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📦 Introduction

The motivation for adding packages functionality:

  1. ZI is a flexible and feature-rich plugin manager, however, users often feel overwhelmed by its configuration.

  2. It has multiple package-manager like features, such as:

    • get the plugin's Git repository OR release-package URL,
    • get the list of the recommended ices for the plugin,
      • there can be multiple lists of ices,
      • the ice lists are stored in profiles; there's at least one profile, default,
      • the ices can be selectively overridden.
    • automatically provide so-called shims (i.e.: forwarder scripts) for the binaries,
    • extend $PATH to expose the binaries,
    • it can run Makefiles and more.
  3. In general, ZI has many hooks which allow surprising things, however, their content often evolves to a gradually better one and it's hard to keep track of all the current versions.


The bin-gem-node annex is recommended, otherwise some packages will fail to install due to missing functionality.

The any-gem and any-node packages

They allow to install any Gem(s) or Node module(s) locally in a newly created plugin directory. For example:

zi pack param='GEM -> rails' for any-gem
zi pack param='MOD -> doctoc' for any-node

If installation used in the .zshrc file then use id-as'…', then ZI knows that the package is already installed.


The Unicode arrow is allowed in ZI syntax as in example below.

zi id-as=jekyll pack param='GEM → jekyll' for any-gem

The binaries will be exposed without altering the PATH via shims.

Shims are correctly removed when deleting a plugin with zi delete …

The so-called packages are GitHub repositories holding a package.json file with the meta-data in them.

This way you don't have to (but still can) specify ices, which might be handy when the ice-mod list is long and complex.

Introductory example

This way, instead of the following command used to install fzf:

zi lucid as=program pick="$ZPFX/bin/(fzf|fzf-tmux)" \
atclone="cp shell/completion.zsh _fzf_completion; \
cp bin/(fzf|fzf-tmux) $ZPFX/bin" \
make="PREFIX=$ZPFX install" for \

you only need:

zi pack for fzf

to get the complete setup of the fuzzy finder, including:

  • the completion,
  • the additional executable script fzf-tmux.

The installation is real, package-manager -like, because you don't need to invoke ZI anymore once installed to use fzf (that's because fzf is just a binary program and not e.g.: a shell function).

You can also update the package with zi update fzf – it'll cause the project to refresh and rebuild, like with a "normal" package manager such as apt-get.

However, it'll actually be more like to emerge from Gentoo, because the installation will be from the source… unless… the user will pick up a binary installation by profile-argument specified in the pack'' ice.

Pros of using ZI package for regular software installations

Using ZI to install software where one could use a regular package manager has several advantages:

  1. Pro: The ZI packages typically use the URLs to the official and latest distributions of the software (like e.g.: the ecs-cli package, which uses the URL: when installing on Linux).

  2. Pro: You can influence the installation easily by specifying ZI ice-mods, e.g.:

    zi pack=bgn atclone="cp fzy.1 $ZPFX/man/man1" for fzy

    to install also the man page for the fzy fuzzy finder (this omission in the package will be fixed soon).

  3. Pro: The installation is much more flexible than a normal package manager. Example available degrees of freedom:

    • to install from Git or from release-tarball, or from a binary-release file,
    • to install via shims or via extending $PATH, or by copying to $ZPFX/bin,
    • to download files and apply patches to the source by using the patch-dl annex features.
  4. Pro: The installations are located in the user home directory, which doesn't require root access. Also, for Gems and Node modules, they are installed in their plugin directory, which can have advantages (e.g.: isolation allowing e.g: easy removal by rm -rf …).

  5. Con: You're somewhat "on your own", with no support from any package maintainer.

Thus, summing up 1. with 4., it might be nice/convenient too, for example, have the latest ECS CLI binary installed in the home directory, without using root access and always the latest, and – summing up with 2. and 3. – to, for example, have always the latest README downloaded by additional ice: dl'' (and then to have the README converted into a man page by the remark Markdown processor or other via an atclone'' ice, as the tool doesn't have any official man page).

Adding your own package

  1. Contact the author to have the repository at the Z-Shell organization.

  2. Populate the package.json – I suggest grabbing the one for fzf or doctoc and doing a few substitutions like doctocyour-project and then simply filling the default profile in the zi-ices object – it's obvious how to do this.

  3. The project name in the package.json should start with zsh-. The prefix will be skipped when specifying it with ZI.

  4. Commit and push.