Publishing Artifacts

A JVM library owner/maintainer can publish versioned JARs and other artifacts that other repos can fetch and import as third-party dependencies.

A java_library target can have a provides parameter of type artifact. The artifact specifies the published artifact's coordinates, except that it does not specify a version; that changes each time you publish. For an example, see examples/src/java/org/pantsbuild/example/hello/greet/BUILD:

  dependencies = [], # A more realistic example would depend on other libs,
                     # but this "hello world" is pretty simple.
  provides = artifact(org='org.pantsbuild.example',

(That repo= parameter assumes someone has set up your Pants configuration to know about that artifact repository. If that assumption is false, keep reading to find out how to set this up.)

Pants' publish goal builds the library, bumps the library's version number, and uploads the library to its repository.

The publishing mechanism uses Semantic Versioning ("semver") for versioning. Versions are dotted number triples (e.g., 2.5.6); when Pants bumps a version, it specifically bumps the patch number part. Thus, if the current version is 2.5.6, Pants bumps to 2.5.7. To publish a minor or major version instead of a patch, you override the version number on the command line.

The pushdb: To "remember" version numbers, Pants uses the pushdb. The pushdb is a text file under source control. It lists artifacts with their current version numbers and SHAs. When you publish artifacts, pants edits this file and pushes it to the origin.

Enabling Pants Publish

Tell Pants about your Artifact Repository

To tell Pants which artifact repository to publish to, Create a plugin if you haven't already. Register it with Pants.

In the plugin, define and register at least one Repository object in a BUILD file alias as shown in src/python/internal_backend/repositories/

BUILD targets can use this Repository's alias as the repo parameter to an artifact. For example, examples/src/java/org/pantsbuild/example/hello/greet/BUILD refers to the public repository defined above. (Notice it's a Python object, not a string.)

  dependencies = [], # A more realistic example would depend on other libs,
                     # but this "hello world" is pretty simple.
  provides = artifact(org='org.pantsbuild.example',

If you get an error that the repo name (here, public) isn't defined, your plugin didn't register with Pants successfully. Make sure you bootstrap Pants in a way that loads your

In your pants.ini file, set up a [publish.jar] section. In that section, create a dict called repos. It should contain a section for each Repository object that you defined in your plugin:

repos: {
  'public': {  # must match the name of the `Repository` object that you defined in your plugin.
    'resolver': '', # must match hostname in ~/.netrc and the <url> parameter
                                     # in your custom ivysettings.xml.
    'auth': 'build-support:netrc',   # Pants spec to a 'credentials()' or
                                     # 'netrc_credentials()' object.
    'help': 'Configure your ~/.netrc for access.'
  'testing': {
    'resolver': '',
    'auth': 'build-support:netrc',
    'help': 'Configure your ~/.netrc for access.'

If your repository requires authentication, add a ~/.netrc file. Here is a sample file, that matches the repos specified above:

  login someuser
  password password123

  login someuser
  password someotherpassword123

And place the following in a BUILD file somewhere in your repository (build-support/BUILD is a good place, and is used in the example above):

netrc_credentials(name = 'netrc')

Next, tell Ivy how to publish to your repository. Add a new ivysettings.xml file to your repo with the additional information needed to publish artifacts. Here is an example to get you started:

<?xml version="1.0"?>

  <settings defaultResolver="chain-repos"/>
  <!-- The ${login} and ${password} values come from a netrc_credentials() object in a BUILD
       file, which is fed by '~/.netrc'.  There must be a '~/.netrc' machine entry which
       matches a resolver in the "repos" object in 'pants.ini', which also matches the 'host' in
       this XML block.

       machine <hostname>
         login <login>
         password <password>

       The realm must match the kind of repository you are publishing to. For Sonotype Nexus, use:

       realm="Sonatype Nexus Repository Manager"

  <credentials host=""
               realm="Artifactory Realm"

    <chain name="chain-repos" returnFirst="true">
       <ibiblio name=""

    <url name="" m2compatible="true">
      <artifact pattern="[organization]/[module]/[revision]/[module]-[revision](-[classifier]).[ext]"/>

With this file in place, add a [publish.jar] section to pants.ini, and tell pants to use the custom Ivy settings when publishing:

ivy_settings: %(pants_supportdir)s/ivy/ivysettings_for_publishing.xml

Restricting Publish to "Release Branch"

Your organization might have a notion of a special "release branch": you want publishing to happen on this source control branch, which you maintain extra-carefully. You can set this branch using the restrict_push_branches option in the [publish.jar] section of your pants.ini file.

Task to Publish "Extra" Artifacts

Pants supports "publish plugins", which allow end-users to add additional, arbitrary files to be published along with the primary artifact. For example, let's say that along with publishing your jar full of class files, you would also like to publish a companion file that contains some metadata -- code coverage info, source git repository, java version that created the jar, etc. By developing a task in a plugin, you give Pants a new ability. Develop a Task to Publish "Extra" Artifacts to find out how to develop a special Task to include "extra" data with published artifacts.

Life of a Publish

To publish a library's artifact, Pants bumps the version number and uploads the artifact to a repository. When things go smoothly, that's all you need to know. When things go wrong, it's good to know details.

  • Pants decides the version number to use based on pushdb's state.

    You can override the version number[s] to use via a command-line flag. Pants does some sanity-checking: If you specify an override version less than or equal to the last-published version (as noted in the pushdb), Pants balks.

  • For each artifact to be published, it prompts you for confirmation. (This is a chance for you to notice that you want to, e.g., bump an artifact's minor revision instead of patch revision.)

  • Invokes a tool to upload the artifact to a repository. (For JVM artifacts, this tool is Ivy.)

  • Commits pushdb.

Things can go wrong; you can recover:

  • Uploading the artifact can fail for reasons you might expect for an upload: authentication problems, transient connection problems, etc.
  • Uploading the artifact can fail for another reason: that artifact+version already exists on the server. In theory, this shouldn't happen: Pants bumps the version it found in the pushdb. But in practice, this can happen.

    Exception in thread "main" destination file exists and overwrite == false
    FAILURE: java -jar .../ivy/lib/ivy-2.2.0.jar ... exited non-zero (1) 'failed to push com.twitter#archimedes_common;0.0.42'

    This is usually a sign that something strange happened in a previous publish. Perhaps someone published an artifact "by hand" instead of using Pants. Perhaps someone used Pants to publish an artifact but it failed to update the pushdb in source control. E.g., merge conflicts can happen, and folks don't always recover from them correctly.

    In this situation, you probably want to pass publish --overrride=<version> to specify a version to use instead of the automatically-computed already-existing version. Choose a version that's not already on the server. Pants records this version in the pushdb, so hopefully the next publisher won't have the same problem.

    Perhaps you are "racing" a colleague and just lost the race: they published an artifact with that name+version.

    In this situation, you probably want to refresh your source tree (git pull or equivalent) to get the latest version of the pushdb and try again.

  • Pushing the pushdb to origin can fail, even though artifact-uploading succeeded. Perhaps you were publishing at about the same time someone else was; you might get a merge conflict when trying to push.

    (There's a temptation to ignore this error: the artifact uploaded OK; nobody expects a git merge conflict when publishing. Alas, ignoring the error now means that your next publish will probably fail, since Pants has lost track of the current version number.)

    See: Troubleshoot a Failed Push to Origin

How To

  • Does your organization enforce a special branch for publishing? (E.g., perhaps publishing is only allowed on the master branch.) If so, be on that branch with no changes.
  • Consider trying a local publish first. This lets you test the to-be-published artifact. See Test with a Fake Local "Publish".
  • Start the publish: ./pants publish.jar --no-dryrun [target] Don't wander off; Pants will ask for confirmation as it goes (making sure you aren't publishing artifact[s] you didn't mean to).

Restricting to "Release Branch"

Your organization might have a notion of a special "release branch": you want all publishing to happen on this source control branch, which you maintain extra-carefully. You can configure your repo so that the publish goal only allows publish-ing from this special branch.

Authenticating to the Artifact Repository

Your artifact repository probably doesn't accept anonymous uploads; you probably need to authenticate to it (prove that you are really you). Depending on how the artifact repository is configured, Pants might need to interact with an authentication system. (Or it might not. E.g., if your system uses Kerberos, when Pants invokes artifact-upload commands, Kerberos tickets should work automatically).

Your Pants administrator will handle configuring Pants to submit credentials to the artifact repository. As a user, if Pants needs to provide your username and password, you can enable this via Pants' .netrc support. Pants can parse .netrc files to get your username and password to an artifact repository server. Here is an example file:

  login sandy
  password myamazingpa$sword

Check with your Pants administrator for the proper hostname to use for the "machine" entry.


Sometimes publishing doesn't do what you want. The fix usually involves publishing again, perhaps passing --override (override the version number to use), --force, and/or --restart-at. The following are some usual symptoms/questions:

Versioned Artifact Already Exists

Pants attempted to compute the new version number to use based on the contents of the pushdb; but apparently, someone previously published that version of the artifact without updating the pushdb.

Examine the publish repo to find out what version number you actually want to use. E.g., if you notice that versions up to 2.5.7 exist and you want to bump the patch version, you want to override the default version number and use 2.5.8 instead.

Try publishing again, but pass --override to specify the version number to use instead of incrementing the version number from the pushdb. Be sure to use a version number that has not already been published this time. For example, to override the default publish version number for the org.archie buoyancy artifact, you might pass publish --override=org.archie#buoyancy=2.5.8.

Failed to Push to Origin

You might successfully publish your artifact but then fail to push your pushdb change to origin:

 ! [rejected]        master -> master (non-fast-forward)
error: failed to push some refs to ''
hint: Updates were rejected because the tip of your current branch is behind
hint: its remote counterpart. Merge the remote changes (e.g. 'git pull')
hint: before pushing again.
hint: See the 'Note about fast-forwards' in 'git push --help' for details.

For some reason, git couldn't merge your branch (with the pushdb change) to the branch on origin. This might happen, for example, if you were "racing" someone else; they perhaps pushed their change to master's pushdb before you could. But it can also happen for other reasons; any local change that can't be merged to the branch on origin.

You are now in a bad state: you've pushed some artifacts, but the pushdb doesn't "remember" them.

  • Look at the pushdb's source control history to if someone made a conflicting publish. If so, contact them. (You're about to try to fix the problem; if they also encountered problems, they are probably also about to fix the problem. You might want to coordinate and take turns.)

Resetting to try again

In git, this might mean:

git reset origin/master # (if ``master`` is your release branch)
git pull origin master
./pants publish.jar <your previous args>

Since you uploaded new versioned artifacts but the reset pushdb doesn't "remember" that, you might get "Versioned Artifact Already Exists" errors: see the section above and use --override to set version numbers to avoid these.

Does not provide an artifact

A published artifact lives at a set of coordinates. For Pants to publish an artifact, it needs to know the artifact's coordinates. Pants gets the coordinates from the target's provides parameter. Thus, if you try to publish a target that depends on a target that has no provides, Pants doesn't know what to do. It stops:

FAILURE: The following errors must be resolved to publish.
  Cannot publish BuildFileAddress(/Users/archie/workspace/buoyancy/client/src/main/scala/com/bu
oyancy/client/BUILD, client) due to:
/model/BUILD, model) - Does not provide an artifact.

The solution is to add a provides to the target that lacks one.

Remember, to publish a target, the target's dependencies must also be published. If any of those dependencies have changed since their last publish, Pants tries to publish them before publishing the target you specify. Thus, you might need to add a provides to one or more of these.

Silently does not publish

A published artifact lives at a set of coordinates. For Pants to publish an artifact, it needs to know the artifact's coordinates. Pants gets the coordinates from the target's provides parameter. Thus, if you try to publish a target that has no provides, Pants doesn't try. If the target depends on other targets that do provide artifacts, Pants might publish those. This is a case of goal-target mismatch To fix this, set provides correctly.

Want to Publish Something? Publish Many Things

If you publish a library that depends on others, you want to publish them together. Conversely, if you publish a low-level library that other libraries depend upon, you want to publish those together, too. Thus, if you want to publish one thing, you may find you should publish many things. Pants eases part of this: if you publish a library, it automatically prompts you to also publish depended-upon libraries whose source code changed. However, Pants does not automatically publish dependees of a depended-upon library. If you know you're about to publish a low-level library (perhaps via a "dry run" publish), you can use Pants' dependees to find other things to publish.

For example, suppose your new library high-level depends on another library, util. If you tested high-level with util version 1.2, you want util 1.2 published and available to high-level consumers. Once you publish util version 1.2, people might use it. If you previously published your another-high-level library library depending on util version 1.1, another-high-level consumers (who might also consume high-level) might pick up version 1.2 and be sad to find out that other-high-level doesn't work with the new util.

In this example, when you publish high-level, Pants knows to also publish util. If Pants publishes util, it does not automatically try to publish high-level or other-high-level.

Test with a Fake Local "Publish"

The whole reason you publish an artifact so that other codebases can use it. Before you really publish, you might want to fake-publish an artifact: generate it and put it someplace a place in your development machine; then use that artifact from another codebase.

For example, your other codebase might use Maven to build, perhaps with Maven configured to use ~/.m2/repository as a local repo. You can make pants publish to that local repo with:

./pants publish.jar --no-dryrun --local=~/.m2/repository

In the other codebase, change the dependencies to pull in the new artifact.

If your other codebase also uses Pants build, you can depend on the locally-published artifact. If the artifact is a jar, then in the 3rdparty jar target, set mutable=True and change the version number.

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