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3.2 Strictness

While Automake is intended to be used by maintainers of GNU packages, it does make some effort to accommodate those who wish to use it, but do not want to use all the GNU conventions.

To this end, Automake supports three levels of strictness—how stringently Automake should enforce conformance with GNU conventions. Each strictness level can be selected using an option of the same name; see Options.

The strictness levels are:


This is the default level of strictness. Automake will check for basic compliance with the GNU standards for software packaging. See The GNU Coding Standards for full details of these standards. Currently the following checks are made:

Future versions of Automake will add more checks at this level of strictness; it is advisable to be familiar with the precise requirements of the GNU standards.

Future versions of Automake may, at this level of strictness, require certain non-standard GNU tools to be available to maintainer-only Makefile rules. For instance, in the future pathchk (see pathchk invocation in GNU Coreutils) may be required to run ‘make dist’.


Automake will check for only those things that are absolutely required for proper operation. For instance, whereas GNU standards dictate the existence of a NEWS file, it will not be required in this mode. This strictness will also turn off some warnings by default (among them, portability warnings).


Automake will check for compliance to the as-yet-unwritten Gnits standards. These are based on the GNU standards, but are even more detailed. Unless you are a Gnits standards contributor, it is recommended that you avoid this option until such time as the Gnits standard is actually published (which may never happen).

Currently, --gnits does all the checks that --gnu does, and checks the following as well:

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