Gentoo Development Guide

Eclass Writing Guide

This section provides a brief introduction to eclass authoring.


You should reread the Overlay and Eclasses and The Portage Cache sections before continuing.

Purpose of Eclasses

An eclass is a collection of code which can be used by more than one ebuild. At the time of writing, all eclasses live in the eclass/ directory in the tree. Roughly speaking, there are three kinds of eclass:

  • Those which provide common functions which are used by many ebuilds (for example, eutils, versionator, cvs, bash-completion)
  • Those which provide a basic build system for many similar packages (for example, vim-plugin, kde)
  • Those which handle one or a small number of packages with complex build systems (for example, vim, toolchain, kernel-2)

Adding and Updating Eclasses

Before committing a new eclass to the tree, it should be emailed to the gentoo-dev mailing list with a justification and a proposed implementation. Do not skip this step — sometimes a better implementation or an alternative which does not require a new eclass will be suggested.

Before updating eutils or a similar widely used eclass, it is best to email the gentoo-dev list. It may be that your proposed change is broken in a way you had not anticipated, or that there is an existing function which performs the same purpose, or that your function may be better off in its own eclass. If you don't email gentoo-dev first, and end up breaking something, expect to be in a lot of trouble.

When removing a function or changing the API of an eclass, make sure that it doesn't break any ebuilds in the tree, and post a notice to gentoo-dev at least 30 days in advance, preferably with a patch included.

If there is an existing maintainer for an eclass (this is usually the case), you must talk to the maintainer before committing any changes.

It is not usually necessary to email the gentoo-dev list before making changes to a non-general eclass which you maintain. Use common sense here.


Committing a broken eclass can kill huge numbers of packages. Since repoman is not eclass-aware, be very sure you do proper testing.

A simple way to verify syntax is bash -n foo.eclass.

Removing Eclasses

No longer used eclasses may be removed from the tree, but developers must adhere to the following process:

  1. Make sure that no packages or other eclasses in the tree inherit the eclass.
  2. Send a lastrite message to the gentoo-dev and gentoo-dev-announce mailing-lists, announcing that the not-used eclass will be removed in 30 days.
  3. Add a one line comment to the eclass, saying exactly # @DEAD so that the eclass-manpages package will not attempt to document it.
  4. Wait for the 30-day period to pass, then remove the eclass from the tree.

Basic Eclass Format

An eclass is a bash script which is sourced within the ebuild environment. Files should be a simple text file with a .eclass extension. Allowed characters in the filename are lowercase letters, the digits 0-9, hyphens, underscores and dots. Eclasses are not intrinsically versioned.

Eclasses should start with the standard ebuild header, along with comments explaining the maintainer and purpose of the eclass, and any other relevant documentation.

Eclass Variables

Top level variables may be defined as for ebuilds. If any USE flags are used, IUSE must be set. The KEYWORDS variable must not be set in an eclass.

Eclass Functions

Eclasses may define functions. These functions will be visible to anything which inherits the eclass.

Simple Common Functions Eclass Example

As an example, the following eclass was written to illustrate a better way of installing OSX application files during a discussion on this subject. It defines a single function, domacosapp.

# Copyright 1999-2005 Gentoo Foundation
# Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2
# $Header: $

# Original Author: Ciaran McCreesh <>
# Purpose: install macos .app files to the relevant location.
# Bugs to

# domacosapp: install a macos .app file. Usage is 'domacosapp file' or
# 'domacosapp file newfile'.

domacosapp() {
    [[ -z "${1}" ]] && die "usage: domacosapp <file> <new file>"
    if use ppc-macos ; then
        insinto /Applications
        newins "$1" "${2:-${1}}" || die "Failed to install ${1}"

Export Functions

An eclass may provide default implementations for any of the standard ebuild functions (src_unpack, pkg_postinst etc). This can be done either as a simple function definition (which is not multiple eclass friendly) or using EXPORT_FUNCTIONS. Functions given to EXPORT_FUNCTIONS are implemented as normal, but have their name prefixed with ${ECLASS}_.


Only 'standard' functions should be specified in EXPORT_FUNCTIONS.


EXPORT_FUNCTIONS is a function, not a variable.

If multiple eclasses export the same function, the latest (inherited last) defined version wins. If an ebuild defines a function that is exported, this gets priority over any eclass version. This can be used to override eclass-defined defaults — for example, say we had fnord.eclass:


fnord_src_compile() {
    do_stuff || die

Then an ebuild could do this:

inherit fnord.eclass

src_compile() {
    do_pre_stuff || die
    do_post_stuff || die

Simple Build System Eclass Example

A simple eclass which defines a number of functions and a default src_compile for the (hypothetical) jmake build system might look something like the following:

# Copyright 1999-2005 Gentoo Foundation
# Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2
# $Header: $

# Original Author: Ciaran McCreesh <>
# Purpose: Demonstration of EXPORT_FUNCTIONS. Defines simple wrappers for the
# (hypothetical) 'jmake' build system and a default src_compile.



jmake-configure() {
    jmake configure --prefix=/usr "$@"

jmake-build() {
    jmake dep && jmake build "$@"

jmake_src_compile() {
    jmake-configure || die "configure failed"
    jmake-build || die "build failed"

Handling incorrect usage of an eclass

Sometimes an eclass is used incorrectly by an ebuild and the eclass knows it is being used incorrectly- the common example is an eclass that only works with a specific set of EAPIs, but is being accessed inherited by an ebuild with a different EAPI. In those cases, used sparingly as a last resort, it is allowed for an eclass to invoke die from the global scope. For example:

# Copyright 1999-2010 Gentoo Foundation
# Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2
# $Header: $

# Purpose: Demonstration of die upon invalid EAPI usage.

case ${EAPI:-0} in
  0) die "this eclass doesn't support EAPI 0" ;;
  *) ;;