cvs commit: hints autotools.txt

timothy at timothy at
Mon Jul 15 09:04:10 PDT 2002

timothy     02/07/15 09:04:10

  Added:       .        autotools.txt
  Initial commit.
  Revision  Changes    Path
  1.1                  hints/autotools.txt
  Index: autotools.txt
  TITLE:		GNU-Autotools
  LFS-VERSION:	LFS-CVS-20011206+
  AUTHOR:		Elko Holl <elko at> <elko at>
  SYNOPSIS:	Short introduction to the GNU autotools.
  $Id: autotools.txt,v 1.1 2002/07/15 16:04:10 timothy Exp $
    * Preface
    * Versions
    * Creating the source file(s)
    * Adapting
    * Creating
    * Creating and
    * Creating the configure script
    * Testing the result
    * Making a distribution
    * Related documents
    * Warranty
    Ok, so you have your BLFS finished and have all the applications you can
    think of installed. Now what? You start to learn BaSH, Perl, C and kernel
    internals and finally, you code up some cool program which you think is
    worth uploading to for example.
    But how are you going to distribute your program? Just pack everything in
    a tarball and present a Makefile to your users that they have to modify? NO!
    You want your project to be like all the packages you already installed, so
    that means having a configure script so you can at least specify the
    installation --prefix for your program.
    With the GNU range of applications this means using autoconf and automake,
    rather then coding the required files yourself; these programs are part of
    the GNU-autotools collection.
    Here is a quote from the autoconf manual:
    "Autoconf is a tool for producing shell scripts that automatically configure
    software source code packages to adapt to many kinds of UNIX-like systems.
    The configuration scripts produced by Autoconf are independent of Autoconf
    when they are run, so their users do not need to have Autoconf."
    This document describes the minimal steps you must take to start a project
    in GNU fashion. You'll learn to use autoconf and automake to create
    configure scripts and Makefiles, almost automagically;
    just like the Pro's do it!
    For more information on autoconf and automake skip to the section at the
    bottom titled "Related documents".
    It is assumed that you already know a bit about writing a Makefile. If this
    is not the case, then first read-up on Makefiles at:

    Hint: You can use Makefiles for more then C-program compilation, you can for
          example create targets for commonly used functions (shell-scripts). If
          this doesn't ring a bell right now, read the make-manual and it will
          start to make sense (i.e. `make backup' for your system operators).
    The versions of autoconf and automake used in this document are:
    [elko at elkos ~]$ (autoconf -V;automake --version)2>&1|grep "^auto"
    autoconf (GNU Autoconf) 2.52
    automake (GNU automake) 1.6.1
    Note that as stated in the LFS-book, this newer version of autoconf
    (and automake) may cause some not so up-to-date applications to fail to
    compile on your system. You can always downgrade autoconf or automake; so if
    you experience any problems building certain packages after upgrading to the
    versions used in document, try to downgrade before complaining somewhere.
    If you are happy with your autoconf and automake release, and don't want to
    upgrade, then this document can still be used as a quick guide to start a
    project; some of the semantics may differ though, consult the documentation
    of your release for the details.
  Creating the source file(s)
    This document only uses one source file, since it's just a quick guide to
    start a GNU fashion project. In almost any situation. your project will
    have more then one source file, that is why it is assumed that you know how
    to write Makefiles, since more sourcefiles mean more described dependencies
    in your ''; more on that later, read along or skip to the section
    called "Related documents" (at the bottom) and get your information there.
    First, create a directory where you start your project and create the famous
    "Hello World!" source-file (a slightly altered version though):
  cd $HOME && mkdir hello && cd hello &&
  cat >hello.c <<EOHF
   * hello.c example for the autotools.txt hint
  #ifdef HAVE_CONFIG_H
  #include <config.h>
  #include <stdio.h>
  #include <unistd.h>
  int main()
          fprintf (stdout, "Hello World!\n");
  #ifdef _WITH_GOODBYE
          sleep (1);
          fprintf (stdout, "Goodbye Cruel World!\n");
          return (0);
    Note that there are some header-files included and there is a symbol
    definition check present to change the behavior of the program. This is
    done on purpose to show some details of the autotools; almost every project
    you create will have conditionals in the source to enhance or alter the
    behavior of your software. The #ifdef and #ifndef statements play an
    important part in your flexibility with the GNU-autotools.
    The next step is to create the 'config.h' file, which autoscan uses to
    create the input file for autoheader:
  cat >config.h <<EOHF
  #define VERSION=1.0
    Now that you have your source-file(s) in place, you have to create a file
    for autoconf - which describes your project - called ''.
    To generate a template for this file, you can use `autoscan', which will
    create a file named 'configure.scan'; rename that file to '':
  autoscan &&
  mv configure.scan
    You have to adapt '' for your project now. In this example,
    it is modified as follows (some blank lines removed):
    # Process this file with autoconf to produce a configure script.
    # - Change program presets
    AC_INIT(hello, 1.0, elko at
    # - Change AC to AM (automake version)
    # - Add this line for a bzip2 dist
    # - The following lines adds the --enable-goodbye option to configure:
    # Give the user the choice to enter one of these:
    # --enable-goodbye
    # --enable-goodbye=yes
    # --enable-goodbye=no
    AC_MSG_CHECKING([whether we are enabling goodbye])
          AC_HELP_STRING([--enable-goodbye], [Say goodbye as well]),
          [if test "${enable_goodbye}" = "yes" ; then
                  AC_DEFINE(_WITH_GOODBYE, 1, Say goodbye as well)
                  AC_DEFINE(_WITH_GOODBYE, 0, Say goodbye as well)
          # Default value for configure
    # Checks for programs.
    # Checks for libraries.
    # Checks for header files.
    # Automatically added by autoscan
    # - The following line demonstrates checking for header files yourself:
    # do nothing if stdio.h is found, else print an error
    AC_CHECK_HEADER(stdio.h, , AC_MSG_ERROR([stdio.h not found!]))
    # Checks for typedefs, structures, and compiler characteristics.
    # Checks for library functions.
    # - Add Makefile
    The 'AM_INIT_AUTOMAKE' is specified because I wish to have a make target
    called 'dist-bzip2', which makes a bzipped tarball from my development tree.
    AC in the AC_CONFIG_HEADER is changed to AM because the version of automake
    used in this document prefers it over the AC prefix.
    For other options you can specify in the '' file, skip to the
    section "Related documents" at the bottom of this document.
  Creating aclocal.m4
    In order for autoconf and automake to recognize and translate defined
    macro's, you have to run `aclocal', which generates the 'aclocal.m4'
    This file is required by automake because you created a 'config.h' file,
    so just run `autoheader' and your done:
  Creating and
    Now you need a way to specify the rules which make must follow. The syntax
    of a '' (AutoMake) almost resembles that of an ordinary Makefile,
    in this example, you create the '' like this:
  cat > 2>/dev/null <<EOHF
  bin_PROGRAMS = hello
  CC = @CC@
          $(CC) -o hello hello.c     # <-- this line starts with a TAB!
    The '' file is used to generate a '', that is used by
    the configure script, which enables the user of your package to specify
    system specifics that will be reflected in the final (real) Makefile.
    Once you have '', you can run `automake' to create ''.
    If you do so at this moment however, it will complain about missing files,
    which are normally part of a standard "GNU-package". These files are:
          install-sh, mkinstalldirs, missing, ChangeLog, depcomp,
    However, automake provides an option to add those missing files
    (in case they are found on your system) if you add the -a flag
    to automake (short for --add-missing). So let's do that:
  automake --add-missing
    The output of this command looks something like:
 installing `./install-sh'
 installing `./mkinstalldirs'
 installing `./missing'
 installing `./INSTALL'
 required file `./NEWS' not found
 required file `./README' not found
 installing `./COPYING'
 required file `./AUTHORS' not found
 required file `./ChangeLog' not found
 installing `./depcomp'
    Some symbolic links will be created in your project directory, pointing
    to the various locations where the files are found. As you can see,
    some files are still missing: NEWS, README, AUTHORS and ChangeLog.
    If you want those files to also be installed when you add the -a flag
    to automake, create those files in the same place where the symlinks
    point to.
    The missing files are just informal ones. It's up to you to decide if
    you want them, though it isn't a bad idea to follow the GNU convention
    and execute the following command to create the missing files:
    Run `automake' again to verify it isn't complaining anymore:
    In case you are wondering, the symbolic links will be replaced by the
    programs themselves if you do a `make dist' when you are ready to
    distribute your project, read along.
  Creating the configure script
    To create the configure script, just run `autoconf' and you're done:
  Testing the result
    Before you test the result, it is always a good idea to backup your work:
  cd .. &&
  cp -a hello hello.ok &&
  cd -
    Now test if the configure script works as expected; while testing, pay
    close attention to the output that you get from the configure script,
    especially the '--enable-goodbye' option and the 'stdio.h' check:
  ./configure --prefix=$HOME/hello-test \
          --bindir=$HOME/hello-test &&
  make &&
  make install
    See if the program works:
  ls -l ../hello-test &&
    Now test if our configure-option gets recognized:
  ./configure --prefix=$HOME/hello-test\
          --bindir=$HOME/hello-test \
          --enable-goodbye &&
  make &&
  make install
    And again, see if the program works:
  ./hello &&
    If you execute a `make uninstall', you will notice the binary is removed,
    but the directory is still there; this is a good thing, because if you
    installed the package in /usr/bin for example, you wouldn't want the
    uninstall rule to `rm -fr' your entire /usr/bin as well.
    You could enhance the Makefile to test for an empty directory and then
    remove it, or just add a `rmdir --i <prefix>', which will quietly fail
    if the directory is not empty.
  Making a distribution
    It is possible to create a tarball from your project by executing:
  make dist
    In this example you would end up with a file called "hello-1.0.tar.gz",
    and a file "hello-1.0.tar.bz2" since the target has dependencies, check
    what the package contains:
  tar tvzf hello-1.0.tar.gz
    If you would only like a bzipped tarball, execute:
  make dist-bzip2 &&
  ls -l hello-1.0.tar.bz2 &&
  tar tvjf hello-1.0.tar.bz2
    Hint: If you install "bash_completion" (available on,
          then you can get all available make targets by entering 'make ' and
          pressing TAB twice (notice the space after the `make' command!). With
          bash_completion, the same is true for `./configure --<TAB><TAB>',
          which will list the available configure options; very neat indeed!
    To end the foolishness of making a GNU package of a 326 byte hello.c
    sourcefile, unpack the distribution you just made and see that it is
    258048 bytes now; that is ~791.56 times bigger then the original sourcefile:
  tar xjf hello-1.0.tar.bz2 &&
  du -sb hello-1.0
    But it is supposed to be portable now.
  Related documents
    For a full description and all the macros's you can use, visit:

    For information about installing the autotools, see Linuxfromscratch:

    I recommend reading this as well:

    Read, section 11
    (at the time of this writing).
    If you have any questions or suggestions about this document,
    please contact the author.
    Copyleft - $Date: 2002/07/15 16:04:10 $
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