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Layman is Gentoo's primary ebuild repository management tool. It offers a single command-line interface to repository management for end users.


With app-portage/layman users can manage their ebuild repositories (overlays) in a simple, centralized manner. The Layman application provides an overview of available remote repositories and allows the user to select one or more for the system. Once selected, the user can update (similar to emerge --sync), add, remove, display and information about the overlays. Versions greater than 2.1.0 are improved with a plug-in sync system.

Although not all features of plug-in sync system of Portage are supported yet from layman the migration of portage is a good step to be prepared for that.


USE flags

USE flags for app-portage/layman Tool to manage Gentoo overlays

bazaar Support dev-vcs/bzr based overlays local
cvs Support dev-vcs/cvs based overlays local
darcs Support dev-vcs/darcs based overlays local
g-sorcery Support app-portage/g-sorcery based overlays local
git Support dev-vcs/git based overlays local
gpg Support app-crypt/gnupg signed overlays lists and manifests local
mercurial Support dev-vcs/mercurial based overlays local
sqlite Add support for sqlite - embedded sql database global
squashfs Support mounting squashfs image overlays locally read-only local
subversion Support dev-vcs/subversion based overlays local
sync-plugin-portage Install the sys-apps/portage sync module local
test Workaround to pull in packages needed to run with FEATURES=test. Portage-2.1.2 handles this internally, so don't set it in make.conf/package.use anymore global

The sync-plugin-portage and git USE flags are especially important in newer versions of layman.

FILE /etc/portage/package.use/laymanAdd important USE flags
app-portage/layman sync-plugin-portage git

Please refer to portage projects page.


Next install the Layman package:

To follow this guide, you may need to install a later version than that which is in the portage tree. Check the version available to you in portage:

user $emerge --search layman

If >=layman-2.3.0 then emerge as normal:

root #emerge --ask app-portage/layman

Otherwise, emerge the latest version found at app-portage/layman:

root #emerge --ask =app-portage/layman-2.4.2


There are two methods of integrating layman into portage. Newer versions support both methods at the same time, so there is no need to configure portage (except configurations mentioned in this section).

repos.conf method (default)

This method was added in version 2.1.0 of layman.

This method uses the new portage plugins system. Layman will create its configuration file in /etc/portage/repos.conf/.

Configure layman to use the repos.conf method in /etc/layman/layman.cfg. New installations of layman will probably have this already set correctly:

FILE /etc/layman/layman.cfg
# Repository config types used by layman
# (repos.conf, make.conf)
conf_type : repos.conf

Create the /etc/portage/repos.conf/ directory if it does not exist yet:

If you have >=layman-2.3.0 installed, you can force a rebuild of layman's repos.conf files:

root #layman-updater -R

make.conf method (force old method)

This is the older method, but newer versions of layman still support this.

Configure layman to use the make.conf method in /etc/layman/layman.cfg:

FILE /etc/layman/layman.cfg
# Repository config types used by layman
# (repos.conf, make.conf)
conf_type : make.conf

Insert a reference to Layman in /etc/portage/make.conf

root #echo "source /var/lib/layman/make.conf" >> /etc/portage/make.conf

Adding the source command to the /etc/portage/make.conf (performed in the command above) will ensure that Portage, when asked, will check the content of the various repositories managed by Layman in the /var/lib/layman/make.conf file. In effect, it will update the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable with directories Layman uses. If a special directory has been previously defined for PORTDIR_OVERLAY in /etc/portage/make.conf, make sure its value is not overwritten with the value Layman provides.

FILE /etc/portage/make.confEnsuring that layman's PORTDIR_OVERLAY is not overwritten
source /var/lib/layman/make.conf
#for some local ebuilds to test, have to be after line for layman above!
PORTDIR_OVERLAY="/usr/local/portage/ ${PORTDIR_OVERLAY}"


Basic invocations

The Layman man page (see External resources) provides a full overview of the available functions within Layman. However, for most users, the following commands suffice for repository management activities.

To fetch and display a list of all the repositories available through official references:

root #layman -L

To add a repository in the list generated by the local list:

root #layman -a <name>

To add an unofficial repository:

root #layman -o <url of repository xml file> -f -a <name>

To remove a repository from the local list:

root #layman -d <name>

To update a specific repository:

root #layman -s <name>

To update all repositories:

root #layman -S

Mountable repositories with layman-mounter

Since the release of layman-2.2.0, support for squashfs repository types has been included. layman will interact with squashfs repository by mounting them as read-only on the filesystem. On the initial install of the squashfs repository, it will be mounted as read-only. However, after a reboot the repository will no longer be mounted and the ebuilds in that repository will not be accessible by the system.

In order to assist users in handling these mountable repositories, a utility was added that goes by the name of layman-mounter.

To find all repositories that are currently mounted, type:

root #layman-mounter -l

To find all repositories that are installed by layman that can be mounted, type:

root #layman-mounter -L

To mount the mountable repositories, type:

root #layman-mounter -m <name>

To unmount the repositories, type:

root #layman-mounter -u <name>

Setting repository priorities with Layman

The information in this section is deprecated but has been kept for archival purposes. It may or may not be relevant for contemporary usage. Handle with care!

As each ebuild repository is assigned a unique priority, layman provides a simple way of defining priorities for repositories it manages. For more information about repository priorities see the ebuild repository priorities.

The file /var/lib/layman/installed.xml contains some information about the repositories, among which is the priority attribute in the repo tag. The number there determines only the priority relative to the other repository entries, 50 is the default value. Larger numbers take priority over smaller numbers. layman then analyses this file and sets the order of the repository entries in the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable defined in /var/lib/layman/make.conf.

As the file /var/lib/layman/make.conf is automatically generated by layman based on the settings in /var/lib/layman/installed.xml, it is strongly recommended that only /var/lib/layman/installed.xml is used to set the priorities.

To add a personal repository, and to ensure that the repository has a higher priority, add the repository before /var/lib/layman/make.conf is sourced.

FILE /var/lib/layman/make.confExample layman overlays setting
${PORTDIR_OVERLAY}" #the variable defined in /etc/portage/make.conf is now expanded
                    #when /var/lib/layman/make.conf is sourced in /etc/portage/make.conf

However, this can be also "fooled" by defining the PORTDIR_OVERLAY in /etc/portage/make.conf after /var/lib/layman/make.conf has been sourced.

FILE /etc/portage/make.confCustom repository setting
source /var/lib/layman/make.conf #this sources the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable defined by layman.
                                 #however, the variable expanded by layman was empty
PORTDIR_OVERLAY="/home/user/overlay ${PORTDIR} ${PORTDIR_OVERLAY}" #now the layman defined repositories take precedence,
                                                                   #but the user defined repository still has the lowest priority

This "trick" is merely an opportunity offered by shell variable expansion.

Adding custom repositories

To add repositories which are not listed when layman -L is ran, find their repository XML files and add them using the -o option.

Example: repositories.xml in brother-overlay

In case the repository does not provide a repository XML file, create it manually in the /etc/layman/overlays folder.

For example, if Larry the cow were to create an repository:

FILE /etc/layman/overlays/larry.xmlLarry the cow's nginx overlay
<?xml version="1.0" ?>

<repositories version="1.0">
	<repo priority="50" quality="experimental" status="unofficial">
		<description>nginx server for the barn computer from Larry the cow.</description>
		<source type="git"></source>

NEW: With the addition of >=layman-2.2.0 a new utility was added to assist users in this process that goes by the name of layman-overlay-maker. As long as the overlay information has been properly added via the prompts, layman-overlay-maker will create a XML defined overlay and save into /etc/layman/overlays or the specified in the layman configuration file for overlay_defs.

layman-overlay-maker can become a useful tool in assisting users who would like to submit a patch to have their overlays added to the official repositories.xml file.

To use the utility simply invoke it by name:

root #layman-overlay-maker

and go through its prompts until completion.

When finished run:

root #layman-updater -R

Followed by:

root #layman -a <name>

where <name> is the name of the repository that was created.

See also

External resources