CSCI 104 - Fall 2017 Data Structures and Object Oriented Design


Make is a program that makes other programs. This is especially useful when your programs become large, and recompiling after an edit requires multiple steps. Using a makefile, we can configure a program to compile simply by typing the make command into terminal. This lab will teach you how to write a basic makefile to be used in assignments from here on out.

1 - Using make

When you type make into terminal, it will automatically look for a file named makefile or 'Makefile' for instructions. Let's start with a makefile for a single cpp file.

In the part 1 folder, you will find a file called charizard.cpp. You can compile this simply with the following instruction:

g++ -g -Wall charizard.cpp -o charizard

But let's use make.

1.1 - Syntax and Structure

A basic makefile's structure is the following:

target: dependencies
    system command

Each of these is called a rule. If you type make <target>, the make tool searches for the appropriate target. The dependencies are the files that can affect the compilation result of your target. The system command is basically what you would type into terminal if you were to compile the file manually. Note that the system command is and must be precedeeded by a tab.

If you ever get an error message like: makefile:2: *** missing separator. Stop. It means on line 2, make is expecting a tab but didn't find it.

In this instance, we want to use this line as our system command:

g++ -g -Wall charizard.cpp -o charizard

1.2 - Default Target

But what happens when you just run make? Good question! There's a very nice default target called 'all' made just for that. When you just run make, the make program will look for all targets listed after all, find the corresponding rule for each target, and compile them.

Let's have 'all' make the charizard file, which will become the name of our target. So our resulting makefile is as below:

all: charizard

charizard: charizard.cpp
    g++ -g -Wall charizard.cpp -o charizard

Save this file as makefile in the part1 directory and type make. ~*~ MAGIC ~*~

1.3 - Cleaning Up

Now large projects will eventually generate a lot of binary files. We want to keep our workspace relatively clean by writing a rule to delete the generated files. This is also helpful when you're having mysterious problems as they sometimes go away after you delete and recompile your binaries.

Here's our clean rule:

    rm charizard

Very simple, since we only generate one file. You can add this to the end of your makefile. Now clean your directory using the make clean rule.

2 - Compiling Multi-File Programs

2.1 - Object Files

Compiling a multi-file program requires two main steps: compiling each .cpp file separately, and putting them all together to form the executable.

Here we introduce a new binary file type: .o files. These are the intermediate files we make in preparation to compile the executable. Any file that doesn't contain the main function must be compiled into a .o file.

Let's look inside the part 2 folder.

$ cd ../part2
$ ls *

You will find three classes: AttackMove, Battle, and Pokemon. We want to compile each of these into their own .o file of the same name.

Since we're going to have a lot of binary files beyond this point, let's make a bin directory to hold them all for easy cleanup.

$ mkdir bin

To make an object file, we simply need to add the -c flag in the compile command. Let's compile AttackMove first.

g++ -g -Wall -c src/attackMove.cpp -o bin/attackMove.o

Simple as that. Do the same for the other two classes, and we can then compile the main.

2.2 - Putting It All Together

To compile the main, we just have to include all the .o files that we've already made in the g++ command.

g++ -g -Wall bin/attackMove.o bin/battle.o bin/pokemon.o main.cpp -o bin/lab3

Note: A .o file is compiled code that doesn't get linked to other code even if it calls functions from other classes. We tell the compiler this using the -c flag so that the compiler does not check whether the functions from other classes are implemented. When we want to compile the full executable, we do not want to have the -c flag in that statement because we want the compiler to link all the code together in the final step. If you get a linker error, it's probably something to do with the -c flag!

And you have your own pokemon battle simulator! Run it like normal using:


3 - Makefiles for Multi-File Programs

Well that's great and all, but how do we do that in a makefile?

3.1 - Dependencies

Let's go back to the basic make rule structure:

target: dependencies
    system command

We skipped dependencies before, but it's something we want to use now. If a target has dependencies, make first checks if those dependencies exist before executing the system command associated with that rule. If the dependencies don't exist, make will run the rule to make those dependencies if they exist.

Make will also check to see if the dependencies have been updated since the last make and will only recompile the dependencies that have changed. This can save you a lot of time if you make a change and don't want to recompile all the files in your project.

Remember that dependencies are the files that can affect the compilation result of your target. This includes all the non-standard-library header files that you #include, a class's own header file and .cpp file, and, if you are compiling into an executable, all the .o files you need.

Fill out the new makefile below. Note: if you copy and paste the code from course website and paste it into your makefile, you will need to fix all the spaces and change them into tabs.

all: bin/lab3

bin/lab3: bin/attackMove.o bin/<???> bin/<???>

bin/attackMove.o: lib/attackMove.h src/attackMove.cpp
    g++ -g -Wall -c src/attackMove.cpp -o bin/attackMove.o

bin/<???>: <???>

bin/<???>: <???>

To test if your makefile works, run make and try to run the program.

3.2 - Variables

Prof. Redekopp decides he doesn't like the students compiling to the bin directory. He instead wants the directory to be named exe. You could easily find and replace bin with exe, but that's messy and could generate errors. Why not take advantage of variables instead?

At the top of your makefile, let's define:

BIN_DIR = exe

Now let's replace every instance of bin with $(BIN_DIR), like so:

$(BIN_DIR)/attackMove.o: lib/attackMove.h src/attackMove.cpp
    g++ -g -Wall -c src/attackMove.cpp -o $(BIN_DIR)/attackMove.o

Now when the profesor changes his mind again and wants a different name for the directory, we can just change the variable at the top. (But in general, keep the binaries in a directory named bin.)

Another use for this is to have a CPPFLAGS (compiler flags) variable that holds all the flags you frequently use to compile. We can have a CXX variable to specify which compiler to use. For example:

CXX = g++
CPPFLAGS = -Wall -g

$(BIN_DIR)/attackMove.o: lib/attackMove.h src/attackMove.cpp
    $(CXX) $(CPPFLAGS) -c src/attackMove.cpp -o $(BIN_DIR)/attackMove.o


If you tried to make again with the above changes, you'll probably get an error that the exe directory doesn't exist. Well that's a pain.

Let's define a rule to make sure the exe directory exists.

    mkdir -p $(BIN_DIR)
    touch $(BIN_DIR)/.dirstamp

The .dirstamp file is a hidden file we make to make sure a directory exists. Notice that this rule does not have any dependency. When a rule has no dependency, it will always be executed when we type in make <target>. You can add this rule to the dependency list of your compile commands.

$(BIN_DIR)/attackMove.o: lib/attackMove.h src/attackMove.cpp $(BIN_DIR)/.dirstamp

3.4 - PHONY and Clean

Remember back when we wrote our clean rule for part 1? Well there's a small problem with the original rule. If a file named 'clean' exists in our directory, make won't run the clean rule because it sees that the file already exists!

To get around this, we declare the clean rule as PHONY to tell make that it's not associated with a file.

.PHONY: clean
    rm -rf $(BIN_DIR)

Since we put all our executables in BIN_DIR, we can simply delete the whole folder. Simple as that!

Note: there's a danger when using rm -rf as it will irreversably delete whatever BIN_DIR is without prompting additional confirmation. Be good and don't delete your entire OS.

4 - Compile Flags

You might have noticed that we have been using some magic commands when we compile files. Namely, you should have seen g++, -g, -Wall, -o, and -c. Here is a brief explanation of what exactly these commands do. Note that when you append a flag to your compile command, you should also add a space between the flags (i.e. g++ -g).

First of all, g++ is used to compile your programs using the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). This command specifically is used for c++ programs. There are other compilers out there, and when you want to use other compilers, you replace g++ with the command that's used by the other compiler. In this class, we ask that you always compile your program with gcc compiler using the g++ command.

When you see a terminal command that has a - followed by some text, this is usually a flag. A flag can be used to specify a setting or add additional information about the command. In the g++ command, you will often see -g, -Wall, -o, -c, and -std= command. Here's a descriptino of what they do and how to use them:

Lastly, you might sometimes see people compile files with g++ something.cpp main.cpp -o main -g -Wall, and you might wonder why they list the source files before the options. As it turns out, the order that you specify the options does not matter. If you really want to, you can even use g++ something.cpp -g -Wall main.cpp -o main to compile your program. However, by convention, we usually group the list of source files together and the list of options together. The two most common command conventions you will see and should stick to will be: g++ <sourcefile> -o <filename> -flags and g++ -flags <sourcefile> -o <filename>.

5 - Assignment: Complete the Makefile

Your final makefile should look something like this:

CXX = g++
CPPFLAGS = -g -Wall
BIN_DIR = bin

all: $(BIN_DIR)/lab3

$(BIN_DIR)/lab3: <???>

<???>.o: <???>

<???>.o: <???>

<???>.o: <???>

.PHONY: clean
    rm -rf $(BIN_DIR)

    mkdir -p $(BIN_DIR)
    touch $(BIN_DIR)/.dirstamp

If you really want, you can even have the makefile run the executable for you.

all: $(BIN_DIR)/lab3

5.1 - Review Questions

  1. What is the purpose of the -c flag?

  2. What is the advantage of compiling to .o files via makefile compared to typing it into terminal or compiling the executable together in one step?

  3. Why do you not have to include attackMove.cpp when compiling pokemon.cpp into pokemon.o?

6 - More about Makefiles

If you would like to know more about Makefile, you can visit GNU Make Manual. It covers both the basic and more advanced topics of the Makefiles.

CAUTION Do not use these advanced make commands until you are very comfortable with Makefiles.

7 - More about GCC

We have listed some commonly used flags and options that you will see in this class. This is just a list of the common flags that you will use in this class. This is in no way comprehensive. If you see a flag that you do not understand, or if you are curious about other options, you can refer to this official document from GCC. Feel free to play around with the flags in your free time.

IMPORTANT We will be compiling your code with -g -Wall -std=c++11, so you must use the same options to check that your code compiles and produces no warnings.