Changing Built-in Racket Packages

:: racket

To modify one of the Racket built in packages, a local copy of the package has to be set up first. This is a surprisingly complicated task and I spent more time on it than I would like to admit. To save future me and others some time, I wrote up a set of instructions on how to do it.

In my case, I wanted to add some features to the plot package which ships by default with a Racket installation. I started by following the instructions in this post on the Racket Users mailing list, but it was missing some information, which must have seemed obvious to experienced Racket developers. The steps below contain a hopefully complete list of steps. They work on a Windows 10 machine, with the user having no administrator privileges.

Switch to the development version of the plot package

The plot repository actually contains six packages: “plot”, “plot-compat”, “plot-doc”, “plot-lib”, “plot-gui-lib”, and “plot-test”. They are installed as part of the normal Racket installation, which racket calls “installation scope”. To modify that installation, administrator privileges are needed. Alternatively, the packages can be installed in the “user scope”, as shown in the commands below. Running these commands below will some time as packages and dependencies are rebuilt:

raco pkg install --force --scope user --catalog plot
raco pkg install --force --scope user --catalog plot-lib
raco pkg install --force --scope user --catalog plot-gui-lib
raco pkg install --force --scope user --catalog plot-doc

Next step is to clone the plot package using the command below:

git clone

This will give access to the source code and we can now tell racket to use the source code inside the repository for the packages. This is done using a “raco pkg update” command. Note that there is a trailing slash at the end of the package names: without it, the package name will be looked up in the catalog instead of the specified directory:

cd plot
raco pkg update plot-lib/
raco pkg update plot-gui-lib/

Finally, we can check that the plot packages are indeed installed in a git clone and can be modified:

$ raco pkg show --all --long --rx 'plot-.*'
 Package[*=auto]    Checksum                                    Source
 plot-compat*       cfae0fb19a8c83d6f756cea9d9815f50bb170e05    (catalog "plot-compat")
 plot-doc*          74c466400fb4ece74cef869f3d02d81fb176ff7c    (catalog "plot-doc")
 plot-gui-lib*      7ef4b214d028877e9d0003e357d77bd7e94db967    (catalog "plot-gui-lib")
 plot-lib*          8408c8d63a94ee2cd57713c40fd7e68525107014    (catalog "plot-lib")
User-specific for installation "6.11":
 Package         Checksum    Source
 plot-gui-lib    #f          (link "C:\\Users\\Alex\\rkt-libs\\plot\\plot-gui-lib")
 plot-lib        #f          (link "C:\\Users\\Alex\\rkt-libs\\plot\\plot-lib")

The “plot-gui-lib” and “plot-lib” packages are listed twice. This is because the second installation is in “user scope”. These packages are also listed as being linked to a directory where we cloned the plot package. Since the user scope is searched first, racket will load these packages from the git repository. The source for these packages can now be modified and racket will pick up the changes automatically.

Switching git remotes

In the step above, the main plot package was cloned. Unless you have push access to that repository, it is better to switch to your own fork. Assuming the plot package is already forked on GitHub, the origin branch can be renamed to upstream:

git remote rename origin upstream

… and the fork added as the “origin” remote:

git add remote origin