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Manual Orb Authoring Process

4 months ago2 min read
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This guide covers the steps required to create a simple orb, manually, without using the orb development kit. We recommend the orb development kit for most orb projects.

1. Create a namespace

If you have not already done so, claim a namespace for your user/organization using the following command, substituting your namespace choice and GitHub organization name:

circleci namespace create <name> --org-id <your-organization-id>

2. Create your orb

Create your orb inside your namespace. At this stage no orb content is being generated, but the naming is reserved for when the orb is published. To create a public orb:

circleci orb create <my-namespace>/<my-orb-name>

To create a private orb:

circleci orb create <my-namespace>/<my-orb-name> --private

Next, create the content of your orb in a YAML file. Here is a simple example to get you started:

version: 2.1
description: A greeting command orb
        description: Greet someone with a "hello".
                type: string
                default: World
            - run: echo "Hello, << >>"

3. Pack a configuration (optional)

The CLI pack command (different than circleci orb pack) allows you to create a single YAML file from several separate files (based on directory structure and file contents). The pack command implements FYAML, a scheme for breaking YAML documents across files in a directory tree. This is particularly useful for breaking up source code for large orbs and allows custom organization of your orbs’ YAML configuration.

circleci config pack

How you name and organize your files when using the pack command will determine the final orb.yml output. Consider the following folder structure example:

$ tree
└── your-orb-source
    ├── @orb.yml
    ├── commands
    │   └── foo.yml
    └── jobs
        └── bar.yml

3 directories, 3 files

The unix tree command is great for printing out folder structures. In the example tree structure above, the pack command will map the folder names and file names to YAML keys, and map the file contents as the values to those keys.

The following command will pack up the example folder from above:

$ circleci config pack your-orb-source

And the output will be in your .yml file:

# Contents of @orb.yml appear here
    # contents of foo.yml appear here
    # contents of bar.yml appear here

Other configuration packing capabilities

A file beginning with @ will have its contents merged into its parent folder level. This can be useful at the top level of an orb, when one might want generic orb.yml to contain metadata, but not to map into an orb key-value pair.


$ cat foo/bar/@baz.yml
{baz: qux}

Is mapped to:

  baz: qux

4. Validate your orb

Validate your orb code using the CLI:

circleci orb validate /tmp/orb.yml

Processing a configuration (optional)

Running the following command validates your configuration, but will also display expanded source configuration alongside your original configuration (useful if you are using orbs):

circleci config process

Consider the following example configuration that uses the node orb:

version: 2.1

  node: circleci/node@4.7.0

        - node/test

Running the following command will output a YAML file like the example below (which is a mix of the expanded source and the original configuration commented out):

circleci config process .circleci/config.yml

# Orb 'circleci/node@4.7.0' resolved to 'circleci/node@4.7.0'
version: 2
    - image: cimg/node:13.11.0
    - checkout
    - run:
        command: |
          if [ ! -f "package.json" ]; then
            echo "---"
            echo "Unable to find your package.json file. Did you forget to set the app-dir parameter?"
            echo "---"
            echo "Current directory: $(pwd)"
            echo "List directory: "
            exit 1
        name: Checking for package.json
        working_directory: ~/project
    - run:
        command: |
          if [ -f "package-lock.json" ]; then
            echo "Found package-lock.json file, assuming lockfile"
            ln package-lock.json /tmp/node-project-lockfile
          elif [ -f "npm-shrinkwrap.json" ]; then
            echo "Found npm-shrinkwrap.json file, assuming lockfile"
            ln npm-shrinkwrap.json /tmp/node-project-lockfile
          elif [ -f "yarn.lock" ]; then
            echo "Found yarn.lock file, assuming lockfile"
            ln yarn.lock /tmp/node-project-lockfile
          ln package.json /tmp/node-project-package.json
        name: Determine lockfile
        working_directory: ~/project
    - restore_cache:
        - node-deps-{{ arch }}-v1-{{ .Branch }}-{{ checksum "/tmp/node-project-package.json" }}-{{ checksum "/tmp/node-project-lockfile" }}
        - node-deps-{{ arch }}-v1-{{ .Branch }}-{{ checksum "/tmp/node-project-package.json" }}-
        - node-deps-{{ arch }}-v1-{{ .Branch }}-
    - run:
        command: "if [[ ! -z \"\" ]]; then\n  echo \"Running override package installation command:\"\n  \nelse\n  npm ci\nfi\n"
        name: Installing NPM packages
        working_directory: ~/project
    - save_cache:
        key: node-deps-{{ arch }}-v1-{{ .Branch }}-{{ checksum "/tmp/node-project-package.json" }}-{{ checksum "/tmp/node-project-lockfile" }}
        - ~/.npm
    - run:
        command: npm run test
        name: Run NPM Tests
        working_directory: ~/project
  version: 2
    - node/test

# Original config.yml file:
# version: 2.1
# orbs:
#   node: circleci/node@4.7.0
# workflows:
#   version: 2
#   example-workflow:
#       jobs:
#         - node/test

5. Publish your orb

Publish a dev version of your orb:

circleci orb publish /tmp/orb.yml <my-namespace>/<my-orb-name>@dev:first

Once you are ready to push your orb to production, you can publish it manually using circleci orb publish or promote it directly from the dev version. Using the following command will increment the dev version to become 0.0.1:

circleci orb publish promote <my-namespace>/<my-orb-name>@dev:first patch

Your orb is now published, in an immutable form, as a production version and can be used safely in CircleCI projects. You can pull the source of your orb using:

circleci orb source <my-namespace>/<my-orb-name>@0.0.1

List available orbs

List your available orbs using the CLI:

To list public orbs:

circleci orb list <my-namespace>

To list private orbs:

circleci orb list <my-namespace> --private

Next Steps

For more information on how to use the circleci orb command, see the CLI documentation.

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