Awesome Open Source
Awesome Open Source


Mason is a cross-platform, command-line package manager for C/C++ applications.

Mason is like:

  • npm because it installs packages in the current working directory (./mason_packages) rather than globally (and therefore does not require privileges for, or conflict with, system-wide packages)
  • homebrew because it requires no use of sudo to install packages
  • apt-get or yum because it works on Linux

Mason is unlike:

  • all of the above...

    Mason is a collection of bash scripts and does not depend on any specific runtime language, such as python, node.js, or ruby. It can build and publish a single set of binaries (>= OS X 10.8 and >= Ubuntu Precise), publish header-only files, and install packages. Mason has integrations with Travis CI and Amazon S3 for automated build and deployment.

    Mason strongly prefers static libraries over shared libraries and has zero understanding of dependency trees: it leaves complete control to the developer for how packages relate.

Mason works on both OS X and Linux.

Build Status

Table of Contents


There are three recommended ways to install mason, via:


To install mason locally:

mkdir ./mason
curl -sSfL | tar -z --extract --strip-components=1 --exclude="*md" --exclude="test*" --directory=./mason

Then you can use the mason command like: ./mason/mason install <package> <version>

To install mason globally (to /tmp):

curl -sSfL | tar -z --extract --strip-components=1 --exclude="*md" --exclude="test*" --directory=/tmp

Then you can use the mason command like: /tmp/mason install <package> <version>


Mason can also be added as a submodule to your repository. This is helpful for other contributors to get set up quickly.

Optionally a convention when using submodules, is to place the submodule at a path starting with . to make the directory hidden to most file browsers. If you want your mason folder hidden then make sure to include the final part of the following command .mason/ so your submodule path has the leading . instead of just being mason/.

git submodule add [email protected]:mapbox/mason.git .mason/

This will append a few lines to your .gitmodules file. Make sure to change the url parameter to https instead of [email protected] ssh protocol.

[submodule ".mason"]
    path = .mason
    url =

Update your Makefile to point to the mason scripts and provide an installation script for the necessary dependencies. The following installs two Mason packages with the make mason_packages command.

MASON ?= .mason/mason

    git submodule update --init

mason_packages: $(MASON)
    $(MASON) install geometry 0.7.0
    $(MASON) install variant 1.1.0


Copy the into your cmake project. A common convention is to place it at <your project>/cmake/mason

mkdir cmake
wget -O cmake/mason.cmake

Then in your CmakeLists.txt install packages like:

mason_use(<package name> VERSION <package version> HEADER_ONLY)

Note: Leave out HEADER_ONLY if the package is a precompiled library. You can see if a package is HEADER_ONLY by looking inside the for MASON_HEADER_ONLY=true like


By default Mason publishes packages to a Mapbox-managed S3 bucket. If you want to publish to a different bucket we recommend taking the following steps:

  1. Fork Mason and rename it to mason-{your_org}
  2. Set MASON_BUCKET to your own S3 bucket
  3. Publish packages to the new location


Most commands are structured like this:

mason <command> <library> <version>

The command can be one of the following

  • install - installs the specified library/version
  • remove - removes the specified library/version
  • build - forces a build from source (= skip pre-built binary detection)
  • publish - uploads packages to the S3 bucket
  • prefix - prints the absolute path to the library installation directory
  • version - prints the actual version of the library (only useful when version is system)
  • cflags - prints C/C++ compiler flags
  • ldflags - prints linker flags
  • link - creates symlinks for packages in mason_packages/.link
  • trigger - trigger a build and publish operation on Travis CI


$ mason install libuv 0.11.29
* Downloading binary package osx-10.10/libuv/0.11.29.tar.gz...
######################################################################## 100.0%
* Installed binary package at /Users/user/mason_packages/osx-10.10/libuv/0.11.29

Installs libuv into the current folder in the mason_packages directory. Libraries are versioned by platform and version number, so you can install several different versions of the same library along each other. Similarly, you can also install libraries for different platforms alongside each other, for example library binaries for OS X and iOS.

The install command first checks if the specified library/version is already present for this platform, and if so, exits. This means you can run it multiple times (e.g. as part of a configuration script) without doing unnecessary work.

Next, Mason checks whether there are pre-built binaries available in the S3 bucket for the current platform. If that is the case, they are downloaded and unzipped and the installation is complete.

If no pre-built binaries are available, Mason is going to build the library according to the script in the mason_packages/.build folder, and install into the platform- and library-specific directory.


$ mason remove libuv 0.11.29
* Removing existing package...

Removes the specified library/version from the package directory.


This command works like the install command, except that it doesn't check for existing library installations, and that it doesn't check for pre-built binaries, i.e. it first removes the current installation and always builds the library from source. This is useful when you are working on a build script and want to fresh builds.


Creates a gzipped tarball of the specified platform/library/version and uploads it to the mason-binaries S3 bucket. If you want to use this feature, you need write access to the bucket and need to specify the environment variables AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY.


~ $ mason prefix libuv 0.11.29

This prints the absolute path to the installation directory of the the library/version. Likely, this folder has the typical include and lib folders.


~ $ mason version zlib system

This prints the version of the library, which is only useful when version is system. See System packages for more details.


~ $ mason cflags libuv 0.11.29

Prints the C/C++ compiler flags that are required to compile source code with this library. Likely, this is just the include path, but may also contain other flags.


~ $ mason ldflags libuv 0.11.29
-L/Users/user/mason_packages/osx-10.10/libuv/0.11.29/lib -luv -lpthread -ldl

Prints the linker flags that are required to link against this library.


~ $ mason link libuv 0.11.29

This command only works if the package has already been installed. When run it symlinks the versioned lib, include, share, and bin folders of the package into a shared structure that is unversioned. For example if mason prefix libuv 0.11.29 was ./mason_packages/osx-10.10/libuv/0.11.29 then the library would become available at ./mason_packages/.link/lib/libuv.a


In order to ensure that all pre-built binaries are consistent and reproducible, we perform the final build and publish operation on Travis CI.

First set the MASON_TRAVIS_TOKEN environment variable. You can do this either by installing the travis gem and running travis token or by using curl to hit the Travis api directly. See details on this below. WARNING: be careful to keep this token safe. Cycling it requires emailing [email protected]. Giving someone an access token is like giving them full access to your Travis account.

Once you are set up with your MASON_TRAVIS_TOKEN then use the trigger command to kick off a build:

./mason trigger <package name> <package version>

Run this command from the root of a local mason repository checkout. It makes a request to the Travis API to build and publish the specified version of the package, using the Travis configuration in ./scripts/${MASON_NAME}/${MASON_VERSION}/.travis.yml.

  1. Using curl and travis api to generate MASON_TRAVIS_TOKEN

First generate a github personal access token that has repo scope by going to More details at

Then set that in your environment and run:

GITHUB_TOKEN=<github token>

curl -s -i \
    -H "User-Agent: Travis/1.0" \
    -H "Content-Type: application/json" \
    -H "Accept: application/vnd.travis-ci.2+json" \
    -H "Host:" \
    -d "{\"github_token\": \"${GITHUB_TOKEN}\"}"
  1. Use the travis command

For details see and

Creating a package


Before getting started you should be able to answer the following questions.

What are you packaging?

There are different steps that you will need to follow depending on the type of library you are packaging. For example, there are fewer steps you need to take if you are creating a package of header-only code. Packaging compiled code has more steps because you'll need to tell Mason how to build your binaries. Another type of package is a System package which has a unique process as well.

Are there previous versions already published?

Check the list of packages to see if a previous version of your package exists. It's helpful to copy scripts from a previous version rather than creating code from scratch.

Where can Mason download your code?

Every package needs to tell Mason where to download the code that it will build and publish, for example:

  • for a Github release: geometry 0.9.2
  • for pre-release code hosted on Github: geometry b0e41cc

Note: Your code doesn't need to be hosted on Github in order for Mason to work. Your code can be hosted anywhere. Another common location is SourceForge.

Getting started

These are just basic steps to help get you started. Depending on the complexity of building your code, you might have to review the Mason scripts section to get a better idea of how to further configure Mason to be able to create your package.

  1. Create a new directory for your package.

    From inside your mason checkout, create a directory named ${package}/${version}. For example, if you have a library named your-lib that is version 0.1.0 you would:

    mkdir -p scripts/your-lib/0.1.0
  2. Add scripts for building and publishing your package.

    Each package must have the following two files: and .travis.yml. Copy these two files from a previous version of your package.

    If no previous version of your package exists, it is recommended to copy a simple package that has mostly boiler plate code:

    • geometry for header-only code
    • libpng for building and packaging binaries

    For example, if you're creating the first package of a library named your-lib that is version 0.1.0 you would copy scripts from the geometry package:

    cp -r scripts/geometry/0.9.1 scripts/your-lib/0.1.0
  3. Edit Mason variables in

    You must set the follow Mason variables:

    • MASON_NAME: set to the name of your package, e.g. your-lib
    • MASON_VERSION: set to the package version, e.g. 0.1.0
    • MASON_BUILD_PATH: set to the location Mason will use to store header files or binaries before it packages and publishes them

    You may also need to set the follow Mason variables:

  4. Override Mason functions in

    You must override the follow Mason functions:

    • mason_load_source: you must call mason_download and update its parameters:
      • url (first parameter): set to the location of your source code archive, e.g.${MASON_VERSION}.tar.gz
      • checksum (second parameter): set to the checksum you get back after running a checksum function on the source code you want to download. The easiest way to get this checksum is to run ./mason build your-lib 0.1.0 (after setting the mason_download url) which will fail with an error message that will contain the correct checksum
    • mason_compile

    You may also need to override the follow Mason functions:

System packages

Some packages ship with operating systems or can be easily installed with operating-specific package managers. For example, libpng is available on most systems and the version you're using doesn't really matter since it is mature and hasn't added any significant new APIs in recent years.

The following contains the script code for packaging your system's libpng. Note: To understande this code, make sure to review the Mason scripts section.

#!/usr/bin/env bash



if [ ! $(pkg-config libpng --exists; echo $?) = 0 ]; then
    mason_error "Cannot find libpng with pkg-config"
    exit 1

function mason_system_version {
    mkdir -p "${MASON_PREFIX}"
    cd "${MASON_PREFIX}"
    if [ ! -f version ]; then
        echo "#include <png.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <assert.h>
int main() {
    assert(PNG_LIBPNG_VER == png_access_version_number());
    printf(\"%s\", PNG_LIBPNG_VER_STRING);
    return 0;
" > version.c && ${CC:-cc} version.c $(mason_cflags) $(mason_ldflags) -o version

function mason_compile {

function mason_cflags {
    pkg-config libpng --cflags

function mason_ldflags {
    pkg-config libpng --libs

mason_run "[email protected]"

System packages are marked with MASON_SYSTEM_PACKAGE=true. We're also first using pkg-config to check whether the library is present at all. The mason_system_version function creates a small executable which outputs the actual version. It is the only thing that is cached in the installation directory.

We have to override the mason_cflags and mason_ldflags commands since the regular commands return flags for static libraries, but in the case of system packages, we want to dynamically link against the package.

Releasing a package

Here is an example workflow to help get you started:

  1. Create an annotated tag in git for the code you want to package.

    Annotated tags can be stored, checksummed, signed and verified with GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) in Github. To create an annotated tag specify -a when running the tag command, for example:

    git tag -a v0.1.0 -m "version 0.1.0"

  2. Share your new tag.

    You have to explicitly push your new tag to a shared Github server. This is the location we will share with Mason when specifying where to download the code to be packaged. Using our example above we would run:

    git push origin v0.1.0

    (Or you can push all tags: git push --tags.)

  3. Create a package.

    We recommend working in a new branch before creating a package. For example if you want to call your new package my_new_package version 0.1.0 you could create and checkout a branch like this:

    git checkout -b my_new_package-0.1.0

    Now follow the instructions in the Getting started section for creating a new package.

  4. Test your package.

    Even though we will eventually build the package using Travis, it's a good idea to build locally to check for errors.

    ./mason build my_new_package 0.1.0

  5. Push changes to remote.

    Once you can build, push your changes up to Github remote so that Travis will know what to build and publish in the next step.

    git push origin my_new_package-0.1.0

  6. Build and Publish your package.

    Use Mason's trigger command to tell Travis to build, test, and publish your new package to the S3 bucket specified in

    ./mason trigger my_new_package 0.1.0

  7. Check S3 to verify whether your package exists.

Using a package

Mason has two clients for installing and working with packages:

  • Mason cli - comes bundled with the Mason project, see Usage for commands

    For example hpp-skel uses the Mason cli client and requires that the Mason version in scripts/ be updated in order to stay up-to-date with the latest available packages.

  • mason-js - a separate Node.js client with its own installation and usage instructions

    For example node-cpp-skel uses the mason-js client and pulls packages directly from S3.

Note: The install command syntax will differ depending on the client you use.

Mason internals

Mason scripts

The file in each package is structured like the following example:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

# This is required for every package.

# This is required if Mason will need to build a static library. Specify the relative path in the
# installation directory.

# You can specify the relative path to the pkg-config file if Mason needs to build your code before
# packaging. If the library doesn't have a pkg-config file, you will need to override the functions
# `mason_cflags` and `mason_ldflags`.

# This is required when you need to load the build system to build your code before packaging. You
# con't need this line if you are packaging header-only code.

# Overriding this Mason function is required for all pakcages so Mason knows where to obtain your
# source code. This function also caches downloaded tarballs in the mason_packages/.cache folder.
function mason_load_source {
    mason_download \ \

    # This unpacks the archive into the `mason_packages/.build` folder. If the tarball is BZip2
    # compressed, you can also use `mason_extract_tar_bz2` instead.

    # This variable contains the path to the unpacked folder inside the `.build` directory.

# Override this Mason function if you need to run code before compiling, e.g. a script that
# generates configuration files.
function mason_prepare_compile {

# It is required to override the `mason_compile` function because it performs the actual build of
# the source code (or just copies header files into a package folder to be published later for
# header-only code). This is an example of how you would configure and make a static library.
function mason_compile {
    # You must set the build system's installation prefix to `MASON_PREFIX`. For cross-platform
    # builds, you have to specify the `MASON_HOST_ARG`, which is empty for regular builds and is set
    # to the correct host platform for cross-compiles e.g. iOS builds use `--host=arm-apple-darwin`.
    ./configure \
        --prefix=${MASON_PREFIX} \
        ${MASON_HOST_ARG} \
        --enable-static \
        --disable-shared \

    # If the build system supports building concurrently, you can tell it do do so by providing the
    # number of parallel tasks from `MASON_CONCURRENCY`.
    make install -j${MASON_CONCURRENCY}

# Tell Mason how to clean up the build folder. This is required for multi-architecture builds. e.g.
# iOS builds perform a Simulator (Intel architecture) build first, then an iOS (ARM architecture)
# build. The results are `lipo`ed into one universal archive file.
function mason_clean {
    make clean

# Run everything.
mason_run "[email protected]"

Mason variables

Name Description
MASON_DIR The directory where Mason itself is installed. Defaults to the current directory.
MASON_ROOT Absolute path the mason_packages directory. Example: /Users/user/mason_packages.
MASON_PLATFORM Platform of the current invocation. Currently one of osx, ios, android, or linux.
MASON_PLATFORM_VERSION Version of the platform. It must include the architecture if the produced binaries are architecture-specific (e.g. on Linux). Example: 10.10
MASON_NAME Name specified in the file. Example: libuv
MASON_VERSION Version specified in the file. Example: 0.11.29
MASON_SLUG Combination of the name and version. Example: libuv-0.11.29
MASON_PREFIX Absolute installation path. Example: /Users/user/mason_packages/osx-10.10/libuv/0.11.29
MASON_BUILD_PATH Absolute path to the build root. Example: /Users/user/mason_packages/.build/libuv-0.11.29
MASON_BUCKET S3 bucket that is used for storing pre-built binary packages. Example: mason-binaries
MASON_BINARIES Relative path to the gzipped tarball in the .binaries directory. Example: osx-10.10/libuv/0.11.29.tar.gz
MASON_BINARIES_PATH Absolute path to the gzipped tarball. Example: /Users/user/mason_packages/.binaries/osx-10.10/libuv/0.11.29.tar.gz
MASON_CONCURRENCY Number of CPU cores. Example: 8
MASON_HOST_ARG Cross-compilation arguments. Example: --host=x86_64-apple-darwin
MASON_LIB_FILE Relative path to the library file in the install directory. Example: lib/libuv.a
MASON_PKGCONFIG_FILE Relative path to the pkg-config file in the install directory. Example: lib/pkgconfig/libuv.pc
MASON_XCODE_ROOT OS X specific; Path to the Xcode Developer directory. Example: /Applications/
MASON_HEADER_ONLY Set to true to specify this library as header-only, which bypasses building binaries (default false)

Mason functions

These are common Mason function that you might need to override in your package's file depending on the type of library you are packaging. See to view how these functions are implemented by default. There you will find even more mason_-functions that you might find useful to override.

  • mason_pkgconfig
  • mason_cflags
  • mason_ldflags
  • mason_static_libs


Downloaded source tarballs are cached in mason_packages/.cache. If for some reason the initial download failed, but it still left a file in that directory, make sure you delete the partial download there.

Get A Weekly Email With Trending Projects For These Topics
No Spam. Unsubscribe easily at any time.
Python (1,139,219
C Plus Plus (370,748
Linux (16,499
Npm (5,751
Cross Platform (3,283
Deployment (1,800
Osx (1,511
Packaging (328
Apt (310
Cxx (209
Related Projects