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readme.md

Waf Intro

This document serves as brief introduction to Waf, structured by examples.

Waf is an open source cross platform framework for writing build systems. In particular, it provides:

  • A concept of tasks
  • Automatic task dependencies based on known file inputs and outputs
  • Automatic task skipping when sources are demonstrably up-to-date
  • Parallel execution by default

This introduction demonstrates the three major ways tasks are created: feature-based task generators, rule-based task generators, and manually creating tasks.

This introduction is written for Waf 1.8.4. To prevent this document from going out-of-date, the waf 1.8.4 executable is committed here. If you would like to use the latest version of Waf, you can get it from GitHub.

For serious development using Waf, it's not a bad idea to read the Waf Book top to bottom at least once, which provides an overview of what kinds of magic Waf is capable of, which is useful even if you don't remember the details. (As a warning, the link to the Waf Book is not frozen at version 1.8.4; not a big deal, but perhaps something to watch out for if something doesn't work.)

Building a web page

As an example project, we're going to use Waf to compile a web page that contains a list of prime numbers.

A project built by Waf needs a top-level wscript file that tells Waf what to do. This file is written in Python, and contains an option method, a configure method, and a build method. Let's start by creating the wscript file now, with this contents:

def options(ctx):
    print 'opt'

def configure(ctx):
    print 'conf'

def build(bld):
    print 'bld'

When building with Waf, you first configure the project, using ./waf configure:

$ ./waf configure
Setting top to                           : /Waf Intro 
Setting out to                           : /Waf Intro/build 
opt
conf
'configure' finished successfully (0.003s)

Configuring the project runs both options (which provides an opportunity to declare command-line options) and configure (which sets up the project, including creating the build directory).

Then, we build the project, using ./waf (or ./waf build):

Waf: Entering directory `/Waf Intro/build'
bld
Waf: Leaving directory `/Waf Intro/build'
'build' finished successfully (0.003s)

Next, we need a list of prime numbers, and we will show how task generators work to do it. Waf has some built-in functionality for compiling a fair number of languages. We have a sample prime number generator in this folder written in C++. Let's use a task generator to compile that file into a working application. First, we need to load Waf's C support. We do this in the options and configure methods:

def options(ctx):
    ctx.load('compiler_cxx')

def configure(ctx):
    ctx.load('compiler_cxx')

Next, because we changed what our configure method does, we must re-run ./waf configure:

$ ./waf configure
Setting top to                           : /Waf Intro 
Setting out to                           : /Waf Intro/build 
Checking for 'clang++' (C++ compiler)    : /usr/bin/clang++ 
'configure' finished successfully (0.155s)

Notice it checked for a C++ compiler, and then found one at /usr/bin/clang++ (results may vary based on OS). We are now ready to build the example application that generates prime numbers. To do this, we will use a task generator in the build method:

def build(bld):
    bld(features='cxx cxxprogram', source='primes.cpp', target='primes')

And now this is what happens when we build:

$ ./waf
Waf: Entering directory `/Waf Intro/build'
[1/2] Compiling primes.cpp
[2/2] Linking build/primes
Waf: Leaving directory `/Waf Intro/build'
'build' finished successfully (0.183s)

And, if we execute our primes app, we see it works:

$ ./build/primes 7
3
5
7
11
13
17
19

Next, we want to use these prime numbers to compile some HTML. For this task, we will explore how custom tasks may be created to do whatever we want.

First, at the top of our wscript file, we must import some of Waf's infrastructure:

import re
import subprocess
from waflib import Task

Then, at the bottom of our wscript file, we will define a custom task that saves the list of primes to a file:

class run_primes_task(Task.Task):
    color = 'PINK'
    def keyword(self):
        return 'Generating'
    def __str__(self):
        node = self.outputs[0]
    return node.path_from(node.ctx.launch_node())
    def run(self):
        p = subprocess.Popen([self.inputs[0].abspath(), '100'], stdin=subprocess.PIPE, stdout=subprocess.PIPE)
        stdout, stderr = p.communicate()
        if stderr:
            Logs.warn(stderr)
        if p.returncode != 0:
            bld.fatal("primes tool failed with status %d" % (p.returncode,))
        self.outputs[0].parent.mkdir()
        self.outputs[0].write(stdout)

To use this task, we append this to our build method:

t = run_primes_task(env = bld.env)
t.set_inputs(bld.path.get_bld().make_node('primes'))
t.set_outputs(bld.path.get_bld().make_node('primes.txt'))
bld.add_to_group(t)

And this is what now happens when we run a build:

$ ./waf
Waf: Entering directory `/Waf Intro/build'
[3/3] Generating build/primes.txt
Waf: Leaving directory `/Waf Intro/build'
'build' finished successfully (0.021s)

Waf knew to not rebuild the primes application, and ran the task to create the primes.txt file.

Next, we want to build our HTML file. We'll use a custom task for this, too. Again, at the bottom of the file, we write a custom task:

class our_magic_primes_html_task(Task.Task):
    color = 'GREEN'
    def keyword(self):
        return 'Generating'
    def __str__(self):
        node = self.outputs[0]
        return node.path_from(node.ctx.launch_node())
    def run(self):
        primes = self.inputs[0].read()
        primes = filter(None, re.split(r'[^0-9]+', primes))
        self.outputs[0].parent.mkdir()
        self.outputs[0].write('''<html><head><link rel="stylesheet" href="style.css"><title>Primes</title></head><body><h1>Primes!</h1><ul class="primes">'''
                              + ''.join(['<li>%s</li>' % (prime,) for prime in primes]) + '''</ul></body></html>''')

And to execute it, we append this to our build method:

t = our_magic_primes_html_task(env=bld.env)
t.set_inputs(bld.path.get_bld().make_node('primes.txt'))
t.set_outputs(bld.path.get_bld().make_node('webroot/primes.html'))
bld.add_to_group(t)

And when we run ./waf:

$ ./waf
Waf: Entering directory `/Waf Intro/build'
[4/4] Generating build/webroot/primes.html
Waf: Leaving directory `/Waf Intro/build'
'build' finished successfully (0.012s)

Again, Waf knows not to run tasks that have already finished successfully. If you edit the primes.cpp file and run another build, you'll see Waf rebuild everything.

You can now see a file called primes.html has been added to the folder build/webroot. You can open the file in a web browser, and it displays!

And finally, what's life without a little style? There's a CSS file in this directory. Let's copy that to to next to the generated HTML file, so it can be found by a browser. Append this to the build method:

bld(color='CYAN', rule='cp ${SRC} ${TGT}', source='style.css', target='webroot/style.css')

And again, rebuild:

$ ./waf
Waf: Entering directory `/Waf Intro/build'
[5/5] Compiling style.css
Waf: Leaving directory `/Waf Intro/build'
'build' finished successfully (0.019s)

And in your web browser, if you refresh the file, you'll see the style has been updated.

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