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12.18 VPATH and Make

Posix does not specify the semantics of VPATH. Typically, make supports VPATH, but its implementation is not consistent.

Autoconf and Automake support makefiles whose usages of VPATH are portable to recent-enough popular implementations of make, but to keep the resulting makefiles portable, a package's makefile prototypes must take the following issues into account. These issues are complicated and are often poorly understood, and installers who use VPATH should expect to find many bugs in this area. If you use VPATH, the simplest way to avoid these portability bugs is to stick with GNU make, since it is the most commonly-used make among Autoconf users.

Here are some known issues with some VPATH implementations.