Build System Overview

Electron uses gyp for project generation and ninja for building. Project configurations can be found in the .gyp and .gypi files.

Gyp Files

Following gyp files contain the main rules for building Electron:

  • atom.gyp defines how Electron itself is built.
  • common.gypi adjusts the build configurations of Node to make it build together with Chromium.
  • vendor/brightray/brightray.gyp defines how brightray is built and includes the default configurations for linking with Chromium.
  • vendor/brightray/brightray.gypi includes general build configurations about building.

Component Build

Since Chromium is quite a large project, the final linking stage can take quite a few minutes, which makes it hard for development. In order to solve this, Chromium introduced the "component build", which builds each component as a separate shared library, making linking very quick but sacrificing file size and performance.

In Electron we took a very similar approach: for Debug builds, the binary will be linked to a shared library version of Chromium's components to achieve fast linking time; for Release builds, the binary will be linked to the static library versions, so we can have the best possible binary size and performance.

Minimal Bootstrapping

All of Chromium's prebuilt binaries (libchromiumcontent) are downloaded when running the bootstrap script. By default both static libraries and shared libraries will be downloaded and the final size should be between 800MB and 2GB depending on the platform.

By default, libchromiumcontent is downloaded from Amazon Web Services. If the LIBCHROMIUMCONTENT_MIRROR environment variable is set, the bootstrap script will download from it. libchromiumcontent-qiniu-mirror is a mirror for libchromiumcontent. If you have trouble in accessing AWS, you can switch the download address to it via export LIBCHROMIUMCONTENT_MIRROR=

If you only want to build Electron quickly for testing or development, you can download just the shared library versions by passing the --dev parameter:

$ ./script/ --dev
$ ./script/ -c D

Two-Phrase Project Generation

Electron links with different sets of libraries in Release and Debug builds. gyp, however, doesn't support configuring different link settings for different configurations.

To work around this Electron uses a gyp variable libchromiumcontent_component to control which link settings to use and only generates one target when running gyp.

Target Names

Unlike most projects that use Release and Debug as target names, Electron uses R and D instead. This is because gyp randomly crashes if there is only one Release or Debug build configuration defined, and Electron only has to generate one target at a time as stated above.

This only affects developers, if you are just building Electron for rebranding you are not affected.