This is an experimental feature. This is actually a preview of the feature, with the main goal of receiving feedbacks and improving it. Consider the file formats, commands and flows to be unstable and subject to changes in the next releases.

Sometimes, it is necessary to work simultaneously on more than one package. In theory, each package should be a “work unit”, and developers should be able to work on them in isolation. But sometimes, some changes require modifications in more than one package at the same time. The local development flow can help, but it still requires using export-pkg to put the artifacts in the local cache, where other packages under development will consume them.

The Conan workspaces allow to have more than one package in user folders, and have them to directly use other packages from user folders without needing to put them in the local cache. Furthermore, they enable incremental builds on large projects containing multiple packages.

Lets introduce them with a practical example, the code can be found in the conan examples repository:

$ git clone
$ cd features/workspace/cmake

Note that this folder contains two files conanws_gcc.yml and conan_vs.yml, for gcc (Makefiles, single-configuration build environments) and for Visual Studio (MSBuild, multi-configuration build environment), respectively.

Conan workspace definition

Workspaces are defined in a yaml file, with any user defined name. Its structure is:

        path: say
        path: hello
        path: chat
layout: layout_gcc
workspace_generator: cmake
root: chat/0.1@user/testing

The first section editables defines the mapping between package references and relative paths. Each one is equivalent to a conan editable add command (Do NOT do this, not necessary, it will be automatically done later. Just to understand the behavior):

$ conan editable add say say/0.1@user/testing --layout=layout_gcc
$ conan editable add hello hello/0.1@user/testing --layout=layout_gcc
$ conan editable add chat chat/0.1@user/testing --layout=layout_gcc

The main difference is that this Editable state is only temporary for this workspace. It doesn’t affect other projects or packages, which can still consume these say, hello, chat packages from the local cache.

Note that the layout: layout_gcc declaration in the workspace affect all the packages. It is also possible to define a different layout per package, as:

        path: say
        layout: custom_say_layout

Layout files are explained in Editable layout files and in the Packages in editable mode sections.

The workspace_generator defines the file that will be generated for the top project. The only supported value so far is cmake and it will generate a conanworkspace.cmake file that looks like:

set(PACKAGE_say_SRC "<path>/examples/workspace/cmake/say/src")
set(PACKAGE_say_BUILD "<path>/examples/workspace/cmake/say/build/Debug")
set(PACKAGE_hello_SRC "<path>/examples/workspace/cmake/hello/src")
set(PACKAGE_hello_BUILD "<path>/examples/workspace/cmake/hello/build/Debug")
set(PACKAGE_chat_SRC "<path>/examples/workspace/cmake/chat/src")
set(PACKAGE_chat_BUILD "<path>/examples/workspace/cmake/chat/build/Debug")

    add_subdirectory(${PACKAGE_say_SRC} ${PACKAGE_say_BUILD})
    add_subdirectory(${PACKAGE_hello_SRC} ${PACKAGE_hello_BUILD})
    add_subdirectory(${PACKAGE_chat_SRC} ${PACKAGE_chat_BUILD})

This file can be included in your user-defined CMakeLists.txt (this file is not generated). Here you can see the CMakeLists.txt used in this project:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.0)



The root: chat/0.1@user/testing defines which is the consumer node of the graph, typically some kind of executable. You can provide a comma separated list of references. All the root nodes will be in the same dependency graph, leading to conflicts if they depend on different versions of the same library, as in any other Conan command.

Single configuration build environments

There are some build systems, like Makefiles that requires the developer to manage different configurations in different build folders, and switch between folders to change configuration. The above described file is conan_gcc.yml file, which defines a Conan workspace that works for a CMake based project for MinGW/Unix Makefiles gcc environments (working for apple-clang or clang would be very similar, if not identical).

Lets use it to install this workspace:

$ mkdir build_release && cd build_release
$ conan workspace install ../conanws_gcc.yml --profile=my_profile

Here we assume that you have a my_profile profile defined which would use a single-configuration build system (like Makefiles). The example is tested with gcc in Linux, but working with apple-clang with Makefiles would be the same). You should see something like:


    chat/0.1@user/testing from user folder - Editable
    hello/0.1@user/testing from user folder - Editable
    say/0.1@user/testing from user folder - Editable
    chat/0.1@user/testing:df2c4f4725219597d44b7eab2ea5c8680abd57f9 - Editable
    hello/0.1@user/testing:b0e473ad8697d6069797b921517d628bba8b5901 - Editable
    say/0.1@user/testing:80faec7955dcba29246085ff8d64a765db3b414f - Editable

say/0.1@user/testing: Generator cmake created conanbuildinfo.cmake
hello/0.1@user/testing: Generator cmake created conanbuildinfo.cmake
chat/0.1@user/testing: Generator cmake created conanbuildinfo.cmake

These conanbuildinfo.cmake files have been created in each package build/Release folder, as defined by the layout_gcc file:

# This helps to define the location of CMakeLists.txt within package

# This defines where the conanbuildinfo.cmake will be written to

Now we can configure and build our project as usual:

$ cmake .. -G "Unix Makefiles" -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release
$ cmake --build . # or just $ make
$ ../chat/build/Release/app
Release: Hello World!
Release: Hello World!
Release: Hello World!

Now, go do a change in some of the packages, for example the “say” one, and rebuild, see how it does an incremental build (fast).

Note that nothing will really be installed in the local cache, all the dependencies are resolved locally:

$ conan search say
There are no packages matching the 'say' pattern


The package recipes do not contain anything special, they are standard recipes. But the packages CMakeLists.txt have defined the following:


This is because the default conan_basic_setup() does define output directories for artifacts as bin, lib, etc, which is not what the local project layout expects. You need to check and make sure that your build scripts and recipe matches both the expected local layout (as defined in layout files), and the recipe package() method logic.

Building for debug mode is done in its own folder:

$ cd .. && mkdir build_debug && cd build_debug
$ conan workspace install ../conanws_gcc.yml --profile=my_gcc_profile -s build_type=Debug
$ cmake .. -G "Unix Makefiles" -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug
$ cmake --build . # or just $ make
$ ../chat/build/Debug/app
Debug: Bye World!
Debug: Bye World!
Debug: Bye World!

Multi configuration build environments

Some build systems, like Visual Studio (MSBuild), they use “multi-configuration” environments. That is, even if the project is configured just once you can switch between different configurations (like Debug/Release) directly in the IDE and build there.

The above example uses the Conan cmake generator, that creates a single conanbuildinfo.cmake file. This is not a problem if we have our configurations built in different folders, each one will contain its own conanbuildinfo.cmake. But for Visual Studio that means that if we wanted to switch from Debug<->Release, we should issue a new conan workspace install command with the right -s build_type and do a clean build, in order to get the right dependencies.

Conan has the cmake_multi generator generator, that allows this direct switch of Debug/Release configuration in the IDE. The recipes they have defined the cmake generator, so the first step is to override that in our conanws_vs.yml file:

    path: say
    path: hello
    path: chat
layout: layout_vs
generators: cmake_multi
workspace_generator: cmake
root: chat/0.1@user/testing

Note the generators: cmake_multi line, that will define the generators to be used by our workspace packages. Also, our CMakeLists.txt should take into account that now we won’t have a conanbuildinfo.cmake file, but a conanbuildinfo_multi.cmake file. See for example the hello/src/CMakeLists.txt file:


if(EXISTS ${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/conanbuildinfo_multi.cmake)


add_library(hello hello.cpp)

The last conan_target_link_libraries(hello) is a helper that does the right linking with Debug/Release libraries (also works when using cmake targets).

Make sure to install both Debug and Release configurations straight ahead, if we want to later switch between them in the IDE:

$ mkdir build && cd build
$ conan workspace install ../conanws_vs.yml
$ conan workspace install ../conanws_vs.yml -s build_type=Debug
$ cmake .. -G "Visual Studio 15 Win64"

With those commands you will get a Visual Studio solution, that you can open, select the app executable as StartUp project, and start building, executing, debugging, switching from Debug and Release configurations freely from the IDE, without needing to issue further Conan commands.

You can check in the project folders, how the following files have been generated:

  |- build
        | - conanbuildinfo_multi.cmake
        | - conanbuildinfo_release.cmake
        | - conanbuildinfo_debug.cmake

Note that they are not located in build/Release and build/Debug subfolders, that is because of the multi-config environment. To account for that the layout_vs define the [build_folder] not as build/{settings.build_type} but just as:



Note that this way of developing packages shouldn’t be used to create the final packages (you could try to use conan export-pkg), but instead, a full package creation with conan create (best in CI) is recommended.

So far, only the CMake super-project generator is implemented. A Visual Studio one is being considered, and seems feasible, but not yet available.


We really want your feedback. Please submit any issues to with any suggestion, problem, idea, and using [workspaces] prefix in the issue title.