Create Swift Package plugins

Written by Cihat Gündüz

Description: Tailor your development workflow and learn how to write your own package plugins in Swift. We'll show you how you can extend Xcode’s functionality by using the PackagePlugin API to generate source code or automate release tasks and share best practices for creating great plugins.

What is a package plugin?

  • Xcode runs plugins, plugins can communicate back
  • Can be used for custom build tasks
  • Also custom commands to SwiftPM CLI can be added

Custom commands

  • First, create a new folder in package called Plugins
  • Create another nested folder for plugin target, e.g. GenerateContributors
  • Create a Swift file inside, e.g. plugin.swift
  • Make sure to bump the package tools version to 5.6 (or higher)
  • Insert .plugin in the targets in your package manifest file:
      name: "GenerateContributors",
      capability: .command(
        intent: .custom(
          verb: "regenerate-contributors-list",
          description: "Generates the CONTRIBUTORS.txt file based on Git logs"
        permissions: [
          .writeToPackageDirectory(reason: "This command write the new CONTRIBUTORS.txt to the source root.")
    • intent can define a verb for the SwiftPM command line for command capability plugins
    • permissions is used if you need to write into a directory (Sandbox)
    • Implement by import PackagePlugin and conforming to CommandPlugin protocol
    • To shell out to other tools, import Foundation and then call Process().executableURL and .arguments
    • Define a Pipe to read output so you can use it in your logic
    import PackagePlugin
    import Foundation
    struct GenerateContributors: CommandPlugin {
      func performCommand(
        context: PluginContext,
        arguments: [String]
      ) async throws {
        let process = Process()
        process.executableURL = URL(fileURLWithPath: "/usr/bin/git")
        process.arguments = ["log", "--pretty=format:- %an <%ae>%n"]
        let outputPipe = Pipe()
        process.standardOutput = outputPipe
        let outputData = outputPipe.fileHandleForReading.readDataToEndOfFile()
        let output = String(decoding: outputData, as: UTF8.self)
        let contributors = Set(output.components(separatedBy: CharacterSet.newlines)).sorted().filter { !$0.isEmpty }
        try contributors.joined(separator: "\n").write(toFile: "CONTRIBUTORS.txt", atomically: true, encoding: .utf8)
    • New command available in right-click context-menu of package
    • Xcode will ask for permission showing the text in permissions from manifest file

    Plugins in detail

    • Package plugins run in a Sandbox, access to work directory only
    • To wrap another tool, make sure it only writes in work directory
    • Build Tool Plugins structure (similar to run script phases in Xcode)
      • Executables
      • Inputs
      • Outputs
    • Types of Build Tool Plugins
      • In-build command (if you have a clear set of outputs)
      • Pre-build command (if no clear outputs, but make sure to be performant!)

    In-build commands

    • Plugins get run at the start of the build process
    • Use ProcessInfo().arguments to read arguments in your own tool
    • To create an executable, create new folder in Sources
      • Then add a main.swift file
      • Declare it in the Package.manifest
    • Put the tool target into the dependencies of your plugin to use it
    • Extend BuildToolPlugin instead of CommandPlugin

    Pre-build commands

    • To make a plugin available to clients of a package, add it to products in Package.swift manifest file

    Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃


    Written by

    Cihat Gündüz

    Cihat Gündüz

    📱Indie iOS Developer, 🎬Content Creator for 👨🏻‍💻Developers. 👾Twitch-Streamer & ▶️YouTuber.