The well-formed build system.
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Drake Build Status

The well-formed build system.

Logo - Drake


Drake is a build system written in Python3 that transforms a list of source nodes into a list of target nodes. Each target (or list of targets) is defined by a builder which takes a list of sources as its input. These targets can then be sources of other builders; resulting in a chain of dependencies. Drake resolves these chains to determine the build order and avoids rebuilding targets unnecessarily by hashing source and target files.

Its advantages include:

  • Easily extensible using Python3
  • Build any target without the need for rule specification
  • Built in cross compiling capabilities



If your distribution did not come with Python3 and pip for Python3, install them with your package manager. With a Debian based distribution (such as Ubuntu), this can be done as follows:

sudo apt-get install python3 python3-pip


Python3 can be installed using homebrew.

brew install python3

Drake requires Python3 along with the following modules:

  • greenlet (Micro-threads).
  • oset (Set that remembers original insertion order).

Some builders require specific modules, such as:

Drake's requirements can be found in the root directory of this repository. To install them use:

pip3 install -r requirements.txt

Basic structures of a drakefile and a Drake script

Consider the following hierarchy:

 ├── build
(│   └── drake)
 └── drakefile

The drakefile, located at ./drakefile, contains the list of sources, targets, builders transforming sources to targets, etc.

import drake

def configure(arg1,
  # List sources
  # List targets
  # Declare builders
  print("got arg1: %s and arg2: %s" % (arg1, arg2))

If you have no special configuration, you can run Drake directly from ./build (assuming Drake is installed at /opt/drake):

$ cd build
$ PYTHONPATH=/opt/drake/src /opt/drake/src/bin/drake .. --arg1="bob" --arg2="Hello world!"
got arg1: bob and arg2: Hello world!

Otherwise, the Drake script, located at ./build/drake is the way to personalize your configuration.

#!/usr/bin/env python3
import drake

# ...

# Instantiate Drake to look for a drakefile at '../drakefile'.
path_to_the_drakefile_directory = '..'
with drake.Drake(path_to_the_drakefile_directory) as d:
  # Pass arguments to the drakefile configure function.
    arg1 = "example",
    arg2 = "Hello world!"

With that structure, you can run (from build):

$ cd drake
$ ./drake --arg1="sample"
got arg1: sample and arg2: Hello world!


Hello World Example

This example shows how to build a simple executable from the C++ source file

See the source directory.

The drakefile in the root describes the build process. Each platform in the _build directory has it's own Drake script which has some initial configuration.

To build the example project, we invoke the build rule as follows:

$> cd _build/<platform>
$> ./drake //build
./drake: Entering directory <current directory>
Compile hello_world.o
Link hello_world
./drake: Leaving directory <current directory>

The target could also be built by specifying its output path:

$> ./drake hello_world

The resulting executable can be found in the root of the build directory:

$> ./hello_world
Hello world

User Libraries Example

In this example, a static and dynamic library are built from user sources.

See the source directory.

The drakefile shows how to build both a static and a dynamic library from user specified sources.

Once again, we build the example project by invoking the build rule:

$> cd _build/<platform>
$> ./drake //build

Any of the targets can be built individually by invoking Drake with their output path:

$> ./drake geometry/Shape.o
$> ./drake lib/libcolor.a

If you would like to see the underlying commands that Drake is launching, you can set the DRAKE_RAW environment variable:

$> DRAKE_RAW=1 ./drake //build

The resulting executable is in the bin directory and can be run as follows:

$> ./bin/colored_shape

GNU Dependencies Example

This example is an executable that fetches the contents of To do this, we build our own cURL (which depends on zlib and OpenSSL) using Drake.

See the source directory.

The drakefile shows how cURL, OpenSSL and zlib tarballs are fetched by Drake and built in the correct order so that our executable can be linked with cURL.

To build the project:

$> cd _build/<platform>
$> ./drake //build

To run the resulting executable:

$> ./bin/http_request

Helpful Environment Variables


Setting DRAKE_RAW=1 in your environment will cause Drake to output the raw commands that it calls to perform your build.


Setting DRAKE_DEBUG_BACKTRACE=1 in your environment will cause Drake to output a backtrace if there is an issue with your build.