layman - manage your local repository of Gentoo overlays


layman [-a] | [--add] [ALL] | [overlay]

layman [-d] | [--delete] [ALL] | [overlay]

layman [-s] | [--sync] [ALL] | [overlay]

layman [-i] | [--info] [ALL] | [overlay]

layman [-S] | [--sync-all]

layman [-L] | [--list]

layman [-l] | [--list-local]

layman [-f] | [--fetch]


layman is a script that allows you to add, remove and update Gentoo overlays from a variety of sources.


layman makes it easy to retrieve and update overlays for Gentoo. In addition it makes it TRIVIAL to break your system.

The main portage tree provides you with high quality ebuilds that are all maintained by Gentoo developers. This will not be the case for most of the overlays you can get by using layman. Thus you are removing the security shield that the standard tree provides for you. You should keep that in mind when installing ebuilds from an overlay.

To ensure the security of your system you MUST read the source of the ebuild you are about to install.



List of possible layman actions.

-f, --fetch

Fetches the remote list of overlays. You will usually NOT need to explicitly specify this option. The fetch operation will be performed automatically once you run the sync, sync-all, or list action. You can prevent this automatic fetching using the --nofetch option.

-a overlay, --add overlay

Add the given overlay from the cached remote list to your locally installed overlays. Specify "ALL" to add all overlays from the remote list.

-d overlay, --delete overlay

Remove the given overlay from your locally installed overlays. Specify "ALL" to remove all overlays

-s overlay, --sync overlay

Update the specified overlay. Use "ALL" as parameter to synchronize all overlays

-i overlay, --info overlay

Display all available information about the specified overlay.

-S, --sync-all

Update all overlays. Shortcut for -s ALL.

-L, --list

List the contents of the remote list.

-l, --list-local

List the locally installed overlays.

Other options

List of other available layman options.

-c path, --config path

Path to an alternative configuration file.

-o url, --overlays url

Specifies the location of additional overlay lists. You can use this flag several times and the specified URLs will get temporarily appended to the list of URLs you specified in your config file. You may also specify local file URLs by prepending the path with file://. This option will only append the URL for this specific layman run - edit your config file to add a URL permanently. So this is useful for testing purposes.

-n, --nofetch

Prevents layman from automatically fetching the remote lists of overlays. The default behavior for layman is to update all remote lists if you run the sync, list or fetch operation.

-k, --nocheck

Prevents layman from checking the remote lists of overlays for complete overlay definitions. The default behavior for layman is to reject overlays that do not provide a description or a contact attribute.

-q, --quiet

Makes layman completely quiet. In quiet mode child processes will be run with stdin closed to avoid running into infinite and blindly interactive sessions. Thus a child process may abort once it runs into an situation with need for human interaction. For example this might happen if your overlay resides in Subversion and the SSL certificate of the server needs manual acceptance.

-v, --verbose

Makes layman more verbose and you will receive a description of the overlays you can download.

-N, --nocolor

Remove color codes from the layman output.

-QLEVEL, --quietnessLEVEL

Makes layman less verbose. Choose a value between 0 and 4 with 0 being completely quiet. Once you set this below 3, the same warning as given for --quiet applies.

-pLEVEL, --priorityLEVEL

Use this option in combination with the --add. It will modify the priority of the added overlay and thus influence the order of entries in the make.conf file. The lower the priority, the earlier in the list the entry will be mentioned. Use a value between 0 and 100. The default value is 50.


layman reads configuration parameters from the file /etc/layman/layman.cfg by default. This file provides seven possible settings.


Directory that will be used to store the overlays and all additional data layman needs. The default is /var/lib/layman. layman uses a location within the /usr/portage hierarchy instead of /var in order to store its data. This decision has been made to support network file systems. If you have your portage tree on nfs or a similar file system and several machines access the same ebuild repository over the net it will be necessary to also provide all necessary layman data within the hierarchy of the tree. This way the overlays will also have to be synced at one location only.


layman will store the downloaded global list of overlays here. The default is %(storage)s/cache.xml.


layman will store the list of installed overlays here. The default is %(storage)s/overlays.xml.


This is the portage configuration file that layman will modify in order to make the new overlays available within portage. The default is %(storage)s/make.conf. You could also specify /etc/make.conf directly. But that would mean that you have an external program trying to automatically set variables within this very central configuration file. Since I consider that dangerous I prefer having a very small external file that only contains the setting for PORTAGE_OVERLAYS. This file is then sourced at the end of /etc/make.conf. This is the reason why layman suggests running "echo "source /var/lib/layman/make.conf" >> /etc/make.conf" after it has been installed.


Specifies the URL for the remote list of all available overlays. The default is You can specify several URLs here (one per line). The contents will get merged to a single list of overlays. This allows to add a personal collection of overlays that are not present in the global list.


Specify your proxy in case you have to use one.


Set to "yes" if layman should stop worrying about overlays with missing a contact address or the description.


layman intends to provide easy maintenance of Gentoo overlays while not requiring any configuration.

Overlay lists

layman allows you to fetch an overlay without the need to modify any configuration files. In order for this to be possible the script needs an external list of possible overlay sources. There is a centralized list available at but nothing will prevent you from using or publishing your own list of overlays. The location of the remote lists can also be modified using the --overlays option when running layman.

To get a new overlay added to the central list provided for layman, send a mail to . Gentoo developers may add their overlay entries directly into the list which can be accessed over the CVS repository for the Gentoo website.

You can also use several lists at the same time. Just add one URL per line to the overlays variable in your configuration file. layman will merge the contents of all lists.

layman also allows you to define local files in this list. Just make sure you prepend these path names in standard URL notation with file://.

If you need to use a proxy for access to the Internet, you can use the corresponding variable in the layman configuration file. Layman will also respect the http_proxy environment variable in case you set it.

Local cache

layman stores a local copy of the fetched remote list. It will be stored in /var/lib/layman/cache.xml by default. There exists only one such cache file and it will be overwritten every time you run layman.

Handling /etc/make.conf

Since layman is designed to automatically handle the inclusion of overlays into your system it needs to be able to modify the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable in your /etc/make.conf file. But /etc/make.conf is a very central and essential configuration file for a Gentoo system. Automatically modifying this file would be somewhat dangerous. You can allow layman to do this by setting the make_conf variable in the configuration file to /etc/make.conf.

A much safer and in fact recommended solution to the problem is to let layman handle an external file that only contains the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable and is sourced within the standard /etc/make.conf file. Just add the following line to the end of your /etc/make.conf file:

source /var/lib/layman/make.conf

/var/lib/layman/make.conf is the default provided in the layman configuration. Change this file name in case you decide to store it somewhere else.

The file does not necessarily need to exist at the beginning. If it is missing, layman will create it for you.

There is also no need to remove the original PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable from the make.conf file. Layman will simply add new overlays to this variable and all your old entries will remain in there.

Adding, removing and updating overlays

Once a remote list of overlays has been fetched, layman allows to add overlays from the remote list to your system. The script will try to fetch the overlay. If this is successful the overlay information will be copied from the cache to the list of locally installed overlays. In addition layman will modify the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable to include the new overlay path.

Removing the overlay with layman will delete the overlay without leaving any traces behind.

In order to update all overlays managed by layman you can run the script with the --sync ALL option or the --sync-all flag.

List overlays

layman provides the --list and --list-local options to print a list of available respectively installed overlays.

Listing will prepend all fully supported overlays with a green asterisk, all non-official overlays with a yellow asterisk and all overlays that you will not be able to use since you do not have the necessary tools installed with a red asterisk.

In the default mode layman will be strict about listing overlays and only present you with overlays that are fully supported. In addition it will complain about overlays that are missing a description field or a contact attribute. This type of behavior has been added with layman-1.0.7 and if you\'d like to return to the old behavior you may use the k option flag or set the nocheck option in the configuration file.

Searching ebuilds in overlays

You can search through the ebuilds available in the overlays on by using "eix". Emerge the package and run update-eix-remote update.

Overlay types

Currently layman supports overlays that are exported via rsync, subversion, bzr, darcs, git, mercurial or provided as tar packages.


Overlay list format

Layman uses a central list of overlays in XML format. The file looks like this:

Adding an overlay locally

Simply create an overlay list in the format described above and run layman with the -o switch. You need to prepend local file URLs with file://.

Adding an overlay globally

The global list of overlays used by layman lies at

All Gentoo developers have access to this location via CVS and can modify the list of overlays.

If you are not a Gentoo developer but wish to get your overlay listed you should contact the Gentoo Overlays team at . You can also join #gentoo-overlays on


Installing an overlay

layman -f -a wrobel

This would add the overlay with the id wrobel to your list of installed overlays.

Syncing your overlays

layman -s ALL

This updates all overlays

Performing several actions at the same time

layman -f -a wrobel -a webapps-experimental

This fetches the remote list and immediately adds two overlays



Configuration file, holding the defaults for layman


Please report bugs you might find at


Gunnar Wrobel <>


Copyright (c) 2005-2009 Gunnar Wrobel

This is free software. You may redistribute copies of it under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2 (

July 2010

Thank you!