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Creating modules

Modules in RIOT are well-defined units of code that provide a set of features to your application. This includes also drivers and to a certain extent ports for CPUs and boards (with some exceptions, see the porting guide for further information).

The general structure

Like applications, modules are directories containing source files and a Makefile. Additionally their API can be defined in one or more header files, residing in the include path of their super-module.

E.g. the Shell module is implemented in sys/shell and defines its API in sys/include/shell.h and the ISL29020 light sensor driver is implemented in drivers/isl29020 and defines its API in drivers/include/isl29020.h.

A module's Makefile just needs to include Makefile.base in the RIOT repository:

include $(RIOTBASE)/Makefile.base

If your module's name differs from the name of the directory it resides in you need to set the MODULE macro in addition.

When compiled a module always provides a MODULE_<MODULENAME> macro to the system. This way, other modules can check if the module is available in the current configuration or not.

Modules can be used by adding their name to the USEMODULE macro of your application's Makefile.


The MODULE name should be unique or build breaks as modules overwrite the same output file. This might for example lead to undefined reference to errors in the linker which can be hard to track down.

This problem happened in the past for:

  • Packages root directory (libfixmath/u8g2)
  • boards/cpu/periph and their common boards/cpu/periph

Note: even if all boards and cpus implement the board and cpu modules, only one is used in an application so there is no conflict.

Module dependencies

Your module may depend on other modules to minimize code duplication. These dependencies are defined in Makefile.dep with the following syntax:

ifneq (,$(filter your_module,$(USEMODULE))) # if module in USEMODULE
USEMODULE += dep1 # add dependencies to USEMODULE

Note, that Makefile.dep is processed only once so you have to take care to add the dependency block for your module before your dependencies pull in their dependencies.

Modules outside of RIOTBASE

Modules can be defined outside RIOTBASE. In addition to add it to USEMODULE the user needs to add the directory (or directories) containing external modules to EXTERNAL_MODULE_DIRS.

External modules can optionally define the following files:

  • Makefile.include file to set global build configuration like CFLAGS or add API headers include paths to the USEMODULE_INCLUDES variable.
  • Makefile.dep file to set module dependencies

NOTE: The name of an external module must be unique (both in regard to other external modules, as well to native RIOT modules). Additionally, the directory containing the module must match the module name, e.g. module foo must be located in <PATH_IN_EXTERNAL_MODULE_DIRS>/foo.

An example can be found in tests/build_system/external_module_dirs


Pseudomodules are modules that are not static libraries, i.e. do not generate a <module name>.a file.

To create a pseudomodule just add its name to makefiles/pseudomodules.inc.mk with PSEUDOMODULES += <modulename> in alphabetical order.

A Pseudomodule may or may not have a source file associated with it. To make the distinction between them we will refer to those that don't as true-Pseudomodules.

The main use case for true-Pseudomodules is to provide base information for dependencies to other modules or information to the code base via the MODULE_<MODULENAME> macro.

Pseudomodules with source code exist under a "real" MODULE since they will generate a <pseudomodule_name>.o file grouped under that MODULEs <module_name>.a file.

These modules appear in RIOT under two forms:

  1. Conditionally included source files:


In foo/Makefile you add the source file to the SRC variable, conditioned on the Pseudomodule inclusion

ifneq (,$(filter foo_bar,$(USEMODULE)))
SRC += foo_bar.c

See sys/net/ble/skald for an example in code.

  1. Using the SUBMODULES mechanism:

    # make all code end up in "foo_bar.a", this can be any name
    MODULE := foo_bar
    # ensure that "foo_ham" or "bar_foo_ham" builds "foo_ham.c".
    BASE_MODULE := foo
    # list of source files that are not SUBMODULES
    SRC := spam.c
    # enable submodules by setting SUBMODULES = 1

When using SUBMODULES in a MODULE all SRC file excluded from foo/Makefile will be considered SUBMODULES. In the example above ham.c and eggs.c. These source files will be conditionally included depending if the modules have been added, i.e. USEMODULE += foo_ham foo_eggs (it's the same as case 1 but handled automatically in Makefile.base).

The SUBMODULES mechanism is more flexible since BASE_MODULE allows matching the only parts of compounded module names and only match against part of that name.

See sys/ztimer/Makefile for an example in code.

SUBMODULES can also be true-pseudomodules, or become one by conditionally excluding the source files by adding them to SUBMODULES_NO_SRC.

Helper tools

To help you start writing a module, the RIOT build system provides the generate-module make target. It is a wrapper around the riotgen command line tool that is helpful when starting to implement a module: all required files are generated with copyright headers, doxygen groups, etc, so you can concentrate on the module implementation. The module source files are created in the sys directory.


From the RIOT base directory, run:

make generate-module

Then answer a few questions about the driver:

  • Module name: enter a name for your module. It will be used as both the name of the module directory under sys, where the source files are created, and the build system module (used with USEMODULE).
  • Module doxygen name: Enter the name of module, as displayed in the Doxygen documentation.
  • Brief doxygen description: Describe in one line what is this module about.

Other global information (author name, email, organization) should be retrieved automatically from your git configuration.

Once completed, the module files are located in sys/<module name>/<module name>.c and sys/include/<module name>.h.