Introduction to Bazel: Building an iOS App
In this tutorial, you will learn how to build a simple iOS app. You’ll do the following:
- Set up your environment
- Set up a workspace
- Review the source files
- Create a BUILD file
- Build and deploy the app
- Review your work
Set up your environment
To get started, install Bazel and Xcode, and get the sample project.
Follow the installation instructions to install Bazel and its dependencies.
Download and install Xcode. Xcode contains the compilers, SDKs, and other tools required by Bazel to build Apple applications.
Get the sample project
You also need to get the sample project for the tutorial from GitHub. The GitHub
repo has two branches:
contains the source files for the project only. You’ll use the files in this
branch in this tutorial. The
master branch contains both the source files
and completed Bazel
BUILD files. You can use the files in this
branch to check your work when you’ve completed the tutorial steps.
Enter the following at the command line to get the files in the
cd $HOME git clone -b source-only https://github.com/bazelbuild/examples
git clone command creates a directory named
directory contains several sample projects for Bazel. The project files for this
tutorial are in
Set up a workspace
A workspace is a directory that contains the
source files for one or more software projects, as well as a
BUILD files that contain the instructions that Bazel uses to build
the software. The workspace may also contain symbolic links to output
A workspace directory can be located anywhere on your filesystem and is denoted
by the presence of the
WORKSPACE file at its root. In this tutorial, your
workspace directory is
$HOME/examples/tutorial/, which contains the sample
project files you cloned from the GitHub repo in the previous step.
Note that Bazel itself doesn’t impose any requirements for organizing source files in your workspace. The sample source files in this tutorial are organized according to conventions for the target platform.
For your convenience, set the
$WORKSPACE environment variable now to refer to
your workspace directory. At the command line, enter:
Create a WORKSPACE file
Every workspace must have a text file named
WORKSPACE located in the top-level
workspace directory. This file may be empty or it may contain references
to external dependencies required to build the
For now, you’ll create an empty
WORKSPACE file, which simply serves to
identify the workspace directory. In later steps, you’ll update the file to add
external dependency information.
Enter the following at the command line:
touch $WORKSPACE/WORKSPACE open -a Xcode $WORKSPACE/WORKSPACE
This creates and opens the empty
Update the WORKSPACE file
To build applications for Apple devices, Bazel needs to pull the latest
Apple build rules from its GitHub
repository. To enable this, add the following
rules to your
git_repository( name = "build_bazel_rules_apple", remote = "https://github.com/bazelbuild/rules_apple.git", tag = "0.4.0", ) git_repository( name = "bazel_skylib", remote = "https://github.com/bazelbuild/bazel-skylib.git", tag = "0.3.1", )
NOTE: “Always use the latest version of the build_apple rules
tag attribute. Make sure to check the latest dependencies required in
NOTE: You must set the value of the
name attribute in the
git_repository rule to
build_bazel_rules_apple or the build will fail.
Review the source files
Take a look at the source files for the app located in
$WORKSPACE/ios-app/UrlGet. Again, you’re just looking at these files now to
become familiar with the structure of the app. You don’t have to edit any of the
source files to complete this tutorial.
Create a BUILD file
At a command-line prompt, open a new
BUILD file for editing:
touch $WORKSPACE/ios-app/BUILD open -a Xcode $WORKSPACE/ios-app/BUILD
Add the rule load statement
To build iOS targets, Bazel needs to load build rules from its GitHub repository
whenever the build runs. To make these rules available to your project, add the
following load statement to the beginning of your
We only need to load the
ios_application rule because the
is built into the Bazel package.
Add an objc_library rule
Bazel provides several build rules that you can use to build an app for the
iOS platform. For this tutorial, you’ll first use the
objc_library rule to tell Bazel
how to build a static library from the app source code and Xib files. Then
you’ll use the
rule to tell it how to build the application binary and the
NOTE: This tutorial presents a minimal use case of the Objective-C rules in
Bazel. For example, you have to use the
ios_application rule to build
multi-architecture iOS apps.
Add the following to your
objc_library( name = "UrlGetClasses", srcs = [ "UrlGet/AppDelegate.m", "UrlGet/UrlGetViewController.m", "UrlGet/main.m", ], hdrs = glob(["UrlGet/*.h"]), xibs = ["UrlGet/UrlGetViewController.xib"], )
Note the name of the rule,
Add an ios_application rule
rule builds the application binary and creates the
.ipa bundle file.
Add the following to your
ios_application( name = "ios-app", bundle_id = "Google.UrlGet", families = [ "iphone", "ipad", ], minimum_os_version = "9.0", infoplists = [":UrlGet/UrlGet-Info.plist"], visibility = ["//visibility:public"], deps = [":UrlGetClasses"], )
NOTE: Please update the
minimum_os_version attribute to the minimum
version of iOS that you plan to support.
Note how the
deps attribute references the output of the
you added to the
BUILD file above.
Now, save and close the file. You can compare your
BUILD file to the
master branch of the GitHub repo.
Build and deploy the app
You are now ready to build your app and deploy it to a simulator and onto an iOS device.
NOTE: The app launches standalone but requires a backend server in order to produce output. See the README file in the sample project directory to find out how to build the backend server.
Build the app for the simulator
Make sure that your current working directory is inside your Bazel workspace:
Now, enter the following to build the sample app:
bazel build //ios-app:ios-app
Bazel launches and builds the sample app. During the build process, its output will appear similar to the following:
INFO: Found 1 target... Target //ios-app:ios-app up-to-date: bazel-bin/ios-app/ios-app.ipa INFO: Elapsed time: 0.565s, Critical Path: 0.44s
Find the build outputs
.ipa file and other outputs are located in the
Run and debug the app in the simulator
You can now run the app from Xcode using the iOS Simulator. First, generate an Xcode project using Tulsi.
Then, open the project in Xcode, choose an iOS Simulator as the runtime scheme, and click Run.
Note: If you modify any project files in Xcode (for example, if you add or remove a file, or add or change a dependency), you must rebuild the app using Bazel, re-generate the Xcode project in Tulsi, and then re-open the project in Xcode.
Build the app for a device
To build your app so that it installs and launches on an iOS device, Bazel needs the appropriate provisioning profile for that device model. Do the following:
Go to your Apple Developer Account and download the appropriate provisioning profile for your device. See Apple’s documentation for more information.
Move your profile into
(Optional) Add your profile to your
Add the following line to the
ios_applicationtarget in your
provisioning_profile = "<your_profile_name>.mobileprovision",
NOTE: Ensure the profile is correct so that the app can be installed on a device.
Now build the app for your device:
bazel build //ios-app:ios-app --ios_multi_cpus=armv7,arm64
This builds the app as a fat binary. To build for a specific device architecture, designate it in the build options.
To build for a specific Xcode version, use the
--xcode_version option. To
build for a specific SDK version, use the
--ios_sdk_version option. The
--xcode_version option is sufficient in most scenarios.
To specify a minimum required iOS version, add the
parameter to the
ios_application build rule in your
You can also use Tulsi to build your app using a GUI rather than the command line.
Install the app on a device
The easiest way to install the app on the device is to launch Xcode and use the
Windows > Devices command. Select your plugged-in device from the list on the
left, then add the app by clicking the Add (plus sign) button under
“Installed Apps” and selecting the
.ipa file that you built.
If your app fails to install on your device, ensure that you are specifying the
correct provisioning profile in your
BUILD file (step 4 in the previous
If your app fails to launch, make sure that your device is part of your
provisioning profile. The
View Device Logs button on the
Devices screen in
Xcode may provide other information as to what has gone wrong.
Review your work
In this tutorial, you used Bazel to build an iOS app. To accomplish that, you:
- Set up your environment by installing Bazel and Xcode, and downloading the sample project
- Set up a Bazel workspace that contained the source code
for the app and a
WORKSPACEfile that identifies the top level of the workspace directory
- Updated the
WORKSPACEfile to contain references to the required external dependencies
- Created a
- Ran Bazel to build the app for the simulator and an iOS device
- Ran the app in the simulator and on an iOS device
The built app is located in the
BUILD files for this tutorial are located in the
of the GitHub repo. You can compare your work to the completed files for
additional help or troubleshooting.