JHBuild is a tool designed to ease building collections of source packages, called “modules”. JHBuild uses “module set” files to describe the modules available to build. The “module set” files include dependency information that allows JHBuild to discover what modules need to be built and in what order.

JHBuild was originally written for building GNOME, but has since been extended to be usable with other projects. A “module set” file can be hosted on a web server, allowing for build rules independent of the JHBuild project.

JHBuild can build modules from a variety of sources, including CVS, Subversion, Bazaar, Darcs, Git and Mercurial repositories, as well as Tar and Zip archives hosted on web or FTP sites. JHBuild can build modules using a variety of build systems, including Autotools, CMake, WAF, Python Distutils and Perl Makefiles.

JHBuild is not intended as a replacement for the distribution's package management system. Instead, it makes it easy to build software into a separate install prefix without interfering with the rest of the system.