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9.4.1 Prerequisite Macros

A macro that you write might need to use values that have previously been computed by other macros. For example, AC_DECL_YYTEXT examines the output of flex or lex, so it depends on AC_PROG_LEX having been called first to set the shell variable LEX.

Rather than forcing the user of the macros to keep track of the dependencies between them, you can use the AC_REQUIRE macro to do it automatically. AC_REQUIRE can ensure that a macro is only called if it is needed, and only called once.

— Macro: AC_REQUIRE (macro-name)

If the M4 macro macro-name has not already been called, call it (without any arguments). Make sure to quote macro-name with square brackets. macro-name must have been defined using AC_DEFUN or else contain a call to AC_PROVIDE to indicate that it has been called.

AC_REQUIRE must be used inside a macro defined by AC_DEFUN; it must not be called from the top level.

AC_REQUIRE is often misunderstood. It really implements dependencies between macros in the sense that if one macro depends upon another, the latter is expanded before the body of the former. To be more precise, the required macro is expanded before the outermost defined macro in the current expansion stack. In particular, ‘AC_REQUIRE([FOO])’ is not replaced with the body of FOO. For instance, this definition of macros:

     [test "$body_temperature_in_celsius" -gt "38" &&
     [test "$hair_style" = "curly" &&
     [if date | grep '^Sat.*pm' >/dev/null 2>&1; then

with this

     AC_INIT([Dance Manager], [1.0], [])
     if test "$dance_floor" = occupied; then
       AC_MSG_ERROR([cannot pick up here, let's move])

does not leave you with a better chance to meet a kindred soul at other times than Saturday night since it expands into:

     test "$body_temperature_in_Celsius" -gt "38" &&
     test "$hair_style" = "curly" &&
     if date | grep '^Sat.*pm' >/dev/null 2>&1; then

This behavior was chosen on purpose: (i) it prevents messages in required macros from interrupting the messages in the requiring macros; (ii) it avoids bad surprises when shell conditionals are used, as in:

     if ...; then

The helper macros AS_IF and AS_CASE may be used to enforce expansion of required macros outside of shell conditional constructs. You are furthermore encouraged to put all AC_REQUIRE calls at the beginning of a macro. You can use dnl to avoid the empty lines they leave.