How To Create a CLI Executable Package

How To Create a CLI Executable Package

Chocolatey packages can also just contain executables - and you won’t even need to write an installation script to use them! We’re going to walk you through creating a CLI executable package now - assuming you’ve already run through Preparing Your Environment for Package Creation.

What Is a CLI Executable

We’d class just about any executable (or EXE file) that can be run without installation as a CLI executable, and developers of software projects will sometimes publish a separate version of software available to just download and run rather than install.

Why Might You Use an Executable Package

These packages can be very helpful for users who want to have tools quickly available without installation - sometimes referred to on the Chocolatey Community Repository as portable packages.

They’re generally extremely quick to install, as there’s no additional logic being run, and leave little to no footprint on the computer after removal.

This can be very helpful on a build container, or for tools that just don’t need to be installed.

Using Shimgen

Normally, we’d talk about a function included with Chocolatey CLI that allows us to install some files - in this case, we’re just dropping an EXE onto disk (and in the package directory, at that) - how is this going to work? Nobody will want to find and use the entire path to the tool every time! Happily, this has been solved for a while:

`Shimgen.exe` is a long-term feature included with Chocolatey CLI, and is used so that you can have items available on the PATH (allowing them to be run on the command-line) without adding a new entry to the PATH for every package that needs it.

EXEs that are found within the package directories at the end of installation have a shim created in the $env:ChocolateyInstall\bin folder, which is on the PATH.

If you have an EXE file within your package that you don’t want to have shimmed, you should create an empty file named <FILENAME>.ignore in the same directory as the EXE will be found.

You can find more details around uses for Shimgen on the docs page.

Creating a CLI Executable Package

In this example, we will create a package that contains gh.exe, the GitHub CLI executable.


For this example, we’ll provide URLs that are based on versioned URL that worked at the time of writing. These were found in the GitHub releases for the tool.

Creating Package Structure

This package type is very simple, mostly needing the EXE itself, and a package metadata file - often referred to as the .nuspec.

  1. In your tutorials folder, create a new folder for this package. For the example, we will call it gh.portable.
  2. Within this folder, create gh.portable.nuspec, with the content as shown below.
  3. Navigate to the GH GitHub Releases page, and download the latest version of GitHub CLI <VERSION> windows amd64 (e.g. GitHub CLI 2.39.2 windows - you may need to click Show all releases to find it). a. This will be a zip file so, after the download has completed, extract it directly into the package directory.
Package Metadata Content
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<!-- Do not remove this test for UTF-8: if “Ω” doesn’t appear as greek uppercase omega letter
enclosed in quotation marks, you should use an editor that supports UTF-8, not this one. -->
<package xmlns="">
        <title>GitHub CLI (Portable)</title>
        <tags>gh cli portable example</tags>
        <summary>GitHub on the Command Line</summary>
        <file src="bin/gh.exe" target="tools/gh.exe" />
        <file src="LICENSE" target="tools/LICENSE.txt" />

You’ll want to update the following fields in the metadata section:

  • owners: This field shows who maintains the package - your name or handle should be added!

We have already filled many of the other included fields, including the following:

  • id: We have chosen the example package name, including the .portable suffix - which is often used to denote non-install packages on the Chocolatey Community Repository.
  • version: We have used $version$ here, as we’re going to introduce a neat trick later to update this during choco pack.
  • files: We have added paths matching the files within the release artifact you downloaded above in order to pack the extracted files correctly.

Compiling Your Package

You can now run choco pack to compile your Chocolatey package, creating a file with a .nupkg extension, ready for installation!

  1. In VS Code, press Ctrl+Shift+ P or use the View menu and click on Command Palette.
  2. Select Chocolatey: Package Chocolatey package(s) from the prompt.
  3. Select gh.portable.nuspec from the prompt.
  4. Add --version 2.39.1 (or the most recent version), which will override the version in the metadata, and press Enter.

You should have a new package generated in your root directory.

Installing Your Package

You can now test installation of the package.


Installing and uninstalling the example package may affect existing installations (as you’re essentially testing in production). We recommend testing on a separate environment that is not crucial to your workflow.

In an elevated PowerShell command prompt, run the following:

choco install gh.portable --source='tutorials' -y

The command should run, and gh.exe should now be available on the command line. You should be able to run it:

# Should produce output
gh.exe --version

# Should show the path to the shim, within chocolatey/bin
Get-Command gh.exe

Uninstalling Your Package

Similarly, you should be able to test the uninstall.

choco uninstall gh.portable -y

The same tests shown above should now show an error, and no command found.


You should now have a grasp of the potential for portable / CLI packages! Congratulations. Have fun, and try creating your own!