You're reading the documentation for an older, but still supported, version of ROS 2. For information on the latest version, please have a look at Iron.

Using variants

Metapackages do not provide software directly but depend on a group of other related packages to provide a convienent installation mechanism for the complete group of packages. [1] [2] Variants are a list of official metapackages for commonly useful groups of ROS packages.

The different variants in ROS 2 are specified in REP-2001.

In addition to the official variants, there may be metapackages for specific institutions or robots as described in REP-108.

Adding variants

Additional variants that are of general use to the ROS community can be proposed by contributing an update to REP-2001 via pull request describing the packages included in the new variant. Institution and robot specific variants can be published directly by their respective maintainers and no update to REP-2001 is required.

Creating project-specific variants

If you are creating ROS packages to use privately in your own projects, you can create variants specific to your projects using the official variants as examples. To do so you need only create two files:

  1. A minimal variant package is created as a package with the ament_cmake build type, a buildtool_depend on ament_cmake and exec_depend entries for each package you want to include in the variant.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<?xml-model href="http://download.ros.org/schema/package_format2.xsd" schematypens="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema"?>
<package format="2">
  <name>my_project_variant</name>
  <version>1.0.0</version>
  <description>A package to aggregate all packages in my_project.</description>
  <maintainer email="maintainer-email">Maintainer Name</maintainer>
  <license>Apache License 2.0</license>
  <!-- packages in my_project -->
  <exec_depend>my_project_msgs</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>my_project_services</exec_depend>
  <exec_depend>my_project_examples</exec_depend>

  <export>
    <build_type>ament_cmake</build_type>
  </export>
</package>
  1. A minimal ament_cmake package includes a CMakeLists.txt which registers the package.xml as an ament package for use in ROS 2.

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.5)

project(my_project_variant NONE)
find_package(ament_cmake REQUIRED)
ament_package()
  1. You can then build and install your variant package alongside your other private packages.

Creating custom variants with platform-specific tools

Some platforms have tools for creating basic packages that do not require a full ROS build farm environment or equivalent infrastructure. It is possible to use these tools to create platform-dependent variants. This approach does not include support for ROS packaging tools and is platform dependent but requires much less infrastructure to produce if you are creating collections of existing packages rather than a mix of public and private ROS packages. For example, on Debian or Ubuntu systems you can use the equivs utilities. The Debian Administrator’s handbook has a Section on meta-packages.