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7.2.2 Subdirectories with AM_CONDITIONAL

configure should output the Makefile for each directory and define a condition into which opt/ should be built.

AM_CONDITIONAL([COND_OPT], [test "$want_opt" = yes])
AC_CONFIG_FILES([Makefile src/Makefile opt/Makefile])

Then SUBDIRS can be defined in the top-level as follows.

  MAYBE_OPT = opt

As you can see, running make will rightly recurse into src/ and maybe opt/.

As you can’t see, running ‘make dist’ will recurse into both src/ and opt/ directories because ‘make dist’, unlike ‘make all’, doesn’t use the SUBDIRS variable. It uses the DIST_SUBDIRS variable.

In this case Automake will define ‘DIST_SUBDIRS = src opt’ automatically because it knows that MAYBE_OPT can contain ‘opt’ in some condition.