Zero Install is a decentralised cross-distribution software installation system. Other features include full support for shared libraries (with a SAT solver for dependency resolution), sharing between users, and integration with native platform package managers. It supports both binary and source packages, and works on Linux, macOS, Unix and Windows systems.
Published: 19 Aug 2022
Copyright Thomas Leonard and others, 2017
Zero Install is a decentralised cross-distribution software installation system available under the LGPL. It allows software developers to publish programs directly from their own web-sites, while supporting features familiar from centralised distribution repositories such as shared libraries, automatic updates and digital signatures. It is intended to complement, rather than replace, the operating system's package management. 0install packages never interfere with those provided by the distribution.
0install does not define a new packaging format; unmodified tarballs or zip archives can be used. Instead, it defines an XML metadata format to describe these packages and the dependencies between them. A single metadata file can be used on multiple platforms (e.g. Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Mac OS X and Windows), assuming binary or source archives are available that work on those systems.
0install also has some interesting features not often found in traditional package managers. For example, while it will share libraries whenever possible, it can always install multiple versions of a package in parallel when there are conflicting requirements. Installation is always side-effect-free (each package is unpacked to its own directory and will not touch shared directories such as /usr/bin), making it ideal for use with sandboxing technologies and virtualisation.
The XML file describing the program's requirements can also be included in a source-code repository, allowing full dependency handling for unreleased developer versions. For example, a user can clone a Git repository and build and test the program, automatically downloading newer versions of libraries where necessary, without interfering with the versions of those libraries installed by their distribution, which continue to be used for other software.
See the 0install.net web-site for full details.
0install is written in OCaml. You will need the OCaml build tools and some OCaml libraries to compile 0install.
The easiest way to get the dependencies is using OPAM. You will need opam version 2 or later.
$ opam switch create 4.07.0 $ eval `opam config env` $ opam install yojson xmlm ounit lwt_react ocurl obus lablgtk lwt_glib sha dune
Note: some of these are optional:
obusis used on Linux to add support for D-BUS notifications, installing native packages using PackageKit, and using NetworkManager to check the network status before doing background updates.
lwt_glibprovide a GTK GUI.
ocurlselects the C-based libcurl backend for HTTP. You can instead install the packages
cohttp-lwt-unix lwt_sslto get a pure OCaml HTTP client.
Alternatively, you can use your distribution's packages if you prefer (and if they are new enough). For example, on Debian:
$ sudo apt-get install gettext ocaml-nox ocaml-findlib libyojson-ocaml-dev \ libxmlm-ocaml-dev make liblwt-ocaml-dev libounit-ocaml-dev \ libcurl-ocaml-dev libsha-ocaml-dev \ libobus-ocaml-dev liblablgtk2-ocaml-dev liblwt-glib-ocaml-dev
$ su -c 'yum install gettext ocaml ocaml-findlib ocaml-yojson-devel \ ocaml-biniou-devel ocaml-easy-format-devel ocaml-xmlm-devel \ ocaml-lwt-devel ocaml-ounit-devel ocaml-curl-devel \ ocaml-obus-devel ocaml-lablgtk-devel openssl-devel'
Either way, build and install by running this command in the top-level directory:
$ make && sudo make install
You can also install just to your home directory (this doesn't require root access):
$ make && make install_home $ export PATH=$HOME/bin:$PATH
Logging out and back in again will ensure $PATH and the Applications menu get updated correctly, on Ubuntu at least.
To try 0install without installing:
$ make $ ./dist/files/0install --help
A C# Windows version of 0install is available at 0install.de. This uses some of the OCaml code internally, but adds its own user interface and has better Windows integration.
To compile the OCaml version on Windows (which is currently only really useful if you want to build it for use with the C# code):
Install OPAM for Windows. I used the 64-bit graphical installer. Choose a mirror when prompted and select
gnupgwhen prompted to select extra packages. When this completes, you will have OCaml and a package manager for installing OCaml libraries.
Run the newly installed
Cygwin64 Terminal application and run these commands at the prompt:
opam install depext-cygwinports depext opam depext 0install opam pin -y add -k git 0install .
The binary requires various DLLs to run. Use
cygcheck 0install.exeto get a list of the ones you need and copy them from
/usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32/sys-root/mingw/binto the directory containing the 0install binary.
The tests don't currently pass on Windows.
The native OCaml code cannot currently cope with archives containing executable files (with the Unix X bit set) - you'll get the error
Incorrect manifest -- archive is corrupted. When the OCaml version of 0install is run under the .NET version, the .NET version sets the environment variable
%ZEROINSTALL_EXTERNAL_FETCHER%to a .NET helper process which does the unpacking correctly.
Patches to improve the situation are welcome.
A bash completion script is available in share/bash-completion. It can be sourced from your .bashrc or added under /usr/share/bash-completion. Note that you may have to install a separate "bash-completion" package on some systems.
For zsh users, copy the script in share/zsh/site-functions/ to a directory in your $fpath (e.g. /usr/local/share/zsh/site-functions).
For fish-shell users, add the full path to share/fish/completions to $fish_complete_path.
These completion scripts are installed automatically by "make install".
To install Edit and name it 'rox-edit':
$ 0install add rox-edit http://rox.sourceforge.net/2005/interfaces/Edit
To run it (use the name you chose above):
When you run it, 0install will check how long it has been since it checked for updates and will run a check in the background if it has been too long. To check for updates manually:
$ 0install update rox-edit http://rox.sourceforge.net/2005/interfaces/ROX-Lib: 2.0.5 -> 2.0.6
This shows that ROX-Lib, a library rox-edit uses, was upgraded.
If an upgrade stops a program from working, use "0install whatchanged". This will tell you when the application was last upgraded and what changed, and tells you how to revert to the previous version:
$ 0install whatchanged rox-edit Last checked : Tue Sep 25 09:45:19 2012 Last update : 2012-09-25 Previous update : 2012-08-25 http://rox.sourceforge.net/2005/interfaces/ROX-Lib: 2.0.5 -> 2.0.6 To run using the previous selections, use: 0install run /home/tal/.config/0install.net/apps/rox-edit/selections-2012-08-25.xml
To see where things have been stored:
$ 0install show rox-edit - URI: http://rox.sourceforge.net/2005/interfaces/Edit Version: 2.2 Path: /home/tal/.cache/0install.net/implementations/sha256=ba3b4953...c8ce3177f08c926bebafcf16b9 - URI: http://rox.sourceforge.net/2005/interfaces/ROX-Lib Version: 2.0.6 Path: /home/tal/.cache/0install.net/implementations/sha256=ccefa7b187...16b6d0ad67c4df6d0c06243e - URI: http://repo.roscidus.com/python/python Version: 2.7.3-4 Path: (package:deb:python2.7:2.7.3-4:x86_64)
To view or change configuration settings:
$ 0install config
For more information, see the man-page for 0install and the 0install.net web-site.
This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2.1 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.
This library is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Lesser General Public License for more details.
You should have received a copy of the GNU Lesser General Public License along with this library; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA
Please report any bugs to the mailing list.