6.6. Using GNU Autotools

6.6.1. Introduction

The various GNU autotools provide an abstraction mechanism for building a piece of software over a wide variety of operating systems and machine architectures. Within the Ports Collection, an individual port can make use of these tools via a simple construct:

USE_AUTOTOOLS=	tool[:env] ...

At the time of writing, tool can be one of autoconf, autoheader, automake, aclocal, libtool (deprecated), libtoolize, libltdl. It can also be one the older legacy of autoconf213, autoheader213, automake14, aclocal14.

env is used to specify that the environmental variables are needed. It also adds a build dependency on the tool. The relevant tool is not ran as part of the run-autotools target.

Multiple tools can be specified at once, either by including them all on a single line, or using the += Makefile construct.

6.6.2. libtool

The use of USE_AUTOTOOLS=libtool is deprecated. Now all ports that ship with their own copy of libtool (search for a file named ltmain.sh) need to have USES=libtool. Also, if a port has USE_AUTOTOOLS=libtoolize it probably also needs USES=libtool. See the USES=libtool section in Chapter 15, Values of USES for more details.

6.6.3. libltdl

Some ports make use of the libltdl library package, which is part of the libtool suite. Use of this library does not automatically necessitate the use of libtool itself, so a separate construct is provided.


Currently, all this does is to bring in a LIB_DEPENDS on the appropriate libltdl port, and is provided as a convenience function to help eliminate any dependencies on the autotools ports outside of the USE_AUTOTOOLS framework. There are no optional operations for this tool.

6.6.4. autoconf and autoheader

Some ports do not contain a configure script, but do contain an autoconf template in the configure.ac file. You can use the following assignments to let autoconf create the configure script, and also have autoheader create template headers for use by the configure script.

USE_AUTOTOOLS=	autoconf[:env]


USE_AUTOTOOLS=	autoheader

which also implies the use of autoconf.

The additional optional variables AUTOCONF_ARGS and AUTOHEADER_ARGS can be overridden by the port Makefile if specifically requested. Most ports are unlikely to need this. See bsd.autotools.mk for further details.

6.6.5. automake and aclocal

Some packages only contain Makefile.am files. These have to be converted into Makefile.in files using automake, and the further processed by configure to generate an actual Makefile.

Similarly, packages occasionally do not ship with included aclocal.m4 files, again required to build the software. This can be achieved with aclocal, which scans configure.ac or configure.in.

aclocal has a similar relationship to automake as autoheader does to autoconf, described in the previous section. aclocal implies the use of automake, thus we have:

USE_AUTOTOOLS=	automake[:env]



As with autoconf and autoheader, both automake and aclocal have optional argument variables, AUTOMAKE_ARGS and ACLOCAL_ARGS respectively, which may be overridden by the port Makefile if required.

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