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Installing Packages from Nix Flakes

Devbox supports installing packages with Nix Flakes.

Devbox currently provides two ways to use Flakes to install packages in your project:

  1. You can reference a Flake hosted in Github using the github: reference
  2. You can reference a local Flake using the path: reference

What are Flakes?

Flakes are a new feature in the Nix language that lets you package software and create development shells in a declarative, fully reproducible way. You can use Nix Flakes to define packages, apps, templates, and dev environments.

Flakes are defined as a directory with a flake.nix and a flake.lock file. You import flakes to your project using a flake reference, which describes where to find the Flake, and what version or revision to use

Using a Flake from Github

You can add a Flake hosted on Github using the following string in your packages list:

"packages": [

The Ref and Flake Attribute is optional and will default to the main branch and packages.default|defaultPackage attribute, respectively.

For example, to install Process Compose from its repository using Nix Flakes, you can use the following string in your packages list. This will install the latest version of Process Compose from the main branch.


Installing a Flake from a specific branch or tag

You can install a specific release or branch by adding it to your flake reference. The following example will install Process Compose version 0.40.2 from the v0.40.2 tag.


Installing a specific attribute or package from a Flake

You can also install a specific attribute or package from a Flake by adding a # and the attribute name to the end of the package string. If you don't specify an attribute, Devbox will use default or defaultPackage

For example, if you want to use Fenix to install a specific version of Rust, you can use the following string in your packages list. This example will install the stable.toolchain packages from the fenix package.


Using Flakes with Nixpkgs

The Nixpkgs repo on Github also provides a Flake for installing packages. You can use the following flake reference to install packages from a specific Nixpkgs commit or reference:


For example, if you want to install the hello package from the nixos-20.09 branch, you can use the following string in your packages list:


Installing Additional Outputs from a Flake

Some packages provide additional outputs that are not installed by default. For example, the libcap package provides a dev output that contains development headers and libraries, or the prometheus package includes the promtool CLI in a cli output.

You can install these additional outputs by adding a ^ and a comma-separated list of outputs to the end of your flake reference. For example, the following command will install the default (out) and dev outputs of the libcap package:


Using a Local Flake

You can also use a local Flake using the path attribute in your package list. Using a local flake can be helpful if you want to install your custom packages with Nix, or if you need to modify packages before using them in your Devbox project

Your flake reference should point to a directory that contains a flake.nix file.


For example, if you have a local Flake in the ./my-flake directory, you can use the following string in your packages list. This example will install all the packages under the my-package attribute.


Caching Flakes with the Jetify Cache

Because flakes are not automatically built and cached by Nix, you may experience slower build times when using flakes in your Devbox project. To speed up your builds, you can use the Jetify Cache to cache the binaries built by your flakes for future use.

After setting up your cache directly, you can upload the flake by running:

devbox cache upload <flake-reference>

Alternatively, you can cache your entire project closure by running the following command from your project root:

devbox cache upload


For more examples of using Nix Flakes with Devbox, check out the examples in our Devbox Repo: