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

5.6. Tcl Extensions & Useful Tcl Commands

A MacPorts Portfile is a Tcl script, so it may contain any arbitrary Tcl code you may learn about in the Tcl documentation. However, few authors will use arbitrary Tcl code; the vast majority will use a subset of Tcl commands and a number of Tcl extensions that are coded within MacPorts for performing the most common tasks needed for Portfiles. The list below is a list of useful Tcl commands for Portfile development and Tcl extensions provided by MacPorts base.


The standard Tcl file command can be used for a number of operations on files, such as moving, renaming, deleting, or creating directories, among others. For a complete list, consult the Tcl reference manual for the file command, or the Tcl file manpage in the n section of manpages on your machine using man n file

file copy

Copy a file.

file rename

Rename a file.

file delete [-force]

Remove a file or (with -force) a directory and its contents.

file mkdir

Create a directory.


For the above operations provided by Tcl's file command, MacPorts provides the following shorthands. These should be used in preference to the Tcl commands above, as they may work around certain bugs.


Shorthand for file copy.


Similar to file rename but correctly handles renames that only change the case of a file on a case-insensitive filesystem.


Shorthand for file delete -force.


Mimics the BSD touch command.


Mimics the BSD ln command.


xinstall copies files and creates directories; it is intended to be compatible with install(1).

xinstall [-o owner] [-g group] [-m mode] [file1 file2 ...] directory

Install the specified file(s) to a destination directory.

xinstall [-o owner] [-g group] [-m mode] [-W dir] [file1 file2 ...] directory

Change to dir and install file(s) to a destination directory.

xinstall [-o owner] [-g group] [-m mode] {*}[glob pattern] directory

Install the file(s) matching the glob pattern to a destination directory. Note the use of the {*} operator to convert the list returned by glob into separate arguments to xinstall.

xinstall -d [-o owner] [-g group] [-m mode] directory

Create a directory including parent directories if necessary.


  • owner -

  • group -

  • mode - 0755


xinstall -m 640 ${worksrcpath}/README \
xinstall -m 640 -W ${worksrcpath}/doc README INSTALL COPY \
xinstall -m 640 {*}[glob ${worksrcpath}/doc/*] \
xinstall -d ${destroot}${prefix}/share/doc/${name}

strsed can be used for string manipulations using regular expressions. It supports a small subset of the commands known from sed(1).

strsed string s/regex/replacement/

Replaces the first instance of regex with replacement. Refer to re_format(7) for a definition of regular expression syntax.

strsed string g/regex/replacement/

The same as the previous format, except all instances of the pattern will be replaced, not only the first (mnemonic: 'g' is for global).


Allows text specified by a regular expression to be replaced by new text, in-place (the file will be updated itself, no need to place output into a new file and rename).

reinplace [-locale locale] [-n] [-W dir] [--] command file [file2 ...]

Replace text given by the regular expression portion of the command with the replacement text, in all files specified.

Use -locale to set the locale. The default locale is en_US.UTF-8. For example, -locale C will allow a non-UTF-8 file to be modified (which may otherwise give the error "sed: RE error: illegal byte sequence"), but only operating on ASCII characters. If you need it to work on non-ASCII characters you need to set a locale with the correct charset for the file, e.g. "en_US.ISO8859-1".

-n is passed to sed to suppress echoing result

-W to set a common working directory for multiple files

Use -E to use the extended regular expression style (see re_format(7) for a description of the basic and extended styles)

Use -- to end option processing and allow any further dashes not to be treated as options.


reinplace -W ${worksrcpath} "s|/usr/local|${prefix}|g" configure setup.py
reinplace "s|@@PREFIX@@|${prefix}|g" ${worksrcpath}/Makefile

adduser username [uxml:id=uid] [gxml:id=gid] [passwd=passwd] [realname=realname] [home=home] [shell=shell]

Add a new local user to the system with the specified uid, gid, password, real name, home directory and login shell.

existsuser username

Check if a local user exists. Returns the uid for the given user, or 0 if the user wasn't found. Checking for the root user is not supported because its uid is 0, and it will always exist anyway.


Returns the highest used uid plus one.

addgroup group [gxml:id=gid] [passwd=passwd] [realname=realname] [users=users]

Add a new local group to the system, with the specified gid, password, real name, and with a list of users as members.

existsgroup group

Check if a local group exists and return the corresponding gid. This can be used with adduser:

addgroup foo
adduser foo gxml:id=[existsgroup foo]

Returns the highest used gid plus one.

External program execution

Use only when ....