Running and deploying packages

Executables and applications including shared libraries can be also distributed, deployed and run with conan. This might have some advantages compared to deploying with other systems:

  • A unified development and distribution tool, for all systems and platforms
  • Manage any number of different deployment configurations in the same way you manage them for development
  • Use a conan server remote to store all your applications and runtimes for all Operating Systems, platforms and targets

There are different approaches:

Using virtual environments

We can crate a package that contains an executable, for example from the default package template created by conan new:

$ conan new Hello/0.1

The source code used contains an executable called greet, but it is not packaged by default. Let’s modify the recipe package() method to also package the executable:

def package(self):
    self.copy("*greet*", src="hello/bin", dst="bin", keep_path=False)

Now, we can create the package as usual, but if we try to run the executable, it won’t be found:

$ conan create . user/testing
Hello/0.1@user/testing package(): Copied 1 '.h' files: hello.h
Hello/0.1@user/testing package(): Copied 1 '.exe' files: greet.exe
Hello/0.1@user/testing package(): Copied 1 '.lib' files: hello.lib

$ greet
> ... not found...

Conan does not modify by default the environment, it will just create the package in the local cache, and that is not in the system PATH, so the greet executable is not found.

The virtualrunenv generator will generate files that add the packages default binary locations to the necessary paths:

  • It adds the dependencies lib subfolder to the DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable (for OSX shared libraries)
  • It adds the dependencies lib subfolder to the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable (for Linux shared libraries)
  • It adds the dependencies bin subfolder to the PATH environment variable (for executables)

So if we install the package, specifying such virtualrunenv like:

$ conan install Hello/0.1@user/testing -g virtualrunenv

We will get some files, that can be called to activate and deactivate such environment variables

$ # $ source in Unix/Linux
$ greet
> Hello World!
$ # $ source in Unix/Linux


It is possible to define a custom conanfile (either .txt or .py), with an imports section, that can retrieve from local cache the desired files. This approach, requires an user conanfile. For more details see example below runtime packages

Deployable packages

With the deploy() method, a package can specify which files and artifacts to copy to user space or to other locations in the system. Let’s modify the example recipe adding the deploy() method:

def deploy(self):
    self.copy("*", dst="bin", src="bin")

And run conan create

$ conan create . user/testing

With that method in our package recipe, it will copy the executable when installed directly:

$ conan install Hello/0.1@user/testing
> Hello/0.1@user/testing deploy(): Copied 1 '.exe' files: greet.exe
$ bin\greet.exe
> Hello World!

The deploy will create a deploy_manifest.txt file with the files that have been deployed.

Read more about deploy() in the reference.

Running from packages

If you want to directly run one executable from your dependencies, it is not necessary to use the generators and activate the environment, as it can be directly done in code with the RunEnvironment helper. So if the Consumer package is willing to execute the greet app while building its own package, it can be done:

from conans import ConanFile, tools, RunEnvironment

class ConsumerConan(ConanFile):
    name = "Consumer"
    version = "0.1"
    settings = "os", "compiler", "build_type", "arch"
    requires = "Hello/0.1@user/testing"

    def build(self):
        env = RunEnvironment(self)
        with tools.environment_append(env.vars):

Now run conan install and conan build for this consumer recipe:

$ conan install . && conan build .
Project: Running build()
Hello World!

Instead of using the environment, it is also possible to access the path of the dependencies:

def build(self):
    path = os.path.join(self.deps_cpp_info["Hello"].rootpath, "bin")"%s/greet" % path)

Note, however, that this might not be enough if shared libraries exist, while using the above RunEnvironment is a more complete solution

Finally, there is another approach: the package containing the executable, adds its “bin” folder to the PATH. In this case the Hello package conanfile would contain:

def package_info(self):
    self.cpp_info.libs = ["hello"]
    self.env_info.PATH = os.path.join(self.package_folder, "bin")

Note that this is not enough for shared libraries, and defining DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH could be necessary.

The consumer package would be simple, as the PATH environment variable will already contain the desired path to greet executable:

def build(self):"greet")

Runtime packages and re-packaging

It is possible to create packages that contain only runtime binaries, getting rid of all build-time dependencies. If we want to create a package from the above “Hello” one, but only containing the executable (rembember that the above package also contains a library, and the headers), we could do:

from conans import ConanFile

class HellorunConan(ConanFile):
    name = "HelloRun"
    version = "0.1"
    build_requires = "Hello/0.1@user/testing"
    keep_imports = True

    def imports(self):
        self.copy("*.exe", dst="bin")

    def package(self):

This recipe has the following characteristics:

  • It includes the Hello/0.1@user/testing package as build_requires. That means that it will be used to build this “HelloRun” package, but once the “HelloRun” package is built, it will not be necessary to retrieve it.
  • It is using an imports() to copy from the dependencies, in this case, the executable
  • It is using keep_imports attribute to define that imported artifacts during the build() step (which is not define, then using the default empty one), are kept and not removed after build
  • The package() method packages the imported artifacts that will be in the build folder.

To create and upload to remote this package:

$ conan create . user/testing
$ conan upload HelloRun* --all -r=my-remote

After that, installing and running this package, can be done by any of the means presented above, for example, we could do:

$ conan install HelloRun/0.1@user/testing -g virtualrunenv
# You can specify the remote with -r=my-remote
# It will not install Hello/0.1@...
$ # $ source in Unix/Linux
$ greet
> Hello World!
$ # $ source in Unix/Linux