Buildbot v0.8.6p1 documentation


This chapter defines some of the basic concepts that the Buildbot uses. You'll need to understand how the Buildbot sees the world to configure it properly.

Version Control Systems

These source trees come from a Version Control System of some kind. CVS and Subversion are two popular ones, but the Buildbot supports others. All VC systems have some notion of an upstream repository which acts as a server [1], from which clients can obtain source trees according to various parameters. The VC repository provides source trees of various projects, for different branches, and from various points in time. The first thing we have to do is to specify which source tree we want to get.

Generalizing VC Systems

For the purposes of the Buildbot, we will try to generalize all VC systems as having repositories that each provide sources for a variety of projects. Each project is defined as a directory tree with source files. The individual files may each have revisions, but we ignore that and treat the project as a whole as having a set of revisions (CVS is the only VC system still in widespread use that has per-file revisions, as everything modern has moved to atomic tree-wide changesets). Each time someone commits a change to the project, a new revision becomes available. These revisions can be described by a tuple with two items: the first is a branch tag, and the second is some kind of revision stamp or timestamp. Complex projects may have multiple branch tags, but there is always a default branch. The timestamp may be an actual timestamp (such as the -D option to CVS), or it may be a monotonically-increasing transaction number (such as the change number used by SVN and P4, or the revision number used by Bazaar, or a labeled tag used in CVS. [2]) The SHA1 revision ID used by Mercurial, and Git is also a kind of revision stamp, in that it specifies a unique copy of the source tree, as does a Darcs context file.

When we aren't intending to make any changes to the sources we check out (at least not any that need to be committed back upstream), there are two basic ways to use a VC system:

  • Retrieve a specific set of source revisions: some tag or key is used to index this set, which is fixed and cannot be changed by subsequent developers committing new changes to the tree. Releases are built from tagged revisions like this, so that they can be rebuilt again later (probably with controlled modifications).
  • Retrieve the latest sources along a specific branch: some tag is used to indicate which branch is to be used, but within that constraint we want to get the latest revisions.

Build personnel or CM staff typically use the first approach: the build that results is (ideally) completely specified by the two parameters given to the VC system: repository and revision tag. This gives QA and end-users something concrete to point at when reporting bugs. Release engineers are also reportedly fond of shipping code that can be traced back to a concise revision tag of some sort.

Developers are more likely to use the second approach: each morning the developer does an update to pull in the changes committed by the team over the last day. These builds are not easy to fully specify: it depends upon exactly when you did a checkout, and upon what local changes the developer has in their tree. Developers do not normally tag each build they produce, because there is usually significant overhead involved in creating these tags. Recreating the trees used by one of these builds can be a challenge. Some VC systems may provide implicit tags (like a revision number), while others may allow the use of timestamps to mean "the state of the tree at time X" as opposed to a tree-state that has been explicitly marked.

The Buildbot is designed to help developers, so it usually works in terms of the latest sources as opposed to specific tagged revisions. However, it would really prefer to build from reproducible source trees, so implicit revisions are used whenever possible.

Source Tree Specifications

So for the Buildbot's purposes we treat each VC system as a server which can take a list of specifications as input and produce a source tree as output. Some of these specifications are static: they are attributes of the builder and do not change over time. Others are more variable: each build will have a different value. The repository is changed over time by a sequence of Changes, each of which represents a single developer making changes to some set of files. These Changes are cumulative.

For normal builds, the Buildbot wants to get well-defined source trees that contain specific Changes, and exclude other Changes that may have occurred after the desired ones. We assume that the Changes arrive at the buildbot (through one of the mechanisms described in Change Sources) in the same order in which they are committed to the repository. The Buildbot waits for the tree to become stable before initiating a build, for two reasons. The first is that developers frequently make multiple related commits in quick succession, even when the VC system provides ways to make atomic transactions involving multiple files at the same time. Running a build in the middle of these sets of changes would use an inconsistent set of source files, and is likely to fail (and is certain to be less useful than a build which uses the full set of changes). The tree-stable-timer is intended to avoid these useless builds that include some of the developer's changes but not all. The second reason is that some VC systems (i.e. CVS) do not provide repository-wide transaction numbers, so that timestamps are the only way to refer to a specific repository state. These timestamps may be somewhat ambiguous, due to processing and notification delays. By waiting until the tree has been stable for, say, 10 minutes, we can choose a timestamp from the middle of that period to use for our source checkout, and then be reasonably sure that any clock-skew errors will not cause the build to be performed on an inconsistent set of source files.

The Schedulers always use the tree-stable-timer, with a timeout that is configured to reflect a reasonable tradeoff between build latency and change frequency. When the VC system provides coherent repository-wide revision markers (such as Subversion's revision numbers, or in fact anything other than CVS's timestamps), the resulting Build is simply performed against a source tree defined by that revision marker. When the VC system does not provide this, a timestamp from the middle of the tree-stable period is used to generate the source tree [3].

How Different VC Systems Specify Sources

For CVS, the static specifications are repository and module. In addition to those, each build uses a timestamp (or omits the timestamp to mean the latest) and branch tag (which defaults to HEAD). These parameters collectively specify a set of sources from which a build may be performed.

Subversion, combines the repository, module, and branch into a single Subversion URL parameter. Within that scope, source checkouts can be specified by a numeric revision number (a repository-wide monotonically-increasing marker, such that each transaction that changes the repository is indexed by a different revision number), or a revision timestamp. When branches are used, the repository and module form a static baseURL, while each build has a revision number and a branch (which defaults to a statically-specified defaultBranch). The baseURL and branch are simply concatenated together to derive the svnurl to use for the checkout.

Perforce is similar. The server is specified through a P4PORT parameter. Module and branch are specified in a single depot path, and revisions are depot-wide. When branches are used, the p4base and defaultBranch are concatenated together to produce the depot path.

Bzr (which is a descendant of Arch/Bazaar, and is frequently referred to as "Bazaar") has the same sort of repository-vs-workspace model as Arch, but the repository data can either be stored inside the working directory or kept elsewhere (either on the same machine or on an entirely different machine). For the purposes of Buildbot (which never commits changes), the repository is specified with a URL and a revision number.

The most common way to obtain read-only access to a bzr tree is via HTTP, simply by making the repository visible through a web server like Apache. Bzr can also use FTP and SFTP servers, if the buildslave process has sufficient privileges to access them. Higher performance can be obtained by running a special Bazaar-specific server. None of these matter to the buildbot: the repository URL just has to match the kind of server being used. The repoURL argument provides the location of the repository.

Branches are expressed as subdirectories of the main central repository, which means that if branches are being used, the BZR step is given a baseURL and defaultBranch instead of getting the repoURL argument.

Darcs doesn't really have the notion of a single master repository. Nor does it really have branches. In Darcs, each working directory is also a repository, and there are operations to push and pull patches from one of these repositories to another. For the Buildbot's purposes, all you need to do is specify the URL of a repository that you want to build from. The build slave will then pull the latest patches from that repository and build them. Multiple branches are implemented by using multiple repositories (possibly living on the same server).

Builders which use Darcs therefore have a static repourl which specifies the location of the repository. If branches are being used, the source Step is instead configured with a baseURL and a defaultBranch, and the two strings are simply concatenated together to obtain the repository's URL. Each build then has a specific branch which replaces defaultBranch, or just uses the default one. Instead of a revision number, each build can have a context, which is a string that records all the patches that are present in a given tree (this is the output of darcs changes --context, and is considerably less concise than, e.g. Subversion's revision number, but the patch-reordering flexibility of Darcs makes it impossible to provide a shorter useful specification).

Mercurial is like Darcs, in that each branch is stored in a separate repository. The repourl, baseURL, and defaultBranch arguments are all handled the same way as with Darcs. The revision, however, is the hash identifier returned by hg identify.

Git also follows a decentralized model, and each repository can have several branches and tags. The source Step is configured with a static repourl which specifies the location of the repository. In addition, an optional branch parameter can be specified to check out code from a specific branch instead of the default master branch. The revision is specified as a SHA1 hash as returned by e.g. git rev-parse. No attempt is made to ensure that the specified revision is actually a subset of the specified branch.

Monotone is another that follows a decentralized model where each repository can have several branches and tags. The source Step is configured with static repourl and branch parameters, which specifies the location of the repository and the branch to use. The revision is specified as a SHA1 hash as returned by e.g. mtn automate select w:. No attempt is made to ensure that the specified revision is actually a subset of the specified branch.

Attributes of Changes


Each Change has a who attribute, which specifies which developer is responsible for the change. This is a string which comes from a namespace controlled by the VC repository. Frequently this means it is a username on the host which runs the repository, but not all VC systems require this. Each StatusNotifier will map the who attribute into something appropriate for their particular means of communication: an email address, an IRC handle, etc.

This who attribute is also parsed and stored into Buildbot's database (see User Objects). Currently, only who attributes in Changes from git repositories are translated into user objects, but in the future all incoming Changes will have their who parsed and stored.


It also has a list of files, which are just the tree-relative filenames of any files that were added, deleted, or modified for this Change. These filenames are used by the fileIsImportant function (in the Scheduler) to decide whether it is worth triggering a new build or not, e.g. the function could use the following function to only run a build if a C file were checked in:

def has_C_files(change):
    for name in change.files:
        if name.endswith(".c"):
            return True
    return False

Certain BuildSteps can also use the list of changed files to run a more targeted series of tests, e.g. the python_twisted.Trial step can run just the unit tests that provide coverage for the modified .py files instead of running the full test suite.


The Change also has a comments attribute, which is a string containing any checkin comments.


The project attribute of a change or source stamp describes the project to which it corresponds, as a short human-readable string. This is useful in cases where multiple independent projects are built on the same buildmaster. In such cases, it can be used to control which builds are scheduled for a given commit, and to limit status displays to only one project.


A change occurs within the context of a specific repository. This is a string, and for most version-control systems, it takes the form of a URL. It uniquely identifies the repository in which the change occurred. This is particularly helpful for DVCS's, where a change may occur in a repository other than the "main" repository for the project.

Changes can be filtered on repository, but more often this field is used as a hint for the build steps to figure out which code to check out.


Each Change can have a revision attribute, which describes how to get a tree with a specific state: a tree which includes this Change (and all that came before it) but none that come after it. If this information is unavailable, the revision attribute will be None. These revisions are provided by the ChangeSource.

Revisions are always strings.

revision is the seconds since the epoch as an integer.
revision is the revision number
revision is a large string, the output of darcs changes --context
revision is a short string (a hash ID), the output of hg identify
revision is the transaction number
revision is a short string (a SHA1 hash), the output of e.g. git rev-parse

The Change might also have a branch attribute. This indicates that all of the Change's files are in the same named branch. The Schedulers get to decide whether the branch should be built or not.

For VC systems like CVS, Git and Monotone the branch name is unrelated to the filename. (that is, the branch name and the filename inhabit unrelated namespaces). For SVN, branches are expressed as subdirectories of the repository, so the file's svnurl is a combination of some base URL, the branch name, and the filename within the branch. (In a sense, the branch name and the filename inhabit the same namespace). Darcs branches are subdirectories of a base URL just like SVN. Mercurial branches are the same as Darcs.

branch='warner-newfeature', files=['src/foo.c']
branch='branches/warner-newfeature', files=['src/foo.c']
branch='warner-newfeature', files=['src/foo.c']
branch='warner-newfeature', files=['src/foo.c']
branch='warner-newfeature', files=['src/foo.c']
branch='warner-newfeature', files=['src/foo.c']
Build Properties

A Change may have one or more properties attached to it, usually specified through the Force Build form or sendchange. Properties are discussed in detail in the Build Properties section.

Scheduling Builds

Each Buildmaster has a set of Scheduler objects, each of which gets a copy of every incoming Change. The Schedulers are responsible for deciding when Builds should be run. Some Buildbot installations might have a single Scheduler, while others may have several, each for a different purpose.

For example, a quick scheduler might exist to give immediate feedback to developers, hoping to catch obvious problems in the code that can be detected quickly. These typically do not run the full test suite, nor do they run on a wide variety of platforms. They also usually do a VC update rather than performing a brand-new checkout each time.

A separate full scheduler might run more comprehensive tests, to catch more subtle problems. configured to run after the quick scheduler, to give developers time to commit fixes to bugs caught by the quick scheduler before running the comprehensive tests. This scheduler would also feed multiple Builders.

Many schedulers can be configured to wait a while after seeing a source-code change - this is the tree stable timer. The timer allows multiple commits to be "batched" together. This is particularly useful in distributed version control systems, where a developer may push a long sequence of changes all at once. To save resources, it's often desirable only to test the most recent change.

Schedulers can also filter out the changes they are interested in, based on a number of criteria. For example, a scheduler that only builds documentation might skip any changes that do not affect the documentation. Schedulers can also filter on the branch to which a commit was made.

There is some support for configuring dependencies between builds - for example, you may want to build packages only for revisions which pass all of the unit tests. This support is under active development in Buildbot, and is referred to as "build coordination".

Periodic builds (those which are run every N seconds rather than after new Changes arrive) are triggered by a special Periodic Scheduler subclass.

Each Scheduler creates and submits BuildSet objects to the BuildMaster, which is then responsible for making sure the individual BuildRequests are delivered to the target Builders.

Scheduler instances are activated by placing them in the c['schedulers'] list in the buildmaster config file. Each Scheduler has a unique name.


A BuildSet is the name given to a set of Builds that all compile/test the same version of the tree on multiple Builders. In general, all these component Builds will perform the same sequence of Steps, using the same source code, but on different platforms or against a different set of libraries.

The BuildSet is tracked as a single unit, which fails if any of the component Builds have failed, and therefore can succeed only if all of the component Builds have succeeded. There are two kinds of status notification messages that can be emitted for a BuildSet: the firstFailure type (which fires as soon as we know the BuildSet will fail), and the Finished type (which fires once the BuildSet has completely finished, regardless of whether the overall set passed or failed).

A BuildSet is created with a source stamp tuple of (branch, revision, changes, patch), some of which may be None, and a list of Builders on which it is to be run. They are then given to the BuildMaster, which is responsible for creating a separate BuildRequest for each Builder.

There are a couple of different likely values for the SourceStamp:

(revision=None, changes=CHANGES, patch=None)
This is a SourceStamp used when a series of Changes have triggered a build. The VC step will attempt to check out a tree that contains CHANGES (and any changes that occurred before CHANGES, but not any that occurred after them.)
(revision=None, changes=None, patch=None)
This builds the most recent code on the default branch. This is the sort of SourceStamp that would be used on a Build that was triggered by a user request, or a Periodic scheduler. It is also possible to configure the VC Source Step to always check out the latest sources rather than paying attention to the Changes in the SourceStamp, which will result in same behavior as this.
(branch=BRANCH, revision=None, changes=None, patch=None)
This builds the most recent code on the given BRANCH. Again, this is generally triggered by a user request or Periodic build.
(revision=REV, changes=None, patch=(LEVEL, DIFF, SUBDIR_ROOT))
This checks out the tree at the given revision REV, then applies a patch (using patch -pLEVEL <DIFF) from inside the relative directory SUBDIR_ROOT. Item SUBDIR_ROOT is optional and defaults to the builder working directory. The try command creates this kind of SourceStamp. If patch is None, the patching step is bypassed.

The buildmaster is responsible for turning the BuildSet into a set of BuildRequest objects and queueing them on the appropriate Builders.


A BuildRequest is a request to build a specific set of source code (specified by a source stamp) on a single Builder. Each Builder runs the BuildRequest as soon as it can (i.e. when an associated buildslave becomes free). BuildRequests are prioritized from oldest to newest, so when a buildslave becomes free, the Builder with the oldest BuildRequest is run.

The BuildRequest contains the SourceStamp specification. The actual process of running the build (the series of Steps that will be executed) is implemented by the Build object. In this future this might be changed, to have the Build define what gets built, and a separate BuildProcess (provided by the Builder) to define how it gets built.

The BuildRequest may be mergeable with other compatible BuildRequests. Builds that are triggered by incoming Changes will generally be mergeable. Builds that are triggered by user requests are generally not, unless they are multiple requests to build the latest sources of the same branch.


The Buildmaster runs a collection of Builders, each of which handles a single type of build (e.g. full versus quick), on one or more build slaves. Builders serve as a kind of queue for a particular type of build. Each Builder gets a separate column in the waterfall display. In general, each Builder runs independently (although various kinds of interlocks can cause one Builder to have an effect on another).

Each builder is a long-lived object which controls a sequence of Builds. Each Builder is created when the config file is first parsed, and lives forever (or rather until it is removed from the config file). It mediates the connections to the buildslaves that do all the work, and is responsible for creating the Build objects - Build.

Each builder gets a unique name, and the path name of a directory where it gets to do all its work (there is a buildmaster-side directory for keeping status information, as well as a buildslave-side directory where the actual checkout/compile/test commands are executed).

Build Factories

A builder also has a BuildFactory, which is responsible for creating new Build instances: because the Build instance is what actually performs each build, choosing the BuildFactory is the way to specify what happens each time a build is done (Build).

Build Slaves

Each builder is associated with one of more BuildSlaves. A builder which is used to perform Mac OS X builds (as opposed to Linux or Solaris builds) should naturally be associated with a Mac buildslave.

If multiple buildslaves are available for any given builder, you will have some measure of redundancy: in case one slave goes offline, the others can still keep the Builder working. In addition, multiple buildslaves will allow multiple simultaneous builds for the same Builder, which might be useful if you have a lot of forced or try builds taking place.

If you use this feature, it is important to make sure that the buildslaves are all, in fact, capable of running the given build. The slave hosts should be configured similarly, otherwise you will spend a lot of time trying (unsuccessfully) to reproduce a failure that only occurs on some of the buildslaves and not the others. Different platforms, operating systems, versions of major programs or libraries, all these things mean you should use separate Builders.


A build is a single compile or test run of a particular version of the source code, and is comprised of a series of steps. It is ultimately up to you what constitutes a build, but for compiled software it is generally the checkout, configure, make, and make check sequence. For interpreted projects like Python modules, a build is generally a checkout followed by an invocation of the bundled test suite.

A BuildFactory describes the steps a build will perform. The builder which starts a build uses its configured build factory to determine the build's steps.


Buildbot has a somewhat limited awareness of users. It assumes the world consists of a set of developers, each of whom can be described by a couple of simple attributes. These developers make changes to the source code, causing builds which may succeed or fail.

Users also may have different levels of authorization when issuing Buildbot commands, such as forcing a build from the web interface or from an IRC channel (see WebStatus and IRC).

Each developer is primarily known through the source control system. Each Change object that arrives is tagged with a who field that typically gives the account name (on the repository machine) of the user responsible for that change. This string is displayed on the HTML status pages and in each Build's blamelist.

To do more with the User than just refer to them, this username needs to be mapped into an address of some sort. The responsibility for this mapping is left up to the status module which needs the address. In the future, the responsbility for managing users will be transferred to User Objects.

The who fields in git Changes are used to create User Objects, which allows for more control and flexibility in how Buildbot manages users.

User Objects

User Objects allow Buildbot to better manage users throughout its various interactions with users (see Change Sources and Status Targets). The User Objects are stored in the Buildbot database and correlate the various attributes that a user might have: irc, git, etc.


Incoming Changes all have a who attribute attached to them that specifies which developer is responsible for that Change. When a Change is first rendered, the who attribute is parsed and added to the database if it doesn't exist or checked against an existing user. The who attribute is formatted in different ways depending on the version control system that the Change came from.

who attributes take the form Full Name <Email>.
who attributes are of the form Username.
who attributes are free-form strings, but usually adhere to similar conventions as git attributes (Full Name <Email>).
who attributes are of the form Username.
who attributes contain an Email and may also include a Full Name like git attributes.
who attributes are free-form strings like hg, and can include a Username, Email, and/or Full Name.


For managing users manually, use the buildbot user command, which allows you to add, remove, update, and show various attributes of users in the Buildbot database (see Command-line Tool).

To show all of the users in the database in a more pretty manner, use the users page in the WebStatus.


Correlating the various bits and pieces that Buildbot views as users also means that one attribute of a user can be translated into another. This provides a more complete view of users throughout Buildbot.

One such use is being able to find email addresses based on a set of Builds to notify users through the MailNotifier. This process is explained more clearly in :ref:Email-Addresses.

Another way to utilize User Objects is through UsersAuth for web authentication (see WebStatus). To use UsersAuth, you need to set a bb_username and bb_password via the buildbot user command line tool to check against. The password will be encrypted before storing in the database along with other user attributes.

Doing Things With Users

Each change has a single user who is responsible for it. Most builds have a set of changes: the build generally represents the first time these changes have been built and tested by the Buildbot. The build has a blamelist that is the union of the users responsible for all the build's changes. If the build was created by a Try Schedulers this list will include the submitter of the try job, if known.

The build provides a list of users who are interested in the build -- the interested users. Usually this is equal to the blamelist, but may also be expanded, e.g., to include the current build sherrif or a module's maintainer.

If desired, the buildbot can notify the interested users until the problem is resolved.

Email Addresses

The MailNotifier is a status target which can send email about the results of each build. It accepts a static list of email addresses to which each message should be delivered, but it can also be configured to send mail to the Build's Interested Users. To do this, it needs a way to convert User names into email addresses.

For many VC systems, the User Name is actually an account name on the system which hosts the repository. As such, turning the name into an email address is a simple matter of appending Some projects use other kinds of mappings (for example the preferred email address may be at despite the repository host being named, and some VC systems have full separation between the concept of a user and that of an account on the repository host (like Perforce). Some systems (like Git) put a full contact email address in every change.

To convert these names to addresses, the MailNotifier uses an EmailLookup object. This provides a getAddress method which accepts a name and (eventually) returns an address. The default MailNotifier module provides an EmailLookup which simply appends a static string, configurable when the notifier is created. To create more complex behaviors (perhaps using an LDAP lookup, or using finger on a central host to determine a preferred address for the developer), provide a different object as the lookup argument.

If an EmailLookup object isn't given to the MailNotifier, the MailNotifier will try to find emails through User Objects. This will work the same as if an EmailLookup object was used if every user in the Build's Interested Users list has an email in the database for them. If a user whose change led to a Build doesn't have an email attribute, that user will not receive an email. If extraRecipients is given, those users are still sent mail when the EmailLookup object is not specified.

In the future, when the Problem mechanism has been set up, the Buildbot will need to send mail to arbitrary Users. It will do this by locating a MailNotifier-like object among all the buildmaster's status targets, and asking it to send messages to various Users. This means the User-to-address mapping only has to be set up once, in your MailNotifier, and every email message the buildbot emits will take advantage of it.

IRC Nicknames

Like MailNotifier, the buildbot.status.words.IRC class provides a status target which can announce the results of each build. It also provides an interactive interface by responding to online queries posted in the channel or sent as private messages.

In the future, the buildbot can be configured map User names to IRC nicknames, to watch for the recent presence of these nicknames, and to deliver build status messages to the interested parties. Like MailNotifier does for email addresses, the IRC object will have an IRCLookup which is responsible for nicknames. The mapping can be set up statically, or it can be updated by online users themselves (by claiming a username with some kind of buildbot: i am user warner commands).

Once the mapping is established, the rest of the buildbot can ask the IRC object to send messages to various users. It can report on the likelihood that the user saw the given message (based upon how long the user has been inactive on the channel), which might prompt the Problem Hassler logic to send them an email message instead.

These operations and authentication of commands issued by particular nicknames will be implemented in User Objects.

Live Status Clients

The Buildbot also offers a desktop status client interface which can display real-time build status in a GUI panel on the developer's desktop.

Build Properties

Each build has a set of Build Properties, which can be used by its build steps to modify their actions. These properties, in the form of key-value pairs, provide a general framework for dynamically altering the behavior of a build based on its circumstances.

Properties form a simple kind of variable in a build. Some properties are set when the build starts, and properties can be changed as a build progresses -- properties set or changed in one step may be accessed in subsequent steps. Property values can be numbers, strings, lists, or dictionaries - basically, anything that can be represented in JSON.

Properties are very flexible, and can be used to implement all manner of functionality. Here are some examples:

Most Source steps record the revision that they checked out in the got_revision property. A later step could use this property to specify the name of a fully-built tarball, dropped in an easily-acessible directory for later testing.

Some projects want to perform nightly builds as well as bulding in response to committed changes. Such a project would run two schedulers, both pointing to the same set of builders, but could provide an is_nightly property so that steps can distinguish the nightly builds, perhaps to run more resource-intensive tests.

Some projects have different build processes on different systems. Rather than create a build factory for each slave, the steps can use buildslave properties to identify the unique aspects of each slave and adapt the build process dynamically.


[1]Except Darcs, but since the Buildbot never modifies its local source tree we can ignore the fact that Darcs uses a less centralized model
[2]Many VC systems provide more complexity than this: in particular the local views that P4 and ClearCase can assemble out of various source directories are more complex than we're prepared to take advantage of here
[3]This checkoutDelay defaults to half the tree-stable timer, but it can be overridden with an argument to the Source Step