Packaging Third-Party Code for Sage#

One of the mottoes of the Sage project is to not reinvent the wheel: If an algorithm is already implemented in a well-tested library then consider incorporating that library into Sage. The current list of available packages are the subdirectories of SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs/. The installation of packages is done through a bash script located in SAGE_ROOT/build/bin/sage-spkg. This script is typically invoked by giving the command:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage -i <options> <package name>...

options can be:

  • -f: install a package even if the same version is already installed

  • -s: do not delete temporary build directory

  • -c: after installing, run the test suite for the spkg. This should override the settings of SAGE_CHECK and SAGE_CHECK_PACKAGES.

  • -d: only download the package

The section Directory structure describes the structure of each individual package in SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs. In section Building the package we see how you can install and test a new spkg that you or someone else wrote. Finally, Inclusion procedure for new and updated packages explains how to submit a new package for inclusion in the Sage source code.

Package types#

Not all packages are built by default, they are divided into standard, optional and experimental ones:

  • standard packages are built by default. For a few packages, configure checks whether they are available from the system, in which case the build of those packages is skipped. Standard packages have stringent quality requirements: they should work on all supported platforms. In order for a new standard package to be accepted, it should have been optional for a while, see Inclusion procedure for new and updated packages.

  • optional packages are subject to the same requirements, they should also work on all supported platforms. If there are optional doctests in the Sage library, those tests must pass. Note that optional packages are not tested as much as standard packages, so in practice they might break more often than standard packages.

  • for experimental packages, the bar is much lower: even if there are some problems, the package can still be accepted.

Package source types#

Orthogonal to the division by package types, a package has exactly one of the following source types:

  1. A normal package:

    • comes from the tarball named in the required file checksums.ini and hosted on the Sage mirrors;

    • its version number is defined by the required file package-version.txt;

    • Sage installs the package using build and install scripts (see Build and install scripts of normal packages);

    • Sage records the version number of the package installed using a file in $SAGE_LOCAL/var/lib/sage/installed/ and will rerun the installation if package-version.txt changes.

  2. A wheel package:

    • comes from the wheel file named in the required file checksums.ini and hosted on the Sage mirrors;

    • per policy, only platform-independent wheels are allowed, i.e., *-none-any.whl files;

    • its version number is defined by the required file package-version.txt;

    • no build and install scripts are needed (with one exception: the package pip: Tool for installing and managing Python packages installs itself from its wheel using a custom install script);

    • Sage records the version number of the package installed using a file in $SAGE_LOCAL/var/lib/sage/installed/ and will rerun the installation if package-version.txt changes.

  3. A pip package:

    • is obtained directly from;

    • the version to be installed is determined using the required file requirements.txt – in its simplest form, this file just contains the name of the package (more details at;

    • Sage installs the package using the pip package manager;

    • Sage delegates the recording of installed package version numbers to it;

    • by policy, no standard package is allowed to be a pip package.

  4. A script package:

    • is not associated with a tarball;

    • the file package-version.txt is optional;

    • installing the package runs the installation script spkg-install or (see Build and install scripts of normal packages);

    • Sage records the version number of the package installed using a file in $SAGE_LOCAL/var/lib/sage/installed/ and will rerun the installation if package-version.txt changes.

  5. A dummy package:

    • is only used for recording the names of equivalent system packages;

    • there is no spkg-install script, and attempts to install the package using Sage will give an error message.

To summarize: the package source type is determined as follows: if there is a file requirements.txt, it is a pip package. If not, then if there is a checksums.ini file, it is normal or wheel. Otherwise, if it has an spkg-install or script, it is a script package, and if it does not, then it is a dummy package.

Directory structure#

Third-party packages in Sage consist of two parts:

  1. The tarball as it is distributed by the third party, or as close as possible. Valid reasons for modifying the tarball are deleting unnecessary files to keep the download size manageable, regenerating auto-generated files or changing the directory structure if necessary. In certain cases, you may need to (additionally) change the filename of the tarball. In any case, the actual code must be unmodified: if you need to change the sources, add a patch instead. See also Modified tarballs for automating the modifications to the upstream tarball.

  2. The build scripts and associated files are in a subdirectory SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs/<package>, where you replace <package> with a lower-case version of the upstream project name. If the project name contains characters which are not alphanumeric and are not an underscore, those characters should be removed or replaced by an underscore. For example, the project FFLAS-FFPACK is called fflas_ffpack in Sage.

As an example, let us consider a hypothetical FoO project. They (upstream) distribute a tarball FoO-1.3.tar.gz (that will be automatically placed in SAGE_ROOT/upstream during the installation process). To package it in Sage, we create a subdirectory containing as a minimum the following files:

|-- checksums.ini
|-- dependencies
|-- package-version.txt
|-- SPKG.rst
`-- type

The following are some additional files which can be added:

|-- distros
|   |-- platform1.txt
|   `-- platform2.txt
|-- has_nonfree_dependencies
|-- huge
|-- patches
|   |-- bar.patch
|   `-- baz.patch
|-- spkg-configure.m4
|-- spkg-src
`-- trees.txt

We discuss the individual files in the following sections.

Package type#

The file type should contain a single word, which is either standard, optional or experimental. See Package types for the meaning of these types.

Build and install scripts of normal packages#

The and files are templates for bash scripts spkg-build and spkg-install, which build and/or install the package.

The *.in script templates should not be prefixed with a shebang line (#!...) and should not have the executable bit set in their permissions. These are added automatically when generating the scripts, along with some additional boilerplate, when the package is installed.

The and files in the Sage source tree need only focus on the specific steps for building and installing that package. If no exists, then the is responsible for both steps, though separating them is encouraged where possible.

It is also possible to include similar script templatess named or to run additional steps before or after the package has been installed into $SAGE_LOCAL. It is encouraged to put steps which modify already installed files in a separate script template rather than combining them with This is because since github issue #24106, spkg-install does not necessarily install packages directly to $SAGE_LOCAL. However, by the time spkg-postinst is run, the installation to $SAGE_LOCAL is complete.

In the best case, the upstream project can simply be installed by the usual configure / make / make install steps. In that case, the script template would simply consist of:

cd src

See Helper functions for more on the helper functions sdh_configure, sdh_make, etc.

The script template would consist of:

cd src

Note that the top-level directory inside the tarball is renamed to src before calling the spkg-build and spkg-install scripts, so you can just use cd src instead of cd foo-1.3.

If there is any meaningful documentation included but not installed by sdh_make_install (which calls make install), then you can add something like the following to install it:

if [ "$SAGE_SPKG_INSTALL_DOCS" = yes ] ; then
    sdh_make doc
    sdh_install doc/ "$SAGE_SHARE"/doc/PACKAGE_NAME

At build time CFLAGS, CXXFLAGS, FCFLAGS, and F77FLAGS are usually set to -g -O2 -march=native (according to debugging options and whether building fat binaries).

Slightly modified versions are available:

# No ``-march=native``.

# ``-O3`` instead of ``-O2``.

# Use flags as set by the user, possibly empty.

Likewise for CXXFLAGS, FCFLAGS, and F77FLAGS.


Prior to Sage 9.1, the script templates were called spkg-build, spkg-install, etc., without the extension .in.

Prior to Sage 8.1 the shebang line was included, and the scripts were marked executable. However, this is no longer the case as of github issue #23179. Now the scripts in the source tree are deliberately written not to be directly executed, and are only made into executable scripts when they are copied to the package’s build directory.

Build/install scripts may still be written in Python, but the Python code should go in a separate file (e.g., and can then be executed from the real like:

exec sage-bootstrap-python


exec python3

In more detail: sage-bootstrap-python runs a version of Python pre-installed on the machine, which is a build prerequisite of Sage. Note that sage-bootstrap-python accepts a wide range of Python versions, Python >= 2.6 and >= 3.4, see SAGE_ROOT/build/tox.ini for details. You should only use sage-bootstrap-python for installation tasks that must be able to run before Sage has made python3 available. It must not be used for running pip or for any package.

python3 runs the version of Python managed by Sage (either its own installation of Python 3 from an SPKG or a venv over a system python3. You should use this if you are installing a Python package to make sure that the libraries are installed in the right place.

By the way, there is also a script sage-python. This should be used at runtime, for example in scripts in SAGE_LOCAL/bin which expect Sage’s Python to already be built.

Many packages currently do not separate the build and install steps and only provide a file that does both. The separation is useful in particular for root-owned install hierarchies, where something like sudo must be used to install files. For this purpose Sage uses an environment variable $SAGE_SUDO, the value of which may be provided by the developer at build time, which should to the appropriate system-specific sudo-like command (if any). The following rules are then observed:

  • If exists, the generated script spkg-build is first called, followed by $SAGE_SUDO spkg-install.

  • Otherwise, only spkg-install is called (without $SAGE_SUDO). Such packages should prefix all commands in that write into the installation hierarchy with $SAGE_SUDO.

Install scripts of script packages#

For script packages, it is also possible to use an install script named spkg-install. It needs to be an executable shell script; it is not subject to the templating described in the previous section and will be executed directly from the build directory.

Helper functions#

In the spkg-build, spkg-install, and spkg-check scripts, the following functions are available. They are defined in the file $SAGE_ROOT/build/bin/sage-dist-helpers, if you want to look at the source code. They should be used to make sure that appropriate variables are set and to avoid code duplication. These function names begin with sdh_, which stands for “Sage-distribution helper”.

  • sdh_die MESSAGE: Exit the build script with the error code of the last command if it was non-zero, or with 1 otherwise, and print an error message. This is typically used like:

    command || sdh_die "Command failed"

    This function can also (if not given any arguments) read the error message from stdin. In particular this is useful in conjunction with a heredoc to write multi-line error messages:

    command || sdh_die << _EOF_
    Command failed.
    Reason given.


    The other helper functions call sdh_die, so do not use (for example) sdh_make || sdh_die: the part of this after || will never be reached.

  • sdh_check_vars [VARIABLE ...]: Check that one or more variables are defined and non-empty, and exit with an error if any are undefined or empty. Variable names should be given without the ‘$’ to prevent unwanted expansion.

  • sdh_configure [...]: Runs ./configure with arguments --prefix="$SAGE_LOCAL", --libdir="$SAGE_LOCAL/lib", --disable-static, --disable-maintainer-mode, and --disable-dependency-tracking. Additional arguments to ./configure may be given as arguments.

  • sdh_make [...]: Runs $MAKE with the default target. Additional arguments to $MAKE may be given as arguments.

  • sdh_make_install [...]: Runs $MAKE install with DESTDIR correctly set to a temporary install directory, for staged installations. Additional arguments to $MAKE may be given as arguments. If $SAGE_DESTDIR is not set then the command is run with $SAGE_SUDO, if set.

  • sdh_setup_bdist_wheel [...]: Runs bdist_wheel with the given arguments, as well as additional default arguments used for installing packages into Sage.

  • sdh_pip_install [...]: The equivalent of running pip install with the given arguments, as well as additional default arguments used for installing packages into Sage with pip. The last argument must be . to indicate installation from the current directory.

    sdh_pip_install actually does the installation via pip wheel, creating a wheel file in dist/, followed by sdh_store_and_pip_install_wheel (see below).

  • sdh_pip_editable_install [...]: The equivalent of running pip install -e with the given arguments, as well as additional default arguments used for installing packages into Sage with pip. The last argument must be . to indicate installation from the current directory. See pip documentation for more details concerning editable installs.

  • sdh_pip_uninstall [...]: Runs pip uninstall with the given arguments. If unsuccessful, it displays a warning.

  • sdh_store_and_pip_install_wheel .: The current directory, indicated by the required argument ., must have a subdirectory dist containing a unique wheel file (*.whl).

    This command (1) moves this wheel file to the directory $SAGE_SPKG_WHEELS ($SAGE_LOCAL/var/lib/sage/wheels) and then (2) installs the wheel in $SAGE_LOCAL.

    Both of these steps, instead of writing directly into $SAGE_LOCAL, use the staging directory $SAGE_DESTDIR if set; otherwise, they use $SAGE_SUDO (if set).

  • sdh_install [-T] SRC [SRC...] DEST: Copies one or more files or directories given as SRC (recursively in the case of directories) into the destination directory DEST, while ensuring that DEST and all its parent directories exist. DEST should be a path under $SAGE_LOCAL, generally. For DESTDIR installs, the $SAGE_DESTDIR path is automatically prepended to the destination.

    The -T option treats DEST as a normal file instead (e.g. for copying a file to a different filename). All directory components are still created in this case.

The following is automatically added to each install script, so you should not need to add it yourself.

  • sdh_guard: Wrapper for sdh_check_vars that checks some common variables without which many/most packages won’t build correctly (SAGE_ROOT, SAGE_LOCAL, SAGE_SHARE). This is important to prevent installation to unintended locations.

The following are also available, but rarely used.

  • sdh_cmake [...]: Runs cmake in the current directory with the given arguments, as well as additional arguments passed to cmake (assuming packages are using the GNUInstallDirs module) so that CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX and CMAKE_INSTALL_LIBDIR are set correctly.

  • sdh_preload_lib EXECUTABLE SONAME: (Linux only – no-op on other platforms.) Check shared libraries loaded by EXECUTABLE (may be a program or another library) for a library starting with SONAME, and if found appends SONAME to the LD_PRELOAD environment variable. See github issue #24885.

Allowing for the use of system packages#

For a number of Sage packages, an already installed system version can be used instead, and Sage’s top-level ./configure script determines when this is possible. To enable this, a package needs to have a script called spkg-configure.m4, which can, for example, determines whether the installed software is recent enough (and sometimes not too recent) to be usable by Sage. This script is processed by the GNU M4 macro processor.

Also, if the software for a Sage package is provided by a system package, the ./configure script can provide that information. To do this, there must be a directory build/pkgs/PACKAGE/distros containing files with names like


corresponding to different packaging systems. Each system package should appear on a separate line. If the shell-style variable reference ${PYTHON_MINOR} appears, it is replaced by the minor version of Python, e.g., 12 for Python 3.12.x. Everything on a line after a # character is ignored, so comments can be included in the files.

For example, if ./configure detects that the Homebrew packaging system is in use, and if the current package can be provided by a Homebrew package called “foo”, then the file build/pkgs/PACKAGE/distros/homebrew.txt should contain the single line “foo”. If foo is currently uninstalled, then ./configure will print a message suggesting that the user should run brew install foo. See Using Sage’s database of equivalent distribution packages for more on this.


All new standard packages should, when possible, include a spkg-configure.m4 script and a populated distros directory. There are many examples in build/pkgs, including build/pkgs/python3 and build/pkgs/suitesparse, to name a few.

Note that this may not be possible (as of this writing) for some packages, for example packages installed via pip for use while running Sage, like matplotlib or scipy. If a package is installed via pip for use in a separate process, like tox, then this should be possible.


The file is an optional, but highly recommended, script template to run self-tests of the package. The format for the spkg-check is the same as spkg-build and spkg-install. It is run after building and installing if the SAGE_CHECK environment variable is set, see the Sage installation guide. Ideally, upstream has some sort of test suite that can be run with the standard make check target. In that case, the script template would simply contain:

cd src
$MAKE check

Python-based packages#

Python-based packages should declare $(PYTHON) as a dependency, and most Python-based packages will also have $(PYTHON_TOOLCHAIN) as an order-only dependency, which will ensure that fundamental packages such as pip and setuptools are available at the time of building the package.

The best way to install a Python-based package is to use pip, in which case the script template might just consist of

cd src && sdh_pip_install .

Where sdh_pip_install is a function provided by sage-dist-helpers that points to the correct pip for the Python used by Sage, and includes some default flags needed for correct installation into Sage.

If pip will not work for a package but a command like python3 install will, you may use sdh_setup_bdist_wheel, followed by sdh_store_and_pip_install_wheel ..

For script templates, use python3 rather than just python. The paths are set by the Sage build system so that this runs the correct version of Python. For example, the scipy file contains the line

exec python3

All normal Python packages and all wheel packages must have a file install-requires.txt. If a Python package is available on PyPI, this file must contain the name of the package as it is known to PyPI. Optionally, install-requires.txt can encode version constraints (such as lower and upper bounds). The constraints are in the format of the install_requires key of setup.cfg or

It is strongly recommended to include comments (starting with #) in the file that explain why a particular lower or upper bound is warranted or why we wish to include or reject certain versions.

For example:

$ cat build/pkgs/sphinx/package-version.txt
$ cat build/pkgs/sphinx/install-requires.txt
# gentoo uses 3.2.1
sphinx >=3, <3.3

The comments may include links to GitHub Issues/PRs, as in the following example:

$ cat build/pkgs/packaging/install-requires.txt
packaging >=18.0
# Issue #30975: packaging 20.5 is known to work
# but we have to silence "DeprecationWarning: Creating a LegacyVersion"

The currently encoded version constraints are merely a starting point. Developers and downstream packagers are invited to refine the version constraints based on their experience and tests. When a package update is made in order to pick up a critical bug fix from a newer version, then the lower bound should be adjusted. Setting upper bounds to guard against incompatible future changes is a complex topic; see github issue #33520.

The SPKG.rst file#

The SPKG.rst file should follow this pattern:

PACKAGE_NAME: One line description


What does the package do?


What is the license? If non-standard, is it GPLv3+ compatible?

Upstream Contact

Provide information for upstream contact.  Usually just an URL.


Only put special dependencies here that are not captured by the
``dependencies`` file. Otherwise omit this section.

Special Update/Build Instructions

If the tarball was modified by hand and not via an ``spkg-src``
script, describe what was changed. Otherwise omit this section.

with PACKAGE_NAME replaced by the SPKG name (= the directory name in build/pkgs).

Legacy SPKG.txt files have an additional changelog section, but this information is now kept in the git repository.

Package dependencies#

Many packages depend on other packages. Consider for example the eclib package for elliptic curves. This package uses the libraries PARI, NTL and FLINT. So the following is the dependencies file for eclib:

pari ntl flint

All lines of this file are ignored except the first.

For Python packages, common dependencies include pip, setuptools, and future. If your package depends on any of these, use $(PYTHON_TOOLCHAIN) instead. For example, here is the dependencies file for configparser:


(See below for the meaning of the |.)

If there are no dependencies, you can use

# no dependencies

All lines of this file are ignored except the first.

There are actually two kinds of dependencies: there are normal dependencies and order-only dependencies, which are weaker. The syntax for the dependencies file is

normal dependencies | order-only dependencies

If there is no |, then all dependencies are normal.

  • If package A has an order-only dependency on B, it simply means that B must be built before A can be built. The version of B does not matter, only the fact that B is installed matters. This should be used if the dependency is purely a build-time dependency (for example, a dependency on pip simply because the spkg-install file uses pip).

    Alternatively, you can put the order-only dependencies in a separate file dependencies_order_only.

  • If A has a normal dependency on B, it means additionally that A should be rebuilt every time that B gets updated. This is the most common kind of dependency. A normal dependency is what you need for libraries: if we upgrade NTL, we should rebuild everything which uses NTL.

Some packages are only needed for self-tests of a package (spkg-check). These dependencies should be declared in a separate file dependencies_check.

Some dependencies are optional in the sense that they are only a dependency if they are configured to be installed. These dependencies should be declared in a separate file dependencies_optional.

In order to check that the dependencies of your package are likely correct, the following command should work without errors:

[alice@localhost sage]$ make distclean && make base && make PACKAGE_NAME

Finally, note that standard packages should only depend on standard packages and optional packages should only depend on standard or optional packages.

Package tags#

You can mark a package as “huge” by placing an empty file named huge in the package directory. For example, the package polytopes_db_4d is a large database whose compressed tarball has a size of 9 GB.

For some other packages, we have placed an empty file named has_nonfree_dependencies in the package directory. This is to indicate that Sage with this package installed cannot be redistributed, and also that the package can only be installed after installing some other, non-free package.

We use these tags in our continuous integration scripts to filter out packages that we cannot or should not test automatically.

Where packages are installed#

The Sage distribution has the notion of several installation trees.

  • $SAGE_VENV is the default installation tree for all Python packages, i.e., normal packages with an install-requires.txt, wheel packages, and pip packages with a requirements.txt.

  • $SAGE_LOCAL is the default installation tree for all non-Python packages.

  • $SAGE_DOCS (only set at build time) is an installation tree for the HTML and PDF documentation.

By placing a file trees.txt in the package directory, the installation tree can be overridden. For example, build/pkgs/python3/trees.txt contains the word SAGE_VENV, and build/pkgs/sagemath_doc_html/trees.txt contains the word SAGE_DOCS.

Patching sources#

Actual changes to the source code must be via patches, which should be placed in the patches/ directory, and must have the .patch extension. GNU patch is distributed with Sage, so you can rely on it being available. Patches must include documentation in their header (before the first diff hunk), and must have only one “prefix” level in the paths (that is, only one path level above the root of the upstream sources being patched). So a typical patch file should look like this:

Add autodoc_builtin_argspec config option

Following the title line you can add a multi-line description of
what the patch does, where you got it from if you did not write it
yourself, if they are platform specific, if they should be pushed
upstream, etc...

diff -dru Sphinx-1.2.2/sphinx/ext/ Sphinx-1.2.2/sphinx/ext/
--- Sphinx-1.2.2/sphinx/ext/  2014-03-02 20:38:09.000000000 +1300
+++ Sphinx-1.2.2/sphinx/ext/  2014-10-19 23:02:09.000000000 +1300
@@ -1452,6 +1462,7 @@

     app.add_config_value('autoclass_content', 'class', True)
     app.add_config_value('autodoc_member_order', 'alphabetic', True)
+    app.add_config_value('autodoc_builtin_argspec', None, True)
     app.add_config_value('autodoc_default_flags', [], True)
     app.add_config_value('autodoc_docstring_signature', True, True)

Patches directly under the patches/ directly are applied automatically before running the spkg-install script (so long as they have the .patch extension). If you need to apply patches conditionally (such as only on a specifically platform), you can place those patches in a subdirectory of patches/ and apply them manually using the sage-apply-patches script. For example, considering the layout:

|-- patches
|   |-- solaris
|   |   |-- solaris.patch
|   |-- bar.patch
|   `-- baz.patch

The patches bar.patch and baz.patch are applied to the unpacked upstream sources in src/ before running spkg-install. To conditionally apply the patch for Solaris the spkg-install should contain a section like this:

if [ $UNAME == "SunOS" ]; then
    sage-apply-patches -d solaris

where the -d flag applies all patches in the solaris/ subdirectory of the main patches/ directory.

When to patch, when to repackage, when to autoconfiscate#

  • Use unpatched original upstream tarball when possible.

    Sometimes it may seem as if you need to patch a (hand-written) Makefile because it “hard-codes” some paths or compiler flags:

    --- a/Makefile
    +++ b/Makefile
    @@ -77,7 +77,7 @@
     # This is a Makefile.
     # Handwritten.
    -DESTDIR = /usr/local
    +DESTDIR = $(SAGE_ROOT)/local
     BINDIR   = $(DESTDIR)/bin
     INCDIR   = $(DESTDIR)/include
     LIBDIR   = $(DESTDIR)/lib

    Don’t use patching for that. Makefile variables can be overridden from the command-line. Just use the following in spkg-install:

    $(MAKE) DESTDIR="$SAGE_ROOT/local"
  • Check if Debian or another distribution already provides patches for upstream. Use them, don’t reinvent the wheel.

  • If the upstream Makefile does not build shared libraries, don’t bother trying to patch it.

    Autoconfiscate the package instead and use the standard facilities of Automake and Libtool. This ensures that the shared library build is portable between Linux and macOS.

  • If you have to make changes to or other source files of the autotools build system (or if you are autoconfiscating the package), then you can’t use patching; make a modified tarball instead.

  • If the patch would be huge, don’t use patching. Make a modified tarball instead.

  • Otherwise, maintain a set of patches.

How to maintain a set of patches#

We recommend the following workflow for maintaining a set of patches.

  • Fork the package and put it on a public git repository.

    If upstream has a public version control repository, import it from there. If upstream does not have a public version control repository, import the current sources from the upstream tarball. Let’s call the branch upstream.

  • Create a branch for the changes necessary for Sage, let’s call it sage_package_VERSION, where version is the upstream version number.

  • Make the changes and commit them to the branch.

  • Generate the patches against the upstream branch:

    rm -Rf SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs/PACKAGE/patches
    mkdir SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs/PACKAGE/patches
    git format-patch -o SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs/PACKAGE/patches/ upstream
  • Optionally, create an spkg-src file in the Sage package’s directory that regenerates the patch directory using the above commands.

  • When a new upstream version becomes available, merge (or import) it into upstream, then create a new branch and rebase it on top of the updated upstream:

    git checkout sage_package_OLDVERSION
    git checkout -b sage_package_NEWVERSION
    git rebase upstream

    Then regenerate the patches.

Modified tarballs#

The spkg-src file is optional and only to document how the upstream tarball was changed. Ideally it is not modified, then there would be no spkg-src file present either.

However, if you really must modify the upstream tarball then it is recommended that you write a script, called spkg-src, that makes the changes. This not only serves as documentation but also makes it easier to apply the same modifications to future versions.

Package versioning#

The package-version.txt file contains just the version. So if upstream is FoO-1.3.tar.gz then the package version file would only contain 1.3.

If the upstream package is taken from some revision other than a stable version or if upstream doesn’t have a version number, you should use the date at which the revision is made. For example, the database_stein_watkins package with version 20110713 contains the database as of 2011-07-13. Note that the date should refer to the contents of the tarball, not to the day it was packaged for Sage. This particular Sage package for database_stein_watkins was created in 2014, but the data it contains was last updated in 2011.

If you apply any patches, or if you made changes to the upstream tarball (see Directory structure for allowable changes), then you should append a .p0 to the version to indicate that it’s not a vanilla package.

Additionally, whenever you make changes to a package without changing the upstream tarball (for example, you add an additional patch or you fix something in the spkg-install file), you should also add or increase the patch level. So the different versions would be 1.3, 1.3.p0, 1.3.p1, … The change in version number or patch level will trigger re-installation of the package, such that the changes are taken into account.

Checksums and tarball names#

The checksums.ini file contains the filename pattern of the upstream tarball (without the actual version) and its checksums. So if upstream is $SAGE_ROOT/upstream/FoO-1.3.tar.gz, create a new file $SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs/foo/checksums.ini containing only:


Sage internally replaces the VERSION substring with the content of package-version.txt.

Upstream URLs#

In addition to these fields in checksums.ini, the optional field upstream_url holds an URL to the upstream package archive.

The Release Manager uses the information in upstream_url to download the upstream package archive and to make it available on the Sage mirrors when a new release is prepared. On GitHub PRs upgrading a package, the PR description should no longer contain the upstream URL to avoid duplication of information.

Note that, like the tarball field, the upstream_url is a template; the substring VERSION is substituted with the actual version. It can also be written as ${VERSION}, and it is possible to refer to the dot-separated components of a version by VERSION_MAJOR, VERSION_MINOR, and VERSION_MICRO.

For Python packages available from PyPI, you should use an upstream_url from, which follows the format


Developers who wish to test a package update from a PR branch before the archive is available on a Sage mirror. Sage falls back to downloading package tarballs from the upstream_url after trying all Sage mirrors. (This can be disabled by using ./configure --disable-download-from-upstream-url.) To speed up this process, you can trim upstream/mirror_list to fewer mirrors.

Utility script to create and maintain packages#

The command sage --package offers a range of functionality for creating and maintaining packages of the Sage distribution.

Creating packages#

Assuming that you have downloaded $SAGE_ROOT/upstream/FoO-1.3.tar.gz, you can use:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package create foo                     \
                                         --version 1.3                \
                                         --tarball FoO-VERSION.tar.gz \
                                         --type experimental

to create $SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs/foo/package-version.txt, checksums.ini, and type in one step.

You can skip the manual downloading of the upstream tarball by using the additional argument --upstream-url. This command will also set the upstream_url field in checksums.ini described above.

For Python packages available from PyPI, you can use:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package create scikit_spatial --pypi   \
                                         --type optional

This automatically downloads the most recent version from PyPI and also obtains most of the necessary information by querying PyPI.

The dependencies file may need editing (watch out for warnings regarding --no-deps that Sage issues during installation of the package!). Also you may want to set lower and upper bounds for acceptable package versions in the file install-requires.txt.

By default, when the package is available as a platform-independent wheel, the sage --package creates a wheel package. To create a normal package instead (for example, when the package requires patching), you can use:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package create scikit_spatial --pypi   \
                                         --source normal              \
                                         --type optional

To create a pip package rather than a normal or wheel package, you can use:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package create scikit_spatial --pypi   \
                                         --source pip                 \
                                         --type optional

When the package already exists, sage --package create overwrites it.

Updating packages to a new version#

A package that has the upstream_url information can be updated by simply typing:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package update numpy 3.14.59

which will automatically download the archive and update the information in build/pkgs/numpy/.

For Python packages available from PyPI, there is another shortcut:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package update-latest matplotlib
Updating matplotlib: 3.3.0 -> 3.3.1
Downloading tarball to ...matplotlib-3.3.1.tar.bz2

If you pass the switch --commit, the script will run git commit for you.

If you prefer to make update a package foo by making manual changes to the files in build/pkgs/foo, you will need to run:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package fix-checksum foo

which will modify the checksums.ini file with the correct checksums.

Obtaining package metrics#

The command sage --package metrics computes machine-readable aggregated metrics for all packages in the Sage distribution or a given list of packages:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage --package metrics

Developers can use these metrics to monitor the complexity and quality of the Sage distribution. Here are some examples:

  • has_file_patches indicates how many packages have non-empty patches/ directories, and line_count_file_patches gives the total number of lines in the patch files.

    Ideally, we would not have to carry patches for a package. For example, updating patches when a new upstream version is released can be a maintenance burden.

    Developers can help by working with the upstream maintainers of the package to prepare a new version that requires fewer or smaller patches, or none at all.

  • line_count_spkg_install gives the total number of lines in spkg-install or files; see Build and install scripts of normal packages.

    When we carry complex scripts for normal packages, it may indicate that the upstream package’s build and installation scripts should be improved.

    Developers can help by working with the upstream maintainers of the package to prepare an improved version.

  • has_file_spkg_check indicates how many packages have an spkg-check or file; see Self-tests.

  • has_file_spkg_configure_m4 indicates how many packages are prepared to check for an equivalent system package, and has_file_distros_arch_txt, has_file_distros_conda_txt etc. count how many packages provide the corresponding system package information.

Building the package#

At this stage you have a new tarball that is not yet distributed with Sage (FoO-1.3.tar.gz in the example of section Directory structure).

Now you can install the package using:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage -i package_name


[alice@localhost sage]$ sage -f package_name

to force a reinstallation. If your package contains a spkg-check script (see Self-tests) it can be run with:

[alice@localhost sage]$ sage -i -c package_name


[alice@localhost sage]$ sage -f -c package_name

If all went fine, open a PR with the code under SAGE_ROOT/build/pkgs.

Inclusion procedure for new and updated packages#

Packages that are not part of Sage will first become optional or experimental (the latter if they will not build on all supported systems). After they have been in optional for some time without problems they can be proposed to be included as standard packages in Sage.

To propose a package for optional/experimental inclusion please open a GitHub PR added with labels c: packages: experimental or c: packages: optional. The associated code requirements are described in the following sections.

After the PR was reviewed and included, optional packages stay in that status for at least a year, after which they can be proposed to be included as standard packages in Sage. For this a GitHub PR is opened with the label c: packages: standard. Then make a proposal in the Google Group sage-devel.

Upgrading packages to new upstream versions or with additional patches includes opening a PR in the respective category too, as described above.

License information#

If you are patching a standard Sage spkg, then you should make sure that the license information for that package is up-to-date, both in its SPKG.rst or SPKG.txt file and in the file SAGE_ROOT/COPYING.txt. For example, if you are producing an spkg which upgrades the vanilla source to a new version, check whether the license changed between versions.

If an upstream tarball of a package cannot be redistributed for license reasons, rename it to include the string do-not-distribute. This will keep the release management scripts from uploading it to the Sage mirrors.

Sometimes an upstream tarball contains some distributable parts using a free software license and some non-free parts. In this case, it can be a good solution to make a custom tarball consisting of only the free parts; see Modified tarballs and the giac package as an example.

Prerequisites for new standard packages#

For a package to become part of Sage’s standard distribution, it must meet the following requirements:

  • License. For standard packages, the license must be compatible with the GNU General Public License, version 3. The Free Software Foundation maintains a long list of licenses and comments about them.

  • Build Support. The code must build on all the fully supported platforms (Linux, macOS); see Testing on Multiple Platforms. It must be installed either from source as a normal package, or as a Python (platform-independent) wheel package, see Package source types.

  • Quality. The code should be “better” than any other available code (that passes the two above criteria), and the authors need to justify this. The comparison should be made to both Python and other software. Criteria in passing the quality test include:

    • Speed

    • Documentation

    • Usability

    • Absence of memory leaks

    • Maintainable

    • Portability

    • Reasonable build time, size, dependencies

  • Previously an optional package. A new standard package must have spent some time as an optional package. Or have a good reason why this is not possible.

  • Refereeing. The code must be refereed, as discussed in The Sage Repository on GitHub.