I have a few projects I use custom Homebrew taps with. I never remember to update the formulae versions when I update the projects. So, I finally decided to automate the process with GitHub Actions.

First, a quick detour on Homebrew taps. These additional repositories of formulae you can install with Homebrew. You must name them with a homebrew- prefix. In the root of the repository, you need a Formula/ directory. This directory contains one or more .rb files that specify how Homebrew should install a piece of software.

Homebrew taps are useful if you want a way for other macOS users to quickly install your software without having to download your main project repo or curl a bunch of files. Since they are under your control, you don’t need to submit pull requests to the main Homebrew/homebrew-core project. Personally, I use them because none of my projects are all that popular.

With that out of the way, I’ll recap how I recently automated this for my slack-notify project.

Homebrew Tap Setup

First, I created a new repository itspriddle/homebrew-slack-notify. This will contain the formula to install slack-notify (via brew install itspriddle/slack-notify/slack-notify). The formula lives in Formula/slack-notify.rb and looks something like:

class SlackNotify < Formula
  version "0.0.2"

  homepage "https://github.com/itspriddle/slack-notify"
  url      "https://github.com/itspriddle/slack-notify/archive/v#{version}.tar.gz"
  sha256   "2cfbed59688dbc74a1341b09f885216bf3bddd8302853cb3f4911f73373eafd4"

  head "https://github.com/itspriddle/slack-notify.git"

  def install
    bin.install "bin/slack-notify"
    man1.install "share/man/man1/slack-notify.1"

Whenever I release a new version of slack-notify, the version number and SHA256 checksum for the release need to be updated in the formula.

To handle updating the formula, I created this script in .github/scripts/update-formula in homebrew-slack-notify:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

set -e

# Require VERSION to be set, and not blank. If missing, exit with the message
# "Must specify version".
: "${VERSION:?Must specify version}"

# Calculate the SHA256 checksum for the release. We fetch it straight from
# GitHub with `curl` and pipe the output to the `shasum` command to get a
# SHA256 checksum. That command outputs two words and we just need the first,
# so fetch it with `awk`
  curl -sL "https://github.com/itspriddle/slack-notify/archive/$VERSION.tar.gz" |
    shasum -a 256 |
    awk '{ print $1 }'

# This writes a new version of the Formula/slack-notify.rb file using the
# VERSION number and SHASUM we set above.
# `cat <<EOF` prints a string with the formula (i.e. the entire
# `SlackNotify` class definition down to the second `EOF` line). This is
# written to the slack-notify.rb file using `>` redirection.

# The `${0%/*}/../../Formula/slack-notify.rb` part finds the slack-notify.rb
# file relative to this update-formula file itself. `${0%/*}` is bash
# parameter expansion which deletes the first occurrence of `/*` (i.e.
# everything after the last slash) from the value of `$0`. Then we just use
# standard relative paths to go up 2 directories.
cat <<EOF > "${0%/*}/../../Formula/slack-notify.rb"
class SlackNotify < Formula
  version "${VERSION#v}"

  homepage "https://github.com/itspriddle/slack-notify"
  url      "https://github.com/itspriddle/slack-notify/archive/v#{version}.tar.gz"
  sha256   "$SHASUM"

  head "https://github.com/itspriddle/slack-notify.git"

  def install
    bin.install "bin/slack-notify"
    man1.install "share/man/man1/slack-notify.1"

This script requires an environment variable to be set, VERSION, which specifies git tag name for the release. It fetches the release and calculates the SHA256 checksum. Then the formula file is updated with those values.

It is run like:

VERSION=v0.0.2 .github/scripts/update-formula 

Next, the actual GitHub Actions workflow

        description: 'Version'
        required: true
        type: string

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - uses: actions/checkout@v3
      - name: Update formula
        run: |
          mkdir -p Formula

          VERSION='${{ github.event.inputs.version }}' ./.github/scripts/update-formula

          git config --global user.name 'Joshua Priddle'
          git config --global user.email 'jpriddle@me.com'
          git add Formula/slack-notify.rb
          git commit -m 'Updated slack-notify to ${{ github.event.inputs.version }}'
          git push origin master

Note: I had to update the repository settings on GitHub to allow actions to write access.

This workflow gets triggered manually. Using Github CLI, I can run it like:

gh workflow run release.yml -f version=v0.0.2 -R itspriddle/homebrew-slack-notify

Since GitHub Actions includes GitHub CLI, the release workflow for slack-notify (not homebrew-slack-notify) can trigger it. My release.yml workflow looks like:

name: Upload zip on new tag

      - "v*"

      actions: write
      contents: write
    runs-on: ubuntu-20.04
      - uses: actions/checkout@v3
      - name: Get version
        id: version
        run: echo "VERSION=${GITHUB_REF##refs/tags/}" >> "$GITHUB_ENV"
      - name: Prepare zip archive
        run: VERSION=${{ env.VERSION }} make archive
      - name: Upload archive to release
        uses: softprops/action-gh-release@v1
          files: pkg/slack-notify-${{ env.VERSION }}.zip
      - name: Update homebrew tap
        run: gh workflow run release.yml -f version=${{ env.VERSION }} -R itspriddle/homebrew-slack-notify
          GITHUB_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GH_TOKEN }}

This workflow runs any time a tag with a prefix of v is pushed. It creates a zip of the release and uploads it to the GitHub release. Then it triggers the homebrew-slack-notify workflow with the version number of the release.

No more forgetting to update the formulae!