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Original author(s)James Henstridge; rewritten by Havoc Pennington
Developer(s)Tollef Fog Heen /
Initial release2000; 21 years ago (2000) or earlier
Stable release
0.29.2 / March 20, 2017; 4 years ago (2017-03-20)
Repository Edit this at Wikidata
Written inC
Operating systemUnix-like
TypeProgramming tool
LicenseGNU GPL

pkg-config is a computer program that defines and supports a unified interface for querying installed libraries for the purpose of compiling software that depends on them. It allows programmers and installation scripts to work without explicit knowledge of detailed library path information. pkg-config was originally designed for Linux, but it is now also available for BSD, Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Solaris.

It outputs various information about installed libraries. This information may include:

The first implementation was written in shell.[1] Later, it was rewritten in C using the GLib library.[2]


When a library is installed (automatically through the use of an RPM, deb, or other binary packaging system or by compiling from the source), a .pc file should be included and placed into a directory with other .pc files (the exact directory is dependent upon the system and outlined in the pkg-config man page). This file has several entries.

These entries typically contain a list of dependent libraries that programs using the package also need to compile. Entries also typically include the location of header files, version information and a description.

Here is an example .pc file for libpng:

Name: libpng
Description: Loads and saves PNG files
Version: 1.2.8
Libs: -L${libdir} -lpng12 -lz
Cflags: -I${includedir}/libpng12

This file demonstrates how libpng informs that its libraries can be found in /usr/local/lib and its headers in /usr/local/include, that the library name is libpng, and that the version is 1.2.8. It also gives the additional linker flags that are needed to compile code that uses this library.

Here is an example of usage of pkg-config while compiling:

$ gcc -o test test.c $(pkg-config --libs --cflags libpng)

pkg-config can be used by build automation software such as CMake.

Alternative implementations[edit]

  • pkgconf – Implementation of pkg-config without depending on GLib

– default, instead of pkg-config, on Alpine Linux[3], Arch Linux[4], CentOS 8+[3], Fedora[4], FreeBSD[4], Mageia 7+[3], Manjaro[3] and NetBSD[4]


  1. ^ Havoc Pennington (4 June 2000). "Re: the *-config scripts". Retrieved 2020-01-22.
  2. ^ Havoc Pennington (23 July 2000). "pkg-config". Retrieved 2020-01-22.
  3. ^ a b c d Found on spread of pkgconf but not spread of pkg-config on repology
  4. ^ a b c d Replacing pkg-config with pkgconf on

External links[edit]