Automating patch application in specs

%autosetup description

Starting with version 4.11, RPM has a set of new macros to further automatesource unpacking and patch application. Previously one had to manually specify each patch to be applied, eg

%setup -q
%patch 0
%patch 1
%patch 2
%patch 149

This can get rather tedious when the number of patches is large. The new %autosetup macro allows taking care of all this in a single step: the following applies all the patches declared in the spec, ordered by the patch number:


In addition to automating plain old patch command invocations, %autosetup allows utilizing various version control systems such as git, mercurial (aka hg), quilt and bzr for managing the build directory source. For example this unpacks the vanilla source, initializes a git repository in the build directory and then applies all the patches defined in the spec using individual git apply + commits:

%autosetup -S git

The resulting build directory can be used for bisecting problems introduced in patches, and developing new patches from the build directory is more natural than with gendiff.

%autosetup options

Generally %autosetup accepts the same arguments as %setup does. The notable exceptions are

  • %autosetup defaults to quiet operation, so -q is not needed or accepted. Use -v to enable verbose source unpacking if needed.
  • -N disables automatic patch application if necessary for some reason. If %autosetup is called with -N, the patch-application phase can be manually invoked with %autopatch macro.
  • -S<vcs> specifies the VCS to use. Currently supported VCSes are: git, hg (for mercurial), bzr, quilt, patch, git_am (rpm >= 4.12) and gendiff (rpm >= 4.14). If S is omitted, %autosetup defaults to patch
  • -p<number> argument to control patch prefix stripping (same as -p to %patch)
  • -b (for creating patch backups) is accepted but currently ignored - this is not meaningful for a full-blown VCS anyway. If you need backups for gendiff use, use gendiff backend.

Note that the exact behavior of -S option depends on the used VCS: for example quilt only controls patches whereas git and mercurial control the entire source repository.


Sometimes you need more control than just “apply all”, in which case you can call %autopatch directly. By default it simply applies all patches in the order declared in the spec, but you can additionally control the range with options, or pass patch numbers as arguments. The supported options are

  • -v verbose operation
  • -p<number> argument to control patch prefix stripping (same as -p to %patch, normally passed down from %autosetup)
  • -m<number> Apply patches starting from <number> range
  • -M<number> Apply patches up to <number> range

Some examples:

Apply patches with number >= 100

%autopatch -m 100

Apply patches with number <= 400

%autopatch -M 400

Apply patches 80 to 99, inclusive

%autopatch -m 80 -M 99

Apply patches 1, 4 and 6

%autopatch 1 4 6

Automating patch (and source) declarations

While typically patch and source names tend to be descriptive for humans, making automating the declarations impossible, some upstreams (for example bash and vim) provide bugfixes by serially numbered patches. In such cases automation can be taken one step further by programmatically generating the patch declarations as well. As of this writing there are no specific helper macros for performing this, but for example the embedded Lua interpreter can be used for the purpose:

%{lua:for i=1,45 do print(string.format("Patch%u: bash42-%03u\n", i, i)) end}

On spec parse, the above expands to as many patch declarations (best inspected with rpmspec --parse <spec>):

Patch1: bash42-001
Patch2: bash42-002
Patch3: bash42-003
Patch4: bash42-004
Patch45: bash42-045

Combined with %autosetup, this can eliminate a very large number of repetitive spec lines, making package maintenance that little bit easier.