Calling Bazel from scripts

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You can call Bazel from scripts to perform a build, run tests, or query the dependency graph. Bazel has been designed to enable effective scripting, but this section lists some details to bear in mind to make your scripts more robust.

Choosing the output base

The --output_base option controls where the Bazel process should write the outputs of a build to, as well as various working files used internally by Bazel, one of which is a lock that guards against concurrent mutation of the output base by multiple Bazel processes.

Choosing the correct output base directory for your script depends on several factors. If you need to put the build outputs in a specific location, this will dictate the output base you need to use. If you are making a "read only" call to Bazel (such as bazel query), the locking factors will be more important. In particular, if you need to run multiple instances of your script concurrently, you will need to give each one a different (or random) output base.

If you use the default output base value, you will be contending for the same lock used by the user's interactive Bazel commands. If the user issues long-running commands such as builds, your script will have to wait for those commands to complete before it can continue.

Notes about server mode

By default, Bazel uses a long-running server process as an optimization. When running Bazel in a script, don't forget to call shutdown when you're finished with the server, or, specify --max_idle_secs=5 so that idle servers shut themselves down promptly.

What exit code will I get?

Bazel attempts to differentiate failures due to the source code under consideration from external errors that prevent Bazel from executing properly. Bazel execution can result in following exit codes:

Exit Codes common to all commands:

  • 0 - Success
  • 2 - Command Line Problem, Bad or Illegal flags or command combination, or Bad Environment Variables. Your command line must be modified.
  • 8 - Build Interrupted but we terminated with an orderly shutdown.
  • 9 - The server lock is held and --noblock_for_lock was passed.
  • 32 - External Environment Failure not on this machine.

  • 33 - Bazel ran out of memory and crashed. You need to modify your command line.

  • 34 - Reserved for Google-internal use.

  • 35 - Reserved for Google-internal use.

  • 36 - Local Environmental Issue, suspected permanent.

  • 37 - Unhandled Exception / Internal Bazel Error.

  • 38 - Reserved for Google-internal use.

  • 39 - Blobs required by Bazel are evicted from Remote Cache.

  • 41-44 - Reserved for Google-internal use.

  • 45 - Error publishing results to the Build Event Service.

  • 47 - Reserved for Google-internal use.

Return codes for commands bazel build, bazel test:

  • 1 - Build failed.
  • 3 - Build OK, but some tests failed or timed out.
  • 4 - Build successful but no tests were found even though testing was requested.

For bazel run:

  • 1 - Build failed.
  • If the build succeeds but the executed subprocess returns a non-zero exit code it will be the exit code of the command as well.

For bazel query:

  • 3 - Partial success, but the query encountered 1 or more errors in the input BUILD file set and therefore the results of the operation are not 100% reliable. This is likely due to a --keep_going option on the command line.
  • 7 - Command failure.

Future Bazel versions may add additional exit codes, replacing generic failure exit code 1 with a different non-zero value with a particular meaning. However, all non-zero exit values will always constitute an error.

Reading the .bazelrc file

By default, Bazel reads the .bazelrc file from the base workspace directory or the user's home directory. Whether or not this is desirable is a choice for your script; if your script needs to be perfectly hermetic (such as when doing release builds), you should disable reading the .bazelrc file by using the option --bazelrc=/dev/null. If you want to perform a build using the user's preferred settings, the default behavior is better.

Command log

The Bazel output is also available in a command log file which you can find with the following command:

bazel info command_log

The command log file contains the interleaved stdout and stderr streams of the most recent Bazel command. Note that running bazel info will overwrite the contents of this file, since it then becomes the most recent Bazel command. However, the location of the command log file will not change unless you change the setting of the --output_base or --output_user_root options.

Parsing output

The Bazel output is quite easy to parse for many purposes. Two options that may be helpful for your script are --noshow_progress which suppresses progress messages, and --show_result n, which controls whether or not "build up-to-date" messages are printed; these messages may be parsed to discover which targets were successfully built, and the location of the output files they created. Be sure to specify a very large value of n if you rely on these messages.

Troubleshooting performance by profiling

See the Performance Profiling section.