pkgs.mkShell is a specialized stdenv.mkDerivation that removes some repetition when using it with nix-shell (or nix develop).


Here is a common usage example:

{ pkgs ? import <nixpkgs> {} }:
pkgs.mkShell {
  packages = [ pkgs.gnumake ];

  inputsFrom = [ pkgs.hello pkgs.gnutar ];

  shellHook = ''
    export DEBUG=1


  • name (default: nix-shell). Set the name of the derivation.
  • packages (default: []). Add executable packages to the nix-shell environment.
  • inputsFrom (default: []). Add build dependencies of the listed derivations to the nix-shell environment.
  • shellHook (default: ""). Bash statements that are executed by nix-shell.

... all the attributes of stdenv.mkDerivation.

Building the shell

This derivation output will contain a text file that contains a reference to all the build inputs. This is useful in CI where we want to make sure that every derivation, and its dependencies, build properly. Or when creating a GC root so that the build dependencies don't get garbage-collected.