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README.md

Build Status Coverage Status

README for GNU Stow

This README describes GNU Stow. This is not the definitive documentation for Stow; for that, see the info manual.

Stow is a symlink farm manager program which takes distinct sets of software and/or data located in separate directories on the filesystem, and makes them all appear to be installed in a single directory tree.

Originally Stow was born to address the need to administer, upgrade, install, and remove files in independent software packages without confusing them with other files sharing the same file system space. For instance, many years ago it used to be common to compile programs such as Perl and Emacs from source and install them in /usr/local. By using Stow, /usr/local/bin could contain symlinks to files within /usr/local/stow/emacs/bin, /usr/local/stow/perl/bin etc., and likewise recursively for any other subdirectories such as .../share, .../man, and so on.

While this is useful for keeping track of system-wide and per-user installations of software built from source, in more recent times software packages are often managed by more sophisticated package management software such as rpm, dpkg, and Nix / GNU Guix, or language-native package managers such as Ruby's gem, Python's pip, Javascript's npm, and so on.

However Stow is still used not only for software package management, but also for other purposes, such as facilitating a more controlled approach to management of configuration files in the user's home directory, especially when coupled with version control systems.

Stow was inspired by Carnegie Mellon's Depot program, but is substantially simpler and safer. Whereas Depot required database files to keep things in sync, Stow stores no extra state between runs, so there's no danger (as there was in Depot) of mangling directories when file hierarchies don't match the database. Also unlike Depot, Stow will never delete any files, directories, or links that appear in a Stow directory (e.g., /usr/local/stow/emacs), so it's always possible to rebuild the target tree (e.g., /usr/local).

Stow is implemented as a combination of a Perl script providing a CLI interface, and a backend Perl module which does most of the work.

You can get the latest information about Stow from the home page:

http://www.gnu.org/software/stow/

License

Stow is free software, licensed under the GNU General Public License, which can be found in the file COPYING.

Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification, are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved. This file is offered as-is, without any warranty.

Installation

See INSTALL.md for installation instructions.

Feedback

Please do send comments, questions, and constructive criticism. The mailing lists and any other communication channels are detailed on the above home page.

Brief history and authorship

Stow was inspired by Carnegie Mellon's "Depot" program, but is substantially simpler. Whereas Depot requires database files to keep things in sync, Stow stores no extra state between runs, so there's no danger (as there is in Depot) of mangling directories when file hierarchies don't match the database. Also unlike Depot, Stow will never delete any files, directories, or links that appear in a Stow directory (e.g., /usr/local/stow/emacs), so it's always possible to rebuild the target tree (e.g., /usr/local).

For a high-level overview of the contributions of the main developers over the years, see the AUTHORS file.

For a more detailed history, please see the ChangeLog file.