Large projects can contain thousands of lines of code, distributed in multiple source files, written by many developers and arranged in several subdirectories. A project may contain several component divisions. These components may have complex inter-dependencies ” for example, in order to compile component X, you have to first compile Y; in order to compile Y, you have to first compile Z; and so on. For a large project, when a few changes are made to the source, manually recompiling the entire project each time is tedious, error-prone and time-consuming.

Make is a solution to these problems. It can be used to specify dependencies between components, so that it will compile components in the order required to satisfy dependencies. An important feature is that when a project is recompiled after a few changes, it will recompile only the files which are changed, and any components that are dependent on it. This saves a lot of time. Make is, therefore, an essential tool for a large software project.

Each project needs a Makefile ” a script that describes the project structure, namely, the source code files, the dependencies between them, compiler arguments, and how to produce the target output (normally, one or more executables). Whenever the make command is executed, the Makefile in the current working directory is interpreted, and the instructions executed to produce the target outputs. The Makefile contains a collection of rules, macros, variable assignments, etc. (’Makefile’ or ’makefile’ are both acceptable.)

» Sarath Lakshman |