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Introduction to Autoconf

Autoconf is an extensible package of M4 macros that produce shell scripts to automatically configure software source code packages. These scripts can adapt the packages to many kinds of UNIX-like systems without manual user intervention. Autoconf creates a configuration script for a package from a template file that lists the operating system features that the package can use, in the form of M4 macro calls.

Producing configuration scripts using Autoconf requires GNU M4. You should install GNU M4 (at least version 1.4.6, although 1.4.13 or later is recommended) before configuring Autoconf, so that Autoconf's configure script can find it. The configuration scripts produced by Autoconf are self-contained, so their users do not need to have Autoconf (or GNU M4).

Downloading Autoconf

GNU Autoconf releases can be found on http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/autoconf/ [via http] and ftp://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/autoconf/ [via FTP]. It can also be found on one of our FTP mirrors. You can also order a CD-ROM from the FSF or use other methods to obtain a copy.

Third party macros can be downloaded from the Autoconf Macro Archive.

Alpha/beta releases of Autoconf can be found in ftp://alpha.gnu.org/pub/gnu/autoconf/, and the latest in-development sources for Autoconf can always be fetched through git, using either of:

git clone git://git.sv.gnu.org/autoconf
git clone http://git.sv.gnu.org/r/autoconf.git

You can also view the git tree on the web.

Alternatively, there is a read-only CVS mirror here:

cvs -d :pserver:anonymous@pserver.git.sv.gnu.org:/autoconf.git \
  co -d autoconf HEAD

DO NOT use Autoconf sources from these locations for production use.

Snapshot tarballs of development sources for Autoconf can be found at http://meyering.net/ac/autoconf-ss.tar.gz, signed. DO NOT use Autoconf sources from these locations for production use.


Autoconf documentation can be found in several formats at http://www.gnu.org/software/autoconf/manual/. You may also find more information about Autoconf by looking at your local documentation. For example, you might try looking in /usr/share/doc/autoconf/, or use info autoconf at the shell prompt.

Mailing Lists

Autoconf has several moderated mailing lists, each with an archive.

For general Autoconf discussions, use <autoconf@gnu.org> (archives).

Please remember that development of GNU Autoconf is a volunteer effort, and you can also contribute to its development. For information about contributing to the GNU Project, please read How to help GNU.

Email bug reports to <bug-autoconf@gnu.org> (archives). For more information on submitting bugs, please see the section Report a Bug below.

If you have a patch for a bug in Autoconf that hasn't yet been fixed in the latest git sources of Autoconf, please send the patch (made for the git sources, not the release sources) to <autoconf-patches@gnu.org> (archives).

You can subscribe to any GNU mailing list via the web as described below. Or you can send an empty mail with a Subject: header line of just "subscribe" to the relevant -request list. For example, to subscribe yourself to the bug-autoconf list, you would send mail to <bug-autoconf-request@gnu.org> with no body and a Subject: header line of just "subscribe".

It has been necessary to moderate the GNU Autoconf mailing lists to prevent the flood of spam. Postings to the lists are held for release by the list moderator. Sometimes the moderators are unavailable for brief periods of time. Please be patient when posting. If you don't see the message in the list archive then it did not get posted.


The low-volume mailing list autotools-announce contains all announcements about Autoconf and a few other related projects. Important announcements about Autoconf and most other GNU Software in general are also made on the info-gnu list.

Related Software

Autoconf is often used together with the following software systems:

Report a Bug

If you think you have found a bug in GNU Autoconf, then please send as complete a report as possible to <bug-autoconf@gnu.org>. An easy way to collect all the required information, such as platform and compiler, is to run make check, and include the resulting file tests/testsuite.log to your report. Disagreements between the manual and the code are also bugs.


GNU Autoconf is maintained by several developers, including Paul Eggert and Eric Blake <ebb9@byu.net>. Contributors are listed on the Savannah page.

Autoconf Humor

For a more light-hearted look at Autoconf, you may be interested in these alternate renderings of prior versions of this web page.

You may also be interested in this bug report, asking why Autoconf bothers to mark generated scripts as readable.


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