Experimental package manager for the Swift programming language


taylor is an experimental package manager and build tool for Apple's Swift programming language, developed to explore the possibilities for growing a module ecosystem around the language. It borrows elements from similar tools such as npm, lein and bundler.

With taylor's command line interface you can currently:

  • Create projects
  • Install 3rd party module packages directly from Git repositories
  • Build applications and their dependencies with a single command

(this is just the start, check out the Current Limitations to see plans for future directions)

Read on for installation instructions and a tutorial project. Please follow me on Twitter to keep up with development progress.


taylor rides on top of make(1) and other CLI tools; it is not an Xcode project generator.

This preview version of taylor is written in Javascript; a native Swift implementation is a worthwhile long-term goal but no work in this direction will begin until the final versions of the Swift compiler and language specification have been released. In light of this, Javascript should be considered a mere implementation detail, not a core part of taylor's specification.


  1. Install node.js. Any recent version should do.
  2. taylor assumes that Xcode6 Beta is installed in the default location (/Applications/Xcode6-Beta.app). If this is not the case, define the environment variable TAYLOR_SWIFT_TOOLCHAIN to point to the Contents/Developer/Toolchains/XcodeDefault.xctoolchain subdirectory within wherever Xcode is installed.

All set? Let's go (depending on your configuration the following command may require sudo):

$ npm install -g taylor

Now check that taylor was installed successfully:

$ taylor --version


taylor's installable units are called packages. A package defines one or more targets, each of a given target type. Two target types are currently defined: module target, which builds a Swift module that can be imported by other packages, and app target, which builds an executable binary, possibly importing other packages.

For brevity's sake, the terms app and module may be used to refer to packages with targets of type app and module, respectively.


In this short tutorial I'll walk through the process of creating a package, pulling in code from external modules, and finally extracting reusable code to its own module.

Let's start by creating a new project:

$ taylor create-app TaylorTest

We've just asked taylor to create a new app, or more concisely, a package with a single app target. Let's see what it's made for us:

$ cd TaylorTest
$ find . -type f

Not a whole lot! taylor tries to keep things simple. .gitignore is self-explanatory so let's check out the other two.

$ cat swiftpkg.json

taylor stores per-package metadata in swiftpkg.json. Right now it's somewhat spartan but this will soon be augmented with other details such as package author, version, description etc. We can see from the contents that the package has the same name as we passed to our taylor create-app command, and that it defines a single target, app, of type app.

    "name": "TaylorTest",
    "targets": {
        "app": {
            "type": "app"

Next we'll check out the generated souce code for our test project:

$ cat src/main.swift

Let's see...

func Main() -> Int {
    println("Hello world!");
    return 0;

Not much computer science going on in here, but that's okay - I'll leave that to you. One thing to note is that (unlike Xcode Playgrounds) taylor does not permit any top-level statements; all code must be contained within functions and classes, with Main() as the entry point.

OK, so we've seen what taylor generates for us. Let's compile some code!

$ taylor build

If all is well this command should complete without incident. Let's take a look at what's happened.

$ ls -l
total 16
-rw-r--r--+ 1 jason  staff  3830 22 Jun 11:35 Makefile.taylor
drwxr-xr-x+ 3 jason  staff   102 22 Jun 11:30 build
drwxr-xr-x+ 4 jason  staff   136 22 Jun 11:36 src
-rw-r--r--+ 1 jason  staff   105 22 Jun 11:26 swiftpkg.json

Two new entries: Makefile.taylor, an auto-generated file that describes how to build our project (taylor is essentially an opinionated wrapper around make), and build, a directory containing all of the project build artifacts. We'll ignore the makefile for now (but feel free to poke about, I've tried my best to keep it human-readable) so let's take a closer look inside the build directory.

$ ls -l build
total 0
drwxr-xr-x+  3 jason  staff  102 24 Jun 16:04 app
drwxr-xr-x+ 14 jason  staff  476 24 Jun 16:04 modules
$ ls -l build/app
total 88
-rwxr-xr-x+ 1 jason  staff  44208 24 Jun 16:04 app
$ ls -l build/modules
total 112
-rw-r--r--+ 1 jason  staff    504 24 Jun 18:34 app_main.swiftdoc
-rw-r--r--+ 1 jason  staff   7408 24 Jun 18:34 app_main.swiftmodule
-rwxr-xr-x+ 1 jason  staff  44020 24 Jun 18:34 libapp_main.dylib

Here we've got an executable (build/app/app) and a modules directory containing the Swift modules used by our project (compiled Swift modules are comprised of two files: a .swiftmodule, essentially a compiled header + AST, and a .dylib, which contains the actual executable module code).

To run our app, we could type ./build/app/app, but as a shortcut taylor has a run command. Let's use it:

$ taylor run
Hello world!

Whoohoo, it works.

So far we've demonstrated taylor's role as a build tool by creating a new project, writing some code, and (hopefully) having it build successfully and run. But being a build tool is only half of taylor's remit - it's a package manager, too - so the next we're going to do is pull in some code from other packages.

Imagine the spec for our simple app has changed and that "hello world" is no longer acceptable. Instead we've been asked to double a number then add five to it. Now, in normal circumstances we could use basic operators like + and -, but in this contrived instance let's assume we're paranoid that the definitions of primitive mathematical operations might change in the future. To defend against this we'll import the operations from a couple of modules.

Modules are installed via the taylor install subcommand. Let's go:

$ taylor install gh:jaz303/JFTestAdditive
$ taylor install gh:jaz303/JFTestMultiplicative

The gh:user/repo format above is a simple shorthand notation that instructs taylor to install the requested module directly from Github (alternatively any valid Git URL may be used). Assuming these commands go without a hitch, let's observe the effects:

$ ls -l modules
total 0
drwxr-xr-x  7 jason  staff  238 22 Jun 11:35 JFTestAdditive
drwxr-xr-x  7 jason  staff  238 22 Jun 11:35 JFTestMultiplicative

Cool, so it's added a top-level modules directory and put the module code in there. If you take a peek in the current directory you'll also notice that Makefile.taylor has vanished - this is because a fresh build rules are required now that new modules have been installed; taylor will automatically regenerate this the next time taylor build is invoked.

Let's modify our app code to make use of the modules we've just installed. We'll place this code in a new file to demonstrate taylor's ability to deal with multiple source files so open src/math.swift in your favourite editor:

$ vim src/math.swift

And make it look like this:

import JFTestAdditive
import JFTestMultiplicative
func DoubleAndAddFive(x : Int) -> Int {
    return add(multiply(x, 2), 5);

Next, edit src/main.swift:

$ vim src/main.swift

And replace the greeting with a call to our new DoubleAndAddFive() function:

func Main() -> Int {
    return 0;

All done, let's build the project:

$ taylor build

Again, this should complete without incident. Note that we didn't need to tell taylor where to find our modules, nor did we have to instruct it about the new source file - the entire build process was configured for us automatically (a quick check of Makefile.taylor will verify this).

Let's run some code!

$ taylor run

Sweet, that looks right. We're not quite done yet though - the ability to double an integer and add five might be useful to others in the future so the final task we're going to work through in this tutorial is to extract said heavy-duty mathematics into its own module.

We'll begin by creating an empty module:

$ taylor create-module TestModule

Notice that taylor detected that we ran this command from inside another package and (correctly) decided to place our new module inside the parent module's modules directory.

Next we must move our existing definition of DoubleAndAddFive() into the new module. Edit:

$ vim modules/TestModule/src/main.swift

And add in this code:

import JFTestAdditive
import JFTestMultiplicative
func DoubleAndAddFive(x : Int) -> Int {
    return add(multiply(x, 2), 5);

We can see that TestModule calls functions that are defined in the JFTestAdditive and JFTestMultiplicative modules. In order that taylor can link against these modules and build the project successfully they must therefore be listed as dependencies of our new module. To do this, edit TestModule's swiftpkg.json:

vim modules/TestModule/swiftpkg.json

And add the names of the dependencies to the module target's requires key:

    "name": "TestModule",
    "targets": {
        "module": {
            "type": "module",
            "requires": [

Next, we no longer need the original definition of DoubleAndAddFive() so let's just delete it:

$ rm src/math.swift

Finally we'll import TestModule so its functions are visible from our app's entry point. Edit:

$ vim src/main.swift

And add the import at the top of the file:

import TestModule
func Main() -> Int {
    return 0;

Phew! Let's build and run!

$ taylor build
$ taylor run

Success! That brings us to the end of the tutorial. Let's quickly recap on what we've learned:

  • how to create a new taylor app project
  • how to build and run code
  • how to install modules from Git(hub)
  • how to create a submodule
  • how to configure a submodule to depend on other modules

You should now know enough to go forth and experiment by writing your own packages. I expect there to be many bugs and edge cases in taylor's current (preview) implementation - please report any you find on the Github issue tracker.

For a full command reference, read on...

Command Reference

Create a new skeleton package named package with an initial build target of type app in the current directory.

Create a new skeleton module named package with an initial build target of type module.

If this command is run in the context of an existing package the new module is created inside the package's modules directory. Otherwise, the new module is created in the current directory.

Installs module in the modules directory of the current package.

For now, module must be the URL of a git repository although shortcuts exist for installation from Github. The following are all equivalent:

$ taylor install git@github.com:jaz303/JFTestAdditive.git
$ taylor install github:jaz303/JFTestAdditive
$ taylor install gh:jaz303/JFTestAdditive

Builds the given target. If target is unspecified, all targets will be built.

Run the executable generated by target; this must be an app target.

If unspecified, target will default to the package's first available app target.

Delete all build products for the current package. Does not remove supporting Makefiles or any other files created by taylor regen.

Recursively delete all build products, Makefiles and any other generated files, including those contained within installed modules. Use this command to force a fresh build of your entire project tree.

Be warned, this command is somewhat indiscriminate and will delete any build directory it encounters, regardless of whether or not it was created by Taylor.

Low level command; run an explicit make rule inside Taylor's environment.

Force regeneration of the current package's Makefile and any other supporting files required by the build process.

Delete the current package's Makefile and any other supporting files required by the build process.

Dump all of Taylor's effective configuration variables to the console.

Dump Taylor's entire environment to the console.

Current Limitations

taylor is an experimental tool and currently offers only the minimum functionality to enable module sharing between authors. It currently lacks:

  1. Automatic dependency resolution/installation!
  2. Central package registry
  3. Build profiles e.g. "debug", "release"
  4. Allow targets to explicitly state their required source files
  5. Invoke REPL
  6. Test running
  7. Linking against external (C) libraries

Of these, 1 & 2 are non-trivial, although tools like bundler and npm have already contributed a lot of work in this space which taylor should be able to draw upon. It is expected that tackling the other shortcomings on the list will be straightforward.

© 2014 Jason Frame [ @jaz303 / jason@onehackoranother.com ]

Released under the ISC license.