stowES - the stow Enhancement Script


stowES command[,command[,...]] [options] [expressions]


This manual page documents the stow Enhancement Script, short stowES.

stowES is a perl script which tries to ease the use of the stow packaging program and software which can be compiled and installed with autoconf.


stowES should run on all platforms where stow is running what means that these platform should know perl and supply soft links (have I missed something?).


stowES supplies the following commands which may be abbreviated to uniqueness (some of them have shorter aliases as well).

list,ls [regexp]

List all packages in StowDir (usually /usr/local). The package names are prefixed with a char of the following meaning:

  I ... package is installed
  s ... package can be checked in without any conflict
  - ... package cannot be checked in because there
        is a conflict with an already installed
        package, the file in parentheses is the first
        conflicting found

You may give regexps to only show specific packages, if no arguments are given all packages are shown.

checkstow,cs [regexp]

Does the same as the list command but also checks for broken packages and lists the size of each package scanned in blocks (normally 1KB). This is significantly slower than list. There is an additional prefixed char:

  X ... package is broken, i.e. package was not fully
        checked in (some files missing) or something other
        is weird, in the following parentheses all
        conflicting/missing files/directories are shown
        (relative to the target dir).

Otherwise check will behave in the same way as the list command.

checktarget,ct [regexp]

Checks if the targetdir only contains links and dirs. Displays the files and the wrong links it found.

install dir(s)|file(s)

Calls command "untar" if the argument is a file. Then calls "make", "makeinst" and "checkin" with the appropriate arguments.

untar file(s)

Unpacks a {tar,tar.gz,tar.bz2,tgz}-source-archiv to the "dumpdir" directory.

confhelp,chlp dir(s)|file(s)

Call 'configure --help' from a directory or {tar,tar.gz,tar.bz2,tgz}-source-archiv.

make,mk dir(s)

The directory specified as a argument should contain a "configure"-script which is called with the arguments "--prefix=TargetDir" and the arguments you gave on the command line. After this "make" and "make check" are called (of course with the optional paramaters you gave). "make check" is only called if the root-Makefile of the package contains a rule "check".

makeinst,mkin dir(s)

This command checks for a file "config.status" which should be left by the call of "configure". Then "make install prefix=StowDir/packagename" is called to install the package in the appropriate place. After the make run the "config.status" file is copied to "$stowdir/package/.config/package" and a file with basic information on the creator, date and host machine is also stored there. Furthermore the commands "depends", "strip" and "checksums" are called for the package. Note that stripping is switched off per default. When the "--removesource" option was given, the source code is removed.

If something during this procedure failed the possibly installed package will be removed since it may be broken (the package will not be delete if the `--force' option was given!).

The following commands take regular expressions or the option -a as arguments.


This command creates the checksums for the packages.


This command verifies the checksums given in the package with the ones calculated for each file.


This command calculates some basic dependency information. It only checks binaries and libraries via ldd(1) for needed libraries.


Calls "stow" for the package if the package is not checked in.


Calls "stow -D" for the package if the packges is checked in.


Strips all files in the package. The checksums will be recalculated by calling the command `checksums'. Note that stripping is switched off per default.


Removes a package. The use of the -a-option is switched off here.


Creates an archive of the specified package and stores it in the DumpDir. The filename of the created package(s) can be influenced the the `--packagesuffix' option.


Lists the contents of packages. The first column displays the type of item (d:file, l:link, p:pipe, s:socket, b:block special file, c:character special file). The second column shows the name of file/dir. If the item happens to be a file, the size of it is shown in the third column (in Bytes).


Searches all files in the packages for a specified pattern. Useful to check if a path containing "stow" was compiled into the binaries/libraries. Specify a search pattern (regular expression) with the `--contentpattern' option.


Check if all libs for package are available. If stowES thinks there's something wrong that may be so but must not be so. Some programs hide special libs in special directories which are not know when testing with ldd(1). Futhermore all files with the execution bit set are checked. This normally includes libraries which are installed this way.


Show the configuration of the specified packages. These are the arguments given to the configuration script when the program is installed and are saved in the config.status file.

Misc commands:


Rebuilds the whole stow-archive. Deletes everything except the stowdir from the targetdir and checks in again all packages which were previously checked in. Only package marked with a "I" in the list mode will be checked in again (i.e. broken packages will not be checked in again).

rename regexp newname

Renames a package. This includes the information in .config/package as well.

exchange oldpackregexp newpackregexp

Exchange two package with one call. oldpack is checked out and newpack is checked in immediately. oldpackregexp and newpackregexp are regular expressions which have to match exactly one package.

instpack file(s)

Installs and checks in a package created by the "package"-command. If you don't want to check in the package immediately use the option `--nocheckin'.


Starts a sub shell (taken from the environment variable $SHELL). This is useful when something during a `stowES' run fails and you want it to correct by hand. So you have the same environment set as when `stowES' would do the job (environment variables etc.).


Print a help screen.


Print the actual configuration of all interesting variables.


Print a version information.

And remember: The commands (the options as well) may be abbreviated to uniqueness!

Commands which take the same parameters may be combined with a comma. E.g. to to check the target and the stow dir one may use:

     stowES cs,ct


The following options are available (do "perldoc Getopt::Long" for a precise explanation on how to syntactically specify options). Some options have two options (--bar and --nobar). You may use these to override a set option in a configure file or environment variable.

-s, --stowdir dir

Default: /usr/local/stow

Stow dir. This directory contains all the packages.

-t, --targetdir dir

Default: /usr/local

Target directory. This directory is the target directory for all the packages installed in the stow directory. The links will be created from the stow directory to this target directory.

See later in this document on a further explanation of the use of the stow and target dir.

--stowname name

Default: stow

Name of the stow directory.

-p, --packagename name

Default: none

Alternate package name. When installing a package you may specify an alternative name for the package. This only works if you only give one package on the command line.

-a, --allpackages

Default: unset.

Proceed all packages found in $StowDir. This is the same as giving the regular expression "." but will not work for the `remove' command.

-v, --verbose [level]

Default: 0

Verbose mode. You may give the option -v to urge stowES to print out more messages. Theoretically it is possible to give the -v option a value (greater zero) to increase the verbosity level but this isn't used in stowES currently.

q, --quiet, --noquiet

Default: noquiet

Quiet mode. Do not produce any output except error messages. Use noquiet to switch the quiet mode off.

-k, --continue, --nocontinue

Default: nocontinue

Continue after error if possible. When processing multiple files/dirs (e.g. in `install'-mode) stowES will not stop processing, it will go on with the next argument on the command line.

-f, --force

Default: noforce

Force certain operation although there may be unusual conditions. E.g. install a package even if it already exists. StowES will not complain that there's already a package with the same name. Useful for packages which could not be installed successfully in the first try.

-d, --dumpdir dir

Default: /tmp

Directory to store all the stuff. Sources are unpacked to this directory. Packages created by the `package'-command are also stored there.

-m, --ambiguous, --multiple, --noambiguous, --nomultiple

Default: noambiguous

Regexps may match more than one package. Normally one regular expression on the command line may only match one package in the stow directory. This options allows the regular expression to match to more than one package. This option is only valid to some commands, mostly these changing data somewhere (currently these are: checksums, depends, checkin, checkout, strip, remove).

-n, --dryrun, --nodryrun

Default: nodryrun

Only show what to do. Affects only commands which change data on the disk. This options does not mean that stowES wont cause any disk access, it may check if packages are checked in or not.

-j, --paralleljobs [number]

Default: 1

Pass a -j option to make which causes make to do builds in parallel. For convinience the optional number behind the option differs from the meaning it has for make! When giving a number greater or equal to one that number will be given as is to the -j option of make causing it to start as many sub-processes in parallel. If no number or zero is given, stowES tries to figure out how many processors are installed on the machine it is currently running on and uses this number for make. So if you've got a quad-box you'll automatically get four parallel sub-processes. Of course stowES needs to know how to find out how many processors are installed. It has support for some platforms but not for that many. If your platform is not supported you can use the -j option with an appropriate number or send the author of stowES (me ;) a patch (see getCPUNumber sub routine in the script) or at least a detailed description how to find out that number. If stowES cannot find out the number it will default to one.

-c, --configfile file

Default: none

Specify a configfile (may be used multiple times).

-o, --outputfile file

Default: STDOUT

Output file. With this option it is possible to redirect the output to something else than STDOUT.

-l, --logfile

Default: /dev/null

Log file, prints short messages what stowES is doing currently. Great for use with `--rotatinginstall'.

--subdir name

Default: none

This option can be primarily used with the make and makeinst commands.

With this option it is possible to install a package into a sub directory inside your targetdir, e.g. you have some beta software you want to install into your stowdir but you do not want it to mess up with your stable packages.

    stowES make foo-cvs-latest --subdir beta

will install this package into $TargetDir/beta but will check it in in your normal stow dir.

--contentpattern pattern

Default: \Wstow\W

Search pattern for the search in packages with command `contsearch'.

--contentsearchfile file

Default: /dev/null

Filelist of matches The given file will contain all files which matched the `contentpattern'.

--configdirname dirname

Default: .config

Name of the directory where configuration data is stored inside each package (or target dir). It is sane to start this name with a ".".

--dependencyfilename file

Default: dependencies

Filename for dependencies in the configuration directory.

--checksumfilename file

Default: md5sums

Filename for checksums in the configuration directory.

--creatorinfofilename file

Default: creatorinfo

Filename for creatorinfo in the configuration directory.

--packagesuffix string

Default: none.

Additional name for packages (e.g. architecture) when in command `package'.

--removesource, --noremovesource

Default: noremovesource

Remove unpacked source after built. This is especially useful when using `--rotatingintall' with lots of packages (else you would need lots of disk space). Only applies for commands `makeinst' and `install'.

--makecheck, --nomakecheck

Default: makecheck

Will switch on or on the call of "make check".

--configure, --noconfigure

Default: configure

Will switch the call of "configure" on or off. It's usefull to switch configure off when a "make"-call failed and you have to repeat the `make' or `install' comamnd.

--make, --nomake

Default: make

Will switch the call of "make" on or off. It's useful to switch make off when a "configure"-call did not fail but produced an undesired result and you want to try to find the right setting.

--use-saved-options, --nouse-saved-options

Default: --nouse-saved-options

This option is used in the make and makeinst commands and tries to reuse a configuration from an already installed package. The algorithm seems to work for the most common versioning schemes of packages but may fail on more obscure ones. It should not happen that another package is taken, normally it should fail in a way that simply no configuration could be found. If you have any better ideas for the algorithm (see in function GetSavedOptionsFromOlderPackage) I'd love to receive patches :). Furthermore, if output isn't surpressed, stowES will wait three seconds before continuing so that you have a chance to check if the right options were taken.

--depends, --nodepends

Default: depends

Do (or do not) create the the dependencies when installing a package.

--checkin, --nocheckin

Default: checkin

You may switch off the check in of a package when in command `makeinst' or `install'.

--chkchksums, --nochkchksums

Default: chkchksums

Switch on or off the check of checksums.

--checksums, --nochecksums

Default: checksums

Switch on or off the creation of checksum when doing command `makeinst' or `install'.

--strip, --nostrip

Default: nostrip

Switch on or off the call of the "strip"-program to strip a package.

--prog key=program

Default: key==program (see `stowES config | grep ^%Progs`)

Specify alternate programs. With this option you may specify alternative programs to be used by stowES. The Program-param may contain additional arguments (e.g. --prog foo='bla arg1 arg2'). For keys see %Progs in the config screen.

--prm-conf regexp=param | param =item --prm-make regexp=param | param

Default: none

Specify extra parameters for the call of `configure' and `make'. The parameter is used when the regexp matches the package currently proceeded. When giving no regexp the parameters will be used for every call of `configure' or `make'.

If you only specify a parameter which contains a '=' (e.g. CC=gcc) you have to proceed a '=' to avoid splitting up the parameter itself.

     Using one paramter:
      stowES ... --prm-conf --disable-static
     Using more than one:
      stowES ... --prm-conf '--enable-foo --enable-bar'
     Using a parameter with '=':
      stowES ... --prm-make==CC=gcc
      stowES ... --prm-make =CC=gcc
     Use two (or more) params for one package with '='
     in the options:
      stowES ... --prm-conf emacs="--with-dialogs=xy --dynamic=no"
     Use them for all packages:
      stowES ... --prm-conf ="--with-dialogs=xy --dynamic=no"
-r, --rotatinginstall, --norotatinginstall

Default: norotatinginstall

Loop over the packages to install as long as possible. When specifying this option the packages given on the command line will be tried to install again and again until they can be compiled. If the remaining packages all fail within one run stowES will give up.

This options only applies to the `install' command. That effictively means that you do not need to pay attention on the order of the packages given on the command line when installing packages.

As you may imagine, this method will not work in all cases, there are several problems involved (e.g. failing configures etc., maybe more later here on). But it is good for trying out a new bunch of software with the least possible waste of your energy :-). If it fails you can go the old way of installing things...

See examples  for more.

As already mentioned the options can be abbreviated to uniqueness.


There are three way to specify options for stowES:

 o config file
 o environment variable
 o command line

First the environment variable and the command line are checked for the `load config file'-option. Then the options in the config file are processed at first, then the options in the environment variable and at last the options on the command line. Config files are processed in the order they are given and config files given in the environment variable are processed before the config files given on the command line. -c-options given in a config file are not used (so, no recursion is possible here).

The last options set is valid (overwriting the previously set ones).

Environment-variable `STOWES'

You can specify an environment variable `STOWES' and store options in it in the same way you would do on the command line. These options are processed after the config-file was read and before the options on the command line. That means that options on the command line will override options given in the variable `STOWES' and in the config file.

--stowdir and --targetdir options

If you only use the "stowdir"-option, the target directory will be the parent directory of the stow directory. On the other hand, if you only specify the target directory, the stow directory will be "targetdir/stowname".

StowDir and TargetDir options can only be used in pairs, i.e. a TargetDir or StowDir option will override both values from a lower level (e.g. a `-t'-option on the command line will override a given `-s'-option set in a config or in the environment variable).

Why? It happened to me that I had something like "-t /tmp/f" in my config file and specified something like "-s ." on the command line (forgetting what was in the config file) while working on some other packages. Since these option do not overwrite themselves ugly target- and stowdirs are used...

Config files

You may store any option you would write on the command line in a config file. These options are pushed before the arguments you gave on the command line, so you can overwrite options given in a config file. Standard configs may be placed in "/etc/stowESrc" and/or "~/.stowESrc".

The system wide configuration file is read first.

Package matching

By default, commands which take regexps as params are only executed if they match exactly one package (this counts per regexp). This should help to avoid messing up your packages ("stowES remove glib" would remove more than just glib, at least on my system...). If you want to supply a command to more packages you may use the `m'-option.


Currently locale information are only used to get the thousands seperator for figures. Nevertheless your locale environment should be properly set up.


The paramters may be abbreviated to uniqueness (see docs for The same applies for commands.


stowES return with 0 if operation was successful and with 1 otherwise.


Suppose you would like to install gnome... lots of work?

  Consider this:
  > cd /plenty/space; mkdir gnome; cd gnome
  > ncftpget*
  > stowES install -r --removesource -t /some/space *

Now have a cup of coffee or tea or make something else, this will take some time to finish. When your prompt reappears you should have gnome installed from source (with all the default options for each package taken).

Now a bit smaller:

  > stowES install store/src/autoconf/autoconf-2.14.tar.gz

will unpack, compile and install autoconf in /usr/local.

If you have only autoconf installed a call of chkchksums may give this output.

  > stowES chkchksums -a
  Checking checksums for package autoconf-2.14...ok.

Use this if you want to get rid of autoconf.

  > stowES remove autoconf

Here you see that I have three packages matching "window" installed. Two of them a checked in and can be used. The WindowMaker-0.61.1 package is currently not checked in, it conflicts with some other package, so it can't even be checked in if wanted.

  > S ls window
  Listing packages in /usr/local/stow matching [ window ] (3 matches):
  - WindowMaker-0.61.1 (GNUstep/Apps/
  I WindowMaker-0.62.1
  I WindowMaker-extra-0.1


Adam Lackorzynski <>


ldd(1), stow(1)