Migrating between bases

A base snap is a special kind of snap that provides a run-time environment with a minimal set of libraries that are common to most applications. They’re transparent to users, but they need to be considered and specified when building a snap.

See Base snaps for details on how use and specify them.

Each base snap is built from a corresponding Ubuntu LTS release and migrating a snap from one base to the next gives the snap access to newer packages, extended support, and the latest Snapcraft features, including plugins and extensions.

The complexity of the migration process is directly linked to both dependencies in the snap’s snapcraft.yaml and the base snap versions being migrated between.

At its simplest, migrating from one base snap to another requires only that the base keyword is updated:

- base: core18
+ base: core20

But further changes will most likely be needed, and what these are will depend on the original base and the packages that are bundled alongside the application. The most common required changes are described below:

Updating from no or old bases

Migrating a snap from having no base, or base: core, to core18 or core20, for example, is a more involved process than going from core18 to core20.

This is because when building a snap with an old base, Snapcraft will operate in compatibility mode.

Compatibility mode is essentially a prior (2.43-era) version of Snapcraft, and will lose the functionality of newer releases. See Features incompatible with bases for details.

Package names

The build-packages and stage-packages sections in a snap’s snapcraft.yaml specify which packages need to be incorporated during the build and stage parts of the Parts lifecycle, and described in Build and staging dependencies.

When no base or core is specified, packages from the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS archive are used at build and stage time. The core18 base will use packages from the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS archive, whereas the core20 base will consume packages from the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS archive, and package names can change between releases.

Package name example: Irssi

-      - libperl5.22
+      - libperl5.26

In the above example, the name of the Perl library package changed due to a version bump. The best way to resolve these issues is to first build your snap on the destination base system, either via snapcraft or a virtual machine/LXD container, and update each unresolved package in turn with the new equivalents.


The architectures keyword defines a set of both build and run architectures:

  - build-on: amd64
    run-on: amd64

Snaps that produce i386 builds are supportable for the lifetime of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS or Ubuntu 18.04 LTS when using the core or core18 snaps as the base, but base: core20 does not support the i386 architecture.

Publishers who want to move to ‘base: core20’ must drop builds for the i386 architecture since it isn’t unavailable. Supported core20 architectures are listed below:

  - build-on: amd64
  - build-on: arm64
  - build-on: armhf
  - build-on: ppc64el
  - build-on: s390x

For potential approaches to maintain an i386 build of a snap, see How best to handle i386 when moving to core20.

Environment variables

Environment variables are often used in snaps to ensure binaries are able to find loadable modules or libraries which reside inside the snap at runtime. Sometimes this results in path names which require updates due to directory name changes between versions.

Environment variables example: Irssi

-        PERL5LIB:  "$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl-base/:$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl5/5.22/:$SNAP/usr/share/perl5/:$SNAP/usr/share/perl/5.22.1/:$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl/5.22/:$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl/5.22.1/"
+        PERL5LIB:  "$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl-base/:$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl5/5.26/:$SNAP/usr/share/perl5/:$SNAP/usr/share/perl/5.26.1/:$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl/5.26/:$SNAP/usr/lib/$SNAPCRAFT_ARCH_TRIPLET/perl/5.26.1/"

When a package name changes or is updated, it’s worth checking to make sure no environment variables are dependent on a path related to an older name, as with the above path.

Remote parts and Extensions

In some snaps remote parts may have been used to share configuration across multiple snaps and to reduce the local snapcraft.yaml complexity.

These parts are defined elsewhere, and would be incorporated at build time. This functionality is deprecated, so remote parts should be pasted directly into the snapcraft.yaml or referenced from their source repository.

Example of pasted remote part: Mr Rescue

-    after:
-      - desktop-glib-only
+    desktop-glib-only:
+	   build-packages:
+	     - libglib2.0-dev
+	   plugin: make
+	   source: https://github.com/ubuntu/snapcraft-desktop-helpers.git
+	   source-subdir: glib-only
+	   stage-packages:
+	     - libglib2.0-bin

Alternatively for some desktop applications it may be appropriate to switch to using an extension, which simplifies the snapcraft.yaml further. This is covered in Snapcraft Extensions.

Example migration to an Extension: Xonotic

-    after:
-      - desktop-glib-only
-    command: desktop-launch $SNAP/Xonotic/xonotic-linux-sdl.sh
+    extensions: [gnome-3-34]
+    command: Xonotic/xonotic-linux-sdl.sh

In the above example, we remove the reference to a remote part desktop-glib-only and instead use the extensions section to use the gnome-3-34 extension, which replaces the functionality of the remote part.

Extension naming

Not all extensions work on all bases. For example, on core18 , use the gnome-3-34 extension and on core20 use gnome-3-38. See Supported extensions for further details.

Example showing core20-only Gnome extension: Dwarf Fortress

-     after: [desktop-gtk3]
-    command: desktop-launch $SNAP/wrapper.sh
+    extensions: [gnome-3-38]
+    command: wrapper.sh

Audio interfaces

For applications which play or record audio, the interface names have changed.
Previously the pulseaudio interface was used for both playback and recording of audio. This has been replaced by audio-playback and audio-record:

Example audio interface update: Xonotic

-      pulseaudio
+      audio-playback     

Note that to ensure privacy, audio-playback is automatically connected but audio-record is not.

Application publishers who believe audio-record should be automatically connected on install (such as for an audio recording application) should start a thread in the store-requests category on the Snapcraft forum asking for it.

Version scripts

The top level version-script option has been deprecated in favour of adopt-info. This requires that you specify adopt-info with a reference to the part in which the version data (and some other metadata) may be set.

Within the parts section, use snapcraftctl set-version to define the snapcraft project version number used at build time.

Example replacing version-script with adopt-info: Cointop

-version-script: git -C parts/cointop/build rev-parse --short HEAD
+adopt-info: cointop
+    override-pull: |
+      snapcraftctl pull
+      snapcraftctl set-version $(git rev-parse --short HEAD)     

See Using external metadata for further details.

Plugin name changes

The following plugin names have changed across Snapcraft releases:

nodejs / npm

The nodejs plugin is now npm.

e.g. wethr

-    plugin: nodejs
+    plugin: npm

Plugin syntax

Plugin changes can be queried with the snapcraft help <plugin name> --base <base name> command:

$ snapcraft help npm --base core20
Displaying help for the 'npm' plugin for 'core20'.

You can also list plugins for a specific base with snapcraft list-plugins --base <base name>:

$ snapcraft list-plugins --base core20
Displaying plugins available for 'core20'
autotools  catkin  catkin-tools  cmake  colcon  dump  go  make
meson nil  npm  python  qmake  rust

The following plugins have changed their syntax across Snapcraft releases.


The npm plugin uses npm-node-version instead of node-engine to specify the version of upstream npm to be used at build time.

Example npm plugin syntax change: wethr

-    node-engine: "10.14.1"
+    npm-node-version: "10.14.1"


The Autotools plugin has migrated options from configflags to autotools-configure-parameters.

Example Autotools plugin syntax changes: Inadyn

    plugin: autotools
-    configflags: ['--prefix=/usr', '--disable-examples', '--disable-static']
+    autotools-configure-parameters: ['--prefix=/usr', '--disable-examples', '--disable-static']


The go plugin no longer requires the go-importpath to be specified. A go-channel should be specified.

Example Go plugin syntax changes: slack-term

     plugin: go
-      go-importpath: github.com/erroneousboat/slack-term
+      go-channel: latest/stable

Application definitions


Snapcraft now requires explicit paths to be specified for binaries listed in the apps stanza:

Example update adding explicit paths: wethr

-    command: wethr
+    command: bin/wethr


Rather than specify command followed by a long list of space-separated executables, they can now be listed with the command-chain option:

Example of command being replaced by command-chain: Atom

-    command: bin/launcher ${SNAP}/usr/share/atom/atom
+    command-chain: 
+      - bin/launcher
+    command: usr/share/atom/atom

Examples summary

Last updated 3 years ago.