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How Dist::Zilla Builds Your Dist

A Dist::Zilla object represents your distribution, and provides methods that implement dzil commands like release and test. The most important of its methods, though, is build. This tells it to take all of its configuration and input and produce a tarball suitable for release. Almost all of this work is done by its plugins, although some work is left for hard-coded glue that holds the plugins together.

The build occurs in phases. For example, first files are gathered into a big pile, then some are removed, then some are rewritten; other work happens, and then finally the files are all written to the build destination. Each phase's work is performed by plugins that perform the role (as in the Moose role) associated with the phase. So, if you want to write a plugin that adds files during the file-gathering phase, you'd write a class that does the role Dist::Zilla::Role::FileGatherer. It is important to realize that a single plugin can perform many of these roles. When more than one plugin can perform work in a given phase, the plugins are run in the order they were listed in configuration.

Learning the build phases and associated plugins is the key to using Dist::Zilla effectively.

Here's a list of the phases, followed by a brief description of some of the most commonly-used:

Other parts of Dist::Zilla's behavior are handled by this same sort of phase-and-plugin setup. There are BeforeRelease, Releaser, and AfterRelease plugins, BuildRunner and TestRunner plugins, VersionProvider plugins, and others. Look at the list of modules in the Dist::Zilla::Role:: namespace for a more complete list.

Some Common Phase Roles


Plugins performing the FileGatherer role have their gather_files methods called early on in the build process, and they're expected to inject files into the distribution's in-memory file listing. Plugins that add files to the distribution are pretty common, and they're easy to implement. For example, the plugins that generate the LICENSE and README files are simple FileGatherer plugins.

A very easy to forget FileGatherer is GatherDir, which adds all the files in a given directory. This plugin is usually used to add the contents of your working directory, so if you don't use it, you won't have any of your on-disk files in your dist.


FilePruner plugins remove files that were just added by FileGatherer plugins. There's the ManifestSkip plugin, which reads a standard MANIFEST.SKIP file to find things to remove, and there's PruneCruft, which removes probably unneeded files like dotdirs, build tools, old builds, and other stuff.


FileMunger plugins look at existing files and screw around with their names or content. One common FileMunger is the PodWeaver plugin, which uses Pod::Weaver to rewrite the documentation of Perl source. There's also PkgVersion, which adds a $VERSION declaration to your source code; and NextRelease, which updates your changelog to have the right version, since you might not know it until you build.

FileMunger plugins can be incredibly useful, but they should be used carefully. It's easy to break your source code or cause other bizarre errors by munging too recklessly.


AfterRelease plugins don't have any special purpose. Their key benefit is that they run code after the successful release of your distribution. This makes them really useful for version control integration, local installation, sending a release announcement, or anything else you want to do after release.

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