Registries: Bring your own libraries to vcpkg

Augustin Popa

Special thanks to Nicole Mazzuca for providing the content of this blog post.

Are you working on a C++ project with library dependencies? Are you tired of maintaining a custom-built package management workflow with duct tape and git submodules? Then you should consider trying out a package manager. Perhaps you have been side-eyeing vcpkg for a while, and it looks like the perfect solution for your team, but for one problem: not all your dependencies are open source! Your company has internal libraries that they expect everyone to use too.


Can vcpkg work with non-open-source dependencies?

Yes! Up until now, your best options included hacking up overlay ports or forking the vcpkg ports tree. But there was room for improvement. Now, we are happy to announce a feature with an experience to manage any libraries you want, whether they are internal-only, open source, your own forks of open source projects, and more. In this blog post, we will delve into registries, our new experimental feature. We would love for you to try this feature out, give us feedback, and help us make it the best feature it can be!

Getting started with registries

So, we’ve discussed the why of registries; now let’s discuss the how. Let’s say we are developers at North Wind Traders, and our company has a GitHub Enterprise subscription. Of course, depending on your company’s or even your personal situation, you can use whatever solution you’re already using. The goal in this blog post is to set up a git registry, the most common type of registry.

1. Create a new registry

The company’s GitHub organization is at, and that can be used to set up the registry. We will create our registry at, since that’s as good a name as any, and you can follow along with the branches there.

Once we’ve created this registry, we’ll have to do a few things to actually set it up to contain the packages we want, in this case our internal JSON and Unicode libraries.

  • First, we’ll set up an empty baseline, the minimum requirement for a registry.
  • Then, we’ll add the files that our library needs to build, and make sure that they work.
  • Finally, we’ll add the library to the registry, by adding it to the versions database and writing down where to find the library in the git repository.

2. Create an empty registry baseline

So, let’s start. Clone the (empty) repository, and add a baseline.json file underneath the top level versions directory, containing just the following:

"default": {}

3. Create a vcpkg port for your library

Now, let’s set up a port entry for the first of our two libraries, the Unicode library beicode. If you have ever written a port, you know how to do this, but for those of us who haven’t, let’s go through it all the same.

We first create a folder for the ports to live; following the standard of the vcpkg central registry, we’ll call the folder ports. Since we use a stable git identifier to specify the directory, we don’t need to put it in a specific place, but it’s good to follow idioms. Inside this ports directory, create beicode’s port directory; inside there, place two empty files, portfile.cmake and vcpkg.json.

At this point, the registry directory should look something like this:


Now, let’s fill out the port. First, since the beicode GitHub repository already has a vcpkg.json manifest, copy that into the vcpkg.json file you created:

  "name": "beicode",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "description": "A simple utf-8 based unicode decoding and encoding library",
  "homepage": ""

4. Test your new vcpkg port using overlays

Let’s make sure this works by trying to install the port; we’re not using registries yet, just the pre-existing overlay-ports feature to test stuff out:

> vcpkg install beicode --overlay-ports=vcpkg-registry/ports/beicode

We should get an error: “The folder /include is empty or not present”. Since we aren’t doing anything just yet, that makes sense. So, let’s fill out our port! Since our port is a simple CMake library, we can create a very simple portfile.cmake:

  REPO northwindtraders/beicode
  REF 19a1f95c2f56a27ced90227b5e2754a602a08e69
  SHA512 7b2bb7acb2a8ff07bff59cfa27247a7b2cced03828919cd65cc0c8cf1f724f5f1e947ed6992dcdbc913fb470694a52613d1861eaaadbf8903e94eb9cdfe4d000
  HEAD_REF main



  RENAME copyright)

If we run

> vcpkg install beicode --overlay-ports=vcpkg-registry/ports/beicode

again, we’ll see that it successfully installed! We have written our first port for the registry, and now all that there’s left to do is to add the port to the version set in the registry.

5. Specify each version of your library in the registry

Every port’s version data lives in its own file: versions/[first character]-/[portname].json. For example, the version data for fmt would live in versions/f-/fmt.json; the version data for zlib would live in versions/z-/zlib.json. So, for beicode, create versions/b-/beicode.json:

  "versions": [
      "version": "1.0.0",
      "git-tree": ""

And add the following to versions/baseline.json:

  "default": {
    "beicode": { "baseline": "1.0.0", "port-version": 0 }

Finally, let’s figure out what to put in that “git-tree” field. Do a git commit of the beicode port tree (but do not push), to make sure git knows about it:

> git add ports/beicode
> git commit -m "[beicode] new port"

Then get the tree identifier for that directory:

> git rev-parse HEAD:ports/beicode

You should get something like 7fb5482270b093d40ab8ac31db89da4f880f01ba; put that in for the “git-tree” in beicode.json, and commit the new files:

> git add versions
> git commit --amend --no-edit

And we should be done! The reason we have to do this slightly complex dance is so that we can grab exactly the files of the version we want; other versions will exist in the history of the repository, and thus are always there to be checked out.

6. Consume libraries from your vcpkg registry in a C++ project

Once we’ve done this, let’s try to consume the library from the new registry in an example codebase. Create a directory outside of the registry and change into that directory. Create a vcpkg.json which depends on beicode:

"name": "test",
"version": "0",
"dependencies": [

And a vcpkg-configuration.json that sets up the registry as a git registry:

  "registries": [
      "kind": "git",
      "repository": "[full path to]/vcpkg-registry",
      "packages": [ "beicode", "beison" ]

And try a vcpkg install:

> vcpkg install --feature-flags=registries,manifests

If it works, then you’re ready to push the registry upstream! You can try again with the actual remote registry by replacing the “repository” field in your vcpkg-configuration.json file with the actual upstream repository URL.


How vcpkg resolves libraries from registries

You’ll notice that beicode and beison are taken from the registry we created; this is because we’ve explicitly said in vcpkg-configuration.json that this is where they’re from. Since we haven’t said where fmt should come from, it just comes from the default registry, which is in this case the registry that ships with vcpkg itself. Registries are never transitive; if you left off beicode from the registry in vcpkg-configuration.json, this would fail to work since beicode doesn’t exist in the default registry, and that’s where vcpkg will look for it. If you wanted to override fmt with your own copy, you could add it to the registry, and then add it to the packages field.

Packaging beison will be much the same, just with a different name. You can try it out for yourself, and then see if your code is any different from the upstream.


Give us your feedback!

Try out vcpkg by visiting our GitHub repo. We welcome your feedback on the tool and the new features in our issue tracker or by reaching out to us at We are always looking to improve your experience. To see what’s next for vcpkg, check out our roadmap.


Discussion is closed. Login to edit/delete existing comments.

  • Ian Green 0

    Today code sources come from so many places its can be challenging to consolidate into a product.

    A game is so complex that code is only part of the picture images and more are all part and parcel

  • Ataru Moroboshi 0

    I really like the way vcpkg is going! Thank you very much!

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