4.1 Specifying the files to distribute

If you don't supply an explicit list of files (or instructions on how to generate one), the sdist command puts a minimal default set into the source distribution:

Sometimes this is enough, but usually you will want to specify additional files to distribute. The typical way to do this is to write a manifest template, called MANIFEST.in by default. The manifest template is just a list of instructions for how to generate your manifest file, MANIFEST, which is the exact list of files to include in your source distribution. The sdist command processes this template and generates a manifest based on its instructions and what it finds in the filesystem.

If you prefer to roll your own manifest file, the format is simple: one filename per line, regular files (or symlinks to them) only. If you do supply your own MANIFEST, you must specify everything: the default set of files described above does not apply in this case.

The manifest template has one command per line, where each command specifies a set of files to include or exclude from the source distribution. For an example, again we turn to the Distutils' own manifest template:

include *.txt
recursive-include examples *.txt *.py
prune examples/sample?/build

The meanings should be fairly clear: include all files in the distribution root matching *.txt, all files anywhere under the examples directory matching *.txt or *.py, and exclude all directories matching examples/sample?/build. All of this is done after the standard include set, so you can exclude files from the standard set with explicit instructions in the manifest template. (Or, you can use the --no-defaults option to disable the standard set entirely.) There are several other commands available in the manifest template mini-language; see section 9.2.

The order of commands in the manifest template matters: initially, we have the list of default files as described above, and each command in the template adds to or removes from that list of files. Once we have fully processed the manifest template, we remove files that should not be included in the source distribution:

Now we have our complete list of files, which is written to the manifest for future reference, and then used to build the source distribution archive(s).

You can disable the default set of included files with the --no-defaults option, and you can disable the standard exclude set with --no-prune.

Following the Distutils' own manifest template, let's trace how the sdist command builds the list of files to include in the Distutils source distribution:

  1. include all Python source files in the distutils and distutils/command subdirectories (because packages corresponding to those two directories were mentioned in the packages option in the setup script--see section 2)
  2. include README.txt, setup.py, and setup.cfg (standard files)
  3. include test/test*.py (standard files)
  4. include *.txt in the distribution root (this will find README.txt a second time, but such redundancies are weeded out later)
  5. include anything matching *.txt or *.py in the sub-tree under examples,
  6. exclude all files in the sub-trees starting at directories matching examples/sample?/build--this may exclude files included by the previous two steps, so it's important that the prune command in the manifest template comes after the recursive-include command
  7. exclude the entire build tree, and any RCS, CVS and .svn directories
Just like in the setup script, file and directory names in the manifest template should always be slash-separated; the Distutils will take care of converting them to the standard representation on your platform. That way, the manifest template is portable across operating systems.

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