package can be run as a normal user (that is, not as root). If that fails, the software may need to be patched. See also fakeroot and uidfix.

Procedure: Recommended Test Ordering
  1. make stage

  2. make stage-qa

  3. make package

  4. make install

  5. make deinstall

  6. make package (as user)

Make certain no warnings are shown in any of the stages.

Thorough automated testing can be done with ports-mgmt/poudriere from the Ports Collection, see poudriere for more information. It maintains jails where all of the steps shown above can be tested without affecting the state of the host system.

3.5. Checking the Port with portlint

Please use portlint to see if the port conforms to our guidelines. The ports-mgmt/portlint program is part of the ports collection. In particular, check that the Makefile is in the right shape and the package is named appropriately.

Do not blindly follow the output of portlint. It is a static lint tool and sometimes gets things wrong.

3.6. Submitting the New Port

Before submitting the new port, read the DOs and DON’Ts section.

Once happy with the port, the only thing remaining is to put it in the main FreeBSD ports tree and make everybody else happy about it too.

We do not need the work directory or the pkgname.txz package, so delete them now.

Next, create a patch(1), file. Assuming the port is called oneko and is in the games category.

Example 1. Creating a .diff for a New Port

Add all the files with git add ., then review the diff with git diff. For example:

% git add .
% git diff --staged

Make sure that all required files are included, then commit the change to your local branch and generate a patch with git format-patch

% git commit
% git format-patch origin/main

Patch generated with git format-patch will include author identity and email addresses, making it easier for developers to apply (with git am) and give proper credit.

To make it easier for committers to apply the patch on their working copy of the ports tree, please generate the .diff from the base of your ports tree.

Submit oneko.diff with the bug submission form. Use product "Ports & Packages", component "Individual Port(s)", and follow the guidelines shown there. Add a short description of the program to the Description field of the PR (perhaps a short version of COMMENT), and remember to add oneko.diff as an attachment.

Giving a good description in the summary of the problem report makes the work of port committers and triagers a lot easier. The expected format for new ports is "[NEW PORT] category/portname short description of the port". Using this scheme makes it easier and faster to begin the work of committing the new port.

After submitting the port, please be patient. The time needed to include a new port in FreeBSD can vary from a few days to a few months. A simple search form of the Problem Report database can be searched at

To get a listing of open port PRs, select Open and Ports & Packages in the search form, then click Search.

After looking at the new port, we will reply if necessary, and commit it to the tree. The submitter’s name will also be added to the list of Additional FreeBSD Contributors and other files.

Previously it was possible to submit patches for new ports using a shar(1) file; this is no longer the case with the evolution of git(1). Committers no longer accept shar(1) files as their use is prone to mistake and does not add the relevant entry in the category’s Makefile.

Last modified on: March 9, 2024 by Danilo G. Baio