Useful Modules

There are a ton of useful modules in CMake's module collection; but some of them are more useful than others. Here are a few highlights.

CMakeDependentOption

This adds a command cmake_dependent_option that sets an option based on another set of variables being true. It looks like this:

include(CMakeDependentOption)
cmake_dependent_option(BUILD_TESTS "Build your tests" ON "VAL1;VAL2" OFF)

which is just a shortcut for this:

if(VAL1 AND VAL2)
    set(BUILD_TESTS_DEFAULT ON)
else()
    set(BUILD_TESTS_DEFAULT OFF)
endif()

option(BUILD_TESTS "Build your tests" ${BUILD_TESTS_DEFAULT})

if(NOT BUILD_TESTS_DEFAULT)
    mark_as_advanced(BUILD_TESTS)
endif()

CMakePrintHelpers

This module has a couple of handy output functions. cmake_print_properties lets you easily print properties. And cmake_print_variables will print the names and values of any variables you give it.

CheckCXXCompilerFlag

This checks to see if a flag is supported. For example:

include(CheckCXXCompilerFlag)
check_cxx_compiler_flag(-someflag OUPUT_VARIABLE)

Note that OUTPUT_VARIABLE will also appear in the configuration printout, so choose a good name.

This is just one of many similar modules, such as CheckIncludeFileCXX, CheckStructHasMember, TestBigEndian, and CheckTypeSize that allow you to check for information about the system (and you can communicate that to your source code).

WriteCompilerDetectionHeader

This is an amazing module similar to the ones listed above, but special enough to deserve its own section. It allows you to look for a list of features that some compilers support, and write out a C++ header file that lets you know whether that feature is available. It even can provide compatibility macros for features that have changed names!

To use:

write_compiler_detection_header(
  FILE myoutput.h
  PREFIX My
  COMPILERS GNU Clang MSVC Intel
  FEATURES cxx_variadic_templates
)

This supports compiler features (defined to 0 or 1), symbols (defined to empty or the symbol), and macros that support different names. They will be prefixed with the PREFIX you provide. You can separate compilers into different files using OUTPUT_FILES_DIR.

The downside is that you do have to list the compilers you expect to support. If you use the ALLOW_UNKNOWN_COMPILERS flag(s), you can keep this from erroring on unknown compilers, but it will still leave all features empty.

try_compile/try_run

This is not exactly a module, but is crutial to many of the modules listed above. You can attept to compile (and possibly run) a bit of code at configure time. This can allow you to get information about the capabilities of your system. The basic syntax is:

try_compile(
  RESULT_VAR
    bindir
  SOURCES
    source.cpp
)

There are lots of options you can add, like COMPILE_DEFINITIONS. In CMake 3.8+, this will honor the CMake C/C++/CUDA standard settings. If you use try_run instead, it will run the resulting program and give you the output in RUN_OUTPUT_VARIABLE.

FeatureSummary

This is a fairly useful but rather odd module. It allows you to print out a list of packages what were searched for, as well as any options you explicity mark. It's partially but not completely tied into find_package. You first include the module, as always:

include(FeatureSummary)

Then, for any find packages you have run or will run, you can extend the default information:

set_package_properties(OpenMP PROPERTIES
    URL "http://www.openmp.org"
    DESCRIPTION "Parallel compiler directives"
    PURPOSE "This is what it does in my package")

You can also set the TYPE of a package to RUNTIME, OPTIONAL, RECOMMENDED, or REQUIRED; you can't, however, lower the type of a package; if you have already added a REQUIRED package through find_package based on an option, you'll see it listed as REQUIRED.

And, you can mark any options as part of the feature summary. If you choose the same name as a package, the two interact with each other.

add_feature_info(WITH_OPENMP OpenMP_CXX_FOUND "OpenMP (Thread safe FCNs only)")

Then, you can print out the summary of features, either to the screen or a log file:

if(CMAKE_PROJECT_NAME STREQUAL PROJECT_NAME)
    feature_summary(WHAT ENABLED_FEATURES DISABLED_FEATURES PACKAGES_FOUND)
    feature_summary(FILENAME ${CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR}/features.log WHAT ALL)
endif()

You can build any collection of WHAT items that you like, or just use ALL.

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