Building IndexStoreDB on Linux: The Portable Technique

The problem

As of writing of this article, when you attempt to use Apple's Swift library IndexStoreDB on Linux as a normal SwiftPM dependency, it won't build successfully:

❯ cat Package.resolved
  "object": {
    "pins": [
        "package": "IndexStoreDB",
        "repositoryURL": "",
        "state": {
          "branch": "swift-5.5.2-RELEASE",
          "revision": "e771994778265c2efe8d33a7ca30adf5f3d2065a",
          "version": null
  "version": 1

❯ swift build > /dev/null

❯ echo $status

The issue is documented in the build instruction for Linux:

The C++ code in the index requires libdispatch, but unlike Swift code, it cannot find it automatically on Linux. You can work around this by adding a search path manually.

$ swift build -Xcxx -I<path_to_swift_toolchain>/usr/lib/swift -Xcxx -I<path_to_swift_toolchain>/usr/lib/swift/Block

Okay, so, how would my package build in Linux environments where the Swift toolchain's setup is unknown? How do we avoid building with one toolchain while mixing in libdispatch from another toolchain somewhere? Here's what I did for my command-line tool Clue.

The solution

The essence of the problem is about the installation location of the Swift toolchain. Our solution makes the following assumptions:

  1. A Swift toolchain is installed on the file system on Linux (duh!).
  2. The toolchain is at least similar to the one distributed on So libdispatch is distributed alongside the other binaries, in a stable relative directory.

Having the swift command available (assumption #1), we can just let it tell us about itself with the -print-target-info flag:

❯ swift -print-target-info
  "compilerVersion": "Swift version 5.5.2 (swift-5.5.2-RELEASE)",
  "target": {
    "triple": "x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu",
    "unversionedTriple": "x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu",
    "moduleTriple": "x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu",
    "compatibilityLibraries": [ ],
    "librariesRequireRPath": false
  "paths": {
    "runtimeLibraryPaths": [
    "runtimeLibraryImportPaths": [
    "runtimeResourcePath": "/home/dan/.swiftenv/versions/5.5.2/usr/lib/swift"

Great! We see where the runtime is installed. Now we can invoke assumption #2, that libdispatch is at a relative location to the rest of the runtime. In the output from above, the value for runtimeResourcePath happens to be the parent directory for libdispatch's headers. The <path_to_swift_toolchain> value in IndexStoreDB's official instruction in this particular setup would be /home/dan/.swiftenv/versions/5.5.2. So the following command would have worked:

swift build -Xcxx -I/home/dan/.swiftenv/versions/5.5.2/usr/lib/swift -Xcxx -I/home/dan/.swiftenv/versions/5.5.2/usr/lib/swift/Block

All we need to do is parse this information at build time, and it should work on every Linux setup! Choose whatever parsing method you like. Here's (more or less) the Makefile for Clue:

SHELL = /bin/bash
ifeq ($(shell uname),Darwin)
EXTRA_SWIFT_FLAGS = "--disable-sandbox"
SWIFT_TOOLCHAIN = "$(shell swift -print-target-info | grep runtimeResourcePath | cut -f 2 -d ':' | cut -f 2 -d '"')"

define build
	@swift build --configuration $(1) -Xswiftc -warnings-as-errors ${EXTRA_SWIFT_FLAGS}

.PHONY: build
	$(call build,release)

.PHONY: test
	@swift test ${EXTRA_SWIFT_FLAGS}

.PHONY: debug
	$(call build,debug)
  1. make build / make test / make debug all work as expected, building IndexStoreDB successfully.
  2. As-is, this snippet is project-agnostic. So you can throw it in your SwiftPM project and it should "just work".