FAQ - App Developers

How do I get my app included?

Please check the inclusion policy to make sure your app is suitable for inclusion in the official F-Droid repo. The quickest way to get an app included is to make a merge request to fdroiddata, following these instructions. There’s also a Submitting to F-Droid Quick Start Guide. Requests for packaging can be posted in the Requests for Packaging tracker.

You can also set up your own repo and distribute apps yourself, outside of the F-Droid.org repo.

How do I change the description and add meta information like screenshots?

There are three locations we pull metadata from:

While you cannot edit the last one, merge requests to the metadata repository updating the description are quite welcome. Screenshots on the other hand are currently only used from upstream repository.

We hope to pull in more stuff (e.g. changelogs) directly from upstream in the future, giving app developers more control of how their app is shown in F-Droid. However, we will always keep a minimal, authoritative metadata repo of our own.

How do I license my app?

There are, broadly, two categories: copyleft and permissive, with the GPLv3 and the Apache 2.0 being the most popular respectively. Choose the former if you insist that derivatives have the same licence and the latter if you permit any kind of re-use.

The overall licence must be compatible with the licence of the components. However we will grant some flexibility when it comes to assets and resources; so if you have, for example, some music under a Creative Commons non-commercial licence (i.e. a Non-Free licence), then we will accept it. The important thing is to include copyright info for assets as well as source code, in the file headers and/or the README. A copy of the licences in the root of the repo is helpful (LICENSE or COPYING files). Also make a note of the copyright and licenses pertaining to external resources or programs and if it does connect to a free service, consider using the Affero GPL. See the Inclusion Policy for more.

How are donations handled?

On the web site and in the F-Droid client, we provide links to donate to your project. Ideally you should have a dedicated page explaining how and why to donate your project, so we can link directly to it. Remember that most users will probably access this straight from the F-Droid client on an Android device. You should also have this information accessible from within your application.

We have fields in our metadata for Bitcoin, Litecoin, Flattr and Liberapay donations. Be sure to contact us if there is a change to any of those or if you stop accepting them; if you accept new methods you can contact us about that too.

If your app is in our repo but we are missing any of the above information, please make sure we know about it.

Will my app be built from source?

Yes. In all but a very few cases (for technical or historical reasons), we build all applications directly from the source code. This guarantees that the source code is available for the version people have installed. While we’re not suggesting that your source code is incomplete, not published or out of date, this happens a lot.

What about versioning?

Android is aware of two version information, the versionName (a user-facing string) and the versionCode (an integer that gets compared to determine what actually IS an update). For additional information, please see the Android Developer Documentation. Please make sure not to have contradicting information (e.g. mismatching AndroidManifest.xml and build.gradle).

We try to build only what you would consider to be releases. These should have matching version names and, more importantly, matching version codes to releases you build yourself, and be built from the same code. Obviously this task is easier if your source code history is clear - for example, if releases are tagged or otherwise labeled. If you tag release, please ensure you keep the same tagging scheme, e.g. if you start using a “v” prefix, keep using that.

We try not to build from a random repository head version.

Do I need to tell you when I update?

We will detect new releases of your app and update our metadata accordingly, which will then cause us to check the code and add new builds to our system. Tags help greatly for adding new versions, but do remember to push the tags to the origin repo each time. Of course, if you move source code to a different website, you should tell us. There are currently some issues around detecting new versions when the AndroidManifest.xml is moved so if there is some urgency, you can let us know if that happens.

Some app developers submit merge requests to us with all the relevant build data when they release. You don’t need to do this, but it can speed things up. Historically, as a small community project, we have been slower to process updates than we’d like to be, but this situation is improving all the time.

Our update checks are dumb and just scrape build files: We do not run any build code, so do not use time-based versioning or any other sort of calculating your version at build time (e.g. moving them to multiple subversions that get concatenated at build or even having complex function calls to do this).

I’ve published a new release. Why is it not in the repository?

When we detect a new release, it may take a few days to make it into the repository as the build process has several steps and runs only once a day. Before the build has completed, the monitor page for your app will list it in F-Droid Monitor - Need updating. As long as the text under Versions stating “The current (recommended) version is xxx (version code yyy)” shows the version numbers corresponding to your latest release, we detected it and the APK should be available soon. Just give it some time.

Another reason could be that the app failed to build. You can watch the build process on F-Droid Monitor - Running and the previous cycle in Build.

What about signing?

Packages built by F-Droid are signed by F-Droid, so all apps in the official F-Droid repo are signed by F-Droid keys. F-Droid will generate a new key for each app that is included. All of the different APKs built from different versions of an app will be signed by the same app key. But do note: if an app is also distributed in an APK signed by the developer, like in the Google Play Store, then the F-Droid APK will have a different signature.

The Android OS requires that for an app to be upgraded in place, it bears the same signature as the currently installed version. This protects against inadvertent installation of an untrusted or unwanted upgrade, and also protects the app’s private data, which can only be accessed by that application (or an application that has been granted root access).

This situation presents a minor inconvenience to users who want to switch from a version signed by one party to a version signed by another. For example, if a user is running a version they installed via F-Droid, and later wish to switch to a version you sign and distribute yourself via another channel, they would have to take the additional step of uninstalling and reinstalling the app. On its own this is not even enough to qualify as a minor inconvenience - however, the consequences of the uninstall are that the app’s private data is removed (again, this is for security) so the user will probably want to export that first, and re-import it afterwards.

We also support reproducible builds, so we can build a version from source and check against your official release. If they match (ignoring the signature) we can then publish your official APK with your signature used. This is a tedious task, since we have to standardize on the build parameters and tools, but it should be worth it in the long run. We also try to verify our own builds and get a lot of binary differences, see our verification server results. However, things will improve over time.

Can APKs signed by my key be included?

Yes, for reproducible builds F-Droid will include your signed APKs in the official F-Droid repo after they were verified as being so. If this fails (e.g. your app can’t be built in a reproducible way or when you want to distribute an app with closed-source components or API keys etc.), you can put any APK in your own “F-Droid binary repo”, and people can add your repo to their F-Droid client in order to get your APKs.

Are reproducible builds required?

No. But we do consider them best practice and hope you’ll consider trying to make your app reproducible. See our inclusion how-to for more information.

How can I handle “fsck error in packed object” for my app?

In order to ensure that our buildserver gets the exact same commits as you put into git, git fsck is enabled by default whenever new commits are fetched. Enabling git fsck ensures that the commits match their SHA1 checksum. Sometimes, git repos have corrupt but usable commits in them that cannot be changed since the whole history is based on the corrupt commit. For those cases, we have the skipList functionality in fdroiddata

Can I run my own F-Droid package repository?

Yes! You can also setup and run your own F-Droid repository of apps and other packages. If you also release your own app via other app stores, like Google Play, we recommend that you also include those releases in your own binary repo, for among other reasons, this will provide a source of APKs for reproducible builds. This repository can be a “simple binary repo”, which does not use the fdroidserver build system, or you could host your own mirror of the full F-Droid.org repo.

Can I see who’s installing my app?

No. While information and metrics about installations would be interesting and useful to you, it would also require us to track and monitor our users, something we won’t do. We don’t have any information about what apps or versions people install, whether they keep them installed, what other software or OS version they’re running, or indeed anything else, so we can’t pass that information on to you.

Can I track users from my app?

You can, but if you include any kind of tracking or analytics in your application (even sending crash reports) this must be something that the user explicitly opts in to - i.e. you ask them on first run, before sending anything anywhere, or there’s a preference that defaults to OFF. In all other cases, we may still include the app, but it will be flagged with our ‘Tracking’ Anti-Feature, which means users will only ever see the app if they choose to view such apps.

Additionally, note that third party analytics libraries that come in the form of proprietary software (for example, Google Analytics or Flurry) are not acceptable here.

Can I include advertising?

Yes, but:

  1. Many users don’t like ads and find them intrusive. We flag applications that include ads, so people know what they’re getting. They can choose whether or not these apps will be shown to them.
  2. Frequently incorporating ads into an app is done by including proprietary software in the form of a binary library (jar file). Obviously this would make your app ineligible for inclusion.

Which libraries and dependencies are good to use?

To be FLOSS, your entire app has to be, including dependencies. If you use Non-Free/proprietary libraries, we cannot build your app and thus it cannot be included in our mainline repository (see “Can I run my own app repo?” in that case). Unfortunately that rules out any libraries that are part of the “Google repository” from the SDK manager (e.g. play-services, fabric, firebase) – only the “Android support repository” is allowed.

For external resources, please restrain yourself to “well known repositories”, e.g. mavenCentral or JCenter (see complete listing in the “srclib” section of Build Metadata Reference). Please note that e.g. Bintray does not only offers JCenter, but user-repos as well. Those are not part of the trusted repository list.

If you require dependencies that are not available through those repositories, please do not use binary jar files directly, but provide an easy way to build them from source: e.g. by providing a “pre-build” script, by including them to your actual build process (gradle task) and including the library source in your project (hard or by submodule).

Replacements for known “usual suspects”:

Note, that all of following are just subjective popularity-based suggestions; there may be other FOSS projects better suited for your needs.

  • Crittercism, BugSense — ACRA
  • Google Analytics — Piwik
  • Google Maps — OpenStreetMap, e.g. through mapsforge or osmdroid

Aren’t Google’s SDK and libraries free, open source software?

While much of Android is free open source software, much of it is not at all. The Android SDK binaries is made available by Google under a proprietary license but almost all of the source code for the Android SDK is available under the Apache license. Google APIs, used for building apps using Google Services like Maps, GCM, etc, are free to the extent that the library comes pre-installed on the device. Almost all of the Google libraries, like Play Services, Google Admob, and GCM, are proprietary and cannot be included in the main F-Droid repository.

Which build system to use?

We have good support for “ant” and “gradle” based builds, while “maven” was only used for a short period of time and for dependencies. For other build systems, you might have to provide us some detailed information on how to handle that, so we can setup the app correctly or maybe even incorporate them into our server tools.

Special note on Cordova/Phonegap/HTML-Apps:

We cannot build cordova apps directly, but recent version allows you to export the platform-specific code that can be build standalone using “gradle”. So for now we require this code to be present and up-to-date in the source repository.

How do I get my app removed?

As a best practice our packaging team usually makes sure we have consent from upstream developers, before adding apps to the official f-droid.org repository. Should you for whatever reason want us to remove your app from the official f-droid.org repository, please ask our packaging team to do so. The probably fastest way to get your request processed is to open an issue on our data issue tracker. You can also get in contact with our team on our other communication channels.

How could my app be removed?

Any changes to your app that result in a violation of our inclusion policy will get your app removed or archived. E.g. you could use a license for future versions that prohibits anyone from distributing it, or you could introduce proprietary binaries into your source code. Both of those things will ensure that those future versions do not appear in our repository, but you would have to go a lot further (e.g. serious security flaws in the previous versions, combined with unpublished source code and an uncooperative attitude) for us to actually remove the whole application.

In some rare cases we also have to comply with take-down requests in accordance with our other policies. Generally speaking we recommend steering clear of trademark and copyright infringements.

I see apps on the big stores that are blatant copies. Wouldn’t it be better if I made my app closed source?

Firstly, it depends on the license: unless you apply a copyleft licence like the GPLv3, other people can do whatever they like with the source code (though they may be required to rebrand it). If your app is GPLv3 and no source code is published by the plagiarists; their versions obviously include proprietary ad libraries, or any sign of your authorship was simply removed, those copies are breaking the law and you should demand Google to remove them from their app store. You may threaten them with DMCA or other local laws if you wish. If all else fails, before going proprietary, balance the loss and confusion to the users and maintainers of the free app against the feeling of justice that you’ll get by seeing those illegal clones lose the few cents in ad revenue that they would have got. In the longer run we want to improve donations via F-Droid so you can be supported financially and we already support Bitcoin, Litecoin, OpenCollective, Flattr and Liberapay as well as any other payment method that you can suggest via a website.

How is the F-Droid client git workflow structured?

git allows tons of flexibility in the workflow of how people work together, so it is important to clearly define the workflow of this community so that people know what to expect. The git workflow the F-Droid client app uses is relatively simple and based on the very common workflow established by github.com, gitlab.com and others like it. Here’s a break down of what that means:

  • all development work happens in the master branch
  • code is submitted for inclusion via Merge Requests (MRs)
  • releases happen in a short-lived, stable release branch per major release (e.g. stable-0.95, stable-0.96, stable-0.97, etc.)
  • the work that goes into the stable release branch must be tightly focused and as small as possible to keep the release cycle as short as possible
  • the master branch must never be merged with any stable release branch
  • stable release branches must never be merged with the master branch
  • Merge Requests for a stable release branch can include commits from master
  • not all commits that are included in a stable release branch are required to be in master
  • what you do in your git forks is up to you, but the final merge request should not include merge commits

Here is the discussion from the meeting where we nailed this down: https://web.archive.org/web/20171220230923/https://botbot.me/freenode/fdroid-dev/2015-08-04/?msg=46407489&page=1

This article includes a good discussion of “feature branches” versus “release branches” and short-lived vs. long-lived branches: http://blogs.atlassian.com/2013/11/the-essence-of-branch-based-workflows/