How to "merge" several derivation outputs for plugin system?

I’m working on a package package that supports plugins. It expects them each as a zip file in the res subdirectory of a given path, but only one such ‘global’ path can be given.

Is there a good workflow for “merging” several output directories into one, and wrapping the original executable so I can pass the correct path?

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I think this is what symlinkJoin is used for.

How exactly should that be used?

In this scenario there are usually two derivations, the package itself and a wrapper derivation that joins the package with the plugins. The general pattern goes like this:

{ stdenv, runCommand... }:
  # creates a new derivation that wraps the package binary and attaches to the plugins somehow.
  withPlugins = plugins:
    # some time it's possible to reference all the plugins individually
    # if they all need to live in a folder then use symlinkJoin
    let pluginsRef = symlinkJoin { name = "${}-plugins"; paths = plugins; }; in
    runCommand "${}-with-plugins" {
      buildInputs = [ makeWrapper ];
      passthru.withPlugins = moarPlugins: withPlugins (moarPlugins ++ plugins);
    } ''
      makeWrapper ${package}/bin/whatever $out/bin/whatever \
        --set PLUGIN_PATH ${pluginsRef}

  pkg = stdenv.mkDerivation {
    # ...
    passthru = inherit withPlugins;

Like this it’s then possible to invoke thepackage.withPlugins with a list of plugins and get a new version of the package bound to those plugins.


Thank you, that sounds like a possible solution. I’ll try it as soon as I have time!

I am also very interested in this approach. I am exploring ways to create a single derivation of R with a large set of R packages so that all the packages are “visible” to R as one package search path pointing to the root of the package “library” instead of each package accessible via its own path/derivation. Are there any examples of using this type of wrapper derivations in nixpkgs?

This sounds like how the Haskell packaging works. Are you familiar with that?

I am just starting to learn the Haskell ecosystem in nixpkgs. It feels like I need something similar to ghcWithPackages but for R so that I could create a single derivation which would include both R (preferably of a given version) and a given set of packages (leveraging nixpkgs.rPackages for dependencies, etc.) “bundled” together in one R package library. The amount of nix code supporting ghcWithPackages ( looks overwhelming though.

The general approach is to make a derivation that builds an R package with a parameterised version of the compiler (see haskellPackages.mkDerivation). Then these are stitched together using symlinkJoin (in ghcWithPackages), then the compiler executable is wrapped to point the libdir to the correct place.

A simpler example of all this is the idrisPackages.with-packages function which does the same thing for idris packages.