Autoconf Library Detection guideline

This page is a work in progress. The autoconf template documented here is still evolving and when stable will be turned into a macro.

Overview of Behaviour

Each library depended on by Squid should have an AC_WITH() macro defined to permit user disabling, requirement, or replacement of the library. Squid should be capable of quicky detecting the libraries absence and

* When the user explicitly specifies --with-foo the libraries absence is a fatal error.

* When the user specifies --with-foo=PATH the library shall be detected at the specified path.

* When the user specifies --without-foo no tests for the librarry will be performed, nor will it be used by Squid.

* When the library is absent API feature tests, hacks and workarounds for the library should not be searched for. This reduces the time ./configure spends performing useless operations.

Piece 1: AC_ARG_WITH()

Use this autoconf provided macro to setup path locations and with_* variables for the library.

                 [Do not use Foo. Default: auto-detect]), [
case "$with_foo" in
    : # Nothing special to do here
    if test ! -d "$withval" ; then
      AC_MSG_ERROR([--with-foo path does not point to a directory])
    CXXFLAGS="-I$with_foo/include $CXXFLAGS"
AH_TEMPLATE(USE_FOO,[Foo support is available])

Piece 2: Library need check

if test "x$with_foo" != "xno"; then

Piece #3 and #4 goes in here


  if test "x$with_foo" = "xyes" -a "x$LIBFOO_LIBS" = "x"; then
    AC_MSG_ERROR([Required Foo library not found])
  if test "x$LIBFOO_LIBS" != "x" ; then
    AC_DEFINE(USE_FOO,1,[Foo support is available])
AC_MSG_NOTICE([Foo library support: ${with_foo:=auto} ${LIBFOO_PATH} ${LIBFOO_LIBS}])
  • Note the absence of AC_CONDITIONAL to setup ENABLE_FOO. If a major feature requires library foo then it should base its determination on the setting in $with_foo only after these library tests have been performed and set $with_foo to one of yes/no.

Piece 3: pkg-config and file detections

Prefer the use of pkg-config to locate library parameters. When provided by the library author they are updated automatically if the build parameters change, and can also do library version detection more accurately.

The PKG_CHECK_MODULES macro creates the local variables LIBFOO_CFLAGS and LIBFOO_LIBS necessary to build against the library.

  • Note that the users custom path (if any) is already provided in CXXFLAGS and LIBS.

  • Note that any changes to the regular *FLAGS or LIBS build variables will be reverted when this check state is rolled back. If necessary the backup detection logics should re-use the pkg-config variables so they can be setup only for binaries using this library.

An example of how to use PKG_CHECK_MODULES:

  # auto-detect using pkg-config
  PKG_CHECK_MODULES([LIBFOO],[foo >= 1.0.0],,[

    ## something went wrong.
    ## try to find the package without pkg-config

    ## check that the library is actually new enough.
    ## by testing for a 1.0.0+ function which we use

Piece 4: header detection

Check for the library header includes separately.

This is required as a side effect of the Squid requiremet for HAVE_FOO_H wrapper definitions. The pkg-config tool does not check for them automatically and it makes no sense to do them twice for both its success and failure actions.

  if test "x$LIBFOO_LIBS" != "x" ; then

Each binary that uses library Foo should include  $(FOOLIB)  in its LDADD declaration following the entry and will be linked when relevant.

  • {i} for ease of maintenance these FOOLIB LDADD entries should be alphabetical.

ProgrammingGuide/LibraryAutoconf (last edited 2014-06-09 06:53:38 by AmosJeffries)