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This directory builds a common.cma library and also optionally multiple commons_xxx.cma small libraries. The reason not to just build a single one is that some functionnalities require external libraries (like Berkeley DB, MPI, etc) or special version of OCaml (like for the backtrace support) and I don't want to penalize the user by forcing him to install all those libs before being able to use some of my common helper functions. So, common.ml and other files offer convenient helpers that do not require to install anything. In some cases I have directly included the code of those external libs when there are simple such as for ANSITerminal in ocamlextra/, and for dumper.ml I have even be further by inlining its code in common.ml so one can just do a open Common and have everything. Then if the user wants to, he can also leverage the other commons_xxx libraries by explicitely building them after he has installed the necessary external files. For many configurable things we can use some flags in ml files, and have some -xxx command line argument to set them or not, but for other things flags are not enough as they will not remove the header and linker dependencies in Makefiles. A solution is to use cpp and pre-process many files that have such configuration issue. Another solution is to centralize all the cpp issue in one file, features.ml.in, that acts as a generic wrapper for other librairies and depending on the configuration actually call the external library or provide a fake empty services indicating that the service is not present. So you should have a ../configure that call cpp on features.ml.in to set those linking-related configuration settings.