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

Chapter 5. Portfile Reference

This chapter serves as a reference for the major elements of a Portfile: port phases, dependencies, StartupItems, variables, keywords, and Tcl extensions.

5.1. Global Keywords

MacPorts keywords are used to specify required or optional items within a Portfile, or to override default options used by MacPorts base for individual ports. Keywords are to be used within the global and variant sections of Portfiles, and not within optional port phase declarations.

The global keywords listed below specify information for ports as a whole, whereas the keywords listed under a port phase specify information to be used during a particular installation phase.


The first non-comment line of every Portfile; it should be followed by PortGroup inclusions (if any) and then a blank line. It defines which version of the Portfile interpreter will be used. (There is currently only one version.)

PortSystem          1.0


The name of the port. To avoid special interpretation by shells and the like, names should contain only alphanumeric characters, underscores, dashes and periods. For projects whose proper names contain + characters, change these to x (e.g., libstdc++ becomes libstdcxx).

name                foo

The version of the software. Version numbers are often dotted decimals, though some projects may use other formats.

The version keyword should adhere as closely as possible to the format used by the upstream project (e.g., as reported by a program's -v or --version flag or on the project's web site), omitting any preceding v or other extraneous characters that are not part of the version number. Especially, the version should not be misformatted merely to accommodate an unusual distfile name. For example, if the distfile name is foo-v1_2_3.tar.gz and the project reports its version as v1.2.3, the version keyword should be set to 1.2.3 and distname should be overridden as needed (ideally by transforming the version using a procedure such as string map).

When updating the version of a port that installs a dynamic library, check (by examining the second line of output from the otool -L command run on the library before and after upgrading) whether its install name has changed. If it has, increase the revision of every port that links with the library to rebuild it with the new library.

version             1.23.45

An optional integer (the default is 0) that is incremented when a port is updated independently of the version of the software. The revision line usually follows the version line.

In Portfiles that have subports, it is often appropriate for each subport (including the main port) to have a separate revision line. (This does not usually apply to Portfiles for Perl, PHP, Python, or Ruby modules which create numerous similar subports for the same version of the software.)

It is recommended to set the revision in all ports, even if the revision is 0. This makes it easier for other developers to see where to increase the revision in your port, should that need arise. This is especially helpful for Portfiles that have subports.

When increasing the revision in a Portfile with subports, consider carefully which of the subports (possibly including the main port) need to have their revisions increased.

When increasing the revision in a Portfile that does not have any revision lines yet, take a moment to check if the Portfile has subports.

Just like when a port's version increases, a port is considered outdated when its revision increases. To avoid causing users to rebuild ports unnecessarily, don't increase the revision unless doing so would result in a change for users who already have the ports installed.

Some examples of situations in which a port's revision should usually be increased:

  • changing configure arguments or build flags or any other change that will cause the installed files to be different

  • installing additional files, such as documentation, or removing any files which had previously been installed

  • changing the names or locations of any installed files

  • adding a dependency that causes the installed files to be different

  • a library dependency's install_name has changed

  • removing a variant that a user might have installed

  • adding a variant name to default_variants

Some examples of situations in which a port's revision should not usually be increased:

  • fixing a build failure

  • adding a dependency to depends_fetch, depends_extract, depends_patch, depends_build, or depends_test

  • adding a direct dependency on a port that was already an indirect dependency

  • changing a dependency's type, e.g. from depends_lib to depends_build

  • removing a dependency that is not used

  • setting or changing the port's license

  • adding a new non-default variant

  • removing a variant name from default_variants

  • changing comments or whitespace in the Portfile

  • any other change to the Portfile that does not change the files it installs

revision            1

An optional integer (the default is 0) that must be increased when a port is updated to a version that appears (according to the vercmp procedure's version number comparison algorithm) to be less than the previous version. For example, updating from 2.0-rc1 to 2.0, or from 1.10 to 1.2, or from 20070928 to 1.0.

The purpose of increasing the epoch is to cause MacPorts to consider a port to be outdated, even if that wouldn't otherwise be the case due to the specific version numbers. Don't set the epoch unless it's required. In most ports, the version number advances according to the normal dotted-decimal sequence, so most ports will never have a need to set the epoch.

Some Portfile authors have used large epoch values that look like dates in YYYYMMDD format (e.g., 20091231). When it is necessary to increase the epoch in such ports, the new epoch can be set to the current date. It is not recommended to use this format when adding an epoch to a port that does not already have one; instead, just set the epoch to 1, and when needing to increase an existing small epoch, increase it by 1.

epoch               1


A port's epoch can never be decreased. Removing the epoch from the port would decrease it to its default value of 0, so once added to a port the epoch can also never be removed. When adding an epoch, take extra care to ensure that it is necessary, since a mistakenly added epoch cannot be undone. In Portfiles that have subports with different software versions, consider whether the epoch needs to be increased in all subports or only in some of them.


The category under which the ported software falls. The first category should be the same as the directory within which the Portfile is stored; secondary and tertiary categories may be selected.

categories          net security

A port's maintainers are the people who have agreed to take responsibility for keeping the port up-to-date. Most ports have only a single maintainer, but some ports have two or more co-maintainers. The maintainers keyword lists the maintainers' GitHub usernames or email addresses. GitHub usernames start with an @ symbol. Email addresses are preferably listed in the obfuscated form below to hide them from spambots:

  • For addresses in domain @macports.org, simply omit the domain name.

  • For addresses in other domains, e.g., , use the convention example.org:account to specify the address.

In the example below, the port is maintained by a GitHub user named neverpanic, and the owners of the two email addresses and

maintainers         @neverpanic \
                    jdoe \

Braces can be used to express that these refer to the same person, for example the GitHub username and an email. In the following example, the port is maintained by a GitHub user named jverne, that can also be contacted directly at .

maintainers         {@jverne example.org:julesverne}


The address nomaintainer designates a port that is not maintained by anybody and may be modified by any committer. Feel free to claim maintainership of a nomaintainer port if desired. The address openmaintainer designates a port that has a maintainer who allows minor changes to be committed without his or her prior approval. Port maintainers who are not committers are encouraged to add openmaintainer to their ports.


A short sentence fragment describing the software.

description         a classic shooter arcade game

One or more sentences describing the software.

The long description can be based on a description provided by the upstream project (e.g., in its readme or on its web site) but avoid repeating information already present elsewhere in the Portfile, such as the software's license (see the license keyword) or the platforms on which it runs (see the platforms keyword), and avoid including information irrelevant to a MacPorts user, such as compilation instructions or other steps the Portfile has already performed for the user. More specific usage instructions are best left to the notes keyword.

If a port provides a program that is different from the port name, it can be a good idea to include the program name in the long description so that a user could find it by searching.

Long descriptions are usually a single paragraph. MacPorts will word-wrap long lines to the terminal width as needed. Break long lines with escaped newlines for better legibility within the Portfile. If literal newlines need to be displayed to the user, they can be inserted using \n. Place the \n at the beginning of the next line, not at the end of the previous line. To create a new paragraph, insert two newlines.

Sometimes the port's name and short description are reused as part of the long description. When referencing the description keyword (or any other list keyword with more than one item), it should be preceded with the expand operator.

long_description    ${name} is {*}${description} derived from \
                    the game alien-munchers.  Not suitable for \
                    children under two years old.
long_description    foobar provides the following programs: \
                    \n \
                    \n* foo, a lorem ipsum utility \
                    \n* bar, a high-performance amet consectetur \
                    \n* baz, an eiusmod tempor converter

The software's primary web site.

Usually the homepage should be a URL that does not redirect to another URL. For example, if an http URL redirects to an https URL, list the https URL. Or if a URL without a trailing slash redirects to the URL with the trailing slash, list the URL with the trailing slash. If the project advertises a short URL that redirects to a longer URL, it is acceptable to list the short URL despite the redirect.

When the homepage is just a hostname with no path component, don't include a trailing slash.

homepage            https://www.example.org/apps/
homepage            https://www.example.com

A list of the platforms on which the port is expected to work. Defaults to darwin if not set. Consists of a list of platform specifiers, each of which is at minimum a platform name and may also include version information. Possible platform names are:

  • darwin (equivalent to specifying both macosx and puredarwin)

  • macosx (macOS as distributed by Apple)

  • puredarwin (the open-source Darwin OS without Apple's proprietary components)

  • freebsd

  • linux

  • netbsd

  • openbsd

  • solaris

  • sunos

A platform specifier that is just a platform name is purely informational for users; it is displayed in the output of port info but has no other effect. Ports for software that does not require macOS-specific features can generally use the default value of darwin. Most ports use this value on the presumption that they would work on Pure Darwin, even if that has not been attempted. Ports for software that is known to require macOS-specific features should use macosx. Including the xcode portgroup will change the default to macosx automatically.

See also os.platform.

platforms           macosx freebsd

(Added: MacPorts 2.8.0) A platform specifier can also be a list, where the first element is a platform name and subsequent elements are pairs of comparison operators and versions. This indicates the version ranges of each platform that the port works on.

If a platform specifier's name matches ${os.platform}, then each comparison operator in the specifier is applied to ${os.version} as the left operand and the listed version as the right operand. If any of the comparisons evaluate to false, then the default value of known_fail is changed to yes.

Possible operators are: <, <=, >, >=, ==, !=. The == and != operators support globbing. The rest of the operators compare as per the vercmp command.


A port that works on Darwin 12 and later:

platforms           {darwin >= 12}

A port that works on Darwin versions between 10 and 19 inclusive:

platforms           {darwin >= 10 < 20}

A port that works on Darwin versions between 10 and 19 but not version 12.x:

platforms           {darwin >= 10 != 12.* < 20}

The special value any can also be used to indicate that a port will install identical files across platforms or platform versions. This can help to reduce the number of binary archives that have to be built. In most cases, this is only applicable to ports that don't install any architecture-specific files.

Ports that install identical files on any platform should use:

platforms           any

Ports that install identical files on any Darwin version, but may install different files on other platforms (or don't work on other platforms), should use:

platforms           {darwin any}

It is possible to combine any with version ranges. A port that only works on Darwin 17 or later and installs identical files regardless of the Darwin version would do this:

platforms           {darwin any >= 17}

The CPU architectures for which this port can be built. Archs currently supported by macOS are: arm64, i386, ppc, ppc64, x86_64. If this option is not set, it is assumed that the port can build for all archs. If a port does not install any architecture-specific files, use the special value noarch.

If the building architecture isn't among supported_archs, port fails with an error message, except when building on x86_64 and supported_archs contains i386 or when building on ppc64 and supported_archs contains ppc, in which case the port will be built in 32-bit mode.

supported_archs     i386 ppc
supported_archs     noarch

The proper format for license consists of the license name, followed by a hyphen and number if indicating a specific version. A space should be placed between licenses if there is more than one that applies. If an element in the license list is itself a list, it is interpreted as offering a choice of any one of the licenses in the sub-list.

If the version number is a .0 version, the .0 should be omitted to make the version an integer. If the author gives the choice of using a given license or any later version of it, append a plus sign (+) to the version number. If the version specified in this case is also the earliest version, just leave out the version number entirely since it implies all versions.

license             GPL-3
license             {freetype GPL}

By default, it is assumed that ports may use libraries or headers from their dependencies and thus form a derivative work. A dependency with an incompatible license thus prevents the port from being distributed in binary form. If a dependency with an incompatible license is not used in such a way that a derivative work is formed, or should not prevent binary distribution for any other reason, add its name to this list.

license_noconflict  openssl
license_noconflict  readline gdbm

(Added: MacPorts 2.6.0) By default, it is assumed on macOS that ports will not need tools from Xcode.app unless (1) Command Line Tools aren't installed, (2) you are on an old version of Mac OS X that does not support the xcode-select mechanism, or (3) the port uses build.type xcode or includes the xcode PortGroup. If a port needs to use Xcode (i.e., xcodebuild) in any way, use_xcode yes should be set or the port should include the xcode PortGroup. The environment variable DEVELOPER_DIR is now exported during all build phases, set to the value of ${configure.developer_dir} which may be the directory of Xcode or CLT depending on use_xcode. This means that libxcselect shims (i.e., /usr/bin/clang) will resolve to Xcode/CLT. Build systems that ignore the environment may accidentally use Xcode which will cause a failure in trace mode.

use_xcode           no
use_xcode           yes

Setting this option to yes indicates that the port is known not to work. Users will be told this and asked for confirmation if they attempt to install it, and the Buildbot and GitHub Actions will not attempt to build it.

Don't set this option conditionally on the basis of anything that can change dynamically, such as $build_arch or $xcodeversion, since it will be recorded in the static PortIndex. If a port works only on certain OS versions, use the platforms option to indicate this rather than setting known_fail directly.

known_fail           yes

The macOS release to target.

During the configure phase, environment variable MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET is set to the specified value.

This option is also used when building binary packages, via port pkg, port mpkg, port dmg, and port mdmg. Specifically, MacPorts will create a package/DMG that is compatible with the desired macOS release. In addition, it is used to set version-related metadata for the Apple installer package, including allowed-os-versions.

macosx_deployment_target 10.8

By default, it is assumed that ports may install libraries or headers that can be incorporated into their dependents. If this is not the case, set installs_libs to no. This means that this port's dependents need not check that it is installed for the same architectures as them; that it is permissible to distribute binaries of the dependents even if their licenses conflict with the license of this port; and that updates to this port can never result in broken dynamic linking in its dependents.

installs_libs        no

Consists of a list of usernames and settings. At appropriate times during the port installation process, a user will be created for each username with the corresponding settings.

Settings are of the form name=value. A setting applies to the username that appeared most recently before it in the list.

Applicable options are: group, gid (may be used instead of group), passwd, realname, home, and shell.

add_users           squid \
                    group=squid \
                    realname=Squid\ Proxy \
add_users           user1 group=mygroup \
                    user2 group=mygroup