Some fields can contains variables that are expanded by Dune. The syntax of variables is as follows:


or, for more complex forms that take an argument:


In order to write a plain %{, you need to write \%{ in a string.

Dune supports the following variables:

  • project_root is the root of the current project. It is typically the root of your project, and as long as you have a dune-project file there, project_root is independent of the workspace configuration.

  • workspace_root is the root of the current workspace. Note that the value of workspace_root isn’t constant and depends on whether your project is vendored or not.

  • cc is the C compiler command line (list made of the compiler name followed by its flags) that will be used to compile foreign code. For more details about its content, please see this section.

  • cxx is the C++ compiler command line being used in the current build context.

  • ocaml_bin is the path where ocamlc lives.

  • ocaml is the ocaml binary.

  • ocamlc is the ocamlc binary.

  • ocamlopt is the ocamlopt binary.

  • ocaml_version is the version of the compiler used in the current build context.

  • ocaml_where is the output of ocamlc -where.

  • arch_sixtyfour is true if using a compiler that targets a 64-bit architecture and false otherwise.

  • null is /dev/null on Unix or nul on Windows.

  • ext_obj, ext_asm, ext_lib, ext_dll, and ext_exe are the file extensions used for various artifacts.

  • ext_plugin is .cmxs if natdynlink is supported and .cma otherwise.

  • ocaml-config:v is for every variable v in the output of ocamlc -config. Note that Dune processes the output of ocamlc -config in order to make it a bit more stable across versions, so the exact set of variables accessible this way might not be exactly the same as what you can see in the output of ocamlc -config. In particular, variables added in new OCaml versions need to be registered in Dune before they can be used.

  • profile is the profile selected via --profile.

  • context_name is the name of the context (default, or defined in the workspace file)

  • os_type is the type of the OS the build is targeting. This is the same as ocaml-config:os_type.

  • architecture is the type of the architecture the build is targeting. This is the same as ocaml-config:architecture.

  • model is the type of the CPU the build is targeting. This is the same as ocaml-config:model.

  • system is the name of the OS the build is targeting. This is the same as ocaml-config:system.

  • ignoring_promoted_rule is true if --ignore-promoted-rules was passed on the command line and false otherwise.

  • <ext>:<path> where <ext> is one of cmo, cmi, cma, cmx, or cmxa. See Variables for Artifacts.

  • env:<var>=<default expands to the value of the environment variable <var>, or <default> if it does not exist. For example, %{env:BIN=/usr/bin}. Available since Dune 1.4.0.

  • There are some Coq-specific variables detailed in Coq-Specific Variables.

In addition, (action ...) fields support the following special variables:

  • target expands to the one target.

  • targets expands to the list of target.

  • deps expands to the list of dependencies.

  • ^ expands to the list of dependencies, separated by spaces.

  • dep:<path> expands to <path> (and adds <path> as a dependency of the action).

  • exe:<path> is the same as <path>, except when cross-compiling, in which case it will expand to <path> from the host build context.

  • bin:<program> expands <path> to program. If program is installed by a workspace package (see install stanzas), the locally built binary will be used, otherwise it will be searched in the <path> of the current build context. Note that (run %{bin:program} ...) and (run program ...) behave in the same way. %{bin:...} is only necessary when you are using (bash ...) or (system ...).

  • bin-available:<program> expands to true or false, depending on whether <program> is available or not.

  • lib:<public-library-name>:<file> expands to the file’s installation path <file> in the library <public-library-name>. If <public-library-name> is available in the current workspace, the local file will be used, otherwise the one from the installed world will be used.

  • lib-private:<library-name>:<file> expands to the file’s build path <file> in the library <library-name>. Both public and private library names are allowed as long as they refer to libraries within the same project.

  • libexec:<public-library-name>:<file> is the same as lib:..., except when cross-compiling, in which case it will expand to the file from the host build context.

  • libexec-private:<library-name>:<file> is the same as lib-private:... except when cross-compiling, in which case it will expand to the file from the host build context.

  • lib-available:<library-name> expands to true or false depending on whether the library is available or not. A library is available if at least one of the following conditions holds:

    • It’s part the installed world.

    • It’s available locally and is not optional.

    • It’s available locally, and all its library dependencies are available.

  • version:<package> expands to the version of the given package. Packages defined in the current scope have priority over the public packages. Public packages that don’t install any libraries will not be detected. How Dune determines the version of a package is described here.

  • read:<path> expands to the contents of the given file.

  • read-lines:<path> expands to the list of lines in the given file.

  • read-strings:<path> expands to the list of lines in the given file, unescaped using OCaml lexical convention.

The %{<kind>:...} forms are what allows you to write custom rules that work transparently, whether things are installed or not.

Note that aliases are ignored by %{deps}

The intent of this last form is to reliably read a list of strings generated by an OCaml program via:

List.iter (fun s -> print_string (String.escaped s)) l
  1. Dealing with circular dependencies introduced by variables

If you ever see Dune reporting a dependency cycle that involves a variable such as %{read:<path>}, try to move <path> to a different directory.

The reason you might see such dependency cycle is because Dune is trying to evaluate the %{read:<path>} too early. For instance, let’s consider the following example:

 (targets x)
 (enabled_if %{read:y})
 (action ...))

 (with-stdout-to y (...)))

When Dune loads and interprets this file, it decides whether the first rule is enabled by evaluating %{read:y}. To evaluate %{read:y}, it must build y. To build y, it must figure out the build rule that produces y, and in order to do that, it must first load and evaluate the above dune file. You can see how this creates a cycle.

Some cycles might be more complex. In any case, when you see such an error, the easiest thing to do is move the file that’s being read to a different directory, preferably a standalone one. You can use the subdir stanza to keep the logic self-contained in the same dune file:

 (targets x)
 (enabled_if %{read:dir-for-y/y})
 (action ...))

  (with-stdout-to y (...))))

Expansion of Lists

Forms that expand to a list of items, such as %{cc}, %{deps}, %{targets}, or %{read-lines:...}, are suitable to be used in (run <prog> <arguments>). For instance in:

(run foo %{deps})

If there are two dependencies, a and b, the produced command will be equivalent to the shell command:

$ foo "a" "b"

If you want both dependencies to be passed as a single argument, you must quote the variable:

(run foo "%{deps}")

which is equivalent to the following shell command:

$ foo "a b"

(The items of the list are concatenated with space.) Please note: since %{deps} is a list of items, the first one may be used as a program name. For instance:

 (targets result.txt)
 (deps    foo.exe (glob_files *.txt))
 (action  (run %{deps})))

Here is another example:

 (target foo.exe)
 (deps   foo.c)
 (action (run %{cc} -o %{target} %{deps} -lfoolib)))