Advanced features

Once you have built your first snap, you will probably want to learn more about snapcraft’s more advanced features. Having a look at our selection of demos is a good idea, as we want it to be a good showcase of what is possible and generally relevant.


Our showcase can be found in the actual source of snapcraft itself. Check it out by simply running:

git clone
cd snapcraft/demos

Inspecting the source locally will make easier to build the demos and play around with them. (You can view them online as well.)

Playing around with the demos

If you just cloned the snapcraft source and inspect the demos, you can start off your explorations by reading the accompanying snapcraft.yaml file and running:

../../bin/snapcraft snap

This will inform you of all the steps taken during the creation of the snap.

Defining your parts

Once you have noted down all the general information about your snap (like description, summary information and everything else), naming the individual parts will define the stucture of your snapcraft.yaml file. Think of parts as individual components of your snap: Where do you pull them from? How are they built?

Prerequisites during the build

The example named downloader-with-wiki-parts shows how very easy you can make sure that the relevant build dependencies are installed:

build-packages: [libssl-dev]

The above will install the libssl-dev package from the Ubuntu archive before an attempted build. If you need a specific version of libssl-dev or a custom build, you will need to specify a separate part.

Also note that the above will not define which libraries are shipped with the app. It merely makes sure you have all the relevant build tools installed.

Pulling and building

If you just intend to pull and build the source, take a look at the gopaste example. In its snapcraft.yaml file you can find just this one parts paragraph:

    plugin: go
    source: git://

It starts off with the name of the specific part (gopaste here), the origin of the part (it’s a git URL) and how to build it (plugin: go). Other possible scenarios would be Bazaar or Mercurial branches, or local directories.

Mixing and matching plugins

An interesting example is py2-project because it defines two parts spongeshaker using the python2 plugin, and make-project using the make plugin.

    plugin: python2
    source: git://
    plugin: make
    source: .

The example above mixes and matches parts of different origin. Locally it provides a binary we intend to ship (the script) and a Makefile (to install our script in the right place).

spongeshaker is a python library we will need to pull from git, build as a python project and bundle along with our script.

A possible use-case for the above would be if you just intend to ship a small binary which you maintain, but require a library you need to build from git as opposed to simply including it from the Ubuntu archives.

What’s happening during the snapcraft run is:

  1. Get spongeshaker from git.
  2. Build it as a python project (which will include installing the python library in the right place).
  3. Running make (from the local Makefile) and thus installing our script in the right place.

Putting your parts in order

If your app is comprised of multiple parts, it might be necessary to build and stage parts in a particular order. This can be done by using the after keyword:

    plugin: make
    source: lp:~mterry/+junk/pipelinetest
      - libpipeline
    plugin: autotools
    source: lp:~mterry/libpipeline/printf

In the case of the libpipeline example above, the part named pipelinetest will be built after libpipeline. Especially if you need specific functionality during a build or as part of checks during the stage phase, this will be handy.

If any part built using the after keyword needs to explicitly access assets in the stage directory with configuration flags (e.g.; configure in the case of autotools) it can use of the SNAPCRAFT_STAGE environment variable, like this:

        plugin: autotools
        source: .
            - --with-swig $SNAPCRAFT_STAGE/swig
            - swig
        plugin: autotools
        source: ./swig

Re-using parts

With snapcraft we want to make it easy to learn from other app vendors and re-use parts which have worked well for them.

In the downloader-with-wiki-parts example, you can see that the main part is built:

  - curl

As we never define the curl part in the above example, snapcraft will check the Ubuntu Wiki, which is where we currently host examples of successful snapcraft parts. The build order in this case would be curl, then main.

Finishing steps

Individual files

If you are planning to provide binaries and services to the users of your apps, you need to specify them in your definition first. It’s just a matter of enumerating them.

The godd example has one app:

    command: ./bin/godd

The above will take care of making the script executable, adding it to the user’s path and install it in the right place.

For a simple service we can take a look at gopaste:

    command: bin/gopasted
    daemon: simple

You define a name for the service, describe it (so log messages are more descriptive), declare how to run the service and that’s it. For more thoughts on services and their security, visit the snappy policy.

Limiting the number of installed files

To check the list of files included in your snap, you can use unsquashfs -l on the resulting .snap file. If you find that certain files should not be shipped to the user (download size being just one factor), you can explicitly tell snapcraft which files to snap:

    - usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/*
    - usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/*
    - usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/*
    - bin/godd*

Here godd further defines the list of files to be placed in the app during the prime phase. As you can see above, globs (using asterisks as wildcard characters) are a good way of handling complexities within the directory structure.

In the webcam-webui example you can see the following part called cam:

  plugin: go
      - fswebcam
        - usr/bin/fswebcam
        - lib
        - usr/lib
        - bin/golang-*
      - $fswebcam
      - $go-server
      - $fswebcam
      - $go-server
      - -usr/share/doc

In the stage definition you can see how named filesets are re-used ($fswebcam and $go-server).

Another feature used in the prime definition is an exclude (-usr/share/doc in this case), meaning that files in these directories will not be installed.


Snapping node.js apps has never been this easy. Take a look at the shout example and see how short and sweet it is. To bundle node packages, you simply do something like:

    plugin: nodejs
      - shout

node-packages simply lists which packages (including their dependencies) to add to the snap.

Endless possibilities

Combining various plugins and parts and using the wiki plugin make snapcraft incredibly versatile. On top of that, you can write your own plugin as well.