Book Image

CMake Best Practices

By : Dominik Berner, Mustafa Kemal Gilor
5 (2)
Book Image

CMake Best Practices

5 (2)
By: Dominik Berner, Mustafa Kemal Gilor

Overview of this book

CMake is a powerful tool used to perform a wide variety of tasks, so finding a good starting point for learning CMake is difficult. This book cuts to the core and covers the most common tasks that can be accomplished with CMake without taking an academic approach. While the CMake documentation is comprehensive, it is often hard to find good examples of how things fit together, especially since there are lots of dirty hacks and obsolete solutions available on the internet. This book focuses on helping you to tie things together and create clean and maintainable projects with CMake. You'll not only get to grips with the basics but also work through real-world examples of structuring large and complex maintainable projects and creating builds that run in any programming environment. You'll understand the steps to integrate and automate various tools for improving the overall software quality, such as testing frameworks, fuzzers, and automatic generation of documentation. And since writing code is only half of the work, the book also guides you in creating installers and packaging and distributing your software. All this is tailored to modern development workflows that make heavy use of CI/CD infrastructure. By the end of this CMake book, you'll be able to set up and maintain complex software projects using CMake in the best way possible.
Table of Contents (22 chapters)
Part 1: The Basics
Part 2: Practical CMake – Getting Your Hands Dirty with CMake
Part 3: Mastering the Details

CMake in a nutshell

CMake is open source and available on many platforms. It is also compiler-independent, making it a very strong tool when it comes to building and distributing cross-platform software. All these features make it a valuable tool for building software in a modern way – that is, by relying heavily on build automation and built-in quality gates.

CMake consists of three command-line tools:

  • cmake: CMake itself, which is used to generate build instructions
  • ctest: CMake's test utility, which is used to detect and run tests
  • cpack: CMake's packaging tool, which is used to pack software into convenient installers, such as deb, RPM, and self-extracting installers

There are also two interactive tools:

  • cmake-gui: A GUI frontend to help with configuring projects
  • ccmake: An interactive terminal UI for configuring CMake

cmake-gui can be used to conveniently configure a CMake build and select the compiler to be used:

Figure 1.1 – cmake-gui after configuring a project

Figure 1.1 – cmake-gui after configuring a project

If you're working on the console but still want to have an interactive configuration of CMake, then ccmake is the right tool. While not as convenient as cmake-gui, it offers the same functionality. This is especially useful when you must configure CMake remotely over an ssh shell or similar:

Figure 1.2 – Configuring a project using ccmake

Figure 1.2 – Configuring a project using ccmake

The advantage of CMake over a regular build system is manyfold. First, there is the cross-platform aspect. With CMake, it is much easier to create build instructions for a variety of compilers and platforms without the need to know the specifics of the respective build system in depth.

Then, there is CMake's ability to discover system libraries and dependencies, which lessens the pain of locating the correct libraries for building a piece of software considerably. An additional bonus is that CMake integrates nicely with package managers such as Conan and vcpkg.

It is not just the ability to build software for multiple platforms, but also its native support for testing, installing, and packaging software that makes CMake a much better candidate for building software than just a single build system. Being able to define everything from building and over-testing to packaging at a single point helps tremendously with maintaining projects in the long run.

The fact that CMake itself has very few dependencies on the system and can run on the command line without user interaction makes it very suitable for build system automatization in CI/CD pipelines.

Now that we've covered briefly what CMake can do, let's learn how to install CMake.