1. Introduction
2. Installing MacPorts
2.1. Install Xcode
2.2. Install MacPorts
2.3. Upgrade MacPorts
2.4. Uninstall MacPorts
2.5. MacPorts and the Shell
3. Using MacPorts
3.1. The port Command
3.2. Port Variants
3.3. Common Tasks
3.4. Port Binaries
4. Portfile Development
4.1. Portfile Introduction
4.2. Creating a Portfile
4.3. Example Portfiles
4.4. Port Variants
4.5. Patch Files
4.6. Local Portfile Repositories
4.7. Portfile Best Practices
4.8. MacPorts' buildbot
5. Portfile Reference
5.1. Global Keywords
5.2. Global Variables
5.3. Port Phases
5.4. Dependencies
5.5. Variants
5.6. Tcl Extensions & Useful Tcl Commands
5.7. StartupItems
5.8. Livecheck / Distcheck
5.9. PortGroups
6. MacPorts Internals
6.1. File Hierarchy
6.2. Configuration Files
6.3. Port Images
6.4. APIs and Libs
6.5. The MacPorts Registry
6.6. Tests
7. MacPorts Project
7.1. Using Trac for Tickets
7.2. Using Git and GitHub
7.3. Contributing to MacPorts
7.4. Port Update Policies
7.5. Updating Documentation
7.6. MacPorts Membership
7.7. The PortMgr Team
8. MacPorts Guide Glossary

4.4. Port Variants

Variants are a way for port authors to provide options that may be invoked at install time. They are declared in the global section of a Portfile using the variant keyword, and should include carefully chosen variant descriptions.

4.4.1. Example Variants

The most common actions for user-selected variants is to add or remove dependencies, configure arguments, and build arguments according to various options a port author wishes to provide. Here is an example of several variants that modify depends_lib and configure arguments for a port.

variant fastcgi description {Add fastcgi binary} {
    configure.args-append \
            --enable-fastcgi \
            --enable-force-cgi-redirect \

variant gmp description {Add GNU MP functions} {
    depends_lib-append port:gmp
    configure.args-append --with-gmp=${prefix}


variant sqlite description {Build sqlite support} {
    depends_lib-append \
    configure.args-delete \
        --without-sqlite \
    configure.args-append \
        --with-sqlite \
        --with-pdo-sqlite=${prefix} \


Variant names may contain only the characters A-Z, a-z, and the underscore character _. Therefore, take care to never use hyphens in variant names.

In the example variant declaration below, the configure argument --without-x is removed and a number of others are appended.

variant x11 description {Builds port as an X11 program with Lucid widgets} {
    configure.args-delete   --without-x
    configure.args-append   --with-x-toolkit=lucid \
                            --without-carbon \
                            --with-xpm \
                            --with-jpeg \
                            --with-tiff \
                            --with-gif \
    depends_lib-append      lib:libX11:XFree86 \
                            lib:libXpm:XFree86 \
                            port:jpeg \
                            port:tiff \
                            port:libungif \

4.4.2. Variant Actions in a Phase

If a variant requires options in addition to those provided by keywords using -append and/or -delete, in other words, any actions that would normally take place within a port installation phase, do not try to do this within the variant declaration. Rather, modify the behavior of any affected phases when the variant is invoked using the variant_isset keyword.

post-destroot {
    xinstall -m 755 -d ${destroot}${prefix}/etc/
    xinstall ${worksrcpath}/examples/foo.conf \

    if {[variant_isset carbon]} {
        delete ${destroot}${prefix}/bin/emacs
        delete ${destroot}${prefix}/bin/emacs-${version}

4.4.3. Default Variants

Variants are used to specify actions that lie outside the core functions of an application or port, but there may be some cases where you wish to specify these non-core functions by default. For this purpose you may use the keyword default_variants.

default_variants    +foo +bar


The default_variant keyword may only be used in the global Portfile section.