Glossary of Jargon


A property given to a target that causes PMake to treat it differently.

command script

The lines immediately following a dependency line that specify commands to execute to create each of the targets on the dependency line. Each line in the command script must begin with a tab.

command-line variable

A variable defined in an argument when PMake is first executed. Overrides all assignments to the same variable name in the makefile.


A construct much like that used in C that allows a makefile to be configured on the fly based on the local environment, or on what is being made by that invocation of PMake.

creation script

Commands used to create a target.


The relationship between a source and a target. This comes in three flavors, as indicated by the operator between the target and the source. : gives a straight time-wise dependency (if the target is older than the source, the target is out-of-date), while ! provides simply an ordering and always considers the target out-of-date. :: is much like :, save it creates multiple instances of a target each of which depends on its own list of sources.

dynamic source

This refers to a source that has a local variable invocation in it. It allows a single dependency line to specify a different source for each target on the line.

global variable

Any variable defined in a makefile. Takes precedence over variables defined in the environment, but not over command-line or local variables.

input graph

What PMake constructs from a makefile. Consists of nodes made of the targets in the makefile, and the links between them (the dependencies). The links are directed (from source to target) and there may not be any cycles (loops) in the graph.

local variable

A variable defined by PMake visible only in a target's shell script. There are seven local variables, not all of which are defined for every target: .TARGET, .ALLSRC, .OODATE, .PREFIX, .IMPSRC, .ARCHIVE, and .MEMBER. .TARGET, .PREFIX, .ARCHIVE, and .MEMBER may be used on dependency lines to create dynamic sources.


A file that describes how a system is built. If you do not know what it is after reading this tutorial…


A letter, following a colon, used to alter how a variable is expanded. It has no effect on the variable itself.


What separates a source from a target (on a dependency line) and specifies the relationship between the two. There are three: :, ::, and !.

search path

A list of directories in which a file should be sought. PMake's view of the contents of directories in a search path does not change once the makefile has been read. A file is sought on a search path only if it is exclusively a source.


A program to which commands are passed in order to create targets.


Anything to the right of an operator on a dependency line. Targets on the dependency line are usually created from the sources.

special target

A target that causes PMake to do special things when it is encountered.


The tail end of a file name. Usually begins with a period, like .c or .ms.


A word to the left of the operator on a dependency line. More generally, any file that PMake might create. A file may be (and often is) both a target and a source (what it is depends on how PMake is looking at it at the time – sort of like the wave/particle duality of light, you know).

transformation rule

A special construct in a makefile that specifies how to create a file of one type from a file of another, as indicated by their suffixes.

variable expansion

The process of substituting the value of a variable for a reference to it. Expansion may be altered by means of modifiers.


A place in which to store text that may be retrieved later. Also used to define the local environment. Conditionals exist that test whether a variable is defined or not.

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