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7. Conditional Parts of Makefiles

A conditional causes part of a makefile to be obeyed or ignored depending on the values of variables. Conditionals can compare the value of one variable to another, or the value of a variable to a constant string. Conditionals control what make actually "sees" in the makefile, so they cannot be used to control shell commands at the time of execution.


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7.1 Example of a Conditional

The following example of a conditional tells make to use one set of libraries if the CC variable is `gcc', and a different set of libraries otherwise. It works by controlling which of two command lines will be used as the command for a rule. The result is that `CC=gcc' as an argument to make changes not only which compiler is used but also which libraries are linked.

 
libs_for_gcc = -lgnu
normal_libs =

foo: $(objects)
ifeq ($(CC),gcc)
        $(CC) -o foo $(objects) $(libs_for_gcc)
else
        $(CC) -o foo $(objects) $(normal_libs)
endif

This conditional uses three directives: one ifeq, one else and one endif.

The ifeq directive begins the conditional, and specifies the condition. It contains two arguments, separated by a comma and surrounded by parentheses. Variable substitution is performed on both arguments and then they are compared. The lines of the makefile following the ifeq are obeyed if the two arguments match; otherwise they are ignored.

The else directive causes the following lines to be obeyed if the previous conditional failed. In the example above, this means that the second alternative linking command is used whenever the first alternative is not used. It is optional to have an else in a conditional.

The endif directive ends the conditional. Every conditional must end with an endif. Unconditional makefile text follows.

As this example illustrates, conditionals work at the textual level: the lines of the conditional are treated as part of the makefile, or ignored, according to the condition. This is why the larger syntactic units of the makefile, such as rules, may cross the beginning or the end of the conditional.

When the variable CC has the value `gcc', the above example has this effect:

 
foo: $(objects)
        $(CC) -o foo $(objects) $(libs_for_gcc)

When the variable CC has any other value, the effect is this:

 
foo: $(objects)
        $(CC) -o foo $(objects) $(normal_libs)

Equivalent results can be obtained in another way by conditionalizing a variable assignment and then using the variable unconditionally:

 
libs_for_gcc = -lgnu
normal_libs =

ifeq ($(CC),gcc)
  libs=$(libs_for_gcc)
else
  libs=$(normal_libs)
endif

foo: $(objects)
        $(CC) -o foo $(objects) $(libs)

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7.2 Syntax of Conditionals

The syntax of a simple conditional with no else is as follows:

 
conditional-directive
text-if-true
endif

The text-if-true may be any lines of text, to be considered as part of the makefile if the condition is true. If the condition is false, no text is used instead.

The syntax of a complex conditional is as follows:

 
conditional-directive
text-if-true
else
text-if-false
endif

or:

 
conditional-directive
text-if-one-is-true
else conditional-directive
text-if-true
else
text-if-false
endif

There can be as many "else conditional-directive" clauses as necessary. Once a given condition is true, text-if-true is used and no other clause is used; if no condition is true then text-if-false is used. The text-if-true and text-if-false can be any number of lines of text.

The syntax of the conditional-directive is the same whether the conditional is simple or complex; after an else or not. There are four different directives that test different conditions. Here is a table of them:

ifeq (arg1, arg2)
ifeq 'arg1' 'arg2'
ifeq "arg1" "arg2"
ifeq "arg1" 'arg2'
ifeq 'arg1' "arg2"

Expand all variable references in arg1 and arg2 and compare them. If they are identical, the text-if-true is effective; otherwise, the text-if-false, if any, is effective.

Often you want to test if a variable has a non-empty value. When the value results from complex expansions of variables and functions, expansions you would consider empty may actually contain whitespace characters and thus are not seen as empty. However, you can use the strip function (see section Functions for String Substitution and Analysis) to avoid interpreting whitespace as a non-empty value. For example:

 
ifeq ($(strip $(foo)),)
text-if-empty
endif

will evaluate text-if-empty even if the expansion of $(foo) contains whitespace characters.

ifneq (arg1, arg2)
ifneq 'arg1' 'arg2'
ifneq "arg1" "arg2"
ifneq "arg1" 'arg2'
ifneq 'arg1' "arg2"

Expand all variable references in arg1 and arg2 and compare them. If they are different, the text-if-true is effective; otherwise, the text-if-false, if any, is effective.

ifdef variable-name

The ifdef form takes the name of a variable as its argument, not a reference to a variable. The value of that variable has a non-empty value, the text-if-true is effective; otherwise, the text-if-false, if any, is effective. Variables that have never been defined have an empty value. The text variable-name is expanded, so it could be a variable or function that expands to the name of a variable. For example:

 
bar = true
foo = bar
ifdef $(foo)
frobozz = yes
endif

The variable reference $(foo) is expanded, yielding bar, which is considered to be the name of a variable. The variable bar is not expanded, but its value is examined to determine if it is non-empty.

Note that ifdef only tests whether a variable has a value. It does not expand the variable to see if that value is nonempty. Consequently, tests using ifdef return true for all definitions except those like foo =. To test for an empty value, use ifeq ($(foo),). For example,

 
bar =
foo = $(bar)
ifdef foo
frobozz = yes
else
frobozz = no
endif

sets `frobozz' to `yes', while:

 
foo =
ifdef foo
frobozz = yes
else
frobozz = no
endif

sets `frobozz' to `no'.

ifndef variable-name

If the variable variable-name has an empty value, the text-if-true is effective; otherwise, the text-if-false, if any, is effective. The rules for expansion and testing of variable-name are identical to the ifdef directive.

Extra spaces are allowed and ignored at the beginning of the conditional directive line, but a tab is not allowed. (If the line begins with a tab, it will be considered a command for a rule.) Aside from this, extra spaces or tabs may be inserted with no effect anywhere except within the directive name or within an argument. A comment starting with `#' may appear at the end of the line.

The other two directives that play a part in a conditional are else and endif. Each of these directives is written as one word, with no arguments. Extra spaces are allowed and ignored at the beginning of the line, and spaces or tabs at the end. A comment starting with `#' may appear at the end of the line.

Conditionals affect which lines of the makefile make uses. If the condition is true, make reads the lines of the text-if-true as part of the makefile; if the condition is false, make ignores those lines completely. It follows that syntactic units of the makefile, such as rules, may safely be split across the beginning or the end of the conditional.

make evaluates conditionals when it reads a makefile. Consequently, you cannot use automatic variables in the tests of conditionals because they are not defined until commands are run (see section Automatic Variables).

To prevent intolerable confusion, it is not permitted to start a conditional in one makefile and end it in another. However, you may write an include directive within a conditional, provided you do not attempt to terminate the conditional inside the included file.


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7.3 Conditionals that Test Flags

You can write a conditional that tests make command flags such as `-t' by using the variable MAKEFLAGS together with the findstring function (see section Functions for String Substitution and Analysis). This is useful when touch is not enough to make a file appear up to date.

The findstring function determines whether one string appears as a substring of another. If you want to test for the `-t' flag, use `t' as the first string and the value of MAKEFLAGS as the other.

For example, here is how to arrange to use `ranlib -t' to finish marking an archive file up to date:

 
archive.a: …
ifneq (,$(findstring t,$(MAKEFLAGS)))
        +touch archive.a
        +ranlib -t archive.a
else
        ranlib archive.a
endif

The `+' prefix marks those command lines as "recursive" so that they will be executed despite use of the `-t' flag. See section Recursive Use of make.


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