An Enhancement Suite for the CMake Build System
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A CMake Enhancement Suite

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Look through the files in the package. Most functions will be commented and the other's usage can be inferred. All functions are available as soon as you include the cmakepp.cmake file. To find functionality browse the files throughout this project.

Feature Overview

cmakepp has a lot of different functions. I tried to subdivide them into some meaningful sections.


I have developed some samples to show off cmakepp's capabilities. Here you can find an overview of these samples

Getting cmakepp

You have multiple options to install cmakepp the only prerequisite for all options is that CMake is installed with a version >=2.8.12. cmakepp will also work with version less than 2.8.12 however some functions might fail.

Install by Console

For ease of use I provide you with simple copy paste code for your console of choice. These scripts download the install.cmake file and execute it. This file in turn downloads cmakepp and adds itself to your os (creating aliases and setting a environment variable - which allow you to use icmakepp and cmakepp cli from the console).


wget && cmake -P install.cmake && rm install.cmake


((new-object net.webclient).DownloadString('')) |`
out-file -Encoding ascii install.cmake; `
cmake -P install.cmake; `
rm install.cmake;

Install by Downloading a Release

You can go ahead and download the current release from here. A release supplies you with a standalone version of cmakepp which contains every function of cmakepp. This standalone file can be included in any of your CMake scripts.

The following code shows you how you can retrieve and include it in any of your script files.

## downloads and includes `cmakepp.cmake` 
if(NOT EXISTS "cmakepp.cmake")
  file(DOWNLOAD "" "cmakepp.cmake")

Manually setting up aliases

cmake -P ./cmakepp.cmake cmakepp_setup_environment

After You run this and relogin/repoen your console/resource your .bashrc you will have access to the alias cmakepp, icmakepp, pkg, cml. Also the environment variable CMAKEPP_PATH will be set to the location were cmakepp.cmake resides.


To test the code (alot is tested but not all) run the following in the root dir of cmakepp this takes long :)

cmake -P build/script.cmake 


If you want to help to develope cmakepp or want to develope CMake scripts which use cmakepp you can do the following:

  • Install Sublime Text 3
  • Be sure you have the cmakepp repository checked out
  • open the cmakepp.sublime-project project in sublime text
  • (add the folder in which you are developing your scripts)
  • select the correct build system
    • cmakepp run test will run the current script open in SublimeText file as a test. It does not matter were this file resides. It expects a single function to exist inside this file - the name does not matter as it will be imported. Inside the test function you will be provided with the following (also see test_execute:
      • all cmakepp functions will be loaded from your current version of cmakepp.
      • a timer will run and report the time in milliseconds that your test took NOTE this is not very exact but sufficient in most cases
      • ${test_dir} contains the the path of an empty directory which will remain the same for that specific test. It is cleared before the test is run so you can write anything to it and do not have to care about housekeeping.
      • the <pwd> will be set to ${test_dir} allowing you to start using all cmakepp file/process functions relative to the test directory
      • ${test_name} will contain the name chosen for this test (filename w/o extension)
    • cmakepp run all tests will run each test in cmakepp
    • cmakepp template run will execute a cmakepp template file of which the filename ends with .in (see templating)
    • you can open the cmakepp.sublime-project and modify the build system.

Developement Process

I have two persistant branches: master and devel. Then there are an arbitrary amount of volatile branches which are used to develope features / remote store developements. The master branch is only merged from devel and always is always stable - ie the build server determines that all tests were successfull. The devel branch is also built build servers but may sometime be in the failed state. The volatile branches are just used to develop and are not built - as to not clutter up the build servers with uneccessary builds.


I would be very happy If you choose to contribute to cmakepp. You can open any issue on github and I will try to reply as soon as possible. I care about any feature you want implemented, bug you want squashed, or modification.

If you want to change something you may send pull requests through github. Normally I will check them quickly and travis-ci will build them. I suggest you run all tests using the sublime project before you create a pull request to see if anything breaks. (the master branch will have to pass the tests)

Also if you want to support me financially for all the hardwork - consider donating a couple of $ Click here to lend your support to: cmakepp  and make a donation at !

Developer Guidlines

I am a bit a hypocrit. I am trying to adhere to these rules though:

  • test your code. A single test file will suffice it should cover normal use cases and edge cases. I use tests for documentation.
  • One file per function.
  • Create a comment header with markdown above the function(with 2 # ).
  • put the function in the most suitable folder.
  • name the function in a none colliding way
    • CMake only has a global scope for functions. Therefore be sure to name them in a way that they do not collide with existing functions and will not in the future.
  • use snake_case for function names. CMake's functions are case independent so I discourage using camelcase

Implementation Notes


Note: This section is incomplete but will give you an idea how I formally define data and functions.

To describe cmake functions I use formalisms which I found most useful they should be intuitively understandable but here I want to describe them in detail.

  • @ denotes character data
  • <string> ::= "\""@"\"" denotes a string literal
  • <regex> ::= "/" <string> "/" denotes a regular expression which needs to match
  • <identifier> ::= /[a-zA-Z_][a-zA-Z0-9_]*/ denotes a identifier which can be used for definitions
  • <datatype> ::= "<" "any"|"bool"|"number"|""|"void"|""|<structured data> <?"...">">" denotes a datatype. the elipses denotes that multiple values in array form are described else the datatype can be any, bool, number, <structured data> etc..
  • <named definition> ::= "<"<identifier>">"
  • <definition> ::= "<" "?"? <identifier>"&"?|<identifier>"&"?":"<datatype>|<datatype>> ("=" ">" denotes a possibly named piece of data. this is used in signatures and object descriptions e.g. generate_greeting(<firstname:<string>> <?lastname:<string>>)-><string> specifies a function which which takes a required parameter called first_name which is of type string and an optional parameter called lastname which is of type string and returns a string
    • & indicates that the identifier is a reference - a variable exists with the name passed in the named identifier
    • ? indicates optionality (no need to specify the value)
    • `= indicates the default value which is used when the specified value is not specified
  • <structured data> ::= "{"<keyvalue:(<named definition>|(<identifier>":"<datatype>))...>|"}" the structured date is sometimes multiline
    • { <name:<string>> <age:<int>> }
    • { name:<string> age:<int>}
    • { name:<string> address:{ street:<string> area_code:<string>} age:<int>}
    • { <<group:<string>>:<users:<string...>> ...> } describes a map which contains keys of type string which identify a group and associated values which are a string list representing users
  • <void> primitive which stands for nothing
  • <null> ::= "" primitive which is truely empty (a string of length 0)
  • <falseish>:"false"|""|"no" cmake's false values (list incomplete)
  • <trueish>: !<falseish>
  • <bool> ::= "true":"false" indicates a well defined true or false value
  • <boolish> ::= <trueish>|<falsish>|<bool>
  • <any> ::= <string>|<number>|<structured data>|<bool>|<void>
  • <value identifier> ::= /a-zA-Z0-9_-/+
  • <named function parameter>::= "<"|"["<value identifier> (<definition>="<any>")?"]"|">" specifies a named function parameter. a value identifier without a definition causes the named function parameter to be a flag a boolean is derived which is true if the flag exists, else false.
    • [--my-flag] a flag
    • [--depth <n:int>] a optional value
    • <--depth <n:int>> a required value
  • <function parameter> ::= <definition>|<named function parameter>
  • <function definition> ::= ("["<scope inheritance>"]")?"("<function parameter...>")" "->" <function parameter>("," <side effects>)?
    • (<any>)-><bool> a function expecting a single <any> element and returning a <bool>
    • (<any...>)-><string...> a function taking a variable amount of any and returning a list of strings
    • [<depth:int>](<node:<any>>)-><node...> a function taking a variable node of type <any> which returns a list of <node> expects a variable depth to be defined in parent scope which needs to be a integer
    • ...

Returning values

Related Functions

  • return(...) overwritten CMake function accepting arguments which are returned
  • ans(<var>) a shorthand for getting the result of a function call and storing it in var
  • clr([PARENT_SCOPE]) clears the __ans variable in current scope or in PARENT_SCOPE if flag is set.

A CMake function can return values by accessing it's parent scope. Normally one does the following to return a value

  function(myfunc result)
    set(${result} "return value" PARENT_SCOPE)
  assert(${res} STREQUAL "return value")

This type of programming causes problems when nesting functions as one has to return every return value that a nested function returns. Doing this automatically would cause alot of overhead as the whole scope would have to be parsed to see which values are new after a function call.

A cleaner alternative known from many programming languages is using a return value. I propose and have implemented the following pattern to work around the missing function return values of cmake.

  # the __ans var is used as a register
  assert(${__ans} STREQUAL "return value")
  assert(${res} STREQUAL "return value")

This is possible by overwriting CMakes default return() function with a macro. It accepts variables and will call set(__ans ${ARGN} PARENT_SCOPE) so after the call to myfunc() the scope will contain the variable __ans. using the ans(<var>) function is a shorthand for set(<var> ${__ans}).


  • The returnvalue should immediately be consumed after the call to myfunc because it might be reused again somewhere else.
  • functions which do not call return will not set __ans in their parent scope. If it is unclear weather a function really sets __ans you may want to clear it before the function call using clr()
  • the overwrite for return has to be a macro, else accessing the PARAENT_SCOPE would be unfeasible. However macros caus the passed arguments to be re-evaluated which destroys some string - string containing escaped variables or other escaped characters. This is often a problem - therfore I have als added the return_ref function which accepts a variable name that is then returned.


  • a stack machine would also be a possiblity as this would allow returning multiple values. I have decided using the simpler single return value appoach as it is possible to return a structured list or a map if multiple return values are needed.

cmakepp Console Client

cmakepp can be used as a platform independent console application. When you start cmakepp.cmake in script mode it parse the passed command line arguments and execute the specified cmakepp function returning the value in a serialization format. When you install cmakepp it will create an alias for cmake -P /path/to/cmakepp.cmake called cmakepp.

## return content of this directory using the cmakepp.cmake file
> cmake -P /path/to/cmakepp.cmake glob *.cmake --relative

## perform a http GET request using the cmakepp alias
> cmakepp http_get --json

## parse an uri using the cmakepp alias
> cmakepp uri http+ --select "scheme: @scheme key2.subkey: @params.key2.subkey"
"scheme: http+https key2.subkey: value2"

Interactive CMake Shell

If you want to learn try or learn cmake and cmakepp you can use the interactive cmake shell by launching cmake -P icmakepp.cmake which gives you a prompt with the all functions available in cmakepp and cmake in general.

icmakepp allows you to enter valid cmake and also a more lazily you can neglect to enter the parentheses around functions e.g. cd my/path -> cd(my/path)

Since console interaction is complicated with cmake and cmake itself is not very general purpose by design the interactive cmake shell is not as user friendly as it should be. If you input an error the shell will terminate because cmake terminates. This problem might be addressed in the future (I have an idea however not the time to implement and test it) Example:

> ./
icmakepp> cd /usr/tobi
icmakepp> pwd
icmakepp> @echo off
echo is now off
icmakepp> pwd
icmakepp> message("${ANS}")
icmakepp> @echo on
echo is now on
icmakepp> function(myfunc name)\  # <-- backslash allows multiline input
          message("hello ${name}") \
          obj("{name: $name}")\
"/usr/tobi"                 # <-- the last output of any function is always repeated. 
icmakepp> myfunc Tobi
hello Tobi          # <-- output in function using message
{"name":"Tobi"}       # <-- json serialized return value of function
icmakepp> quit
icmakepp is quitting