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By 1994, Autoconf was a solid framework for handling the differences
between Unix variants. However, program developers still had to write
large ‘Makefile.in’ files in order to use it. The ‘configure’
script generated by
autoconf would transform the
‘Makefile.in’ file into a ‘Makefile’ used by the
A ‘Makefile.in’ file has to describe how to build the program. In
the Imake equivalent of a ‘Makefile.in’, known as an
‘Imakefile’, it is only necessary to describe which source files
are used to build the program. When Imake generates a
‘Makefile’, it adds the rules for how to build the program itself.
Later versions of the BSD
make program also include
rules for building a program.
Since most programs are built in much the same way, there was a great deal of duplication in ‘Makefile.in’ files. Also, the GNU project developed a reasonably complex set of standards for ‘Makefile’s, and it was easy to get some of the details wrong.
These factors led to the development of Automake.
autoconf, is a program run by a developer. The developer
writes files named ‘Makefile.am’; these use a simpler syntax than
automake reads the
‘Makefile.am’ files and produces ‘Makefile.in’ files. The
idea is that a script generated by
autoconf converts these
‘Makefile.in’ files into ‘Makefile’s.
As with Imake and BSD
make, the ‘Makefile.am’
file need only describe the files used to build a program.
automake automatically adds the necessary rules when it
generates the ‘Makefile.in’ file.
automake also adds any
rules required by the GNU ‘Makefile’ standards.
The first version of Automake was written by David MacKenzie in 1994. It was completely rewritten in 1995 by Tom Tromey.
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