Installation directories should always be named by variables, so it is easy to install in a nonstandard place. The standard names for these variables and the values they should have in GNU packages are described below. They are based on a standard file system layout; variants of it are used in GNU/Linux and other modern operating systems.
Installers are expected to override these values when calling make (e.g., make prefix=/usr install or configure (e.g., configure --prefix=/usr). GNU packages should not try to guess which value should be appropriate for these variables on the system they are being installed onto: use the default settings specified here so that all GNU packages behave identically, allowing the installer to achieve any desired layout.
All installation directories, and their parent directories, should be created (if necessary) before they are installed into.
These first two variables set the root for the installation. All the other installation directories should be subdirectories of one of these two, and nothing should be directly installed into these two directories.
prefixshould be /usr/local. When building the complete GNU system, the prefix will be empty and /usr will be a symbolic link to /. (If you are using Autoconf, write it as ‘@prefix@’.)
Running ‘make install’ with a different value of
the one used to build the program should not recompile the
$(prefix). (If you are using Autoconf, write it as ‘@exec_prefix@’.)
$(exec_prefix) is used for directories that contain
machine-specific files (such as executables and subroutine libraries),
$(prefix) is used directly for other directories.
Running ‘make install’ with a different value of
from the one used to build the program should not recompile the
Executable programs are installed in one of the following directories.
The definition of ‘libexecdir’ is the same for all packages, so you should install your data in a subdirectory thereof. Most packages install their data under $(libexecdir)/package-name/, possibly within additional subdirectories thereof, such as $(libexecdir)/package-name/machine/version.
Data files used by the program during its execution are divided into categories in two ways.
This makes for six different possibilities. However, we want to discourage the use of architecture-dependent files, aside from object files and libraries. It is much cleaner to make other data files architecture-independent, and it is generally not hard.
Here are the variables Makefiles should use to specify directories to put these various kinds of files in:
This should normally be /usr/local/share, but write it as $(datarootdir). (If you are using Autoconf, write it as ‘@datadir@’.)
The definition of ‘datadir’ is the same for all packages, so you
should install your data in a subdirectory thereof. Most packages
install their data under $(datadir)/package-name/.
Do not install executables here in this directory (they probably belong
in $(libexecdir) or $(sbindir)). Also do not install
files that are modified in the normal course of their use (programs
whose purpose is to change the configuration of the system excluded).
Those probably belong in $(localstatedir).
These variables specify the directory for installing certain specific types of files, if your program has them. Every GNU package should have Info files, so every program needs ‘infodir’, but not all need ‘libdir’ or ‘lispdir’.
Most compilers other than GCC do not look for header files in directory
/usr/local/include. So installing the header files this way is
only useful with GCC. Sometimes this is not a problem because some
libraries are only really intended to work with GCC. But some libraries
are intended to work with other compilers. They should install their
header files in two places, one specified by
includedir and one
The Makefile commands should check whether the value of
oldincludedir is empty. If it is, they should not try to use
it; they should cancel the second installation of the header files.
A package should not replace an existing header in this directory unless
the header came from the same package. Thus, if your Foo package
provides a header file foo.h, then it should install the header
file in the
oldincludedir directory if either (1) there is no
foo.h there or (2) the foo.h that exists came from the Foo
To tell whether foo.h came from the Foo package, put a magic
string in the file—part of a comment—and
grep for that string.
infodiris separate from
docdirfor compatibility with existing practice.
$(docdir)by default. (If you are using Autoconf, write them as ‘@htmldir@’, ‘@dvidir@’, etc.) Packages which supply several translations of their documentation should install them in ‘$(htmldir)/’ll, ‘$(pdfdir)/’ll, etc. where ll is a locale abbreviation such as ‘en’ or ‘pt_BR’.
libdirshould normally be /usr/local/lib, but write it as $(exec_prefix)/lib. (If you are using Autoconf, write it as ‘@libdir@’.)
If you are using Autoconf, write the default as ‘@lispdir@’. In order to make ‘@lispdir@’ work, you need the following lines in your configure.in file:
Unix-style man pages are installed in one of the following:
And finally, you should set the following variable:
configureshell script. (If you are using Autoconf, use ‘srcdir = @srcdir@’.)
# Common prefix for installation directories. # NOTE: This directory must exist when you start the install. prefix = /usr/local datarootdir = $(prefix)/share datadir = $(datarootdir) exec_prefix = $(prefix) # Where to put the executable for the command `gcc'. bindir = $(exec_prefix)/bin # Where to put the directories used by the compiler. libexecdir = $(exec_prefix)/libexec # Where to put the Info files. infodir = $(datarootdir)/info
If your program installs a large number of files into one of the
standard user-specified directories, it might be useful to group them
into a subdirectory particular to that program. If you do this, you
should write the
install rule to create these subdirectories.
Do not expect the user to include the subdirectory name in the value of any of the variables listed above. The idea of having a uniform set of variable names for installation directories is to enable the user to specify the exact same values for several different GNU packages. In order for this to be useful, all the packages must be designed so that they will work sensibly when the user does so.
At times, not all of these variables may be implemented in the current release of Autoconf and/or Automake; but as of Autoconf 2.60, we believe all of them are. When any are missing, the descriptions here serve as specifications for what Autoconf will implement. As a programmer, you can either use a development version of Autoconf or avoid using these variables until a stable release is made which supports them.