Usefiles explained

A usefile describes an ooc package, ie. a collection of modules and contains information how to compile and link that specific collection of ooc files. It also denotes if the package should compile to an executable or a shared/static library.

Usefiles are not a totally novel concept. They are comparable to pkg-config files or, to some degree, similar to build system files like CMake or SCons.

However, in ooc, (and this is a pretty new thing!), the compiler rock itself reads and handles these usefiles.


Let’s start off with some examples. Following is the repository structure of ooc-zeromq, a zeromq binding for ooc:

├── samples
│   ├── ...
├── source
│   └── zeromq.ooc
└── zeromq.use

Let’s assume that you cloned the repository into a subdirectory of your ooc library path (which consists of the paths in the OOC_LIBS environment variable).

And here are the contents of zeromq.use (shortened for brevity):

Name: zeromq
Description: The 0MQ lightweight messaging kernel
Version: 2010-06-16
SourcePath: source
Includes: zmq.h
Libs: -lzmq

A usefile should always contain the name, description and version of its package.

In addition, this usefile tells rock that the actual ooc files reside in the subdirectory source (which will be added to the so-called sourcepath).

Also, since this is a C library binding, the zeromq C header needs to be included, and the -lzmq flag needs to be passed to the linker.

So far so good. But what are the benefits of writing such a file?

If you now want to use this package in any of your projects, you can just write:

use zeromq

at the top of your ooc file, and rock will automatically look through your library path (the paths in the OOC_LIBS environment variable) for a file called zeromq.use and find the usefile above. Now it parses this usefile and instantly knows not only where it can find the ooc-zeromq ooc files, but also what C headers need to be included and what libraries need to be linked.

As a result, you can now just import the ooc-zeromq ooc file like this:

import zeromq

and hack away.

Another simpler example is the sam usefile. sam is different because it compiles to an executable file:

Name: sam
Description: Sam keeps your ooc repos up to date
SourcePath: source
Main: sam.ooc

Once again, the usefile contains name and description (no version here, though!) and the sourcepath.

The new thing: Main denotes the entry point for the executable, e.g. the file containing the main function. rock looks for a file named this in the source path, which here contains the subdirectory source/.

To build sam, you can now just run:

rock -v

which will look for a usefile in your current directory and build the package. As a result, you get a sam executable – and all of that without using a third party build system!


A list of all currently supported fields in usefiles follows.

  • Name, Description and Version contain metadata about the package and version
  • Pkgs contains a comma-separated list of pkg-config packages this package depends on. rock will invoke pkg-config with these packages and add the resulting C flags and linker flags to its pipeline
  • CustomPkg can be used to specify the name of a pkg-config-like tool that should be used instead. For example, the ooc sdl2 binding sets this to sdl2-config
  • Libs contains a comma-separated list of linker flags like -lSDL2_image
  • Frameworks: OSX-only, specify Frameworks to be linked with (example: OpenGL)
  • Includes can be used to specify C headers that should be included (as a comma-separated list)
  • PreMains: List of compiler flags that, if specified from a .pc file or a .use file, (maybe conditioned by a version block), must appear before the main compilation unit. Example: -lSDL2main on Windows.
  • Linker can be used to specify a ld replacement
  • LibPaths and IncludePaths are comma-separated lists and contain paths that should be added to the linker or C include paths
  • AndroidLibs, AndroidIncludePaths: Android-specific properties that are only used with the Android driver.
  • Additionals: can be used to add .c files to be compiled along with the .ooc code. Relative paths (starting with ./) will have the .c file be copied locally.
  • Requires can be used to specify requirements (denoted by usefile names), for example for sam
  • SourcePath can be used to add a path to the source path
  • Imports contains list of modules that should be implicitly imported when use yourusefile is used. Grouping syntax (e.g. folder/[a, b, c]) is supported, just as regular ooc imports.
  • Origin is ignored by rock, but it traditionally specifies the git repository url of that package
  • Main is the name of the entrypoint file
  • all fields starting with _ are ignored by rock

Version blocks

Similarily to ooc’s version blocks, usefile version blocks can be used to work with different requirements on different platforms.

The syntax is similar to version blocks in ooc. Here is an example from Paper Isaac’s usefile:

Name: isaac
Version: 0.1
Requires: dye, bleep, gnaar
SourcePath: source
Main: isaac

version (windows) {
  Libs: ./isaac.res

Compiling under windows, the linker command line will contain the additional file ./isaac.res.