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app-portage/layman is pmasked for removal. The eselect repository eselect module supersedes layman and is currently the preferred way for managing ebuild repositories.
Some of the information in this article may have drifted out of sync with current practices. Please help out by checking over the content (how to get started).

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

Even though most of layman's functionality is now integrated into Portage and eselect-repository, layman does support some version control systems which Portage does not natively sync (e.g. darcs and g-sorcery).


While the eselect repository eselect module supersedes layman for listing, configuring, and handling synchronization of ebuild repositories, app-portage/layman users can manage their ebuild repositories (overlays) in a simple, centralized manner. The layman 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

Cannot load package information. Is the atom app-portage/layman correct?

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:

root #emerge --ask app-portage/layman


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 version 2.3.0 or greater installed, you can force a rebuild of layman's repos.conf files:

root #layman-updater -R


Basic invocations

The layman man page (see External resources) provides a full overview of the available functions. 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 version 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 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 has been deprecated. 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 under a name specified by the -a option.

Example: repositories.xml in brother-overlay

Missing repository.xml file

In some cases the custom repository does not provide a repository XML file.

Creating repository XML file manually

The XML file can be created manually in the /etc/layman/overlays folder.

For example, if Larry the cow were to create his 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>
Using layman-overlay-maker utility

With the addition of layman version 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.

Enabling the repository

When finished rebuild the repos.conf using layman-updater:

root #layman-updater -R

Now you can add the custom repository by:

root #layman -a <name>

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

See also

External resources