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Publishing and using CodeQL packs

You can publish your own CodeQL packs and use packs published by other people.

GitHub CodeQL is licensed on a per-user basis upon installation. You can use CodeQL only for certain tasks under the license restrictions. For more information, see "About the CodeQL CLI."

If you have a GitHub Advanced Security license, you can use CodeQL for automated analysis, continuous integration, and continuous delivery. For more information, see "About GitHub Advanced Security."

Note: This article was migrated from the CodeQL documentation website in January 2023.

Note: The CodeQL package management functionality, including CodeQL packs, is currently available as a beta release and is subject to change. During the beta release, CodeQL packs are available only using GitHub Packages - the Container registry. To use this beta functionality, install the latest version of the CodeQL CLI bundle from:

Configuring the qlpack.yml file before publishing

You can check and modify the configuration details of your CodeQL pack prior to publishing. Open the qlpack.yml file in your preferred text editor.

library: # set to true if the pack is a library. Set to false or omit for a query pack
name: <scope>/<pack>
version: <x.x.x>
description: <Description to publish with the package>
default-suite: # optional, one or more queries in the pack to run by default
    - query: <relative-path>/query-file>.ql
default-suite-file: default-queries.qls # optional, a pointer to a query-suite in this pack
license: # optional, the license under which the pack is published
dependencies: # map from CodeQL pack name to version range
  • name: must follow the <scope>/<pack> format, where <scope> is the GitHub organization that you will publish to and is the name for the pack.

  • A maximum of one of default-suite or default-suite-file is allowed. These are two different ways to define a default query suite to be run, the first by specifying queries directly in the qlpack.yml file and the second by specifying a query suite in the pack.

Running codeql pack publish

When you are ready to publish a pack to the GitHub Container registry, you can run the following command in the root of the pack directory:

codeql pack publish

The published package will be displayed in the packages section of GitHub organization specified by the scope in the qlpack.yml file.

Running codeql pack download <scope>/<pack>

To run a pack that someone else has created, you must first download it by running the following command:

codeql pack download <scope>/<pack>@x.x.x
  • <scope>: the name of the GitHub organization that you will download from.
  • <pack>: the name for the pack that you want to download.
  • @x.x.x: an optional version number. If omitted, the latest version will be downloaded.

This command accepts arguments for multiple packs.

If you write scripts that specify a particular version number of a query pack to download, keep in mind that when you update your version of CodeQL to a newer one, you may also need to switch to a newer version of the query pack. Newer versions of CodeQL may provide degraded performance when used with query packs that have been pinned to a very old version. For more information, see "About CodeQL pack compatibility."

Using a CodeQL pack to analyze a CodeQL database

To analyze a CodeQL database with a CodeQL pack, run the following command:

codeql database analyze <database> <scope>/<pack>@x.x.x:<path>
  • <database>: the CodeQL database to be analyzed.
  • <scope>: the name of the GitHub organization that the pack is published to.
  • <pack>: the name for the pack that you are using.
  • @x.x.x: an optional version number. If omitted, the latest version will be used.
  • :<path>: an optional path to a query, directory, or query suite. If omitted, the pack’s default query suite will be used.

The analyze command will run the default suite of any specified CodeQL packs. You can specify multiple CodeQL packs to be used for analyzing a CodeQL database. For example:

codeql <database> analyze <scope>/<pack> <scope>/<other-pack>

Note: The codeql pack download command stores the pack it downloads in an internal location that is not intended for local modification. Unexpected (and hard to troubleshoot) behavior may result if the pack is modified after downloading. For more information about customizing packs, see "Creating and working with CodeQL packs."

About CodeQL pack compatibility

When a query pack is published, it includes pre-compiled representations of all the queries in it. These pre-compiled queries are generally much faster to execute than it is to compile the QL source from scratch during the analysis. However, the pre-compiled queries also depend on certain internals of the QL evaluator, so if the version of CodeQL that performs the analysis is too different from the version that ran codeql pack publish, it may be necessary to compile the queries from source instead during analysis. The recompilation happens automatically and will not affect the results of the analysis, but it can make the analysis significantly slower.

It can generally be assumed that if a pack is published with one release of CodeQL, the precompiled queries in it can be used directly by later releases of CodeQL, as long as there is no more than 6 months between the release dates. We will make reasonable efforts to keep new releases compatible for longer than that, but make no promises.

It can also be assumed that a pack published by the latest public release of CodeQL will be useable by the version of CodeQL that is used by code scanning and GitHub Actions, even though that is often a slightly older release.

As an exception to the above, packs published with versions of CodeQL earlier than 2.12.0 are not compatible with any earlier or later versions. These old versions did not write pre-compiled queries in a format that supported compatibility between releases. Packs published by these versions can still be used by newer versions, but the analysis will be slower because the queries have to be recompiled first.

As a user of a published query pack, you can check that the CodeQL makes use of the precompiled queries in it by inspecting the terminal output from an analysis runs that uses the query pack. If it contains lines looking like the following, then the precompiled queries were used successfully:

[42/108] Loaded /long/path/to/query/Filename.qlx.

However, if they instead look like the following, then usage of the precompiled queries failed:

Compiling query plan for /long/path/to/query/Filename.ql.
[42/108 comp 25s] Compiled /long/path/to/query/Filename.ql.

The results of the analysis will still be good in this case, but to get optimal performance you may need to upgrade to a newer version of the CodeQL CLI and/or of the query pack.

If you publish query packs on the Container registry on for others to use, we recommend that you use a recent release of CodeQL to run codeql pack publish, and that you publish a fresh version of your pack with an updated CodeQL version before the version you used turns 6 months old. That way you can ensure that users of your pack who keep their CodeQL up to date will benefit from the pre-compiled queries in your pack.

If you publish query packs with the intention of using them on a GitHub Enterprise Server installation that uses its bundled CodeQL binaries, use the same CodeQL version to run codeql pack publish. Newer versions might produce pre-compiled queries that the one in GitHub Enterprise Server may not recognize. Your GitHub Enterprise Server administrator may choose to upgrade to a newer version of CodeQL periodically. If so, follow their lead.

Authenticating to GitHub Container registries

You can publish packs and download private packs by authenticating to the appropriate GitHub Container registry.

You can authenticate to the Container registry on in two ways:

  1. Pass the --github-auth-stdin option to the CodeQL CLI, then supply a GitHub Apps token or personal access token via standard input.
  2. Set the GITHUB_TOKEN environment variable to a GitHub Apps token or personal access token.