Plan syntax guide

When defining a plan, there are several different settings, variables, and functions that you can use to set up specific installation and configuration details. Because plans are simply script files, you have a lot of flexibility in how you build and define the configuration of your application.

This syntax guide is divided into six parts:

Basic settings

The following settings are defined at the beginning of your plan. They specify basic information about your plan such as name, version, and dependencies.

Required. Sets the name of the package. This will be used along with pkg_origin, and pkg_version to define the fully-qualified package name, which determines where the package is installed to on disk, how it is referred to in package metadata, and so on. A pkg_name can contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers, dashes, and underscores.
Required unless overridden by the HAB_ORIGIN environment variable. The origin is used to denote a particular upstream of a package. A pkg_origin can contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers, dashes, and underscores.
Required. Sets the version of the package.
Optional. The name and email address of the package maintainer.
pkg_maintainer="Your Name <>"
Optional. An array of valid software licenses that relate to this package.

Note: If your package has a custom license, use a string literal matching the title of the license. For example, you'll see pkg_license=('Boost Software License') for the cmake plan.

Required. A URL that specifies where to download the source from. Any valid wget url will work. Typically, the relative path for the URL is partially constructed from the pkg_name and pkg_version values; however, this convention is not required.

Note: If your package does not require downloading any source code, you must enter a non-empty string for the value and override callbacks for do_download() and do_unpack(). See Plan callbacks for more information.

Optional. The resulting filename for the download, typically constructed from the pkg_name and pkg_version values.
Required if a valid URL is provided for pkg_source or unless do_verify() is overridden. The value for pkg_shasum is a sha-256 sum of the downloaded pkg_source. If you do not have the checksum, you can easily generate it by downloading the source and using the sha256sum or gsha256sum tools. Also, if you do not have do_verify() overridden, and you do not have the correct sha-256 sum, then the expected value will be shown in the build output of your package.
Optional. An array of package dependencies needed at runtime. You can refer to packages at three levels of specificity: origin/package, origin/package/version, or origin/package/version/release.
pkg_deps=(core/glibc core/pcre core/openssl core/zlib)
Optional. An array of the package dependencies needed only at build time.
pkg_build_deps=(core/gcc core/linux-headers)
Optional. An array of paths, relative to the final install of the software, where libraries can be found. Used to populate LD_FLAGS and LD_RUN_PATH for software that depends on your package.
Optional. An array of paths, relative to the final install of the software, where headers can be found. Used to populate CFLAGS for software that depends on your package.
Optional. An array of paths, relative to the final install of the software, where binaries can be found. Used to populate PATH for software that depends on your package.
Optional. An array of paths, relative to the final install of the software, where pkg-config metadata (.pc files) can be found. Used to populate PKG_CONFIG_PATH for software that depends on your package.
Optional. The command for the supervisor to execute when starting a service. You can omit this setting if your package is not intended to be run directly by a supervisor.
pkg_svc_run="bin/haproxy -f $pkg_svc_config_path/haproxy.conf"

Note: You should use a run hook instead if you have complex start up behavior.

Optional. An associative array representing configuration data which should be gossiped to peers. The keys in this array are used with pkg_exposes and for any consuming services that set pkg_binds or pkg_binds_optional. The values represent the TOML path to a value.

In this example, the corresponding default.toml file would have the following key/value pairs defined:

port = 80
host = ""

port = 443
Optional. An array of pkg_exports keys containing default values for the ports that this package exposes. These values are used as sensible defaults for other tools, such as when exporting a package to a container format.
pkg_exposes=(port ssl-port)

Note: In addition to specifying the keys you defined in pkg_exports, you must have a default.toml file indicating the port values to expose.

Optional. An associative array representing services which you depend on and the configuration keys that you expect the service to export (by their pkg_exports). These binds must be set for the supervisor to load the service. The loaded service will wait to run until its bind becomes available. If the bind does not contain the expected keys, the service will not start successfully.
  [database]="port host"
Optional. Same as pkg_binds but these represent optional services to connect to.
  [storage]="port host"
Optional. An array of interpreters used in shebang lines for scripts. Specify the subdirectory where the binary is relative to the package, for example, bin/bash or libexec/neverland, since binaries can be located in directories besides bin. This list of interpreters will be written to the metadata INTERPRETERS file, located inside a package, with their fully-qualified path. Then these can be used with the fix_interpreter function. For more information on declaring shebangs in Habitat, see Plan hooks, and for more information on the fix_interpreter function, see Plan utility functions.
Optional. The user to run the service as. The default is hab.
Optional. The group to run the service as. The default is hab.
Required for core plans, optional otherwise. A short description of the package. It can be a simple string, or you can create a multi-line description using markdown to provide a rich description of your package.
pkg_description=$(cat << EOF
  # My package description
  This is the package for the foo library. It's pretty awesome.

Note: Any special characters other than # will have to be escaped; otherwise, they could be interpreted by the hab-plan-build script when the package is built.

Optional. An upstream project homepage or website URL.


The following variables can be used in your plans to help get binaries and libraries to build and install in the correct locations in your package.

The absolute path for your package.
Set to ${pkg_name}-${pkg_version} by default. If a .tar file extracts to a directory that's different from the filename, then you would need to override this value to match the directory name created during extraction.
Where the running service is located. $HAB_ROOT_PATH/svc/$pkg_name
Where the running service data is located. $pkg_svc_path/data
Where the gossiped configuration files are located. $pkg_svc_path/files
Where the running service variable data is located. $pkg_svc_path/var
Where the running service configuration is located. $pkg_svc_path/config
Where the running service static data is located. $pkg_svc_path/static
The default path where source archives are downloaded, extracted, & compiled.
The default download root path for packages.
The root path containing all locally installed packages.
The location on your local dev machine for the files in your plan directory.
C compiler options.
C linker options.
Where to install the software; same as $pkg_prefix
Where to find the binaries at run time.


When defining your plan, you have the flexibility to override the default behavior of Habitat in each part of the package building stage through a series of callbacks. To define a callback, simply create a shell function of the same name in your file and then write your script. If you do not want to use the default callback behavior, you must override the callback and return 0 in the function definition.

These callbacks are listed in the order that they are called by the package build script.

There is no default implementation of this callback. You can use it to execute any arbitrary commands before anything else happens.
The default implementation is that the software specified in $pkg_source is downloaded, checksum-verified, and placed in $HAB_CACHE_SRC_PATH/$pkg_filename, which resolves to a path like /hab/cache/src/filename.tar.gz. You should override this behavior if you need to change how your binary source is downloaded, if you are not downloading any source code at all, or if you are cloning from git. If you do clone a repo from git, you must override do_verify() to return 0.
The default implementation tries to verify the checksum specified in the plan against the computed checksum after downloading the source tarball to disk. If the specified checksum doesn't match the computed checksum, then an error and a message specifying the mismatch will be printed to stderr. You should not need to override this behavior unless your package does not download any files.
The default implementation removes the HAB_CACHE_SRC_PATH/$pkg_dirname folder in case there was a previously-built version of your package installed on disk. This ensures you start with a clean build environment.
The default implementation extracts your tarball source file into HAB_CACHE_SRC_PATH. The supported archive extensions are: .tar, .tar.bz2, .tar.gz, .tar.xz, .rar, .zip, .Z, .7z. If the file archive could not be found or has an unsupported extension, then a message will be printed to stderr with additional information.
There is no default implementation of this callback. At this point in the build process, the tarball source has been downloaded, unpacked, and the build environment variables have been set, so you can use this callback to perform any actions before the package starts building, such as exporting variables, adding symlinks, and so on.
The default implementation is to update the prefix path for the configure script to use $pkg_prefix and then run make to compile the downloaded source. This means the script in the default implementation does ./configure --prefix=$pkg_prefix && make. You should override this behavior if you have additional configuration changes to make or other software to build and install as part of building your package.
The default implementation runs nothing during post-compile. An example of a command you might use in this callback is make test. To use this callback, two conditions must be true. A) do_check() function has been declared, B) DO_CHECK environment variable exists and set to true, env DO_CHECK=true.
The default implementation is to run make install on the source files and place the compiled binaries or libraries in HAB_CACHE_SRC_PATH/$pkg_dirname, which resolves to a path like /hab/cache/src/packagename-version/. It uses this location because of do_build() using the --prefix option when calling the configure script. You should override this behavior if you need to perform custom installation steps, such as copying files from HAB_CACHE_SRC_PATH to specific directories in your package, or installing pre-built binaries into your package.
The default implementation is to strip any binaries in $pkg_prefix of their debugging symbols. You should override this behavior if you want to change how the binaries are stripped, which additional binaries located in subdirectories might also need to be stripped, or whether you do not want the binaries stripped at all.
There is no default implementation of this callback. This is called after the package has been built and installed. You can use this callback to remove any temporary files or perform other post-install clean-up actions.


Each plan can have a hooks subdirectory that specifies any of the hooks or asynchronous callbacks described in this section. Each hook is a script with a shebang defined at the top to specify the interpreter to be used.

File location: <plan>/hooks/file_updated
This hook is run whenever a configuration file that is not related to a user or about the state of the service instances is updated.
File location: <plan>/hooks/health_check
This hook is run when the Habitat HTTP API receives a request at /health.

The health_check script must return a valid exit code from the list below.

  • 0- ok
  • 1- warning
  • 2- critical
  • 3- unknown
  • any other code - failed health check with additional output taken from health_check stdout.

A health_check hook can use the following as a template:


# default return code is 0
case $? in
    rc=1 ;;
    rc=0 ;;
    rc=2 ;;
    rc=3 ;;

exit $rc
File location: <plan>/hooks/init

This hook is run when a Habitat topology starts.

File location: <plan>/hooks/reload

For processes that can update their configuration without requiring a restart a reload hook can be written. This hook will execute instead of the default behaviour of restarting the process. {{pkg.svc_pid_file}} can be used to get a handle on the PID of the service.

File location: <plan>/hooks/reconfigure

This hook is run when service configuration information has changed through a set of Habitat services that are peers with each other. Before the reconfigure hook the config files are re-rendered and the process is either restarted or the reload hook is called if present.

File location: <plan>/hooks/suitability

The suitability hook allows a service to report a priority by which it should be elected leader. The hook is called when a new election is triggered and the last line it outputs to stdout should be a number parsable as a u64. In the event that a leader goes down and an election is started the service with the highest reported suitabilty will become the new leader.

File location: <plan>/hooks/run

This hook is run when one of the following conditions occur:

  • The main topology starts, after the init hook has been called.
  • When a package is updated, after the init hook has been called.
  • When the package config changes, after the init hook has been called, but before a reconfigure hook is called.

You can use this hook in place of $pkg_svc_run when you need more complex behavior such as setting environment variables or command options that are based on dynamic configuration.

Services run using this hook should do two things:

  • Redirect stderr to stdout (e.g. with exec 2>&1 at the start of the hook)
  • Call the command to execute with exec <command> <options> rather than running the command directly. This ensures the command is executed in the same process and that the service will restart correctly on configuration changes.

It is important to also consider what side effects the command to execute will have. For example, does the command spin off other processes in separate process groups? If so, they may not be cleaned up automatically when the system is reconfigured. In general, the command executed should behave in a manner similar to a daemon, and be able to clean up properly after itself when it receives a SIGTERM, and properly forward signals to other processes that it creates. For an even more specific example: let's say you are trying to start a node.js service. Instead of your command being npm start, you should use node server.js directly.

A run hook can use the following as a template:


# redirect stderr
exec 2>&1

# Set some environment variables

# Run the command
exec my_command --option {{cfg.option}} --option2 {{cfg.option2}}
File location: <plan>/hooks/post-run

The post run hook will get executed after initial startup.

For many data services creation of specific users / roles or datastores is required. This needs to happen once the service has already started.

Runtime configuration settings

The following configuration settings can be used during a Habitat service's lifecycle. This means that you can use these settings in any of the plan hooks, such as init, or run, and also in any templatized configuration file for your application or service.

These configuration settings are referenced using the Handlebars.js version of mustache-style tags. For an example on how these settings are used in plan hooks, see Add hooks to your plan in the getting started tutorial.


These are service settings specified by Habitat and correspond to the network information of the running Habitat service.

The IP address of the running service.
The hostname of the running service.


These are package settings specified by Habitat and correspond to the the settings of the package when it was built and installed.

Denotes a particular upstream of a package. This value is pulled from the pkg_origin setting in a plan.
The name of the package. This value is pulled from the pkg_name setting in a plan.
The version of a package. This value is pulled from the pkg_version setting in a plan.
The UTC datetime stamp when the package was built. This value is specified in YYYYMMDDhhmmss format.
The fully-qualified identifier of a package that consists of origin/name/version/release.
An array of runtime dependencies for your package based on the pkg_deps setting in a plan.
The port(s) to expose for an application or service. This value is pulled from the pkg_exposes setting in a plan.
The location where the fully-qualified package is installed.
The root location of the source files for the Habitat service.
The location of any configuration files for the Habitat service.
The location of any data files for the Habitat service.
The location of any gossiped configuration files for the Habitat service.
The location of any static content for the Habitat service.
The location of any variable state data for the Habitat service.
The value of pkg_svc_user specified in a plan.
The value of pkg_svc_group specified in a plan.
The default user determined by the Habitat supervisor. svc_user_default will contain one of the following values, tested in order:
  • svc_user if specified in the plan
  • hab if the user exists
  • the current user id
The default group determined by the Habitat supervisor. svc_group_default will contain one of the following values, tested in order:
  • svc_group if specified in the plan
  • hab if the group exists
  • the effective group id


These are settings defined in your templatized configuration file. The values for those settings are pulled from the default.toml file included in your package.

Utility functions

The following helper functions can be useful in your plan to help you build your package correctly.

Attaches your script to an interactive debugging session, which lets you check the state of variables, call arbitrary functions, and turn on higher levels of logging by using the set -x command and switch.

To use attach, add attach to any callback or part of your file and the debugging session with start up when hab-plan-build comes to that part in the file.

Downloads a file from a source URL to a local file and uses an optional shasum to determine if an existing file can be used.

If an existing file is present and the third argument is set with a shasum digest, the file will be checked to see if it's valid. If so, the function ends early and returns 0. Otherwise, the shasums do not match so the file-on-disk is removed and a normal download proceeds as though no previous file existed. This is designed to restart an interrupted download.

Any valid wget URL will work.

Downloads every time, even if the file exists locally:

download_file file.tar.gz

Downloads if no local file is found:

download_file file.tar.gz abc123...

File matches checksum: download is skipped, local file is used:

download_file file.tar.gz abc123...

File doesn't match checksum: local file removed, download attempted:

download_file file.tar.gz ohnoes...

Will return 0 if a file was downloaded or if a valid cached file was found.

Returns the path for a build or runtime package dependency on stdout from the list of dependencies referenced in pkg_deps or pkg_build_deps. This is useful if you need to install or reference specific dependencies from within a callback, such as do_build() or do_install().

Here's an example of how to use this function to retrieve the path to the perl binary in the core/perl package:

_perl_path="$(pkg_path_for core/perl)/bin/perl"
Edits the #! shebang of the target file in-place. This is useful for changing hardcoded paths defined by your source files to the equivalent path in a Habitat package. You must include the required package that provides the expected path for the shebang in pkg_deps. This function performs a greedy match against the specified interpreter in the target file(s).

To use this function in your plan, you must specify the following arguments: 1. The target file or files 2. The name of the package that contains the interpreter 3. The relative directory and binary path to the interpreter

For example, to replace all the files in node_modules/.bin that have #!/usr/bin/env with the coreutils path to bin/env (/hab/pkgs/core/coreutils/8.24/20160219013458/bin/env), you must quote the wildcard target as shown below.

fix_interpreter "node_modules/.bin/*" core/coreutils bin/env

For a single target, reference the file directly:

fix_interpreter node_modules/.bin/concurrent core/coreutils bin/env
Returns the path for the given package and interpreter by reading it from the INTERPRETERS metadata in the package. The directory of the interpreter needs to be specified, as an interpreter binary might live in bin, sbin, or libexec, depending on the software.

The following shows how to call pkg_interpreter_for with the package and interpreter arguments specified.

pkg_interpreter_for core/coreutils bin/env

This function will return 0 if the specified package and interpreter were found, and 1 if the package could not be found or the interpreter is not specified for that package.

Return the absolute path for a path, which might be absolute or relative.
Checks that the command exists. Returns 0 if it does, 1 if it does not.
Print a line of build output. Takes a string as its only argument.
build_line "Checksum verified - ${pkg_shasum}"
Print a warning line on stderr. Takes a string as its only argument.
warn "Checksum failed"
Prints a line only if the $DEBUG environment value is set to 1. The debug function takes a string as its only argument.
debug "Only if things are set"
Exits the program with an error message and a status code.
exit_with "Something bad happened" 55
Trims leading and trailing whitespace characters from a bash variable.

Iterative Development

To assist in creating new packages, or modifying existing ones, the supervisor has an option to allow you to use the configuration directly from a specific directory, rather than the one it includes in the compiled artifact. This can significantly shorten the cycle time when working on configuration and hooks.

First, build the plan as you normally would. Second, when you start the supervisor, pass the name of the directory with your plan inside it:

$ hab start core/redis --config-from /src

This would take the configuration and hooks from /src, rather than from the package you have previously built. When the configuration is as you want it, do a final rebuild of the package.