CMake:How To Write Platform Checks

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If you want to write software which compiles and runs on different operating systems, you have to take care for the special properties of the different platforms. On different operating systems there are subtle differences, e.g. on FreeBSD you should not use malloc.h, while it is perfectly ok to use it on Linux. These differences are usually handled by providing a header file which contains a bunch of define-statements according to the platform properties, usually named config.h:

#define HAVE_MALLOC_H 1
/* #undef HAVE_SYS_MNTTAB_H 1 */
/* #undef HAVE_SYS_MNTENT_H 1 */
#define HAVE_SYS_MOUNT_H 1

This header file is then included in the source files and the handled appropriately:


#include "config.h"

#include <malloc.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

void bar() {
   void *buf=malloc(1024);

The contents of config.h depend on the platform where the sources are compiled, so there needs to be a way to generate this header file before the actual compilation process starts. If you are using autotools-based software, you probably know the ./configure step, which has to be executed before starting make. The ./configure script does some system introspection and generates from the gathered information the config.h header file. CMake is able to do the same, and I'll show you how to do it.

Addtionally to the builtin commands (see ), cmake offers more commands implemented by cmake script files, called modules. These files are located in the cmake module directory, on UNIX systems is this by default /usr/local/share/CMake/Modules .

To use commands from these modules, they have to be included in the CMakeLists.txt. CMake comes with several modules for checking the system, they all follow the same style, as an example here CHECK_INCLUDE_FILES:

INCLUDE (CheckIncludeFiles)

CHECK_INCLUDE_FILES ("sys/param.h;sys/mount.h" HAVE_SYS_MOUNT_H)

INCLUDE (CheckIncludeFiles)
#the cmake module provides the command CHECK_INCLUDE_FILES

The usage should be obvious. The header you want to test for is given as the first argument. If it exists,

INCLUDE (CheckFunctionExists)
INCLUDE (CheckSymbolExists)
INCLUDE (CheckLibraryExists)
INCLUDE (CheckTypeSize)
INCLUDE (CheckPrototypeExists)
INCLUDE (CheckCXXSourceCompiles)
INCLUDE (CheckCSourceCompiles)