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AX_AM_OVERRIDE_VAR([varname1 varname ... ])


This autoconf macro generalizes the approach given in <> which moves user specified values for variable ’varname’ given at configure time into the corresponding AM_${varname} variable and clears out ’varname’, allowing further manipulation by the configure script so that target specific variables can be given specialized versions. ’varname may still be specified on the make command line and will be appended as usual.

As an example usage, consider a project which might benefit from different compiler flags for different components. Typically this is done via target specific flags, e.g.

 libgtest_la_CXXFLAGS    =                        \
                  -I $(top_srcdir)/tests          \
                  -I $(top_builddir)/tests        \

automake will automatically append $(CXXFLAGS) – provided by the user – to the build rule for libgtest_la. That might be problematic, as CXXFLAGS may contain compiler options which are inappropriate for libgtest_la.

The approach laid out in the referenced mailing list message is to supply a base value for a variable during _configure_ time, during which it is possible to amend it for specific targets. The user may subsequently specify a value for the variable during _build_ time, which make will apply (via the standard automake rules) to all appropriate targets.

For example,


will store the value of CXXFLAGS specified at configure time into the AM_CXXFLAGS variable, AC_SUBST it, and clear CXXFLAGS. configure may then create a target specific set of flags based upon AM_CXXFLAGS, e.g.

 # googletest uses variadic macros, which g++ -pedantic-errors
 # is very unhappy about
    [`AS_ECHO_N(["$AM_CXXFLAGS"]) \
          | sed s/-pedantic-errors/-pedantic/`

which would be used in a as above. Since CXXFLAGS is cleared, the configure time value will not affect the build for libgtest_la.

Prior to _any other command_ which may set ${varname}, call


This will preserve the value (if any) passed to configure in AM_${varname} and AC_SUBST([AM_${varname}). You may pass a space separated list of variable names, or may call AX_AM_OVERRIDE_VAR multiple times for the same effect.

If any subsequent configure commands set ${varname} and you wish to capture the resultant value into AM_${varname} in the case where ${varname} was _not_ provided at configure time, call


after _all_ commands which might affect any of the variables specified in calls to AX_AM_OVERRIDE_VAR. This need be done only once, but repeated calls will not cause harm.

There is a bit of trickery required to allow further manipulation of the AM_${varname} in a file. If AM_CFLAGS is used as is in a, e.g.

 libfoo_la_CFLAGS = $(AM_CFLAGS)

then automake will emit code in which sets AM_CFLAGS from the configure’d value.

If however, AM_CFLAGS is manipulated (i.e. appended to), you will have to explicitly arrange for the configure’d value to be substituted:

 AM_CFLAGS += -lfoo

or else automake will complain about using += before =.

Source Code

Download the latest version of ax_am_override_var.m4 or browse the macro’s revision history.


Copyright © 2013 Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Copyright © 2013 Diab Jerius

Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification, are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved. This file is offered as-is, without any warranty.

Next: , Previous: , Up: The Macros