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Prefab is a tool for generating build system integrations for prebuilt C/C++ libraries.


Prefab is a tool for generating build system integrations for prebuilt C/C++ libraries. A Prefab package consists of a small amount of metadata and the prebuilt libraries it describes. Prefab is:


Note: The Android Gradle Plugin natively supports Prefab packages. See the New Features in Android Studio page for more information.

Prefab is a command line tool the operates on the packages described in this document. At least one package path must be given, and each package path should point to the directory structure described in Package Structure.

Usage: prefab [OPTIONS] PACKAGE_PATH...

Android specific configuration options:
  --abi TEXT                       Target ABI.
  --os-version TEXT                Target OS version.
  --stl [c++_shared|c++_static|gnustl_shared|gnustl_static|none|stlport_shared|stlport_static|system]
                                   STL used by the application.
  --ndk-version INT                Major version of the NDK used by the

  --build-system TEXT  Generate integration for the given build system.
  --output DIRECTORY   Output path for generated build system integration.
  --platform TEXT      Target platform. Only 'android' is currently supported.
  -h, --help           Show this message and exit

For example, if your app is using CMake, c++_shared, NDK r21, and has a minSdkVersion of 21, you can generate CMake packages for your dependencies in the deps directory with the following commands:

$ prefab --output out/arm64-v8a --build-system cmake --platform android \
    --abi arm64-v8a --os-version 21 --ndk-version 21 --stl c++_shared deps
$ prefab --output out/armeabi-v7a --build-system cmake --platform android \
    --abi armeabi-v7a --os-version 21 --ndk-version 21 --stl c++_shared deps
$ prefab --output out/x86 --build-system cmake --platform android \
    --abi x86 --os-version 21 --ndk-version 21 --stl c++_shared deps
$ prefab --output out/x86_64 --build-system cmake --platform android \
    --abi x86_64 --os-version 21 --ndk-version 21 --stl c++_shared deps

This generates CMake packages that can be imported into your build with find_package. See the Build System Support in Prefab page for more information.

Package Structure

A complete Prefab artifact is called a “Package”, and each Package contains at least one Module. A Module is a distinct library to be consumed by the dependent project. Each Module has its own headers and at most one library per target platform.

For example, the OpenSSL package contains both libssl and libcrypto modules. The curl package contains just libcurl.

Note: Header-only libraries can be exposed by a Module with an empty libs directory.

A Package has the following directory layout:

<package name>/
        <module name>/

prefab.json is the package level metadata and module.json is the module level metadata. prefab.json is required, but module.json is optional.

The per-module include directory is optional. If present, the directory will be automatically added to the consumer’s header search path.

The libs directory contains a subdirectory for every supported platform. The <platform> portion of the directory name identifies the family of the platform (for example, “android”, “linux”, or “windows”) and more exact matching is performed in a platform-dependent manner. For example, Android libraries use an arbitrary identifier and read additional platform data such as ABI and minimum supported OS version from an abi.json file contained in the directory.

The libs directory is optional. A module without any libraries is a header only library and has no platform restrictions.

The file name of the contained library is determined in a platform-dependent manner. For Android, the format is lib${name}.so, but for Windows it would be ${name}.dll.

The include directory within each platform’s library directory is optional. If present, that include path will be used instead of the module headers for that platform.

For examples, see the test packages in the source.


Both Packages and Modules contain metadata to describe their use.

Package Metadata

Package metadata describes the version of Prefab that the package was built for and any inter-package dependencies the package may have.

    "schema_version": 1,
    "name": "<package name>",
    "version": "<package version>",
    "dependencies": [
        "<dependency name>",

The schema_version describes the generation of the package format. Any incompatible change to either metadata format or the package layout will result in an increase in the schema version. Whenever possible, old package versions will continue to be supported when new schema versions are introduced.

name identifies the Package and should match the name of the containing directory.

version contains the version number for the contained software. This field is optional. If absent, users will not be able to query the package version in their build scripts.

Note that for compatibility with CMake, versions must be specified as major[.minor[.patch[.tweak]]] with all components being numeric, even if that format does not match the native version of the software. For example, OpenSSL version 1.1.1a should be written as

dependencies is a list of strings naming other Packages (as specified by each Package’s name) that this Package depends on. All dependent packages must be available to Prefab during build script generation.

For examples, see the prefab.json files in the test packages.

Module Metadata

Module metadata describes requirements for the module’s use. At present, the only requirements that may be exported to dependents are additional libraries that the dependent must link along with the module, but in the future this may be extended to include required compiler flags such as a minimum C++ version.

    "export_libraries": [
        "<library link specifier>",
    "library_name": "<library file name without file extension>",
    "android": {
      "export_libraries": [
          "<library link specifier>",
      "library_name": "<library file name without file extension>"

export_libraries may specify either literal arguments to be used as-is, intra-package references, or inter-package references. This field is optional.

Value Result
-lfoo Consumers will use the -lfoo flag as-is when linking.
:foo Consumers will link the foo module from this package.
//bar:baz Consumers will link the baz module from the bar package.

Note that, except for the first case, the headers for the modules will also be made available to the consuming package.

library_name specifies the name of the library file without the file extension. This field is optional. If not specified, the library name is assumed to be lib<library_name>.

The android and field allows either export_libraries or library_name to be overridden dependening on the target platform. Each subfield follows the same rules of the main properties with the same name. If specified, the platform-specific properties override the generic properties.

For examples, see the module.json files in the test packages.