Atlas Package Cloner

Atlas is a simple package cloner tool. It manages an isolated workspace that contains projects and dependencies.

Atlas is compatible with Nimble in the sense that it supports the Nimble file format.


Atlas uses three concepts:

  1. Workspaces
  2. Projects
  3. Dependencies


Every workspace is isolated, nothing is shared between workspaces. A workspace is a directory that has a file atlas.workspace inside it. Use atlas init to create a workspace out of the current working directory.

Projects plus their dependencies are stored in a workspace:

  $workspace / main project
  $workspace / other project
  $workspace / _deps / dependency A
  $workspace / _deps / dependency B

The deps directory can be set via --deps:DIR during atlas init.


A workspace contains one or multiple "projects". These projects can use each other and it is easy to develop multiple projects at the same time.


Inside a workspace there can be a _deps directory where your dependencies are kept. It is easy to move a dependency one level up and out the _deps directory, turning it into a project. Likewise, you can move a project to the _deps directory, turning it into a dependency.

The only distinction between a project and a dependency is its location. For dependency resolution a project always has a higher priority than a dependency.

No magic

Atlas works by managing two files for you, the project.nimble file and the nim.cfg file. You can edit these manually too, Atlas doesn't touch what should be left untouched.

How it works

Atlas uses git commits internally; version requirements are translated to git commits via git show-ref --tags.

Atlas uses URLs internally; Nimble package names are translated to URLs via Nimble's packages.json file.

Atlas does not call the Nim compiler for a build, instead it creates/patches a nim.cfg file for the compiler. For example:

############# begin Atlas config section ##########
############# end Atlas config section   ##########

The version selection is deterministic, it picks up the minimum required version. Thanks to this design, lock files are much less important.


Atlas supports the following commands:

Use <url> / <package name>

Clone the package behind url or package name and its dependencies into the _deps directory and make it available for your current project which should be in the current working directory. Atlas will create or patch the files $project.nimble and nim.cfg for you so that you can simply import the required modules.

For example:

  mkdir newproject
  cd newproject
  git init
  atlas use lexim
  # add `import lexim` to your example.nim file
  nim c example.nim

Clone/Update <url>/<package name>

Clones a URL and all of its dependencies (recursively) into the workspace. Creates or patches a nim.cfg file with the required --path entries.

Note: Due to the used algorithms an update is the same as a clone.

If a <package name> is given instead the name is first translated into an URL via packages.json or via a github search.

Search <term term2 term3 ...>

Search the package index packages.json for a package that the given terms in its description (or name or list of tags).

Install <proj.nimble>

Use the .nimble file to setup the project's dependencies.

UpdateProjects / updateDeps filter

Update every project / dependency in the workspace that has a remote URL that matches filter if a filter is given. The project / dependency is only updated if there are no uncommitted changes.


Run atlas --help for more features.


You can override how Atlas resolves a package name or a URL. The overrides use a simple pattern matching language and are flexible enough to integrate private gitlab repositories.

To setup an override file, edit the $workspace/atlas.workspace file to contain a line like overrides="urls.rules". Then create a file urls.rules that can contain lines like:

customProject -> ->

The $ has a special meaning in a pattern:

$$Matches a single dollar sign.
$*Matches until the token following the $* was found.
The match is allowed to be of 0 length.
$+Matches until the token following the $+ was found.
The match must consist of at least one char.
$sSkips optional whitespace.

For example, here is how to override any github link:$+ -> https://utopia.forall/$#

You can use $1 or $# to refer to captures.

Virtual Nim environments

Atlas supports setting up a virtual Nim environment via the env command. You can even install multiple different Nim versions into the same workspace.

For example:

atlas env 1.6.12
atlas env devel

When completed, run source nim-1.6.12/ on UNIX and nim-1.6.12/activate.bat on Windows.

Dependency resolution

To change the used dependency resolution mechanism, edit the resolver value of your atlas.workspace file. The possible values are:


The default resolution mechanism is called "MaxVer" where the highest available version is selected that still fits the requirements.

Suppose you have a dependency called "mylibrary" with the following available versions: 1.0.0, 1.1.0, and 2.0.0. MaxVer selects the version 2.0.0.


Adhere to Semantic Versioning (SemVer) by selecting the highest version that satisfies the specified version range. SemVer follows the format of MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, where:

MAJOR version indicates incompatible changes.

MINOR version indicates backward-compatible new features.

PATCH version indicates backward-compatible bug fixes.

Consider the same "mylibrary" dependency with versions 1.0.0, 1.1.0, and 2.0.0. If you set the resolver to SemVer and specify a version range requirement of >= 1.0.0, the highest version that satisfies the range that does not introduce incompatible changes will be selected. In this case, the selected version would be 1.1.0.


For the "mylibrary" dependency with versions 1.0.0, 1.1.0, and 2.0.0, if you set the resolver to MinVer and specify multiple minimum versions, the highest version among the minimum required versions will be selected. For example, if you specify a minimum requirement of both >=1.0.0 and >=2.0.0, the selected version would be 2.0.0.

Reproducible builds / lockfiles

Atlas supports lockfiles for reproducible builds via its pin and rep commands.

Notice: Atlas helps with reproducible builds, but it is not a complete solution. For a truely reproducible build you also need to pin the used C++ compiler, any third party dependencies ("libc" etc.) and the version of your operating system.

pin atlas.lock

atlas pin can be run either in the workspace or in a specific project. It "pins" the used repositories to their current commit hashes. If run in the workspace the entire workspace is "pinned" in the atlas.lock file. If run in a project the project's dependencies but not the project itself is "pinned" in the lock file.

rep atlas.lock

The rep command replays or repeats the projects to use the pinned commit hashes. If the projects have any "build" instructions these are performed too unless the --noexec switch is used.


Atlas operates on a graph of dependencies. A dependency is a git project of a specific commit. The graph and version selection algorithms are mostly programming language agnostic. Thus it is easy to integrate foreign projects as dependencies into your project.

This is accomplished by Atlas plugins. A plugin is a NimScript snippet that can call into external tools via exec.

To enable plugins, add the line plugins="_plugins" to your atlas.workspace file. Then create a directory _plugins in your workspace. Every *.nims file inside the plugins directory is integrated into Atlas.


A builder is a build tool like make or cmake. What tool to use is determined by the existence of certain files in the project's top level directory. For example, a file CMakeLists.txt indicates a cmake based build:

builder "CMakeLists.txt":
  mkDir "build"
  withDir "build":
    exec "cmake .."
    exec "cmake --build . --config Release"

Save this as _plugins/cmake.nims. Then every dependency that contains a CMakeLists.txt file will be build with cmake.

Note: To disable any kind of action that might run arbitrary code, use the --noexec switch.