Common Makefile rules for building and testing Erlang applications.
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Common Makefile rules for building and testing Erlang applications.

Also features support for dependencies and a package index.

Requirements requires GNU Make and expects to be ran in a standard unix environment with Erlang installed and in the $PATH. uses wget for downloading the package index file when the pkg:// scheme is used.


Add the file to your project, then use the following base Makefile:

PROJECT = my_project



Erlang projects often depend on other projects to run. Adding dependencies to the Makefile is easy. You need to create the variable DEPS listing the names of all the dependencies, along with one dep_$(NAME) variable per dependency giving the git repository and commit to retrieve.

These variables should be defined before the include line.

DEPS = cowboy bullet
dep_cowboy = 0.8.4
dep_bullet = 0.4.1

They will always be compiled using the command make. If the dependency does not feature a Makefile, then will be used for building.

You can also specify test-only dependencies. These dependencies will only be downloaded when running make tests. The format is the same as above, except the variable TEST_DEPS holds the list of test-only dependencies.

TEST_DEPS = ct_helper
dep_ct_helper = master

Please note that the test dependencies will only be compiled once when they are fetched, unlike the normal dependencies.

Package index

A very basic package index is included with You can list all known packages with the make pkg-list command. You can search a package with the make pkg-search q=STRING command, replacing STRING with what you want to search. Use quotes around the string if needed.

In addition, it is possible to specify dependencies in a simplified manner if they exist in the package index. The above example could instead read as:

DEPS = cowboy bullet
dep_cowboy = pkg://cowboy 0.8.4
dep_bullet = pkg://bullet 0.4.1 will look inside the index for the proper URL and use it for fetching the dependency.

All packages featured in the index are compatible with with no extra work required.


If a relx.config file is present, will download relx automatically and build the release into the _rel folder. This is the default command when the file exists.

No special configuration is required for this to work.

Compiled files

The following files will be automatically compiled:

Wildcard Description
src/$(PROJECT).app.src OTP application resource file
src/*.erl Erlang source files
src/*.core Core Erlang source files
src/*.xrl Leex source files
src/*.yrl Yecc source files
templates/*.dtl ErlyDTL template files

Only the .app.src file and at least one .erl file are required.


The following targets are defined:

Targets Description
all Compile the application and all dependencies
clean-all Clean the application and all dependencies
app Compile the application
clean Clean the application
deps Compile the dependencies
clean-deps Clean the dependencies
docs Generate the Edoc documentation
clean-docs Clean the Edoc documentation
test_* Run the common_test suite *
tests Run all the common_test suites
build-plt Generate the PLT needed by Dialyzer
dialyze Run Dialyzer on the application
pkg-list List packages in the index
pkg-search Search for packages in the index
rel Build a release
clean-rel Delete the previously built release

Cleaning means removing all generated and temporary files.

Dependencies are fetched as soon as a command involving them is invoked. This means that most of the targets will trigger a dependency fetch. It is only done once per dependency.

You can run an individual test suite by using the special test_* targets. For example if you have a common_test suite named spdy and you want to run only this suite and not the others, you can use the make test_spdy command.

The default target when calling make is all when no relx.config exists, and rel when it does exist.

You can combine targets to perform many operations. For example, the shell command make clean app will have the effect of recompiling the application fully, without touching the dependencies.

A common workflow when editing a file would be to run make regularly to see if it compiles (or less often make clean app if you want to recompile everything), followed by make dialyze to see if there are any type errors and then make tests to run the test suites. The result of the test runs can be browsed from the logs/index.html file.


The following variables can be overriden:

V defines the verbosity of the commands. You can set it to an empty value to make commands verbose.

ERLC_OPTS allows you to change the erlc compilation options. You should always compile with at least the +debug_info set.

COMPILE_FIRST is a list of modules (not filenames) that should be compiled before all others.

DEPS_DIR is the path to the directory where the dependencies are downloaded to. It defaults to deps. It will be propagated into all the subsequent make calls, allowing all dependencies to use the same folder as expected.

EDOC_OPTS allows you to specify options to pass to edoc when building the documentation. Notice: not all options are documented in one place; follow the links to get to the options for the various operations of the documentation generation.

CT_SUITES is the list of common_test suites to run when you use the make tests command. If your suite module is named ponies_SUITE then you only need to put ponies in the list.

PLT_APPS is the list of applications to include when building the .plt file for Dialyzer. You do not need to put erts, kernel or stdlib in there because they will always be included. The applications the project depends on will also be included.

DIALYZER_OPTS allows you to change the dialyzer options.

PKG_FILE allows you to change the location of the package index file on your system.

PKG_FILE_URL allows you to change the URL from which the package index file is fetched.

RELX_CONFIG is the location of the relx.config file, if any.

RELX is the location of the relx executable for building releases.

RELX_URL is the location where relx can be downloaded if it is not found locally.

RELX_OPTS is for setting relx in-line options, if any.

Extra targets

If you need more functionality out of your Makefile, you can add extra targets after the include line.

Defining a target before the include line will override the default target all.


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