[Pitch] Define system library search paths in environment file

SE-0063 handled search paths for system libraries using pkg-config. One problem with this is that it requires that macOS users to install pkg-config (it isn't packaged with macOS, likely because it is GPL). This also causes issues for Xcode, which also does not speak pkg-config (likely for similar reasons). I believe the proposal is correct that library search paths should be owned by the host platform, but a first-party mechanism to specify those paths would be very useful.

To that end, I'm pitching a .Environment.swift file, placed in the home directory (I'm not necessarily attached to the term "Environmnent", but "Platform" is already used in Swift Package Manager, "HostPlatform" is another option). Other tools use similar "dotfiles" to customize their environment, but not clutter the home directory (a . prefixed filed is implicitly hidden). This file would be similar to Package.swift but instead specify a variable environment of type Environment. Initially the environment will only have a single property systemLibraryDescription of type String -> SystemLibraryDescription?. An example implementation would be:

{ libraryName in
  switch libraryName {
    case "zlib": return SystemLibraryDescription(
      includePath:  "…", 
      librarySearchPath: "…", 
      libraryName: "z");
    default: return nil

Finally, where we currently use pkgConfig: "zlib" currently, we can change to systemLibraryName: "zlib" and the underlying system would first look for ask .Environment.swift for details, falling back to the current pkg-config behavior.


SwiftPM includes a builtin pkgconfig parser that doesn't require installing pkg-config in order to read pc files. Both Xcode 11 and the command-line SwiftPM tools should be able to read pc files as long as they can be found. There are a bunch of default paths for finding pc files and then SwiftPM queries additional paths by calling pkg-config --variable pc_path pkg-config if pkg-config is installed. I saw your bug report and it sounds like Xcode is not able to locate the pkg-config tool. Do you mind telling where is it installed on your system?

The library can be installed anywhere on the system so configuring absolute paths is usually not a good idea.

I moved this post to Package Manager category since that's where we discuss SwiftPM development.

Ah, thanks! Of course my package config files were in a non-standard location!

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