wiki:pm-structure-config

Version 8 (modified by lou, 14 years ago) (diff)

General cleanup.

Basic Structure of the configure.ac File

Make sure you read the introduction to the autotools first. Here you can find the full autoconf documentation.

General Concepts

Autoconf works by running the macro expansion program m4, using the configure.ac file as input. This file contains macros that are expanded (recursively) until, in the end, a pure shell script for sh is created. The configure.ac input file can also contain sh commands, which will appear literally in the final configure script.

Everything in a line following a "#" is a comment. Comments are usually copied into the generated configure script, unless the line starts with at least two "#".

By convention, macro names are capitalized, and they start with AC_ if the macro is an autoconf macro, AM_ if it's an automake macro. We provide additional custom macros for COIN configuration (in the coin.m4 file), which start with AC_COIN_. In the autoconf documentation you can find a description of the predefined autoconf macros.

Like subroutines, macros can be written to have parameters and be invoked with arguments for those parameters. Parameters and arguments are separated by commas. The quotation symbols for autoconf are the square brackets "[" and "]". If a single argument contains a comma, the argument must be quoted by enclosing it in brackets. If in doubt, use quotation. If a macro is written to use four parameters, but only two arguments are provided, then the last two parameters are assumed to be unset (equivalent to an argument of []).

Beginning of a configure.ac file

At the beginning of a configure.ac file in COIN you will find something like the following:

## Copyright (C) 2006 International Business Machines.
# All Rights Reserved.
# This file is distributed under the Common Public License.

## $Id: configure.ac,v 1.1.2.1 2006/04/19 23:25:12 andreasw Exp $

# Author:  Andreas Waechter            IBM    2006-04-13

#############################################################################
#                       Names and other basic things                        #
#############################################################################

AC_PREREQ(2.59)

AC_INIT([SuperSolver],[1.2.1],[http://projects.coin-or.org/SuperSolver])

AC_COPYRIGHT([
Copyright 2006 International Business Machines and others.
All Rights Reserved.
This file is part of the open source package Coin which is distributed
under the Common Public License.])

# List one file in the package so that the configure script can test
# whether the package is actually there
AC_CONFIG_SRCDIR(src/SuperSolverMain.cpp)

# Where should everything be installed by default?  Here, we want it
# to be installed directly in 'bin', 'lib', and 'include' subdirectories
# of the directory where configure is run.  The default would be
# /usr/local.
AC_PREFIX_DEFAULT([`pwd`])
  • The file should contain the copyright notice, information about the authors, and state under what license the file is made available. Note the $Id ...$ string. This is a subversion keyword, which is expanded to contain information about the file, such as revision number, author and date of the last submission, etc., when the file is committed (assuming that the svn:keywords property for this file contains "Id").
  • The AC_PREREQ macro specifies the version number of autoconf that is required to generate a configure script from this input file. In COIN, we ask people to use exactly the same versions of all the GNU autotools, so that we can collectively take care of bug fixes and can avoid the situation where different versions of the autotools generate large differences in the generated configuration files when multiple developers work on a project simultaneously.
  • The AC_INIT macro takes as arguments the name of the project, its version number, and contact information in case a user wants to get in touch with the developers, e.g., in order to report a bug. The name and version number determine the name of the tarball that will be created by 'make dist'.
  • The argument of the AC_COPYRIGHT macro becomes the copyright notice in the generated configure script.
  • The AC_CONFIG_SRCDIR helps the configure script to do a sanity check. When the shell commands generated by expanding AC_CONFIG_SRCDIR are executed, the configure script tests if it is in the correct location with respect to the rest of the package. As the argument, one provides a file (such as a source file) that belongs to the package.
  • The argument of the AC_PREFIX_DEFAULT macro determines where the products of the compilation should be installed by a 'make install' command, unless this location is overwritten by the user by specifying the --prefix argument to configure. In COIN, we decided to use as the default location the directory where the configure script is run.

As you can see in the invocation of this macro. it is possible to give a shell command as an argument for a macro. Don't forget that autoconf and automake only perform macro expansion. Shell commands used as arguments to autoconf macros are just text strings to autoconf. The shell command will not be executed until the generated configure script is executed. This is a feature! In this case, the result is that the configure script will set the default installation directory according to the output of pwd produced when the generated configure script is run in the user's environment.

The Body of the configure.ac File

After the initialization described above, configure.ac usually contains a number of macros that will be expanded into the tests that are to be run by the configure script. The content of the body depends on whether this is a base directory configure.ac file or a project directory configure.ac file. In general, one checks for the availability and names of programs (such as compilers and other tools), tests for the presence of header files, libraries, etc. , and sets the values of autoconf output variables and configuration header #defines.

Autoconf output variables are specified with the macro invocation AC_SUBST(VARNAME), where VARNAME is the name of the output variable. The value of the output variable will be the value of the corresponding shell variable in the configure script. Therefore, setting the value of an output variable is done with a shell command like

VARNAME="value1 and maybe a few more"

The sh shell does not allow spaces before and after the = symbol!

In order to include a "#define" into the configuration header file that the configure script is going to create, one uses the AC_DEFINE and AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED macros, see the autoconf documentation.

The End of the configure.ac File

At the end of the configure.ac file, we need to make sure that the output is written In COIN, the bottom of the file usually looks like this:

##############################################################################
#                   Finish up by writing all the output                   #
##############################################################################

# Here list all the files that configure should create (except for the
# configuration header file)
AC_CONFIG_FILES([Makefile
                 examples/Makefile
                 src/Makefile
                 test/Makefile
                 clp_addlibs.txt])

# Here put the location and name of the configuration header file
AC_CONFIG_HEADER([inc/config_clp.h])

# Finally, we let configure write all the output...
AC_COIN_FINALIZE
  • The AC_CONFIG_FILES macro takes as its single argument a space-separated list of the files that are to be created from the corresponding .in template files. These are all the Makefiles and maybe some additional files. In the example shown here, the project installs a prjct_addlibs.txt file, and this will also be created from a template. A template file must exist for each file listed in the argument to AC_CONFIG_FILES.
  • The AC_CONFIG_HEADER macro takes as its argument the name of the configuration header file that is to be created by configure. For this file, the template will be created by the autotools utility autoheader. Base directory configure.ac files don't need this, since they do not gather information for compilation.
  • The AC_COIN_FINALIZE macro takes care of actaully writing the output. Internally, it uses the AC_OUTPUT macro, but since additional actions might have to be taken, you should use AC_COIN_FINALIZE instead of using AC_OUTPUT directly. AC_COIN_FINALIZE also writes the "configuration successful" message before the configure script finally stops.