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13.3 The distcheck rule

The make dist documentation sounds nice, and make dist did do something, but how do you know it really works? It is a terrible feeling when you realize your carefully crafted distribution is missing a file and won’t compile on a user’s machine.

I wouldn’t write such an introduction unless Automake provided a solution. The solution is a smoke test known as make distcheck. This rule performs a make dist as usual, but it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it then proceeds to untar the new archive into a fresh directory, build it in a fresh build directory separate from the source directory, install it into a third fresh directory, and finally run make check in the build tree. If any step fails, distcheck aborts, leaving you to fix the problem before it will create a distribution.

While not a complete test – it only tries one architecture, after all – distcheck nevertheless catches most packaging errors (as opposed to portability bugs), and its use is highly recommended.

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