The snap format

A snap is a Squashfs file carrying content alongside metadata to tell the system it should be manipulated. When installed, the Squashfs file for the snap is mounted read-only at the following location:

/snap/<snap name>/<revision>/

This method delivers fast and extremely predictable installations, with no installation remnants, and no way for a snap’s content to be mutated or interfered with. A snap is either installed and available as originally built, or it is not available at all.

Applications declared in the snap become commands at:

/snap/bin/<snap name>[.<app name>]

The suffix is omitted if <app name> matches <snap name>.

That snap command file is not the actual application, but rather a link to the real application under the isolation and confinement rules of the snap’s default restricted environment, plus any allowances granted to it via the interface system.

Setup files

The following files control the behaviour of a snap:

  • meta/snap.yaml: Basic snap details (see below)
  • meta/hooks/: Hooks called on specific events (see below)
  • meta/gui/icon.{svg,png}: Icon for the snap
  • meta/gui/*.desktop: Desktop files for the snap (see below)

snap.yaml

Every snap package contains a meta/snap.yaml file that holds the basic metadata for the snap.

Please take note of this important distinction:

  • snap.yaml lives inside every snap package, read by snapd
  • snapcraft.yaml contains instructions to create a snap package, read by the snapcraft command used to build snaps

Most of the metadata supported by snap.yaml is optional. In fact, the simplest snap.yaml could contain as little as the following:

name: simplest
version: 1.0

An examle snap.yaml that offers an application to run is still very simple:

name: simple
version: 1.0
apps:
    hello:
        command: bin/hello --world

The following is the complete specification for the metadata in snap.yaml:

# The suggested snap name, constrained to the [a-z0-9] charset and inner
# dashes. The final name when the snap is installed is defined by the
# snap-declaration assertion associated with the snap, if any.
name: <name>

# An optional title for the snap, may contain uppercase letters and spaces.
title: <title>

# Version of the software packed inside the snap. Has no semantic value
# in the system (no greater/lower-than rules are ever applied to it).
version: <version>

# More details about what is contained in the snap.
summary: <line>
description: <text>

# License for the snap content, based on SPDX license expressions.
license: <expression>

# Type of snap, defaults to "app".
type: app | core | gadget | kernel | base

# List of architectures the snap may run on. Defaults to [all].
architectures:
    - all | amd64 | i386 | armhf | ...

# The base snap that defines the underlying filesystem this snap
# will be assembled on top of.
base: <name>

# List of applications (commands, binaries, daemons) in the snap. 
apps:

  <app name>:

      # Path to executable (relative to snap base) and arguments to use
      # when this application is run.
      command: <command line>

      # Path to a bash snippet to use for tab completion.
      # (snapcraft 2.33+, snapd 2.30+)
      # See https://forum.snapcraft.io/t/2261
      completer: <path to file>

      # List of plug names the application is associated with.
      # When a plug is connected to one of these slots, the application
      # will be granted the permissions specified for that interface.
      # If attributes are required, or the plug name does not match the
      # interface name, more details must be declared under the top-level
      # "plugs" field (see below).
      plugs:
          - <plug name>

      # List of slot names this application is associated with.
      # Same details as described above, but for slots.
      slots:
          - <slot name>

      # If daemon is set, the command is a daemon to run as specified.
      # See systemd documentation for further details.
      daemon: simple | forking | oneshot | notify

      # Optional command to stop a daemon.
      stop-command: <command line>

      # Optional time to wait for daemon to stop.
      stop-timeout: <n>ns | <n>us | <n>ms | <n>s | <n>m

      # Optional command to run after daemon stops.
      post-stop-command: <command line>

      # Condition to restart the daemon under. Defaults to on-failure.
      # See the systemd.service manual on Restart for details.
      restart-condition: \
          on-failure | on-success | on-abnormal | on-abort | always | never

      # Delay between service restarts. Defaults to unset. 
      # See the systemd.service manual on RestartSec for details.
      # (snapd 2.36+)
      restart-delay: <n>ns | <n>us | <n>ms | <n>s | <n>m

      # Service watchdog timeout. For watchdog to work, the application
      # requires access to systemd notification socket, which can be 
      # declared by listing a daemon-notify plug in the plugs section.
      # Note, the interface is not auto connected  and needs to be
      # connected manually.
      # (snapd 2.33+)
      watchdog-timeout: <n>ns | <n>us | <n>ms | <n>s | <n>m

      # Command to use to ask the service to reload its configuration.
      # In the absence of this, when asked to reload  (e.g. via
      # `snap restart --reload snap.app`) the service is restarted instead.
      reload-command: <command line>

      # List of applications that are ordered to be started before
      # the current one. Applications must be part of the same snap.
      # (snapd 2.31+)
      before:
          - <other app name>

      # List of applications that are ordered to be started after
      # the current one. Applications must be part of the same snap.
      # (snapd 2.31+)
      after:
          - <other app name>

      # The service is activated by a timer, app must be a daemon. See timer
      # documentation for examples.
      # (snapd 2.33+)
      timer: <timer string>

      # Name of the desktop file placed by the application in 
      # $SNAP_USER_DATA/.config/autostart to indicate that application 
      # should be started with the user's desktop session. The application
      # is started using the app's command wrapper (<name>.<app>) plus
      # any arguments  present in the Exec=.. line inside the autostart
      # desktop file.
      # (snapd 2.32.4+)
      autostart: <command line>

Hooks

Hooks provide a mechanism for snapd to alert snaps that something has happened, or to ask the snap to provide its opinion about an operation that is in progress. See the topic on supported hooks for more details.

Interfaces

Interfaces allow snaps to communicate or share resources according to the protocol established by the interface. They play an important part in security policy configuration.

See Supported interfaces for more details.

Layouts

Layouts enable snap developers to modify the execution environment of their snap. They simplify the process of using pre-compiled binaries and libraries that expect to find files and directories outside of locations referenced by $SNAP or $SNAP_DATA.

For more details, see Snap layouts.

Desktop files

The meta/gui/ directory (snap/gui/ with snapcraft) may contain *.desktop files for the snap. These desktop files may contain valid desktop entries from the XDG Desktop Entry Specification version 1.1 with some exceptions listed below. Lines with unknown keys are silently removed from the desktop file on install.

The Exec= line must use the following syntax:

Exec=<snap name>[.<app name>] [<argument> ...]

As in the executables contained under /snap/bin, the .<app name> suffix is omitted if the application name and snap name are the same.

For example, assuming this content in snap.yaml:

name: http
version: 1.0
apps:
    get:
        command: bin/my-downloader

… the following desktop file would be valid:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=My Downloader
Exec=http.get %U

Autostart desktop files

An application may put a desktop file under $SNAP_USER_DATA/.config/autostart in order to be automatically started with the user’s desktop session. The file is matched with a corresponding application based on the autostart property of an app inside meta/snap.yaml. For example:

name: my-chat
version: 1.0
apps:
    chat:
        command: bin/my-chat
        autostart: my-chat.desktop

Assuming my-chat has written a file $SNAP_USER_DATA/.config/autostart/my-chat.desktop with the following contents:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=My Chat
Exec=/usr/bin/my-chat --autostart a b c

The Exec= line is used to obtain any command line parameters, and the application will be started as:

my-chat.chat --autostart a b c 

Unsupported desktop keys

The DBusActivatable, TryExec and Implements keys are currently not supported and will be silently removed from the desktop file on install.

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