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GitHub Actions for Binary Wheels

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Building binary wheels is a bit more involved, but can still be done effectively with GHA. This document will introduce cibuildwheel for use in Scikit-HEP, replacing our in-house azure-wheel-helpers. The benefits of cibuildwheel are a larger user base, fast fixes from CI and pip, works on all major CI vendors (no lock-in), and covers cases we were not able to cover (like ARM). We will focus on GHA below.

Wheel building should only happen rarely, so you will want to limit it to releases, and maybe a rarely moving branch or other special tag (such as stable if you mostly update some other branch. You may occasionally want to trigger wheels manually.

name: Wheels

      - published

This will run on releases. If you use a develop branch, you could include pull_request: branches: [stable], since it changes rarely. GitHub actions also has a workflow_dispatch option, which will allow you to click a button in the GUI to trigger a build, which is perfect for testing wheels before making a release; you can download them from “artifacts”. You can even define variables that you can set in the GUI and access in the CI!

Useful suggestion:

Since these variables will be used by all jobs, you could make them available in your pyproject.toml file, so they can be used everywhere (even locally for Linux and Windows):

test-extras = "test"
test-command = "pytest {project}/tests"
# Optional
build-verbosity = 1

# Optional: support Universal2 for Apple Silicon with these two lines:
archs = ["auto", "universal2"]
test-skip = ["*universal2:arm64"]

The test-extras will cause the pip install to use [test]. The test-command will use pytest to run your tests. You can also set the build verbosity (-v in pip) if you want to. If you support Apple Silicon, you can add the final two lines, the first of which enables the universal2 wheel, which has both Intel and AS architectures in it, and the second explicitly skips testing the AS part of the wheel, since it can’t be tested on Intel. If you use CMake instead of pure setuptools, you will likely need further customizations for AS cross-compiling. Only Python 3.8+ supports Apple Silicon.

Making an SDist

You probably should not forget about making an SDist! A simple job, like before, will work:

  name: Make SDist
  runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    - uses: actions/checkout@v3
        fetch-depth: 0 # Optional, use if you use setuptools_scm
        submodules: true # Optional, use if you have submodules

    - name: Build SDist
      run: pipx run build --sdist

    - uses: actions/upload-artifact@v3
        path: dist/*.tar.gz

You can instead install build via pip and use python -m build --sdist. You can also pin the version with pipx run --spec build==... build.

The core job (3 main OS’s)

The core of the work is down here:

  name: Wheel on ${{ matrix.os }}
  runs-on: ${{ matrix.os }}
    fail-fast: false
      os: [ubuntu-20.04, windows-2019, macos-10.15]

    - uses: actions/checkout@v3
        fetch-depth: 0
        submodules: true

    - uses: pypa/cibuildwheel@v2.5.0

    - name: Upload wheels
      uses: actions/upload-artifact@v3
        path: wheelhouse/*.whl

There are several things to note here. First, one of the reasons this works is because you followed the suggestions in the previous sections, and your package builds nicely into a wheel without strange customizations (if you really need them, check out CIBW_BEFORE_BUILD and CIBW_ENVIRONMENT).

This lists all three OS’s; if you do not support Windows, you can remove that here.

The build step is controlled almost exclusively through environment variables, which makes it easier (usually) to setup in CI. The main variable needed here is usually CIBW_BUILD to select the platforms you want to build for - see the docs here for all the identifiers. Note that the ARM and other alternative architectures need emulation, so are not shown here (adds one extra step).

You can also select different base images (the default is manylinux2010). If you want manylinux1, just do:

  CIBW_MANYLINUX_X86_64_IMAGE: manylinux1
  CIBW_MANYLINUX_I686_IMAGE: manylinux1

You can even put any docker image here, including Scikit-HEP’s skhep/manylinuxgcc-* images with GCC 9. Note that manylinux1 was discontinued on Jan 1, 2022, and updates will cease whenever they break. If you always need a specific image, you can set that in the pyproject.toml file instead.


  needs: [build_wheels, make_sdist]
  runs-on: ubuntu-latest
  if: github.event_name == 'release' && github.event.action == 'published'
    - uses: actions/download-artifact@v3
        name: artifact
        path: dist

    - uses: pypa/gh-action-pypi-publish@v1.5.0
        user: __token__
        password: ${{ secrets.pypi_password }}

If you have multiple jobs, you will want to collect your artifacts from above. If you only have one job, you can combine this into a single job like we did for pure Python wheels, using dist instead of wheelhouse. If you upload from multiple places, you can set skip_existing (but generally it’s better to not try to upload the same file from two places - you can trick Travis into avoiding the sdist, for example).

Remember to set pypi_password to your token in secrets.

On Travis, cibuildwheel even has the ability to create ARM and PowerPC builds natively. IBM Z builds are also available but in beta. However, due to Travis CI’s recent dramatic reduction on open source support, emulating these architectures on GHA or Azure is probably better.