Bazel Blog

A repository rule for calculating transitive Maven dependencies

We’re excited to introduce the initial release of rules_jvm_external, a repository rule to resolve and fetch artifacts transitively in Maven repositories, like Maven Central and Google Maven. This project is officially maintained by the Bazel team.

Background and motivation

Maven integration in Bazel is a large space with many existing robust solutions from community members:

Each project, including rules_jvm_external, approaches the problem slightly differently. Check out the projects above to see their full feature set and determine if one of those solutions work best for you. Keep reading to learn more about rules_jvm_external.

Objectives of rules_jvm_external

We wanted to fulfill two primary objectives:

First, users should be able to run bazel build //.... This means that the calculation of the transitive dependencies and their fetching need to happen during repository rule execution time. This makes dependency fetching transparent to users and reduces onboarding friction to a Bazel-built project.

Second, we wanted to provide an interface that is familiar to users with projects that depend on Maven repositories. The specification of artifacts in the repository rule resembles the specification in the <dependencies> tag in a Maven POM file or the dependencies closure in a Gradle build file. In particular, this means that users only need to specify their direct dependencies and the rule will handle the rest for them.

Features and use cases

For the initial release, we are targeting support for Java and Android Java projects. The following features are supported:

  • Supported on Windows, macOS and Linux
  • JAR and AAR packaging types
  • In-band transitive closure resolution
  • Dependency specification directly in the WORKSPACE file
  • Custom Maven repositories
  • Maven repository authentication with HTTP Basic Authentication
  • Artifact version pinning and resolution
  • Multiple independent closures of versioned artifacts
    • Not forced to only have one version of an artifact per workspace, although different versions are namespaced by the repository name
  • Source JAR support
  • Dependency exclusion

As part of this, we will no longer be maintaining generate_workspace. gmaven_rules, which was designed to be an interim solution, will also be replaced by rules_jvm_external. We will be updating existing documentation to reflect this over the coming weeks.

How to use rules_jvm_external in your project

To start using this feature in your Java or Android project, point to the repository rule in your WORKSPACE file:

load("@bazel_tools//tools/build_defs/repo:http.bzl", "http_archive")

    name = "rules_jvm_external",
    strip_prefix = "rules_jvm_external-1.2",
    sha256 = "e5c68b87f750309a79f59c2b69ead5c3221ffa54ff9496306937bfa1c9c8c86b",
    url = ""

Then, specify your direct dependencies using the artifacts attribute and indicate where those artifacts should come from using the repositories attribute:

load("@rules_jvm_external//:defs.bzl", "maven_install")

    name = "maven",
    artifacts = [
    repositories = [
    fetch_sources = True,   # Fetch source jars. Defaults to False.

The maven_install rule creates targets you can then depend on in your BUILD files. For example:

    name = "foo",
    srcs = [""],
    deps = [

How it works

This rule relies on existing tooling to calculate the transitive closure of dependencies. The magic underneath is the Coursier CLI. There is a thin Starlark wrapper that translates the input from the rule into a Coursier compatible command line. The CLI returns the calculated transitive closure of artifacts which the rule parses and uses it to generate BUILD targets.

Next steps

We are continuing to iterate on this project. Some upcoming features include artifact checksumming and additional authentication mechanisms.

If you have an issue or want to request for a feature, please file an issue on the repository.