Racket package management

:: Racket

Racket’s new package manager is great. It debuted with Racket 5.3.5. Although officially still in beta, it was already good enough to use for real projects. Racket developers wanted people to use it for real projects, to get the experience needed to make it even better.

Over many months, the Git HEAD version of Racket — what would become Racket 6 — gradually introduced a few new and changed features for package management.

However, you might not want to use the newer features, yet. Not if you want your package to be usable by people still using Racket 5.3.5 or 5.3.6 — or usable by other packages that wish to support such people.

Fortunately, the older features are still supported in Racket 6, and it’s not very difficult or inconvenient to use them. You just need to know what they are.

Why bother?

Someday it will be easy to say, “Hey, my package only supports Racket 6 or newer”. As I type this, it would be a bit strange to say that, because Racket 6 isn’t released yet. Even after Racket 6 ships, there’s an argument to be made for supporting folks still using the previous version of Racket.

Admittedly each package has different requirements. Ultimately it’s your decision.

How to deploy a package that works with Racket 5.3.x

There are two areas to be aware of: Your info.rkt, and the package source you list on http://pkg.racket-lang.org. Let’s look at each.


Here’s an example of my info.rkt file for Frog, which is compatible with 5.3.5, 5.3.6, and 6.

#lang setup/infotab
(define version "0.11")
(define collection 'multi)
(define deps '(("markdown" "0.9")

The key points:

  1. Use #lang setup/infotab (not #lang info).

  2. Use (define collection 'multi) (not a single collection package).

    This means you need to put your collection in a subdirectory of your package’s root directory. If your package is named foo, you’ll have:

      info.rkt  # for your package
        info.rkt  # for the collection (if needed)
        ... other source files ...

    Is this a bit of a pain in the butt? Yes. In fact I was one of the people who asked to have single-collection packages as the new, simpler default. I’m happy it was added. I just can’t use it, quite yet. Not until I’m ready to drop support for older versions of Racket.

  3. To state a specific version of a package you depend on, use ("package" "version") (not the #:version keyword).

    Unfortunately even using the old form, raco pkg update --auto-deps <your-package> in 5.3.x won’t work for your package. It will error when trying to remove a package it thinks is called name version instead of just name. As a result, you need to tell users that, to update, they should use raco pkg remove <your-package> followed by raco pkg install <your-package>. The install will handle and honor the version requirement, which is the most important thing you want to work.

    Remember, if you were to use #:version, 5.3.x users couldn’t even install your package in the first place. Instead, by sticking with the old way of specifying the dependency version, at least people can install your package. Then to update it, they simply need to remove then install again. It’s two steps instead of one “update”. Not a huge inconvenience.

Package source

When you list your package on http://pkg.racket-lang.org, you should use the old form for GitHub URLs:


For example:


Racket 5.3.5 and 5.3.6 do not recognize the new git: variant.


As you can see, it’s not difficult to make a package compatible with the raco pkg in 5.3.5 and 5.3.6, as well as the upcoming version 6 of Racket. Once you know how, it’s easy.

If you have any additional tips, or corrections, please comment below.