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1.4 A User’s Perspective

Alexandre wrote:
> I’d appreciate opinions from others about advantages/disadvantages of
> each of these macro packages.

I am using AutoGen in my pet project, and find one of its best points to be that it separates the operational data from the implementation.

Indulge me for a few paragraphs, and all will be revealed: In the manual, Bruce cites the example of maintaining command line flags inside the source code; traditionally spreading usage information, flag names, letters and processing across several functions (if not files). Investing the time in writing a sort of boiler plate (a template in AutoGen terminology) pays by moving all of the option details (usage, flags names etc.) into a well structured table (a definition file if you will), so that adding a new command line option becomes a simple matter of adding a set of details to the table.

So far so good! Of course, now that there is a template, writing all of that tedious optargs processing and usage functions is no longer an issue. Creating a table of the options needed for the new project and running AutoGen generates all of the option processing code in C automatically from just the tabular data. AutoGen in fact already ships with such a template... AutoOpts.

One final consequence of the good separation in the design of AutoGen is that it is retargetable to a greater extent. The egcs/gcc/fixinc/inclhack.def can equally be used (with different templates) to create a shell script (inclhack.sh) or a c program (fixincl.c).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. AutoGen is far more powerful than these examples might indicate, and has many other varied uses. I am certain Bruce or I could supply you with many and varied examples, and I would heartily recommend that you try it for your project and see for yourself how it compares to m4.

As an aside, I would be interested to see whether someone might be persuaded to rationalise autoconf with AutoGen in place of m4... Ben, are you listening? autoconf-3.0! ‘kay? =)O|

        Gary V. Vaughan

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