Using reprounzip

While reprozip is responsible for tracing and packing an experiment, reprounzip is the component used for the unpacking step. reprounzip is distributed with three unpackers for Linux (reprounzip directory, reprounzip chroot, and reprounzip installpkgs), but more unpackers are supported by installing additional plugins; some of these plugins are compatible with different environments as well (e.g.: reprounzip-vagrant and reprounzip-docker).

Inspecting a Package

Showing Package Information

Before unpacking an experiment, it is often useful to have further information with respect to its package. The reprounzip info command allows users to do so:

$ reprounzip info <package>

where <package> corresponds to the experiment package (i.e., the .rpz file).

The output of this command has three sections. The first section, Pack information, contains general information about the experiment package, including size and total number of files:

----- Pack information -----
Compressed size: <compressed-size>
Unpacked size: <unpacked-size>
Total packed paths: <number>

The next section, Metadata, contains information about dependencies (i.e., software packages), machine architecture from the packing environment, and experiment runs:

----- Metadata -----
Total software packages: <total-number-software-packages>
Packed software packages: <number-packed-software-packages>
Architecture: <original-architecture> (current: <current-architecture>)
Distribution: <original-operating-system> (current: <current-operating-system>)
    <run-id>: <command-line>
    <run-id>: <command-line>

Note that, for Architecture and Distribution, the command shows information with respect to both the original environment (i.e., the environment where the experiment was packed) and the current one (i.e., the environment where the experiment is to be unpacked). This helps users understand the differences between the environments in order to provide a better guidance in choosing the most appropriate unpacker.

If the verbose mode is used, more detailed information on the runs is provided:

$ reprounzip -v info <package>
----- Metadata -----
    <run-id>: <command-line>
        wd: <working-directory>
        exitcode: <exit-code>
    <run-id>: <command-line>
        wd: <working-directory>
        exitcode: <exit-code>

Last, the section Unpackers shows which of the installed reprounzip unpackers can be successfully used in the current environment:

----- Unpackers -----

Compatible lists the unpackers that can be used in the current environment, while Incompatible lists the unpackers that are not supported in the current environment. When using the verbose mode, an additional Unknown list shows the installed unpackers that may not work. As an example, for an experiment originally packed on Ubuntu and a user reproducing it on Windows, the vagrant unpacker (available through the reprounzip-vagrant plugin) is compatible, but installpkgs is not; vagrant may also be listed under Unknown if vagrant is not in PATH (e.g.: if Vagrant is not installed).

Showing Input and Output Files

The reprounzip showfiles command can be used to list the input and output files defined for the experiment. These files are identified by an id, which is either chosen by ReproZip or set in the configuration file before creating the .rpz file:

$ reprounzip showfiles package.rpz
Input files:
Output files:

Using the flag -v shows the complete path of each of these files in the experiment environment:

$ reprounzip -v showfiles package.rpz
Input files:
    program_config (/home/user/.progrc)
    ipython_config (/home/user/.ipython/profile_default/
    input_data (/home/user/experiment/input.bin)
Output files:
    rendered_image (/home/user/experiment/output.png)
    logfile (/home/user/experiment/log.txt)

You can use the --input or --output flags to show only files that are inputs or outputs. If the package contains multiple runs, you can also filter files for a specific run:

$ reprounzip -v showfiles package.rpz preprocessing-step
Input files:
    input_data (/home/user/experiment/input.bin)
Output files:
    logfile (/home/user/experiment/log.txt)

where preprocessing-step is the run id. To see the dataflow of the experiment, please refer to Visualizing the Provenance Graph.

The reprounzip showfiles command is particularly useful if you want to replace an input file with your own, or to get and save an output file for further examination. Please refer to Managing Input and Output Files for more information.

New in version 1.0.4: The --input and --output flags.

Creating a Provenance Graph

ReproZip also allows users to generate a provenance graph related to the experiment execution by reading the metadata available in the .rpz package. This graph shows the experiment runs as well as the files and other dependencies they access during execution; this is particularly useful to visualize and understand the dataflow of the experiment.

See Visualizing the Provenance Graph for details.


From the same .rpz package, reprounzip allows users to set up the experiment for reproduction in several ways by the use of different unpackers. Unpackers are plugins that have general interface and commands, but can also provide their own command-line syntax and options. Thanks to the decoupling between packing and unpacking steps, .rpz files from older versions of ReproZip can be used with new unpackers.

The reprounzip tool comes with three unpackers that are only compatible with Linux (reprounzip directory, reprounzip chroot, and reprounzip installpkgs). Additional unpackers, such as reprounzip vagrant and reprounzip docker, can be installed separately. Next, each unpacker is described in more details; for more information on how to use an unpacker, please refer to Using an Unpacker.

The directory Unpacker: Unpacking as a Plain Directory

The directory unpacker (reprounzip directory) allows users to unpack the entire experiment (including library dependencies) in a single directory, and to reproduce the experiment directly from that directory. It does so by automatically setting up environment variables (e.g.: PATH, HOME, and LD_LIBRARY_PATH) that point the experiment execution to the created directory, which has the same structure as in the packing environment.

Please note that, although this unpacker is easy to use and does not require any privilege on the reproducing machine, it is unreliable since the directory is not isolated in any way from the remainder of the system. In particular, should the experiment use absolute paths, they will hit the host system instead. However, if the system has all the required packages (see The installpkgs Unpacker: Installing Software Packages), and the experiment’s files are addressed with relative paths, the use of this unpacker should not cause any problems.


reprounzip directory provides no isolation of the filesystem, as mentioned before. If the experiment uses absolute paths, either provided by you or hardcoded in the experiment, they will point outside the unpacked directory. Please be careful to use relative paths in the configuration and command line if you want this unpacker to work with your experiment. Other unpackers are more reliable in this regard.


reprounzip directory is automatically distributed with reprounzip.

The chroot Unpacker: Providing Isolation with the chroot Mechanism

In the chroot unpacker (reprounzip chroot), similar to reprounzip directory, a directory is created from the experiment package; however, a full system environment is also built, which can then be run with chroot(2), a Linux mechanism that changes the root directory / for the experiment to the experiment directory. Therefore, this unpacker addresses the limitation of the directory unpacker and does not fail in the presence of hardcoded absolute paths. Note as well that it does not interfere with the current environment since the experiment is isolated in that single directory.


Do not try to delete the experiment directory manually; always use reprounzip chroot destroy. If /dev is mounted inside, you will also delete your system’s device pseudo-files (these can be restored by rebooting or running the MAKEDEV script).


Although chroot offers pretty good isolation, it is not considered completely safe: it is possible for processes owned by root to “escape” to the outer system. We recommend not running untrusted programs with this plugin.


reprounzip chroot is automatically distributed with reprounzip.

The installpkgs Unpacker: Installing Software Packages

By default, ReproZip identifies if the current environment already has the required software packages for the experiment, then using the installed ones for reproduction. For the non-installed software packages, it uses the dependencies packed in the original environment and extracted under the experiment directory.

Users may also let ReproZip try and install all the dependencies of the experiment on their machine by using the installpkgs unpacker (reprounzip installpkgs). This unpacker currently works for distribution based on Debian or RPM packages (e.g.: Ubuntu, CentOS, Fedora, ...), and uses the package manager to automatically install all the required software packages directly on the current machine, thus interfering with your environment.

To install the required dependencies, the following command should be used:

$ reprounzip installpkgs <package>

Users may use flag y or assume-yes to automatically confirm all the questions from the package manager; flag missing to install only the software packages that were not originally included in the experiment package (i.e.: software packages excluded in the configuration file); and flag summary to simply provide a summary of which software packages are installed or not in the current environment without installing any dependency.


Note that the package manager may not install the same software version as required for running the experiment, and if the versions are incompatible, the reproduction may fail.


This unpacker is only used to install software packages. Users still need to use either reprounzip directory or reprounzip chroot to extract the experiment and execute it.


reprounzip installpkgs is automatically distributed with reprounzip.

The vagrant Unpacker: Building a Virtual Machine

The vagrant unpacker (reprounzip vagrant) allows an experiment to be unpacked into a Virtual Machine and reproduced in that emulated environment, by automatically using Vagrant. Therefore, the experiment can be reproduced in any environment supported by this tool, i.e., Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. Note that the plugin assumes that Vagrant and VirtualBox are installed on your machine.

In addition to the commands listed in Using an Unpacker, you can use suspend to save the virtual machine state to disk, and setup/start to restart a previously-created machine:

$ reprounzip vagrant suspend <path>
$ reprounzip vagrant setup/start <path>

The setup command also takes a --memory argument to explicitely select how many megabytes of RAM to allocate to the virtual machine.


This unpacker is not distributed with reprounzip; it is a separate package that should be installed before use (see Installation).

New in version 1.0.1: The --memory option.

New in version 1.0.4: The suspend command.

The docker Unpacker: Building a Docker Container

ReproZip can also extract and reproduce experiments as Docker containers. The docker unpacker (reprounzip docker) is responsible for such integration and it assumes that Docker is already installed in the current environment.

You can pass arguments to the docker(1) program by using the --docker-option option to the setup or run commands.

Thanks to Docker’s image layers feature, you can easily go back to the initial image after having run commands in the environment or replaced input files. To do that, use the reset command:

$ reprounzip docker reset <path>


This unpacker is not distributed with reprounzip; it is a separate package that should be installed before use (see Installation).

Using an Unpacker

Once you have chosen (and installed) an unpacker for your machine, you can use it to setup and run a packaged experiment. An unpacker creates an experiment directory in which the working files are placed; these can be either the full filesystem (for directory or chroot unpackers) or other content (e.g.: a handle on a virtual machine for the vagrant unpacker); for the chroot unpacker, it might have mount points. To make sure that you free all resources and that you do not damage your environment, you should always use the destroy command to delete the experiment directory, not just merely delete it manually. See more information about this command below.

All the following commands need to state which unpacker is being used (i.e., reprounzip directory for the directory unpacker, reprounzip chroot for the chroot unpacker, reprounzip vagrant for the vagrant unpacker, and reprounzip docker for the docker unpacker). For the purpose of this documentation, we will use the vagrant unpacker; to use a different one, just replace vagrant in the following with the unpacker of your interest.

See also

Structure of Unpacked Experiments provides further detailed information on unpackers.

Setting Up an Experiment Directory


Some unpackers require an Internet connection during the setup command, to download some of the support software or the packages that were not packed. Make sure that you have an Internet connection, and that there is no firewall blocking the access.

To create the directory where the execution will take place, the setup command should be used:

$ reprounzip vagrant setup <package> <path>

where <path> is the directory where the experiment will be unpacked, i.e., the experiment directory.

Note that, once this is done, you should only remove <path> with the destroy command described below: deleting this directory manually might leave files behind, or even damage your system through bound filesystems.

The other unpacker commands take the <path> argument; they do not need the original package for the reproduction.

Reproducing the Experiment

After creating the directory, the experiment can be reproduced by issuing the run command:

$ reprounzip vagrant run <path>

which will execute the experiment inside the experiment directory. Users may also change the command line of the experiment by using --cmdline:

$ reprounzip vagrant run <path> --cmdline <new-command-line>

where <new-command-line> is the modified command line. This is particularly useful to reproduce and test the experiment under different input parameter values. Using --cmdline without an argument only prints the original command line.

If the package contains multiple runs (separate commands that were packed together), all the runs are reproduced. You can also provide the id of the run or runs to be used:

$ reprounzip vagrant run <path> <run-id>
$ reprounzip vagrant run <path> <run-id> --cmdline <new-command-line>

For example:

$ reprounzip vagrant run unpacked-experiment 0-1,3  # First, second, and fourth runs
$ reprounzip vagrant run unpacked-experiment 2-  # Third run and up
$ reprounzip vagrant run unpacked-experiment compile,test  # Runs named 'compile' and 'test', in this order

If the experiment involves running a GUI tool, the graphical interface can be enable by using --enable-x11:

$ reprounzip vagrant run <path> --enable-x11

which will forward the X connection from the experiment to the X server running on your machine. In this case, make sure you have a running X server.

Note that in some situations, you might want to pass specific environment variables to the experiment, for example to set execution limits or parameters (such as OpenMPI information). To that effect, you can use the --pass-env VARNAME option to pass variables from the current machine, overriding the value from the original packing machine (VARNAME can be a regex). You can also set a variable to any value using --set-env VARNAME=value. For example:

$ reprounzip vagrant run unpacked-experiment --pass-env 'OMPI_.*' --pass-env LANG --set-env DATA_SERVER_ADDRESS=localhost

New in version 1.0.3: The --pass-env and -set-env options.

Removing the Experiment Directory

The destroy command will unmount mounted paths, destroy virtual machines, free container images, and delete the experiment directory:

$ reprounzip vagrant destroy <path>

Make sure you always use this command instead of simply deleting the directory manually.

Managing Input and Output Files

When tracing an experiment, ReproZip tries to identify which are the input and output files of the experiment. This can also be adjusted in the configuration file before packing. If the unpacked experiment has such files, ReproZip provides some commands to manipulate them.

First, you can list these files using the showfiles command:

$ reprounzip showfiles <path>
Input files:
Output files:

To replace an input file with your own, reprounzip, you can use the upload command:

$ reprounzip vagrant upload <path> <input-path>:<input-id>

where <input-path> is the new file’s path and <input-id> is the input file to be replaced (from showfiles). This command overwrites the original path in the environment with the file you provided from your system. To restore the original input file, the same command, but in the following format, should be used:

$ reprounzip vagrant upload <path> :<input-id>

Running the showfiles command shows what the input files are currently set to:

$ reprounzip showfiles <path> --input
Input files:

In this example, the input program_config has not been changed (the one bundled in the .rpz file will be used), while the input ipython_config has been replaced.

After running the experiment, all the generated output files will be located under the experiment directory. To copy an output file from this directory to another desired location, use the download command:

$ reprounzip vagrant download <path> <output-id>:<output-path>

where <output-id> is the output file to be copied (from showfiles) and <output-path> is the desired destination of the file. If an empty destination is specified, the file will be printed to stdout:

$ reprounzip vagrant download <path> <output-id>:

You can also omit the colon : altogether to download the file to the current directory under its original name:

$ reprounzip vagrant download <path> <output-id>

or even use --all to download every output file to the current directory under their original names.

Note that the upload command takes the file id on the right side of the colon (meaning that the path is the origin, and the id is the destination), while the download command takes it on the left side (meaning that the id is the origin, and the path is the destination). Both commands move data from left to right.

New in version 1.0.4: Allow download <output-id> (no explicit destination), and add --all.

Running the Experiment in VisTrails

In addition to reproducing the experiment, you may want to edit its dataflow by inserting your own processes between and around the experiment steps, or even by connecting multiple ReproZip’d experiments. However, manually managing the experiment workflow (with the help of reprounzip upload/download commands) can quickly become painful.

To allow users to easily manage these workflows, reprounzip provides a plugin for the VisTrails scientific workflow management system, which has easy-to-use interfaces to run and modify a dataflow. See VisTrails Plugin for more information.

Further Considerations

Reproducing Multiple Execution Paths

The reprozip component can only guarantee that reprounzip will successfully reproduce the same execution path that the original experiment followed. There is no guarantee that the experiment won’t need a different set of files if you use a different configuration; if some of these files were not packed into the .rpz package, the reproduction may fail.