CDE: Automatically create portable Linux applications

CDE (formerly known as CDEpack) automatically packages up the Code, Data, and Environment required to deploy and run your Linux programs on other machines without any installation or configuration. CDE is the easiest way to completely eliminate dependency hell.
To get started, download the CDE binary (32-bit or 64-bit) and follow these steps:
1. Package
Prepend any set of Linux commands with the "cde" binary, and CDE will run them and automatically package up all files (e.g., executables, libraries, plug-ins, config/data files) accessed during execution.
2. Deliver
A package is simply a directory that can be compressed and delivered to any x86-Linux machine. It contains all the files and environment variables required to run your original commands. Packages can range from 10 to 100 MB in size.
3. Run
After receiving the package, the user can now run those same commands from within the package on any modern x86-Linux distro. The user does not need to first compile, install, or configure anything.
CDE implements a form of lightweight application virtualization that allows you to easily distribute portable software, to deploy applications to the cloud, to make computational experiments reproducible, and to run software on non-native Linux distros without conflicts.
[ Use cases | User manual | FAQ | Mailing list | GitHub repository ]

Below the fold

CDE is being developed by me, a Computer Science Ph.D. student named Philip Guo. These research papers provide more details about CDE's inner-workings and use cases:

CDE delivers on one simple promise: If you can run a set of commands on your Linux machine, then CDE allows others to easily re-run those same commands on their Linux machines.

To enable Windows and Mac users to run your CDE packages, you can embed them within a virtual machine (e.g., using a lightweight distro like Tiny Core Linux).

An astute reader will notice that CDE packages might be incomplete since they only contain the files accessed on executed paths. It's easy to manually augment packages with additional files to make them complete.


This 4-minute screencast shows what CDE can do:

Here's a 10-minute overview of a common CDE use case:

If you're really patient, then you can watch my 1-hour Google Tech Talk. I give a 20-minute live demo starting at around 32:00.


CDE is implemented as a single portable binary named "cde". These pre-compiled binaries (released on 2011-08-15) should work on any modern x86-Linux distro:

After downloading, rename the file to "cde", make it executable ("chmod u+x"), and then consult the user manual.

These binaries probably don't contain the latest features and bug fixes. If you want to run the latest version of CDE, you must download and compile its source code. If you don't want to go through this hassle, send me an email at and I'd be happy to help you with the compilation process. The CDE source code resides in a public GitHub code repository. You can check out the latest copy and compile using these commands:

git clone git://
cd CDE


CDE is a research project, so I am actively recruiting new users to evaluate its effectiveness in real-world use cases. Please contact me if you are interested in using CDE, and I would be happy to provide detailed technical support. If you have questions, feedback, bug reports, or feature requests, email me at or join the cde-users mailing list.

Lastly, if you find CDE useful, please take a moment to email me and let me know how you're using it. I want to collect more anecdotes about interesting use cases!

[ Use cases | User manual | FAQ | Mailing list | GitHub repository ]