Wednesday 29 May 2013

GNU Make quirk

(Updated 2013-07-20: Correctly describe the issue and provide examples)

Make has several useful built-in functions, among which $(patsubst pattern,replacer,string). The pattern can contain the character % which is a wildcard meaning any string and that can be referred in the replacer parameter. Only the first occurrence of % is treated with this special meaning, just as the manual says.

What the manual doesn't say is that only the form %bla works, while the form bla% does NOT work GNU Make's '%' is not analogous to shell's '*', so you can't expect to remove substrings in the middle of a string without knowing the exact string until the part you want to remove.

This does not work if you want to obtain '../some/CPU12/include' in OTHERPATH:

PATH := ../some/prefCPU12/include
OTHERPATH := $(patsubst pref%,%,$(PATH))

The result will be:
 OTHERPATH = ../some/prefCPU12/include
This bahaviour is somewhat asymetric to how subst behaves and how one would expect it to, considering '%' is explained as a glob pattern:

0 eddy@heidi /tmp $ cat makefile
PATH      := ../some/prefCPU12/include
OTHERPATH := $(patsubst pref%,%,$(PATH))
SPATH     := $(subst pref,,$(PATH))

    @echo "PATH      = $(PATH)"
    @echo "OTHERPATH = $(OTHERPATH)"
    @echo "SPATH     = $(SPATH)"
0 eddy@heidi /tmp $ make
PATH      = ../some/prefCPU12/include
OTHERPATH = ../some/prefCPU12/include
SPATH     = ../some/CPU12/include
Not sure what make developers would say about this, and I am not sure if having % work as a glob pattern and using it, instead of invoking sed would be better for performance, but sure I would like to have the option :-) .