MacPorts User Experience Improvements


Should we support specifying aliases? The consensus seems to be that there is not really a need for it at the moment, especially since we allow abbreviating commands.

Learning from Gentoo: Displaying an Execution Plan

  • Gentoo shows a nice summary of what it will do when upgrading packages. It uses colors, font weight and a column with status letters to tell users:
    • Which ports that are being changed are requested (bold)
    • The old and new versions
    • Whether the port will be upgraded, freshly installed as a dependency and whether it is a sources-only package
    • The variants (use-flags)
    • The download size
    • A summary of the operations to be performed
  • A lot of this information is not very easy to display in MacPorts because we do not compute a complete execution plan for upgrades before executing it, but rather recursively iterating through dependencies (which may in turn pull in other dependencies, etc).
  • For example, our package index does not know whether a binary package is available
  • libsolv would help with some of these issues, but requires accurate dependency information in the portindex.
    • Initial plan was to extend portindex and use symbolic execution of the variant sections when parsing a portfile for the portindex so that the changes done by a variant could be added to the index.

Learning from Gentoo: Passing Messages to Users

  • Gentoo has a mechanism to display messages to users
    • It's not hard to implement, could be a potential GSoC task
    • We could have a format that allows selecting which users see a certain message, e.g. showif: os() >= 10.6, showif: port-installed(foobar)

Learning from Gentoo: Colors

  • Colors could make output nicer to read
  • The split between macports1.0 and the port(1) command line client makes it somewhat difficult to use ANSI color escape sequences, since theoretically, macports1.0 could be used by a non-commandline-client.
  • A simple first step would be to make warnings yellow and errors red
  • As far as visibility on light and dark backgrounds is concerned, we should be fine if we only use the 8 standard colors
  • Aljaž will implement this as a first step: #56022

Making Build Failures More Bearable

  • We could have a simpler method to inform the project about failed builds of ports
    • E.g. a one-click button on a port's website (on a hypothetical new website)
    • Just a "this port is broken for me" is not really useful without logs
    • We could do opt-in submission of build failures, e.g. if the user is in interactive mode
      • We could run some quick analysis to speed up analysis, such as "OS version: x.y.z", "non-default prefix", "known problem: no destroot found", etc.
      • This could be done as a GSoC project
    • Other one-click buttons on a port website:
      • This port is outdated: Lets us focus on updating ports that users care about to maximize the value we generate with the time invested (perceived currency vs. actual currency)
      • This port is important to me
  • If the user is in a known issue situation (old operating system?, conflicting stuff installed?) we could give suggestions to resolve the issue (clean and rebuild?).


  • Nobody is keen on the Ruby server part. The client is fine, but we should replace the server part with a new website.
  • The problem is that we have always been waiting for the website
  • Usual approach in other projects is to set up third-party website that just works
  • With the message feature outlined above, we could improve participation in statistics; e.g. push a message that will be displayed as long as a certain file does not exist. Ask user to run a command that will record decision whether to contribute in this file.
Last modified 6 years ago Last modified on Mar 12, 2018, 2:43:48 PM