Purerlang version of AtomVM PackBeam utility

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Apache-2.0   -   Apache License 2.0

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Not proprietary

OSI Compliant


An Erlang Escript and OTP library used to generate an AtomVM AVM file from a set of files (beam files, previously built AVM files, or even arbitrary data files).

This tool roughly approximates the functionality of the AtomVM PackBEAM utility, except:

  • Support for multiple data types, include beam files, text files, etc
  • "Smart" extraction of beams from AVM files, so that only the beams that are needed are packed

The packbeam tool may be used on its own. More typically, it is used internally as part of the atomvm_rebar3_plugin rebar3 plugin.


Building Packbeam requires Erlang/OTP 22 or later, for compatibility with AtomVM, as well as a local installation of rebar3. Optionally, any recent version of make may be used to simplify builds.


To build, run

shell$ rebar3 escriptize


shell$ make escript

These commands will create an Erlang escript file called packbeam under


in your local working directory.

packbeam command

The packbeam command is used to create an AVM file from a list of beam and other file types, to list the contents of an AVM file, or to delete elements from an AVM file.

The general syntax of the packbeam command takes the form:

packbeam <sub-command> <args>

On-line help is available via the help sub-command:

shell$ packbeam help
packbeam <sub-command> <options> <args>

The following sub-commands are supported:

    create <options> <output-avm-file> [<input-file>]+
        <output-avm-file> is the output AVM file,
        [<input-file>]+ is is a list of one or more input files,
        and <options> are among the following:
            [--prune|-p]           Prune dependencies
            [--start|-s <module>]  Start module

    list <options> <avm-file>
        <avm-file> is an AVM file,
        and <options> are among the following:
            [--format|-f csv|bare|default]  Format output

    delete <options> <avm-file> [<element>]+
        <avm-file> is an AVM file,
        [<element>]+ is is a list of one or more elements to delete,
        and <options> are among the following:
            [-out <output-avm-file>]    Output AVM file

    help  print this help

The packbeam command will return an exit status of 0 on successful completion of a command. An unspecified non-zero value is returned in the event of an error.

The packbeam sub-commands are described in more detail below.

create sub-command

To create an AVM file from a list of beam files, use the create sub-command to create an AVM file. The first argument is take to be the output AVM file, following by the files you would like to add, e.g.,

shell$ packbeam create mylib.avm mylib/ebin/mylib.beam mylib/ebin/foo.beam mylib/ebin/bar.beam

This command will create an AtomVM AVM file suitable for use with AtomVM.

The input files specified in the create subcommand may be among the following types:

  • compiled BEAM files (typically ending in .beam)
  • Previously created AVM files
  • "Normal" files, e.g., text files, binary files, etc.

Note that beam files specified are stripped of their path information, inside of the generated AVM file. Any files that have the same name will be added in the order they are listed on the command line. However, AtomVM will only resolve the first such file when loading modules at run-time.

Start Entrypoint

If you are building an application that provides a start entrypoint (as opposed to a library, suitable for inclusion in another AVM file), then at least one beam module in an AVM file must contain a start/0 entry-point, i.e., a function called start with arity 0. AtomVM will use this entry-point as the first function to execute, when starting.

Note. It is conventional, but not required, that the first beam file in an AVM file contains the start/0 entry-point. AtomVM will use the first BEAM file that contains an exported start/0 function as the entry-point for the application.

If your application has multiple modules with exported start/0 functions, you may use the --start <module> (alternatively, -s <module>) option to specify the module you would like placed first in your AVM file. The <module> parameter should be the module name (without the .beam suffix, e.g., main).

A previously created AVM file file may be supplied as input (including the same file specified as output, for example). The contents of any input AVM files will be included in the output AVM file. For example, if you are building a library of BEAM files (for example, none of which contain a start/0 entry-point), you may want to archive these into an AVM file, which can be used for downstream applications.

In addition, you may specify a "normal" (i.e., non-beam or non-AVM) file. Normal files are labeled with the path specified on the command line.

shell$ packbeam create mylib.avm mylib.avm mylib/priv/sample.txt

Note. It is conventional in AtomVM for normal files to have the path <module-name>/priv/<file-name>.


If you specify the --prune (alternatively, -p) flag, then packbeam will only include beam files that are transitively dependent on the entry-point beam. Transitive dependencies are determined by imports, as well as use of an atom in a module (e.g, as the result of a dynamic function call, based on a module name).

If there is no beam file with a start/0 entry-point defined in the list of input modules and the --prune flag is used, the command will fail. You should not use the --prune flag if you are trying to build libraries suitable for inclusion on other AtomVM applications.

list sub-command

The list sub-command will print the contents of an AVM file to the standard output stream.

To list the elements of an AVM file, specify the location of the AVM file to input as the first argument:

shell$ packbeam list mylib.avm
mylib.beam * [284]
foo.beam [276]
bar.beam [252]
mylib/priv/sample.txt [29]

The elements in the AVM file are printed to the standard output stream and are listed on each line. If a beam file contain an exported start/0 function, it will be marked with an asterisk (*). The size in bytes of each module is also printed in square brackets ([]).

You may use the --format (alternatively, -f) option to specify an output format. The supported formats are:

  • csv Output elements in comma-separated value format. Fields include the module name, whether the element is a BEAM file, whether the element provides a start/0 entrypoint, and the size (in bytes) of the element.
  • bare Output just the module name, with no annotations.
  • default Output the module name, size (in brackets), and whether the file provides a start/0 entrypoint, indicated by an asterisk (*). The default output is used if the --format option is not specified.

delete sub-command

The delete sub-command can be used to remove elements from an AVM file.

To delete one or more elements from an AVM file, specify the location of the AVM file from which to remove elements, followed by the list of elements (as displayed via the list sub-command) to remove. You may optionally specify an output AVM file using the -out option, which will contain the contents of the input AVM file, minus the specified elements. If no output AVM is specified, the input AVM file will be overwritten.

For example:

shell$ packbeam delete -out mylib2.avm mylib.avm foo.beam bar.beam
shell$ packbeam list mylib2.avm
mylib.beam * [284]
mylib/priv/sample.txt [29]

packbeam_api API

TODO Used by rebar plugin