How to create and share a custom generator with generator packages

There are several built-in generators, like cmake, visual_studio, xcode… But what if your build system is not included or the existing built-in ones doesn’t satisfy your needs? This how to will show you how to create a generator for Premake build system.


Check the reference of the Custom generator section to know the syntax and attributes available.

Creating a Premake generator

Create a folder with a new with the following contents:

$ mkdir conan-premake && cd conan-premake
 from conans.model import Generator
 from conans import ConanFile

 class PremakeDeps(object):
     def __init__(self, deps_cpp_info):
         self.include_paths = ",\n".join('"%s"' % p.replace("\\", "/")
                                         for p in deps_cpp_info.include_paths)
         self.lib_paths = ",\n".join('"%s"' % p.replace("\\", "/")
                                     for p in deps_cpp_info.lib_paths)
         self.bin_paths = ",\n".join('"%s"' % p.replace("\\", "/")
                                     for p in deps_cpp_info.bin_paths)
         self.libs = ", ".join('"%s"' % p for p in deps_cpp_info.libs)
         self.defines = ", ".join('"%s"' % p for p in deps_cpp_info.defines)
         self.cppflags = ", ".join('"%s"' % p for p in deps_cpp_info.cppflags)
         self.cflags = ", ".join('"%s"' % p for p in deps_cpp_info.cflags)
         self.sharedlinkflags = ", ".join('"%s"' % p for p in deps_cpp_info.sharedlinkflags)
         self.exelinkflags = ", ".join('"%s"' % p for p in deps_cpp_info.exelinkflags)

         self.rootpath = "%s" % deps_cpp_info.rootpath.replace("\\", "/")

 class premake(Generator):

     def filename(self):
         return "conanpremake.lua"

     def content(self):
         deps = PremakeDeps(self.deps_build_info)

         template = ('conan_includedirs{dep} = {{{deps.include_paths}}}\n'
                     'conan_libdirs{dep} = {{{deps.lib_paths}}}\n'
                     'conan_bindirs{dep} = {{{deps.bin_paths}}}\n'
                     'conan_libs{dep} = {{{deps.libs}}}\n'
                     'conan_cppdefines{dep} = {{{deps.defines}}}\n'
                     'conan_cppflags{dep} = {{{deps.cppflags}}}\n'
                     'conan_cflags{dep} = {{{deps.cflags}}}\n'
                     'conan_sharedlinkflags{dep} = {{{deps.sharedlinkflags}}}\n'
                     'conan_exelinkflags{dep} = {{{deps.exelinkflags}}}\n')

         sections = ["#!lua"]
         all_flags = template.format(dep="", deps=deps)
         template_deps = template + 'conan_rootpath{dep} = "{deps.rootpath}"\n'

         for dep_name, dep_cpp_info in self.deps_build_info.dependencies:
             deps = PremakeDeps(dep_cpp_info)
             dep_name = dep_name.replace("-", "_")
             dep_flags = template_deps.format(dep="_" + dep_name, deps=deps)

         return "\n".join(sections)

 class MyPremakeGeneratorPackage(ConanFile):
     name = "premakegen"
     version = "0.1"
     url = ""
     license = "MIT"

This is a full working example. Note the PremakeDeps class as a helper. The generator is creating Premake information for each individual library separately, then also an aggregated information for all dependencies. This PremakeDeps wraps a single item of such information.

Note the name of the package will be premakegen/0.1@<user>/<channel> as that is the name given to it, while the generator name is premake (the name of the class that inherits from Generator). You can give the package any name you want, even the same as the generator’s name if desired.

You export the package recipe to the local cache, so it can be used by other projects as usual:

$ conan export . myuser/testing

Using the generator

Let’s create a test project that uses this generator. We will use a simple application that will use a “Hello World” library package as a requirement.

First, let’s create the “Hello World” library package:

$ mkdir conan-hello && cd conan-hello
$ conan new hello/0.1
$ conan create . myuser/testing

Now, let’s create a folder for the application that will use Premake as build system:

$ cd ..
$ mkdir premake-project && cd premake-project

Put the following files inside. Note the premakegen@0.1@myuser/testing package reference in your conanfile.txt.


 #include "hello.h"

 int main (void) {
 -- premake4.lua

 require 'conanpremake'

 -- A solution contains projects, and defines the available configurations solution "MyApplication"

 configurations { "Debug", "Release" }
 includedirs { conan_includedirs }
 libdirs { conan_libdirs }
 links { conan_libs }

 -- A project defines one build target

 project "MyApplication"
     kind "ConsoleApp"
     language "C++"
     files { "**.h", "**.cpp" }

     configuration "Debug"
         defines { "DEBUG" }
         flags { "Symbols" }

     configuration "Release"
         defines { "NDEBUG" }
         flags { "Optimize" }

Let’s install the requirements:

$ conan install . -s compiler=gcc -s compiler.version=4.9 -s compiler.libcxx=libstdc++ --build

This generates the premake4.lua file with the requirements information for building.

Now we are ready to build the project:

$ premake4 gmake
$ make (or mingw32-make if in windows-mingw)
$ ./MyApplication
Hello World Release!

Now everything works, so you might want to share your generator:

$ conan upload premakegen/0.1@myuser/testing


This is a regular Conan package, so you could create a test_package folder with a to test the generator as done in the example above (invoke the Premake build in the build() method).

Using template files for custom generators

If your generator has a lot of common, non-parameterized text, you might want to use files that contain the template. It is possible to do this as long as the template file is exported in the recipe. The following example uses a simple text file, but you could use other templating formats:

import os
from conans import ConanFile, load
from conans.model import Generator

class MyCustomGenerator(Generator):

    def filename(self):
        return "customfile.gen"

    def content(self):
        template = load(os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), "mytemplate.txt"))
        return template % "Hello"

class MyCustomGeneratorPackage(ConanFile):
    name = "custom_generator"
    version = "0.1"
    exports = "mytemplate.txt"

Storing generators in the Conan local cache


This is an experimental feature subject to breaking changes in future releases.

In addition to distributing them using Conan packages, custom generators can be stored in the generators folder in the Conan local cache (by default ~/.conan/generators).

Generators stored in the local cache can be used in the same ways as the built-in generators, i.e. they can be referenced on the command line with conan install when using the --generator option, and do not require installing a package to use. Instead, these generators can be distributed using conan config install.

A custom generator which saves all environment variables defined in a package to a json file
import json
from conans.model import Generator

# The generator name will be the literal class name (not the filename)
class custom_generator(Generator):
    def filename(self):
        return "custom_generator_output.json"

    def content(self):
        return json.dumps(self.deps_env_info.vars)
Using the custom generator at install time
$ conan install <path_or_reference> --generator custom_generator


Generators loaded from the local cache do not need to be accompanied by a recipe class. Additionally, more than one generator can be loaded from the same python module when loaded from the local cache.