To understand what pbr can do for you, it’s probably best to look at two projects: one using pure setuptools, and another using pbr. First, let’s look at the setuptools project.

$ tree -L 1
├── README.rst
├── requirements.txt
├── setup.cfg
├── setup.py
└── somepackage

$ cat setup.py
    description='A short description',
    long_description="""A much longer description...""",
    author="John Doe",

Here’s a similar package using pbr:

$ tree -L 1
├── README.rst
├── setup.cfg
├── setup.py
└── somepackage

$ cat setup.py

$ cat setup.cfg
name = mypackage
description = A short description
description_file = README.rst
author = John Doe
author_email = john.doe@example.com
license = BSD

From this, we note a couple of the main features of pbr:

  • Extensive use of setup.cfg for configuration

  • Automatic package metadata generation (version)

  • Automatic metadata file generation (AUTHOR, ChangeLog, MANIFEST.in, RELEASENOTES.txt)

In addition, there are other things that you don’t see here but which pbr will do for you:

  • Helpful extensions to setuptools commands



pbr uses setup.cfg for all configuration, though setup.py is still required.

One of the main features of distutils2 was the use of a setup.cfg INI-style configuration file. This was used to define a package’s metadata and other options that were normally supplied to the setup() function.

Recent versions of setuptools have implemented some of this support, but pbr still allows for the definition of the following sections in setup.cfg:

  • files

  • entry_points

  • backwards_compat

For more information on these sections, refer to Usage.

Package Metadata


pbr removes the need to define a lot of configuration in either setup.py or setup.cfg by extracting this information from Git.



pbr will automatically configure your version for you by parsing semantically-versioned Git tags.

Versions can be managed two ways - post-versioning and pre-versioning. Post-versioning is the default while pre-versioning is enabled by setting version in the setup.cfg metadata section. In both cases the actual version strings are inferred from Git.

If the currently checked out revision is tagged, that tag is used as the version.

If the currently checked out revision is not tagged, then we take the last tagged version number and increment it to get a minimum target version.


pbr supports both bare version tag (e.g. 0.1.0) and version prefixed with v or V (e.g. v0.1.0)

We then walk Git history back to the last release. Within each commit we look for a Sem-Ver: pseudo header and, if found, parse it looking for keywords. Unknown symbols are not an error (so that folk can’t wedge pbr or break their tree), but we will emit an info-level warning message. The following symbols are recognized:

  • feature

  • api-break

  • deprecation

  • bugfix

A missing Sem-Ver line is equivalent to Sem-Ver: bugfix. The bugfix symbol causes a patch level increment to the version. The feature and deprecation symbols cause a minor version increment. The api-break symbol causes a major version increment.

If post-versioning is in use, we use the resulting version number as the target version.

If pre-versioning is in use, we check that the version set in the metadata section of setup.cfg is greater than the version we infer using the above method. If the inferred version is greater than the pre-versioning value we raise an error, otherwise we use the version from setup.cfg as the target.

We then generate dev version strings based on the commits since the last release and include the current Git SHA to disambiguate multiple dev versions with the same number of commits since the release.


pbr expects Git tags to be signed for use in calculating versions.

The versions are expected to be compliant with Linux/Python Compatible Semantic Versioning 3.0.0.

The version.SemanticVersion class can be used to query versions of a package and present it in various forms - debian_version(), release_string(), rpm_string(), version_string(), or version_tuple().

Long Description


pbr can extract the contents of a README and use this as your long description

There is no need to maintain two long descriptions and your README file is probably a good long_description. So we’ll just inject the contents of your README.rst, README.txt or README file into your empty long_description.

You can also specify the exact file you want to use using the description_file parameter.

You can set the description_content_type to a MIME type that may help rendering of the description; for example text/markdown or text/x-rst; charset=UTF-8.



pbr will extract requirements from requirements.txt files and automatically populate the install_requires, tests_require and dependency_links arguments to setup with them.

You may not have noticed, but there are differences in how pip requirements.txt files work and how setuptools wants to be told about requirements. The pip way is nicer because it sure does make it easier to populate a virtualenv for testing or to just install everything you need. Duplicating the information, though, is super lame. To solve this issue, pbr will let you use requirements.txt-format files to describe the requirements for your project and will then parse these files, split them up appropriately, and inject them into the install_requires, tests_require and/or dependency_links arguments to setup. Voila!

Finally, it is possible to specify groups of optional dependencies, or “extra” requirements, in your setup.cfg rather than setup.py.

Changed in version 5.0: Previously you could specify requirements for a given major version of Python using requirments files with a -pyN suffix. This was deprecated in 4.0 and removed in 5.0 in favour of environment markers.

Automatic File Generation


pbr can automatically generate a couple of files, which would normally have to be maintained manually, by using Git data.

AUTHORS, ChangeLog


pbr will automatically generate an AUTHORS and a ChangeLog file using Git logs.

Why keep an AUTHORS or a ChangeLog file when Git already has all of the information you need? AUTHORS generation supports filtering/combining based on a standard .mailmap file.



pbr will automatically generate a MANIFEST.in file based on the files Git is tracking.

Just like AUTHORS and ChangeLog, why keep a list of files you wish to include when you can find many of these in Git. MANIFEST.in generation ensures almost all files stored in Git, with the exception of .gitignore, .gitreview and .pyc files, are automatically included in your distribution. In addition, the generated AUTHORS and ChangeLog files are also included. In many cases, this removes the need for an explicit MANIFEST.in file, though one can be provided to exclude files that are tracked via Git but which should not be included in the final release, such as test files.


MANIFEST.in files have no effect on binary distributions such as wheels. Refer to the Python packaging tutorial for more information.

Release Notes


pbr will automatically use reno 's build_reno setuptools command to generate a release notes file, if reno is available and configured.

If using reno, you may wish to include a copy of the release notes in your packages. reno provides a build_reno setuptools command and, if reno is present and configured, pbr will automatically call this to generate a release notes file for inclusion in your package.

Setup Commands



pbr will override the Sphinx build_sphinx command to use pbr-provided package metadata and automatically generate API documentation.

Deprecated since version 4.2: This feature has been superseded by the sphinxcontrib-apidoc (for generation of API documentation) and Sphinx Extension (for configuration of versioning via package metadata) extensions. It has been removed in version 6.0.



pbr will automatically alias the test command to use the testing tool of your choice.

Deprecated since version 4.0.

pbr overrides the setuptools test command if using testrepository or nose (deprecated).

  • pbr will check for a .testr.conf file. If this exists and testrepository is installed, the test command will alias the testr test runner. If this is not the case…


    This is separate to setup.py testr (note the extra r) which is provided directly by the testrepository package. Be careful as there is some overlap of command arguments.

  • pbr will check if [nosetests] is defined in setup.cfg. If this exists and nose is installed, the test command will alias the nose runner. If this is not the case…

  • In other cases no override will be installed and the test command will revert to the setuptools default.

Sphinx Extension


pbr provides a Sphinx extension to allow you to use pbr version metadata in your Sphinx documentation.

Added in version 4.2.

pbr provides a Sphinx extension which can be used to configure version numbers for documentation. The package does not need to be installed for this to function.


The openstackdocstheme Sphinx theme provides similar functionality. This should be preferred for official OpenStack projects. Refer to the documentation for more information.

For more information on the extension, refer to Usage.