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Introduction to specfile library

· 4 min read

Have you ever wanted to make changes in an RPM spec file programmatically? specfile library has been created for that very purpose. It is a pure Python library that allows you to conveniently edit different parts of a spec file while doing its best to keep the resulting changeset minimal (no unnecessary whitespace changes etc.).


The library is packaged for Fedora, EPEL 9 and EPEL 8 and you can simply install it with dnf:

dnf install python3-specfile

On other systems, you can use pip (just note that it requires RPM Python bindings to be installed):

pip install specfile


Let's have a look at a few simple examples of how to use the library.

Bumping release

To bump release and add a new changelog entry, we could use the following code:

from specfile import Specfile

with Specfile("example.spec") as spec:
spec.release = str(int(spec.expanded_release) + 1)
spec.add_changelog_entry("- Bumped release for test purposes")

Let's take a look at what happens here:

We instantiate Specfile class with a path to our spec file and use it as a context manager to automatically save all changes upon exiting the context.

We then use expanded_release property to get the current value of Release tag after macro expansion. We assume it is numeric, so we simply convert it to integer, add 1, convert the result back to string and assign the new value to release property.


Note that release/expanded_release properties exclude dist tag (usually %{?dist}) - for convenience, it is ignored when reading and preserved unmodified when writing. If that's not what you want, you can use raw_release/expanded_raw_release properties instead.

Finally, we add a new changelog entry. We don't specify any other arguments but content, so the author is determined automatically using the same procedure as rpmdev-packager uses and date is set to current day.

Switching to %autochangelog

To make a switch from traditional changelog to %autochangelog, we could do the following:

import pathlib
from specfile import Specfile

spec = Specfile("example.spec", autosave=True)

with spec.sections() as sections:
entries = sections.changelog[:]
sections.changelog[:] = ["%autochangelog"]

pathlib.Path("changelog").write_text("\n".join(entries) + "\n")

Let's take a look at what happens here:

We instantiate Specfile class with a path to our spec file and we also set autosave argument that ensures that any changes are saved automatically as soon as possible.

specfile heavily relies on context managers. Here we are using sections() method that returns a context manager that we can use to manipulate spec file sections. Upon exiting the context, any modifications done are propagated to the internal representation stored in our Specfile instance, and since autosave is set, they are immediately saved to the spec file as well.

First, we store a copy of the content of the %changelog section. The content is represented as a list of lines.

Then we replace the content with a single line - "%autochangelog".

Finally, we save the stored content into a "changelog" file.

Iterating through tags

Contexts can be nested. Here is a code that iterates through all package sections (including the first, implicitly named one; also known as preamble) and prints expanded value of all Requires tags:

spec = Specfile("example.spec")

with spec.sections() as sections:
for section in sections:
# normalized name of a section is lowercased
if section.normalized_name != "package":
with spec.tags(section) as tags:
for tag in tags:
# normalized name of a tag is capitalized
if tag.normalized_name != "Requires":
print(f"Section: {}, Tag: {}, Value: {tag.expanded_value}")

Let's take a look at what happens here:

We instantiate Specfile class with a path to our spec file. This time we don't set autosave because we are not doing any modifications (though we could still save any changes explicitly using save() method).

Then we use sections() context manager and iterate through sections; we skip sections not called "package" (the initial % is ommited for convenience).

After that we use tags() context manager and pass the current section as an argument. This allows us to iterate through tags in the current section. Without any argument, we would get a list of tags in preamble, the very first section in a spec file. We skip tags not called "Requires" and finally print the values of Requires tags after macro expansion. We also print tag names (not normalized) and section IDs - those are section names followed by options, e.g. "package -n alternative-name-for-example".

Are you interested in more details, trying the library out or even contributing? You can find specfile source code on GitHub. See the README for more tips and usage examples. You can also check out the API reference.