Image Description Elements


This document provides a reference for the elements and attributes of the KIWI NG XML document in version 9.24.1


The toplevel of any KIWI NG image description

<image schemaversion="7.4" name="{exc_image_base_name}">
    <!-- descendants -->

The image definition starts with an image tag and requires the schema format at version 7.4. The attribute name specifies the name of the image which is also used for the filenames created by KIWI. Because we don’t want spaces in filenames the name attribute must not have any spaces in its name.

The following optional attributes can be inserted in the image tag:


Allows setup of the boot menu title for the selected boot loader. So you can have suse-SLED-foo as the image name but a different name as the boot display name. Spaces are not allowed in the display name because it causes problems for some boot loaders and kiwi did not take the effort to separate the ones which can display them correctly from the ones which can’t


sets an identification number which appears as file /etc/ImageID within the image.


Optional include of XML file content from file

<image schemaversion="7.4" name="{exc_image_base_name}">
    <include from="description.xml"/>

with file description.xml as follows:

    <description type="system">

This will replace the include statement with the contents of description.xml. The validation of the result happens after the inclusion of all include references.


The include information must be embedded into an <image> root node. Only the inner elements of the root node will be included. The processing of XML data via XSLT always requires a root node which is the reason why this is required to be specified for include files as well.


Nesting of include statements in other include files is not supported. This will lead to unresolved include statements in the final document and will cause the runtime checker to complain about it.


The include is implemented via a XSLT stylesheet and therefore expects an XML document. Other markup formats are not supported as include reference.


Provide an image identity.

<description type="system">

The mandatory description section contains information about the creator of this image description. The attribute type could be either of the value system which indicates this is a system image description or at value boot for custom kiwi boot image descriptions.

The following optional sub sections can be inserted below the description tag:


Specifies the license name which applies to this image description.


Setup image type and layout.

<preferences arch="arch">
  <packagemanager name="zypper"/>
  <type image="tbz"/>

The mandatory preferences section contains information about the supported image type(s), the used package manager, the version of this image, and further optional elements. The preferences section can be configured to apply only for a certain architecture. In this case specify the arch attribute with a value as it is reported by uname -m


The mandatory image version must be a three-part version number of the format: Major.Minor.Release. In case of changes to the image description the following rules should apply:

  • For smaller image modifications that do not add or remove any new packages, only the release number is incremented. The XML description file(config.xml) remains unchanged.

  • For image changes that involve the addition or removal of packages the minor number is incremented and the release number is reset.

  • For image changes that changes the behavior or geometry of the image file the major number is incremented.


The mandatory packagemanager element specifies which package manager should be used to handle software packages. The packagemanager setup is connected to the distribution used to build the image. The following table shows which package manager is connected to which distributor:


Package Manager





Debian Based


Arch Linux


In general the specification of one preferences section is sufficient. However, it’s possible to specify multiple preferences sections and distinguish between the sections via the profiles attribute.

In combination with the above the preferences element supports the following optional elements:


locale-filtering can be set to “true” or “false”. If set to “true” it sets the install_lang macro for RPM based installations to the RPM configured locale list. This results in language specific files to become filtered out by rpm if they don’t match the configured list.



It depends on the individual package design if the install_lang macro contents apply to the package or not.


Specifies whether package signatures should be checked or not



Specifies whether files marked as documentation should be skipped during installation



Specifies the name of the console keymap to use. The value corresponds to a map file in /usr/share/kbd/keymaps/xkb.



Specifies the time zone. Available time zones are located in the /usr/share/zoneinfo directory. Specify the attribute value relative to /usr/share/zoneinfo. For example, specify Europe/Berlin for /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin.



Specifies the name of the UTF-8 locale to use, which defines the contents of the RC_LANG system environment variable used in the image and to run the custom scripts specified as part of the KIWI NG image description. Please note only UTF-8 locales are supported here which also means that the encoding must not be part of the locale information. This means you need to specify the locale using the 4-digit name like the following example: en_US or en_US,de_DE



Specifies the name of the plymouth bootsplash theme to use



Specifies the name of the bootloader theme to use if that used bootloader has theme support.


Along with the version and the packagemanager at least one image type element must be specified to indicate which image type should be build.


At least one type element must be configured. It is possible to specify multiple type elements in a preferences block. To set a given type description as the default image use the boolean attribute primary and set its value to true:

  <type image="typename" primary="true"/>

The image type to be created is determined by the value of the image attribute. The following list describes the supported types and possible values of the image attribute:


A simple tar archive image. The tbz type packs the contents of the image root tree into a xz compressed tarball.


A filesystem image. The image root tree data is packed into a filesystem image of the given type. An image of that type can be loop mounted and accessed according to the capabiities of the selected filesystem.


An iso image which can be dumped on a CD/DVD or USB stick and boots off from this media without interfering with other system storage components. A useful pocket system for testing and demo and debugging purposes.


An image representing an expandable system disk. This means after deployment the system can resize itself to the new disk geometry. The resize operation is configurable as part of the image description and an installation image for CD/DVD, USB stick and Network deployment can be created in addition. For use in cloud frameworks like Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine or Microsoft Azure this disk type also supports the common virtual disk formats.


An archive image suitable for the docker container engine. The image can be loaded via the docker load command and works within the scope of the container engine


An archive image that builds a container matching the OCI (Open Container Interface) standard. The container should be able to run with any oci compliant container engine.


An archive image suitable for the Windows Subsystem For Linux container engine. The image can be loaded From a Windows System that has support for WSL activated.


An optional root filesystem image associated with a kernel and initrd. The use case for this component image type is highly customizable. Many different deployment strategies are possible.

For completion of a type description, there could be several other optional attributes and child elements. The type element supports a plethora of optional attributes, some of these are only relevant for certain build types and will be covered in extra chapters that describes the individual image types more detailed. Certain attributes are however useful for nearly all build types and will be covered next:


Boolean parameter notifying KIWI NG whether an extra boot partition should be used or not (the default depends on the current layout). This will override KIWI NG’s default layout.


For images with a separate boot partition this attribute specifies the size in MB. If not set the boot partition size is set to 200 MB


For images with an EFI fat partition this attribute specifies the size in MB. If not set the EFI partition size is set to 20 MB


For images with an EFI firmware specifies the partition table type to use. If not set defaults to the GPT partition table type


Boolean parameter to activate filesystem quotas if the filesystem is btrfs. By default quotas are inactive.


Boolean parameter that tells KIWI NG to install the system into a btrfs snapshot. The snapshot layout is compatible with snapper. By default snapshots are turned off.


Boolean parameter notifying KIWI NG that the btrfs root filesystem snapshot has to made read-only. if this option is set to true, the root filesystem snapshot it will be turned into read-only mode, once all data has been placed to it. The option is only effective if btrfs_root_is_snapshot is also set to true. By default the root filesystem snapshot is writable.


Specifies whether the image output file should be compressed or not. This option is only used for filesystem only images or for the pxe or cpio types.


Specifies the path to a script which is called right before the bootloader is installed. The script runs relative to the directory which contains the image structure.


Specifies the path to a script which is called right after the bootloader is installed. The script runs relative to the directory which contains the image structure.


The root filesystem


Specifies the boot firmware of the appliance, supported options are: bios, ec2, efi, uefi, ofw and opal. This attribute is used to differentiate the image according to the firmware which boots up the system. It mostly impacts the disk layout and the partition table type. By default bios is used on x86, ofw on PowerPC and efi on ARM.


Boolean parameter to force the usage of a MBR partition table even if the system would default to GPT. This is occasionally required on ARM systems that use a EFI partition layout but which must not be stored in a GPT. Note that forcing a MBR partition table incurs limitations with respect to the number of available partitions and their sizes.


Specifies the filesystem mount options which are passed via the -o flag to mount and are included in /etc/fstab.


Specifies the filesystem options used to create the filesystem. In KIWI NG the filesystem utility to create a filesystem is called without any custom options. The default options are filesystem specific and are provided along with the package that provides the filesystem utility. For the Linux ext[234] filesystem, the default options can be found in the /etc/mke2fs.conf file. Other filesystems provides this differently and documents information about options and their defaults in the respective manual page, e.g man mke2fs. With the fscreateoptions attribute it’s possible to directly influence how the filesystem will be created. The options provided as a string are passed to the command that creates the filesystem without any further validation by KIWI NG. For example, to turn off the journal on creation of an ext4 filesystem the following option would be required:

  <type fscreateoptions="-O ^has_journal"/>

Additional kernel parameters passed to the kernel by the bootloader.


Supplying a value will trigger the encryption of the partitions using the LUKS extension and using the provided string as the password. Note that the password must be entered when booting the appliance!


Specifies the image blocksize in bytes which has to match the logical blocksize of the target storage device. By default 512 Bytes is used, which works on many disks. You can obtain the blocksize from the SSZ column in the output of the following command:

blockdev --report $DEVICE

Indicate if the target disk for oem images is deployed to a removable device e.g a USB stick or not. This only affects the EFI setup if requested and in the end avoids the creation of a custom boot menu entry in the firmware of the target machine. By default the target disk is expected to be non-removable


Request a spare partition right before the root partition of the requested size. The attribute takes a size value and allows a unit in MB or GB, e.g 200M. If no unit is given the value is considered to be mbytes. A spare partition can only be configured for the disk image type oem


Specify mount point for spare partition in the system. Can only be configured for the disk image type oem


Specify filesystem for spare partition in the system. Can only be configured for the disk image type oem


Specify filesystem attributes for the spare partition. Attributes can be specified as comma separated list. Currently the attributes no-copy-on-write and synchronous-updates are available. Can only be configured for the disk image type oem


Specify if the spare partition should be the last one in the partition table. Can only be configured for the oem type with oem-resize switched off. By default the root partition is the last one and the spare partition lives before it. With this attribute that setup can be toggled. However, if the root partition is no longer the last one the oem repart/resize code can no longer work because the spare part would block it. Because of that moving the spare part at the end of the disk is only applied if oem-resize is switched off. There is a runtime check in the KIWI NG code to check this condition


Specifies which method to use for persistent device names. This will affect all files written by kiwi that includes device references for example etc/fstab or the root= parameter in the kernel commandline. By default by-uuid is used


Specifies the compression type for mksquashfs


For the oem type only, specifies to use an overlayfs based root filesystem consisting out of a squashfs compressed read-only root filesystem combined with a write-partition or tmpfs. The optional kernel boot parameter rd.root.overlay.readonly can be used to point the write area into a tmpfs instead of the existing persistent write-partition. In this mode all written data is temporary until reboot of the system. The kernel boot parameter rd.root.overlay.size can be used to configure the size for the tmpfs that is used for the overlayfs mount process if rd.root.overlay.readonly is requested. That size basically configures the amount of space available for writing new data during the runtime of the system. The default value is set to 50% which means one half of the available RAM space can be used for writing new data. By default the persistent write-partition is used. The size of that partition can be influenced via the optional <size> element in the <type> section or via the optional <oem-resize> element in the <oemconfig> section of the XML description. Setting a fixed <size> value will set the size of the image disk to that value and results in an image file of that size. The available space for the write partition is that size reduced by the size the squashfs read-only system needs. If the <oem-resize> element is set to true an eventually given <size> element will not have any effect because the write partition will be resized on first boot to the available disk space.


If an extra boot partition is required this attribute specify which filesystem should be used for it. The type of the selected bootloader might overwrite this setting if there is no alternative possible though.


For the iso image type specifies the live iso technology and dracut module to use. If set to overlay the kiwi-live dracut module will be used to support a live iso system based on squashfs+overlayfs. If set to dmsquash the dracut standard dmsquash-live module will be used to support a live iso system based on the capabilities of the upstream dracut module.


For disk image type oem, specifies the format of the virtual disk such that it can run on the desired target virtualization platform.


Specifies additional format options passed on to qemu-img formatoptions is a comma separated list of format specific options in a name=value format like qemu-img expects it. kiwi will take the information and pass it as parameter to the -o option in the qemu-img call


Specifies the filesystem mount options which also ends up in fstab The string given here is passed as value to the -o option of mount


Specifies options to use at creation time of the filesystem


Force use of MBR (msdos table) partition table even if the use of the GPT would be the natural choice. On e.g some arm systems an EFI partition layout is required but must not be stored in a GPT. For those rare cases this attribute allows to force the use of the msdos table including all its restrictions in max partition size and amount of partitions


For GPT disk types only: Create a hybrid GPT/MBR partition table


For the live ISO type, triggers the creation of a partition for a COW file to keep data persistent over a reboot


For the live ISO type, set the filesystem to use for persistent writing if a hybrid image is used as disk on e.g a USB Stick. By default the ext4 filesystem is used.


Specify which initrd builder to use, default is set to dracut. If set to none the image is build without an initrd. Depending on the image type this can lead to a non bootable system as its now a kernel responsibility if the given root device can be mounted or not.


Specifies a path to additional metadata required for the selected image type or its tools used to create that image type.


Currently this is only effective for the appx container image type.


Specifies the bootloader default boot entry for the initial boot of a KIWI NG install image.


This value is only evaluated for grub


Specifies the boot timeout handling for the KIWI NG install image. If set to “true” the configured timeout or its default value applies. If set to “false” no timeout applies in the boot menu of the install image.


Specifies if the bootloader menu should provide an failsafe entry with special kernel parameters or not


Specifies if an install iso image should be created. This attribute is only available for the oem type. The generated ISO image is an hybrid ISO which can be used as disk on e.g a USB stick or as ISO.


Specifies if a tarball that contains all data for a pxe network installation should be created. This attribute is only available for the oem type.


For ISO images, specifies if the bootloader menu should provide an mediacheck entry to verify ISO integrity or not. Disabled by default and only available for the x86 arch family.


Setup software raid in degraded mode with one disk Thus only mirroring and striping is possible


Specifies this type to be the primary type. If no type option is given on the commandline, KIWI NG will build this type


For all images that are configured to use the overlay filesystem this setting forces any COW(Copy-On-Write) action to happen in RAM.


Label name to set for the root filesystem. By default ROOT is used


For the ISO type only, specifies the volume ID (volume name or label) to be written into the master block. There is space for 32 characters.


For the VHD disk format, specifies the GUID


For container images, specifies the image URI of the container image. The image created by KIWI NG will use the specified container as the base root to work on.


For ISO images, specifies the publisher name of the ISO.

The following sections shows the supported child elements of the type element including references to their usage in a detailed type setup:


Used to describe the bootloader setup in the oem disk image type. For details see: Setting up the Bootloader of the Image


Used to describe the container configuration metadata in docker or wsl image types. For details see: Build a Docker Container Image and: Build a WSL Container Image


Used to describe vagrant configuration metadata in a disk image that is being used as a vagrant box. For details see: Image Description for Vagrant


Used to describe the geometry, partitions and volumes, in a disk image. For details see: Custom Disk Volumes


Used to customize the deployment process in an oem disk image. For details see: OEM Customization


Used to customize the size of the resulting disk image in an oem image. For details see: Modifying the Size of the Image


Used to customize the virtual machine configuration which describes the components of an emulated hardware. For details see: Customizing the Virtual Machine


Used to customize the installation media images created for oem images deployment. For details see: Installation Media Customization


Setup software sources for the image.

  <source path="uri"/>

The mandatory repository element specifies the location and type of a repository to be used by the package manager as a package installation source. KIWI NG supports apt, dnf, pacman and zypper as package managers, specified with the packagemanager element. The repository element has the following optional attributes:


Specifies an alternative name for the configured repository. If the attribute is not specified KIWI NG will generate a random alias name for the repository.


Used for Debian (apt) based repositories only. Specifies the component name that should be used from the repository. By default the main component is used


Used for Debian (apt) based repositories only. Specifies the distribution name to be used on call of debootstrap


Specifies whether or not this repository should be configured in the resulting image without using it at build time. By default the value is set to false


Specifies whether or not this specific repository is configured to to run repository signature validation. If not set, no value is appended into the repository configuration file. If set the relevant key information needs to be provided on the KIWI NG commandline using the --signing-key option


Custom script hook which is invoked with the repo file as parameter for each file created by KIWI NG.


If the script is provided as relative path it will be searched in the image description directory


Specifies whether the given repository should be configured as a repository in the image or not. The default behavior is that repositories used to build an image are not configured as a repository inside the image. This feature allows you to change the behavior by setting the value to true.


Scope of repository uri’s

The repository is configured in the image according to the source path as specified with the path attribute of the source element. Therefore, if the path is not a fully qualified URL, you may need to adjust the repository file in the image to accommodate the expected location. It is recommended that you use the alias attribute in combination with the imageinclude attribute to avoid having unpredictable random names assigned to the repository you wish to include in the image.


Specifies a password for the given repository. The password attribute must be used in combination with the username attribute. Dependent on the repository location this information may not be used.


Specifies a user name for the given repository. The username attribute must be used in combination with the password attribute. Dependent on the repository location this information may not be used.


The repository providing this attribute will be used primarily to install the license tarball if found on that repository. If no repository with a preferred license attribute exists, the search happens over all repositories. It’s not guaranteed in that case that the search order follows the repository order like they are written into the XML description.


Specifies the repository priority for this given repository. Priority values are treated differently by different package managers. Repository priorities allow the package management system to disambiguate packages that may be contained in more than one of the configured repositories. The zypper package manager for example prefers packages from a repository with a lower priority over packages from a repository with higher priority values. The value 99 means “no priority is set”. For other package managers please refer to the individual documentation about repository priorities.


Specifies the source type of the repository path. Depending on if the source path is a simple url or a pointer to a metadata file or mirror list, the configured package manager needs to be setup appropriately. By default the source is expected to be a simple repository baseurl.


Used for Debian (apt) based repositories only. It specifies whether this repository should be the one used for bootstrapping or not. It is set to ‘false’ by default. Only a single repository is allowed to be used for bootstrapping, if no repository is set for the bootstrap the last one in the description XML is used.


The location of a repository is specified by the path attribute of the mandatory source child element:

<repository alias="kiwi">
  <source path="obs://Virtualization:Appliances:Builder/openSUSE_Leap_15.3"/>

The location specification may include the %arch macro which will expand to the architecture of the image building host. The value for the path attribute may begin with any of the following location indicators:

  • dir:///local/path An absolute path to a directory accessible through the local file system.

  • ftp://<ftp://> A ftp protocol based network location.

  • http://<http://> A http protocol based network location.

  • https://<https://> A https protocol based network location.


    https repositories

    When specifying a https location for a repository it is generally necessary to include the openssl certificates and a cracklib word dictionary as package entries in the bootstrap section of the image configuration. The names of the packages to include are individual to the used distribution. On SUSE systems as one example this would be openssl-certs and cracklib-dict-full

  • iso://<iso://> An absolute path to an .iso file accessible via the local file system. KIWI NG will loop mount the the .iso file to a temporary directory with a generated name. The generated path is provided to the specified package manager as a directory based repository location.

  • obs://Open:Build:Service:Project:Name A reference to a project in the Open Build Service (OBS). KIWI NG translates the given project path into a remote url at which the given project hosts the packages.

  • obsrepositories:/ A placeholder for the Open Build Service (OBS) to indicate that all repositories are taken from the project configuration in OBS.


Setup software components to be installed in the image.

<packages type="type"/>

The mandatory packages element specifies the setup of a packages group for the given type. The value of the type attribute specifies at which state in the build process the packages group gets handled, supported values are as follows:


Bootstrap packages, list of packages to be installed first into a new (empty) root tree. The packages list the required components to support a chroot environment from which further software components can be installed


Image packages, list of packages to be installed as part of a chroot operation inside of the new root tree.


Packages to be uninstalled or deleted. For further details see Uninstall System Packages


Packages to be installed for the given image type name. For example if set to type=”iso”, the packages in this group will only be installed if the iso image type is build.

The packages element must contain at least one child element of the following list to provide specific configuration information for the specified packages group:


<packages type="image"/>
  <package name="name" arch="arch"/>

The package element installs the given package name. The optional arch attribute can be used to limit the installation of the package to the host architecture from which KIWI NG is called. The arch attribute is also available in all of the following elements.


<packages type="image" patternType="onlyRequired">
  <namedCollection name="base"/>

The namedCollection element is used to install a number of packages grouped together under a name. This is a feature of the individual distribution and used in the implementation of the KIWI NG package manager backend. At the moment collections are only supported for SUSE and RedHat based distributions. The optional patternType attribute is used to control the behavior of the dependency resolution of the package collection. onlyRequired installs only the collection and its required packages. plusRecommended installs the collection, any of its required packages and any recommended packages.


Collections on SUSE

On SUSE based distributions collections are names patterns and are just simple packages. To get the names of the patterns such that they can be used in a namedCollection type the following command: $ zypper patterns. If for some reason the collection name cannot be used it is also possible to add the name of the package that provides the collection as part of a package element. To get the names of the pattern packages type the following command: $ zypper search patterns. By convention all packages that starts with the name “patterns-” are representing a pattern package.


Collections on RedHat

On RedHat based distributions collections are named groups and are extra metadata. To get the names of these groups type the following command: $ dnf group list. Please note that group names are allowed to contain whitespace characters.


<packages type="image"/>
  <archive name="name" target_dir="some/path"/>

The archive element takes the name attribute and looks up the given name as file on the system. If specified relative KIWI NG looks up the name in the image description directory. The archive is installed using the tar program. Thus the file name is expected to be a tar archive. The compression of the archive is detected automatically by the tar program. The optional target_dir attribute can be used to specify a target directory to unpack the archive.


<packages type="image"/>
  <ignore name="name"/>

The ignore element instructs the used package manager to ignore the given package name at installation time. Please note whether or not the package can be ignored is up to the package manager. Packages that are hard required by other packages in the install procedure cannot be ignored and the package manager will simply ignore the request.


<packages type="image">
  <product name="name"/>

The product element instructs the used package manager to install the given product. What installation of a product means is up to the package manager and also distribution specific. This feature currently only works on SUSE based distributions


Setup image users.


The optional users element contains the user setup KIWI NG should create in the system. At least one user child element must be specified as part of the users element. Multiple user elements may be specified.

Each user element represents a specific user that is added or modified. The following attributes are mandatory:


the UNIX username


The password for this user account. It can be provided either in cleartext form or encrypted. An encrypted password can be created using openssl as follows:

$ openssl passwd -1 -salt xyz PASSWORD

It is also possible to specify the password as a non encrypted string by using the pwdformat attribute and setting it’s value to plain. KIWI NG will then encrypt the password prior to the user being added to the system.


plain text passwords

We do not recommend plain passwords as they will be readable in the image configuration in plain text

All specified users and groups will be created if they do not already exist. The defined users will be part of the group(s) specified with the groups attribute or belong to the default group as configured in the system. If specified the first entry in the groups list is used as the login group.

Additionally, the following optional attributes can be specified:


The path to the user’s home directory


A comma separated list of UNIX groups. The first element of the list is used as the user’s primary group. The remaining elements are appended to the user’s supplementary groups. When no groups are assigned then the system’s default primary group will be used.


The numeric user id of this account.


The format in which password is provided. The default if not specified is encrypted.


Manage image namespace(s).

  <profile name="name" description="text"/>

The optional profiles section lets you maintain one image description while allowing for variation of other sections that are included. A separate profile element must be specified for each variation. The profile child element, which has name and description attributes, specifies an alias name used to mark sections as belonging to a profile, and a short description explaining what this profile does.

For example to mark a set of packages as belonging to a profile, simply annotate them with the profiles attribute as shown below:

<packages type="image" profiles="profile_name">
  <package name="name"/>

It is also possible to mark sections as belonging to multiple profiles by separating the names in the profiles attribute with a comma:

<packages type="image" profiles="profile_A,profile_B">
  <package name="name"/>

If a section tag does not have a profiles attribute, it is globally present in the configuration. If global sections and profiled sections contains the same sub-sections, the profiled sections will overwrite the global sections in the order of the provided profiles. For a better overview of the result configuration when profiles are used we recommend to put data that applies in any case to non profiled (global) sections and only extend those global sections with profiled data. For example:

  <packagemanager name="zypper"/>

<preferences profiles="oem_qcow_format">
  <type image="oem" filesystem="ext4" format="qcow2"/>

<preferences profiles="oem_vmdk_format">
  <type image="oem" filesystem="ext4" format="vmdk"/>

The above example configures two version of the same oem type. One builds a disk in qcow2 format the other builds a disk in vmdk format. The global preferences section without a profile assigned will be used in any case and defines those preferences settings that are common to any build process. A user can select both profiles at a time but that will result in building the disk format that is specified last because one is overwriting the other.

Use of one or more profile(s) during image generation is triggered by the use of the --profile command line argument. multiple profiles can be selected by passing this option multiple times.