ConanCenter, the central open-source repository for C and C++ libraries, is a success story, containing a vast collection of C and C++ open-source packages. It processes hundreds of thousands of download requests daily, building its packages from a central GitHub repository, which is organized in a specific folder layout and received nearly 6,000 pull requests from contributors in 2023 alone.

However, ConanCenter does not fit all use cases. For instance, it cannot include closed-source libraries or tools that might still be beneficial to the community. Additionally, some organizations, particularly large enterprises, prefer not to use binaries downloaded from the internet. Instead, they build their own binaries in-house using the conan-center-index recipes. These organizations often need to customize these recipes to meet unique requirements that are not applicable to the broader community, making such contributions unsuitable for the upstream repository. The Conan documentation acknowledges this practice, recommending working from a fork of conan-center-index for such needs.

For all those reasons in version 2.2.0, Conan introduced a new repository type called local-recipes-index, designed to offer more flexibility by allowing a Conan remote to point to a local copy of Conan recipes with a specific layout.

The local-recipes-index allows users to maintain a local folder with the same structure as the conan-center-index GitHub repository, using it as a source for package recipes. This new type of repository is recipes-only, necessitating the construction of package binaries from source on each machine where the package is used. For sharing binaries across teams, we continue to recommend using a Conan remote server like Artifactory for production purposes.

Diagram of the general workflow

In this post, we will explore how this feature facilitates the following:

  • This feature enables contributors to share package recipes with the community for libraries that might not be suitable for ConanCenter due to various reasons, such as licensing constraints or binary distribution policies. An example of this could be CUDA or other proprietary libraries, which are distributed as precompiled closed-source binaries.

  • It simplifies the adoption of best practices outlined in the Conan documentation for organizations requiring custom-built binaries or modified ConanCenter recipes to meet unique requirements. This approach grants users complete control over their third-party dependencies, ensuring they are both robust and fully customizable.

Next, we’ll delve into practical examples to demonstrate these two use cases of the local-recipes-index repository.

Using a local-recipes-index repository with your own recipes

In this section, we will illustrate how to use the local-recipes-index feature for scenarios where certain libraries or tools, due to licensing restrictions or proprietary nature, are not suitable for ConanCenter.

For demonstration purposes, let’s create a local-recipes-index repository for a hypothetical hello closed-source library using the local_recipes_index template for the conan new command:

$ mkdir repo && cd repo
$ conan new local_recipes_index -d name=hello -d version=0.1 \
  -d url= \
  -d sha256=1dfb66cfd1e2fb7640c88cc4798fe25853a51b628ed9372ffc0ca285fe5be16b
$ cd ..

The conan new local_recipes_index command creates a template that assumes CMake as the build system alongside other heavy assumptions. In practice, it will require customizing it, but for this demo, it works as-is. It will create a folder layout equal to the conan-center-index GitHub repository:

└── repo
    └── recipes
        └── hello
            ├── all
            │   ├── conandata.yml
            │   ├──
            │   └── test_package
            │       ├── CMakeLists.txt
            │       ├──
            │       └── src
            │           └── example.cpp
            └── config.yml

After setting up the repository, we add it as a local remote to Conan:

$ conan remote add mylocalrepo ./repo --allowed-packages="hello/*"

Please pay special attention to the --allowed-packages argument. This argument ensures that all packages other than hello are discarded by Conan. This can be used to minimize the surface area for a potential supply chain attack.

Now you can list and install packages from this new repository:

$ conan list "*" -r=mylocalrepo
$ conan install --requires=hello/0.1 -r=mylocalrepo --build=missing

At this point, you could push this repository to your GitHub account and share it with the community. Please be aware that, as we commented earlier, this feature is specifically tailored for scenarios where certain libraries are not suitable for ConanCenter. Remember, a “local-recipes-index” repository has limitations: it is not fully reproducible as it models only versions and not revisions, and it does not provide binaries. Therefore, outside of these cases, it is advised to use a remote package server such as Artifactory.

Now, users simply need to clone the GitHub repository and add the cloned folder as a local repository themselves.

Building Binaries from a private conan-center-index fork

As outlined in the Conan DevOps Guide, there are many cases where organizations need to operate independently of ConanCenter by building their own binaries. Being decoupled from the public upstream ConanCenter server and building your own binaries from a fork of conan-center-index as suggested in the linked documentation page can have many advantages, including absolute control and possibility to customize recipes, giving us the ability for the repository to act as a snapshot of versions, be completely robust against possible continuous changes and new releases in upstream ConanCenter, etc.

The local-recipes-index repository allows you to easily build binaries from a fork of conan-center-index, and then hosting them on a Conan remote repository like Artifactory. The main difference with the process explained in the Conan DevOps guide is the ability to immediately test multiple local changes without the need to export each time a recipe is modified.

Note that in this case, mixing binaries from ConanCenter with locally built binaries is not recommended for several reasons:

  • Binary compatibility: There may be small differences in setup between the ConanCenter CI and the user’s CI. Maintaining a consistent setup for all binaries can mitigate some issues.

  • Full control over builds: Building all binaries yourself ensures you have complete control over the compilation environment and dependency versions.

Instead, it’s recommended to build all your direct and transitive dependencies from the fork. To begin, remove the upstream ConanCenter as it will not be used, everything will come from our own fork:

$ conan remote remove conancenter

Then we will clone our fork (in this case, we are cloning directly the upstream for demo purposes, but you would be cloning your fork instead):

$ git clone

Add this as our mycenter remote:

# Add the mycenter remote pointing to the local folder
$ conan remote add mycenter ./conan-center-index

And that’s all! Now you’re set to list and use packages from your conan-center-index local folder:

$ conan list "zlib/*" -r=mycenter

We can also install packages from this repo, for example we can do:

$ conan install --requires=zlib/1.3
======== Computing dependency graph ========
zlib/1.3: Not found in local cache, looking in remotes...
zlib/1.3: Checking remote: mycenter
zlib/1.3: Downloaded recipe revision 5c0f3a1a222eebb6bff34980bcd3e024
Graph root
    zlib/1.3#5c0f3a1a222eebb6bff34980bcd3e024 - Downloaded (mycenter)

======== Computing necessary packages ========
    zlib/1.3#5c0f3a1a222eebb6bff34980bcd3e024:72c852c5f0ae27ca0b1741e5fd7c8b8be91a590a - Missing
ERROR: Missing binary: zlib/1.3:72c852c5f0ae27ca0b1741e5fd7c8b8be91a590a

As we can see, Conan managed to get the recipe for zlib/1.3 from mycenter, but then it failed because there is no binary. This is expected, the repository only contains the recipes, but not the binaries. We can build the binary from source with --build=missing argument:

$ conan install --requires=zlib/1.3 --build=missing
zlib/1.3: package(): Packaged 2 '.h' files: zconf.h, zlib.h
zlib/1.3: package(): Packaged 1 file: LICENSE
zlib/1.3: package(): Packaged 1 '.a' file: libz.a
zlib/1.3: Created package revision 0466b3475bcac5c2ce37bb5deda835c3
zlib/1.3: Package '72c852c5f0ae27ca0b1741e5fd7c8b8be91a590a' created
zlib/1.3: Full package reference: zlib/1.3#5c0f3a1a222eebb6bff34980bcd3e024:72c852c5f0ae27ca0b1741e5fd7c8b8be91a590a#0466b3475bcac5c2ce37bb5deda835c3
zlib/1.3: Package folder /home/conan/.conan2/p/b/zlib1ed9fe13537a2/p
WARN: deprecated: Usage of deprecated Conan 1.X features that will be removed in Conan 2.X:
WARN: deprecated:     'cpp_info.names' used in: zlib/1.3

======== Finalizing install (deploy, generators) ========
cli: Generating aggregated env files
cli: Generated aggregated env files: ['', '']
Install finished successfully

We can see now the binary package in our local cache:

$ conan list zlib:*
Local Cache
        5c0f3a1a222eebb6bff34980bcd3e024 (2024-04-10 11:50:34 UTC)
                arch: x86_64
                build_type: Release
                compiler: gcc
                compiler.version: 9
                os: Linux
                fPIC: True
                shared: False

Finally, upload the binary package to our Artifactory repository to make it available for our organization, users and CI jobs:

$ conan remote add myartifactoryrepo <artifactory_url>
$ conan upload zlib* -r=myartifactoryrepo -c

This way, consumers of the packages will not only enjoy the pre-compiled binaries and avoid having to always re-build from source all dependencies, but that will also provide stronger guarantees that the dependencies build and work correctly, that all dependencies and transitive dependencies play well together, etc. Decoupling the binary creation process from the binary consumption process is the way to achieve faster and more reliable usage of dependencies.

Remember, in a production setting, the conan upload command should be executed by CI, not developers, following the Conan guidelines. This approach ensures that package consumers enjoy pre-compiled binaries and consistency across dependencies.

Modifying the local-recipes-index repository files

One of the advantages of this approach is that all the changes that we do in every single recipe are automatically available for the Conan client. For example, changes to the recipes/zlib/config.yml file are immediately recognized by the Conan client. If you edit that file and remove all versions but the latest and then we list the recipes:

$ conan list "zlib/*" -r=mycenter

When some of the recipes change, then note that the current Conan home already contains a cached copy of the package, so it will not update it unless we explicitly use the --update, as any other Conan remote.

So if we do a change in the zlib recipe in recipes/zlib/all/ and repeat:

$ conan install --requires=zlib/1.3.1 -r=mycenter --update --build=missing

We will immediately have the new package binary locally built from source from the new modified recipe in our Conan home.

Using local-recipes-index Repositories in Production

Several important points should be considered when using this new feature:

  • It is designed for third-party packages, where recipes in one repository are creating packages with sources located elsewhere. To package your own code, the standard practice of adding recipes along with the source code and using the standard conan create flow is recommended.

  • The local-recipes-index repositories point to local folders in the filesystem. While users may choose to sync that folder with a git repository or other version control mechanisms, Conan is agnostic to this, as it is only aware of the folder in the filesystem that points to the (current) state of the repository. Users may choose to run git commands directly to switch branches/commit/tags and Conan will automatically recognise the changes

  • This approach operates at the source level and does not generate package binaries. For deployment for development and production environments, the use of a remote package server such as Artifactory is crucial. It’s important to note that this feature is not a replacement for Conan’s remote package servers, which play a vital role in hosting packages for regular use.

  • Also, note that a server remote can retain a history of changes storing multiple recipe revisions. In contrast, a local-recipes-index remote can only represent a single snapshot at any given time.

Furthermore, this feature does not support placing server URLs directly in recipes; remote repositories must be explicitly added with conan remote add. Decoupling abstract package requirements, such as “zlib/1.3.1”, from their specific origins is crucial to resolving dependencies correctly and leveraging Conan’s graph capabilities, including version conflict detection and resolution, version-ranges resolution, opting into pre-releases, platform_requires, replace_requires, etc. This separation also facilitates the implementation of modern DevOps practices, such as package immutability, full relocatability and package promotions.


The local-recipes-index repository type introduces a new tool that enables workflows previously not possible with Conan 1.X:

  • It allows the easy creation of packages from forks of the conan-center-index GitHub repository. Many enterprises require this due to policies necessitating private customizations in recipes that are unsuitable for merging into the upstream repository.

  • It provides a solution for packaging closed-source libraries and tools within the C/C++ ecosystem that cannot be included in ConanCenter, enabling their recipes to be shared and conveniently used within the Conan community.