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Multilib is one of the solutions allowing users to run applications built for various application binary interfaces (ABIs) of the same architecture. The most common use of multilib is to run 32-bit applications on amd64.

The multilib systems use separate library directories for non-native ABIs. This allows having the same library installed in variants for each ABI, as necessary to satisfy the dependencies of programs built for the ABI in question.

Multilib library providers in Gentoo

There are currently three ways of providing multilib libraries in Gentoo:

  • Using emul-linux-x86 packages (32-bit libraries for amd64 only). (obsolete and removed)
  • Using the eclasses provided by the gx86-multilib project. (Current implementation)
  • Using the multilib-portage fork.

Comparison of multilib approaches

The table explains the current state as of 2013-11-16. It does not imply any limitations on further developments.
emul-linux gx86-multilib multilib-portage
Supported ABIs x86 only any any
Provision method binary packages source build source build
Method of introducing dedicated ebuilds eclasses + changes in library ebuilds changes in package manager
Inter-package dependencies explicit emul-linux package deps explicit USE dependencies implicit
Cost of introduction low (committing ebuilds) medium (eclasses + changing a number of existing ebuilds high (changing PMS and package managers)
Cost of adding libraries low (building a new package) medium (changing the native library ebuild) none (implicit)
Cost of maintenance medium (rebuilding the emul- set for new versions of libs) low (bumping the ebuilds) none (implicit)
Cost of changing (fixing) implementation low (rebuild the set) medium (fixing eclasses and/or ebuilds) very high (needs new EAPI)
Security implications security issues need to be handled separately handled along with the native version handled implicitly by the native version
Supported libraries limited set with a single version of each limited set with free version choice any
Support USE flags (choices) very limited due to intra-library dependencies USE flags common to native and multilib build USE flags common to native and multilib build
Extra fetching binary packages no no
Extra build time no depending on build system limitations, some things may be built multiple times unnecessarily the complete build process is run multiple times
Extra dependencies no no every build-time tool need to become multilib as well

See also

Documentation for developers

Historical documentation