Buck: Key concepts
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Key concepts

Buck has a number of fundamental concepts:

  • A build rule describes how to produce an output file from a set of input files. Most build rules are specific to a particular language or platform. For example, you would use the cxx_binary rule to create a C++ binary, but you would use the android_binary rule to create an Android APK.
  • A build target is a string that uniquely identifies a build rule. It can be thought of as a URI for the build rule within the Buck project.
  • A build file defines one or more build rules. In Buck, build files are typically named BUCK. A BUCK file is analogous to the Makefile used by the Make utility. In your project, you will usually have a separate BUCK file for each buildable unit of software—such as a binary or library. For large projects, you could have hundreds of BUCK files.
  • A Buck package comprises: a Buck build file (a BUCK file), all files—such as source files and headers—in the same directory as the BUCK file or in subdirectories, provided those subdirectories do not themselves contain a BUCK file. To say it another way, a BUCK file defines the root of a package, but Buck packages might not include all their subdirectories because Buck packages do not overlap or contain other Buck packages.

    For example, in the following diagram, the BUCK file in directory app-dir-1 defines that directory as the root of a package—which is labeled Package A in the diagram. The directory app-dir-2 is part of Package A because it is a subdirectory of app-dir-1, but does not itself contain a BUCK file.

    Now, consider directory app-dir-3. Because app-dir-3 contains a BUCK file it is the root of a new package (Package B). Although app-dir-3 is a subdirectory of app-dir-1, it is not part of Package A.

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  • Buck has the concept of a cell, which defines a directory tree of one or more Buck packages. A Buck build could involve multiple cells. Cells often correspond to repositories, but this isn't required.

    The root of a Buck cell contains a global configuration file called .buckconfig. Note that although the cell root should contain a .buckconfig, the presence of a .buckconfig file doesn't in itself define a cell. Rather, the cells involved in a build are defined at the time Buck is invoked; they are specified in the .buckconfig for the Buck project (see below).

  • A Buck project is defined by the .buckconfig where Buck is invoked, or if that directory doesn't contain a .buckconfig, the project is defined by the .buckconfig in the nearest ancestor directory.

    The .buckconfig for the project specifies the cells that constitute the Buck project. Specifically, these cells are specified in the [repositories] section of the .buckconfig. Note that the directory tree rooted at this .buckconfig is automatically considered a cell by Buck; in other words, the project's .buckconfig doesn't need to specify the project cell explicitly—although it is a good practice to do so.

Buck's dependency graph

Every build rule can have zero or more dependencies. You can specify these dependencies using, for example, the deps argument to the build rule. For more information about specifying dependencies, consult the reference page for the build rule you are using.

These dependencies form a directed graph, called the target graph. Buck requires the graph to be acyclic. When building the output of a build rule, all of the rule's transitive dependencies are built first. This means that the graph is built in a "bottom-up" fashion. A build rule knows only which rules it depends on, not which rules depend on it. This makes the graph easier to reason about and enables Buck to identify independent subgraphs that can be built in parallel. It also enables Buck to determine the minimal set of build targets that need to be rebuilt.

For more information about how Buck leverages the graph of build dependencies, see What Makes Buck so Fast.

Multiple Buck projects in a single repository

Buck is designed to build multiple deliverables from a single repository—that is, a monorepo—rather than from multiple repositories. Support for the monorepo design motivated Buck's support for cells and projects.

It is Facebook's experience that maintaining all dependencies in the same repository makes it easier to ensure that all developers have the correct version of the code and simplifies the process of making atomic commits.