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Yevhenii Babichenko
Yevhenii Babichenko

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Automated multi-platform releases with GitHub Actions

The original article published in my blog.

GitHub Actions allows you to create releases, build binaries, and upload them. Unfortunately, there is no official tutorial on how to create a release, build the code for multiple platforms, and upload binaries to the release. I will cover how to do that without any 3rd-party actions in this post. I assume that you are familiar with the basics of GitHub Actions.

Selecting the workflow trigger

First things first: let's select the trigger for our workflow. I git tags for versioning, and for simplicity they begin with v, so the simplest trigger we can use

on:
  push:
    tags:
      - 'v[0-9]+.*'

Let's continue to defining our jobs.

Creating the release

Since we are going to do multiple builds defined in a matrix, creating the new release should be obviously done in a separate job. GitHub has the official example for that. The only difference from the example is that we add the job output. This output will be used by build jobs to upload their results to the created release.

jobs:
  create_release:
    name: Create release
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    # Note this. We are going to use that in further jobs.
    outputs:
      upload_url: ${{ steps.create_release.outputs.upload_url }}
    steps:
      - name: Create release
        id: create_release
        uses: actions/create-release@v1
        env:
          GITHUB_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
        with:
          tag_name: ${{ github.ref }}
          release_name: Release ${{ github.ref }}
          draft: false
          prerelease: false

Build and upload

This is the final step. I won't dive into the details too much because you will have your own build scenarios. But here are a couple of things to highlight:

  • The build jobs will have create_release as a dependency.
  • The output of create_release is used in the last "upload step".

You can get more details on assets uploads here.

# ...
  release_assets:
    name: Release assets
    needs: create_release # we need to know the upload URL
    runs-on: ${{ matrix.config.os }} # we run many different builds
    strategy:
      # just an example matrix
      matrix:
        config:
          - os: ubuntu-latest
          - os: macos-latest
          - os: windows-latest
    steps:
      # checkout of cource
      - name: Checkout code
        uses: actions/checkout@v1
      # ... whatever build and packaging steps you need here
      # and finally do an upload!
      - name: Upload release assets
        uses: actions/upload-release-asset@v1
        env:
          GITHUB_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
        with:
          upload_url: ${{ needs.create_release.outputs.upload_url }}
          # This is how it will be named on the release page. Put hatever name
          # you like, remember that they need to be different for each platform.
          # You can choose any build matrix parameters. For Rust I use the
          # target triple.
          asset_name: program-name-${{ matrix.config.os }}
          # The path to the file you want to upload.
          asset_path: ./path/to/your/file
          # probably you will need to change it, but most likely you are
          # uploading a binary file
          asset_content_type: application/octet-stream

A note on executable formats: if you are building for Windows and uploading an .exe you can use two different steps for uploading the executable. One should have if: matrix.config.os == 'windows-latest' and asset path asset_path: ./path/to/your/file.exe. For *nix operating systems that usually are not using extensions for executables, use if: matrix.config.os != 'windows-latest'. This is a very useful trick overall when creating jobs that should handle multiple platforms.

Discussion (2)

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Neeraj Kashyap

Thank you, didn't know about needs and this helped a lot!

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Milan Raj

Seeing the pattern for sharing outputs between jobs helped a bunch! Thanks!