CommunityResearch Program


Back to blog

June 07, 2024

Managing Complex Dependencies with Google’s repo tool
byAyan PahwainCommunity

In my last blog, I discussed managing dependencies with git submodules. However, when working with large projects that have many dependencies, traditional methods like git submodules can become cumbersome. Google’s repo tool emerges as a powerful solution specifically designed to handle this challenge.

What is repo tool?

repo is an in-house dependency management tool developed by Google. It excels at managing many dependencies, making it ideal for projects like the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and custom Android ROMs.

Unlike git submodules, which are an integrated git feature, repo functions as a separate executable script. This necessitates installation before diving in.

Installation (Choose your adventure!)


Create a directory for Repo:

mkdir ~/bin

Update your PATH environment variable:

export PATH=~/bin:$PATH

Download and make Repo executable:

curl https://storage.googleapis.com/git-repo-downloads/repo > ~/bin/repo
chmod a+x ~/bin/repo
Google repo tool


Use Homebrew to install Repo:

brew install repo
Google repo tool

For other platforms, refer to official docs: https://gerrit.googlesource.com/git-repo

Manifest Magic: Defining Dependencies

Repo relies on a manifest file stored in a separate Git repository. This XML file is the central hub, outlining where to fetch project dependencies, their storage location, and specific revisions (commits).

The beauty of Repo lies in its ability to manage multiple manifests. Imagine a huge, complex project like the Android Operating system with 100 dependencies. You could create a dedicated “lib.xml” manifest to fetch those specific libraries, eliminating the need to include hundreds of unrelated dependencies from a broader manifest. Similarly, the testing and compliance team can have “qa.xml” and “compliance.xml” to manage extra QA and compliance-related dependencies separately, which might not be needed in production but required during development. Both could also have the same libraries but different versions. Hence repo using manifest.xml makes handling dependencies extremely flexible. 

For this demo, we’ll keep things simple with a single “default.xml” file.

Creating a Manifest

Clone the Example Repository having our manifest:

git clone git@github.com:iayanpahwa/manifest-demo.git

Examine the default.xml file:
This file specifies the main Project (ex, EazyExit) with two dependencies, FastLED and PubSubClient, along with their corresponding URLs, paths, and revision IDs.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<remote fetch="https://github.com/iayanpahwa/" name="EazyExit" />
    <project name="FastLED.git" path="lib/FastLED" remote="EazyExit" revision="c1ab8fa86f6d6ecbf40ab7f28b36116a3c931916" />
    <project name="pubsubclient.git" path="lib/PubSubClient" remote="EazyExit" revision="dddfffbe0c497073d960f3b9f83c8400dc8cad6d" />


Note: The manifest allows for various configurations, including project branches and alternative remotes (like Bitbucket or GitLab). Refer to the official documentation for a comprehensive list: https://gerrit.googlesource.com/git-repo/+/master/docs/manifest-format.md

Putting it All Together: Fetching Dependencies

  1. Push the default.xml file to your GitHub repository (if using the provided example).
  2. Create a project directory (e.g., EazyExit).

Navigate to your project directory and initialise Repo

Google repo tool

3. This command establishes the current directory as your project workspace.

Fetch dependencies using the repo sync command:

4. This command retrieves all dependencies specified in the manifest and stores them according to the defined paths.

By leveraging repo, you can effectively manage many dependencies within a single, streamlined workflow.

Repo empowers you to manage complex dependencies with ease, promoting a more flexible and adaptable development process. Checkout our other blogs on: 

NEW Developer Nation survey is live! Participate, shape the trends in software development, and win big. Start here!

dependenciesdevelopersGoogle's repo tool

Recent Posts

July 11, 2024

Generative AI and Its Evolving Role in Software Development

See post

July 11, 2024

Troubleshooting and Fixing Common Online Connectivity and Server Issues

See post

July 11, 2024

Cloud Application Performance Monitoring: Strategies to Boost User Experience

See post

Contact us

Swan Buildings (1st floor)20 Swan StreetManchester, M4 5JW+441612400603community@developernation.net
HomeCommunityResearch ProgramBlog


Knowledge HubPulse ReportReportsForumEventsPodcast
Code of Conduct
SlashData © Copyright 2024 |All rights reserved