Contributing Code to the GNU Octave Repository


To contribute your .m files, C++, C, or Fortran code to the GNU Octave Repository (octave-forge) you need to

The first two requirements are easy. If you don't already have one, create a SourceForge account here. To register as an Octave Forge developer, subscribe to the Octave maintainers mailing list and send a request including your SourceForge username. Include a bit of information about the code you plan to submit and also a first code contribution under the form of a patch. Use

   $ svn diff
to create this patch if you are using the SVN tree, or just
   $ diff -u original_file.m updated_file.m
with a local of the original function if you aren't. Finally, if your computer runs linux or FreeBSD, chances are good that both ssh and subversion are already installed on your system. If they aren't, you will need to find prebuilt packages for them or download their source code and build them.

Download the latest octave-forge distribution

It is expected that the code you plan to submit to reside in a directory within the existing octave-forge directory structure. You will therefore need to download a copy of the latest octave-forge distribution to work in. Change directories to a place you want to put the code, then issue the SVN checkout command:

   $ cd working_directory
   $ svn checkout

Where does your code belong?

Put your file(s) in a subdirectory under the octave-forge/ directory. Here are some guidelines to help you decide where your code belongs:

Add a copyright notice

Each file in octave-forge must contain a copyright notice. If you wish to release your code under the GNU GPL , insert the following text at the top of your file:

## Copyright (C) year   Your Name   <>
## This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
## it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
## the Free Software Foundation; either version 3 of the License, or
## (at your option) any later version.
## This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
## but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
## GNU General Public License for more details.
## You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
## along with this program; if not, see <>.

Here are other popular open source licenses:

Consult for a comprehensive list of Open Source licenses.

Package structure

Octave Forge has evolved into a source repository of Octave packages rather than a package in itself. Each sub-directory is considered to be a package and should respect Octave's package managers file layout.

This is an optional file, whose presence tells octave-forge that this package should be ignored. This is typically for packages that are kept for historical reasons.
This is a required file containing information about the package. It must contain the following fields
Name: Name of the package
Version: Version of the package
Date: Date of last update
Author: Original author of the package
Maintainer: Maintainer of the package
Title: A one line description of the package
Description: A one paragraph description of the package
Categories: Optional keyword describing the package (if no INDEX file is given this is mandatory)
Problems: Optional list of known problems
Url: Optional list of homepages related to the package
Autoload: Optional field that sets the default loading behavior for the package. If set to 'yes', 'true' or 'on', then Octave will automatically load the package when starting. Otherwise the package must be manually loaded with the pkg load command. This default behavior can be overridden when the package is installed.
Depends: A list of other octave packages that this package depends on. This can include dependencies on particular versions, with a format.
	Depends: package (>= 1.0.0)
Possible operators are <, <=, ==, >= or >. If the part of the dependency in () is missing, any version of the package is acceptable. Multiple dependencies can be defined either as a comma separated list or on separate Depends lines.
License: An optional short description of the used license (e.g. GPL version 2 or newer). This is optional since the file COPYING is mandatory.
SystemRequirements: These are the external install dependencies of the package and are not checked by the package manager. This is here as a hint to the distribution packager. They follows the same conventions as the Depends keyword.
BuildRequires: These are the external build dependencies of the package and are not checked by the package manager. This is here as a hint to the distribution packager. They follows the same conventions as the Depends keyword. Note that in general, packaging systems such as rpm or deb and autoprobe the install dependencies from the build dependencies, and therefore the often a BuildRequires dependency removes the need for a SystemRequirements dependency
SVNRelease: This is an optional field intended to help the developer remember the SVN release number from which the package was produced, it will in genaral not be seen by the package users.

The file format should be something like this:

  • Lines starting with # are comments
  • Lines starting with a blank character are continuations from the previous line.
  • Everything else is of the form NameOfOption: ValueOfOption
The developer is free to add additional arguments to the DESCRIPTION file for their own purposes. Note that octave-forge contains an automatic build process of RPMs and DEBs from the octave packages, and this relies on the DESCRIPTION files being correctly formatted. One further detail to aid the packager is that the SystemRequirments and BuildRequires keywords can have distribution dependent section, and the automatic build process will use these. An example of the format of this is
	BuildRequires: libtermcap-devel [Mandriva] libtermcap2-devel
where the first package name will be used as a default and if the RPMs are built on a Mandriva distribution, then the second package name will be used instead.
This is a required file containing the license of the package.
This is an optional file describing the functions provided by the package. If this file is not given then one with be created automatically from the functions in the package and the Categories keyword.
An optional file that includes commands that are run when the package is added to the users path. Note that PKG_ADD directives in the source code of the package will also be added to this file by the octave package manager. Note that symbolic links are to be avoided in packages, as symbolic links do not exist on some file systems, and so a typical use for this file is the replacement of the symbolic link

ln -s foo.oct bar.oct
with an autoload directive like

autoload ('bar', which ('foo'));
An optional file that includes commands that are run when the package is removed from the users path. Note that PKG_DEL directives in the source code of the package will also be added to this file by the octave package manager.
This is an optional file that is for the use of Octave-Forge only. It allows the developer to have fine control over exactly what is included in the package and anything that needs to be done before or after the package is built. The default Makefile is

include ../../Makeconf

	$(wildcard PKG_DEL) $(wildcard post_install.m) \
	$(wildcard pre_install.m)  $(wildcard on_uninstall.m) \
	$(wildcard inst/*) $(wildcard src/*) $(wildcard doc/*) \
	$(wildcard bin/*)

	# Do nothing prior to packaging

	# Do nothing post packaging

which packages all of the required and existing optional files and directories discussed here.
This is an optional script that is run prior to the installation of a package.
This is an optional script that is run after the installation of a package.
This is an optional script that is run prior to the de-installation of a package.
An optional directory containing documentation for the package. The files in this directory will be directly installed in a sub-directory of the installed package for future reference. Note that any html files included in this directory will be included in the octave-forge package webpages. To include images or arbitrary files use a sub-directory html/ in this directory.
An optional directory containing any files that are directly installed by package. Typically this will include any m-files.
An optional directory containing files that will be added to the Octave EXEC_PATH when the package is loaded. This might contain external scripts, etc, called by functions within the package.
An optional directory containing code that must be 'built' prior to the packages installation. If this directory contains a file, and package/Makefile does not exist, this script will be called prior to the packaging. The Octave package manager will execute "./configure" in this directory is this script exists, and will then call "make" if a file "Makefile" exists in this directory. "make install" will however not be called. If a file called "FILES" exist all files listed there will be copied to the "inst" directory, so they also will be installed. If the "src/FILES" file doesn't exist "src/*.m" and "src/*.oct" will be copied to "inst". There are two reasons for doing this rather than "make install":
  • At some point, it would be good to have a 'build' command that creates a binary version of a package. I don't mean a .dep or a .rpm, but an octave package, in which everything has been compiled.
  • At some point in the future, somebody clever might tell us that the package system should run in a sandboxed environment for security reasons.

Submit your code!

You are now ready to upload your code to the GNU Octave Repository. Do this with two SVN commands--one to add a new entry for your file in the octave-forge catalog, and a second command to actually upload the file:

   $ svn add files
   $ svn commit files

The first time you run the above during a session, you will be requested to type your octave-forge username and password.

After hitting the carriage return at the end of the commit command, SVN will open your default editor so that you can enter comments about the commit. The first time you commit a file the comment might be something as simple as `Initial commit into SVN.' However, for all subsequent commits please add meaningful comments that explain why changes were made to the file since all comments will appear in the changelog. Try to gather related changes into one commit command.

Aside: the default editor can be defined like so:

   $ export EDITOR=vim

If you are uploading an entire package, then put your directory into the octave-forge tree and do the following:

   $ cd octave-forge/main
   $ svn add package
   $ svn commit package
   $ cd package
   $ svn add *
   $ svn commit *

You may find it easier to use the import command, especially if your package contains subdirectories. In this case, you should not put your directory into the octave-forge tree. Instead, change to the root of your package tree and enter the following:

   $ cd path/below/package
   $ svn import package \

You can then fetch the new package from octave-forge as follows:

   $ cd octave-forge
   $ svn status -u

From time to time, you will need to synchronize with SVN:

   $ cd octave-forge
   $ svn status -u

Each file will be listed with one of the following codes:

Make a release of your package and publish its function reference

When you are ready to make a new release of your package you will have to update the website to show the package newly released as follows:

Learn more about SVN

The few SVN commands shown here just scratch the surface of this powerful versioning package. If you become an active contributor you will benefit from learning more SVN commands and understanding how SVN works. The SVN Book is a great place to begin your exploration.

Join the developers' mailing list

Finally, consider joining Octave's maintainers mailing list. It is very low traffic. It is used to discuss development issues related to both Octave and Octave Forge.