How to create a snap with snapcraft for howdoi (CLI utilility for stackoverflow)

In the tutorial How to create a snap for how2 (stackoverflow from the terminal) in Ubuntu 16.04 we saw how to create a snap with snapcraft for the CLI utility called how2. That was a software based on nodejs.

In this post we will repeat the process for another CLI utility called howdoi by Benjamin Gleitzman, which does a similar task with how2 but is implemented in Python and has a few usability differences as well. howdoi does not have yet a package in the repositories of Ubuntu, either.

Since we covered already the details in How to create a snap for how2 (stackoverflow from the terminal) in Ubuntu 16.04, this post would be more focused, and shorter. 🙂


Reading through we see that howdoi

  1. is software based on Python (therefore: plugin: python)
  2. requires networking (therefore: plugs: [network])
  3. and has no need to save files (therefore it does not need access to the filesystem)

Crafting with snapcraft

Let’s start with snapcraft.

$ mkdir howdoi
$ cd howdoi/
$ snapcraft init
Created snap/snapcraft.yaml.
Edit the file to your liking or run `snapcraft` to get started

Now we edit snap/snapcraft.yaml and here are our changes (in bold) from the initial generated file.

$ cat snap/snapcraft.yaml 
name: howdoi # you probably want to 'snapcraft register <name>'
version: '20170207' # just for humans, typically '1.2+git' or '1.3.2'
summary: instant coding answers via the command line # 79 char long summary
description: |
  Are you a hack programmer? Do you find yourself constantly Googling 
  for how to do basic programing tasks?
  Suppose you want to know how to format a date in bash. Why open your browser 
  and read through blogs (risking major distraction) when you can simply 
  stay in the console and ask howdoi.

grade: stable # must be 'stable' to release into candidate/stable channels
confinement: strict # use 'strict' once you have the right plugs and slots

    command: howdoi
    plugs: [network]

    plugin: python

First, we selected to use the name howdoi because again, it’s not a reserved name :-). Also, we registered it with snapcraft,

$ snapcraft register howdoi
Registering howdoi.
Congratulations! You're now the publisher for 'howdoi'.

Second, we did not notice a particular branch or tag for howdoi, therefore we put the date of the snap creation.

Third, the summary and the description are just pasted from the of the howdoi repository.

Fourth, we select the grade stable and enforce the strict confinement.

The apps: howdoi: command: howdoi is the standard sequence to specify the command that will be exposed to the user. The user will be typing howdoi and the command howdoi inside the snap will be invoked.

The parts: howdoi: plugin: python source: … is the standard sequence to specify that the howdoi that was referenced just earlier, is software written in Python and the source comes from this github repository.

Let’s craft the snap.

$ snapcraft 
Preparing to pull howdoi 
Pulling howdoi 
Preparing to build howdoi 
Building howdoi 
Successfully built howdoi
Installing collected packages: howdoi, cssselect, Pygments, requests, lxml, pyquery, requests-cache
Successfully installed Pygments-2.2.0 cssselect-1.0.1 howdoi-1.1.9 lxml-3.7.2 pyquery-1.2.17 requests-2.13.0 requests-cache-0.4.13
Staging howdoi 
Priming howdoi 
Snapping 'howdoi' |                                                                       
Snapped howdoi_20170207_amd64.snap
$ snap install howdoi_20170207_amd64.snap --dangerous
howdoi 20170207 installed
$ howdoi format date bash
DATE=`date +%Y-%m-%d`
$ _

Beautiful! It worked!

Publish to the Ubuntu Store

Let’s publish the snap to the Ubuntu Store. We are going to push the file howdoi_20170207_amd64.snap and then check that it has passed the automatic checking. Once it has done so, we release to the stable channel.

$ snapcraft push howdoi_20170207_amd64.snap 
Pushing 'howdoi_20170207_amd64.snap' to the store.
Uploading howdoi_20170207_amd64.snap [=============================================================] 100%
Ready to release!|                                                                                       
Revision 1 of 'howdoi' created.

Just a reminder: We can release the snap to the stable channel simply by running snapcraft release howdoi 1 stable. The alternative to this command, is to do all the following through the Web.

We log in into to check whether snap is ready to publish. In the following screenshots, you would click where the arrows are showing. See the captions for explanations.

Here is the uploaded snap in our account page in the Ubuntu Store. The snap was uploaded using snapcraft, although it is also possible to uploaded from the account page as well.


The package (the snap) is ready to publish, because it passed the automated tests and was not flagged for manual review.

By default, the package has not been released to a channel. We click on Release in order to select which channels to release it to.

For this specific package, we select the stable channel. It is not necessary to select the other channels, because by default a higher channel implies those below. Then, click on the Release button.

The package got released, and it shown it got released in stable, candidate, beta and edge (we selected stable, but the rest are implied because “stable” beats the rest.) Note that the Package status has changed to “Published”, and we have the option to Unpublish or even Make private. Ignore the arrow, it was pasted by mistake.

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