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Re: Future plans for Autotools

From: Paul Eggert
Subject: Re: Future plans for Autotools
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2021 12:10:58 -0800
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:78.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/78.6.1

On 1/21/21 8:01 AM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
I know that
at least one person has tried to write a set of GNU Make library files
intended to replace it altogether, but I've never seen anyone *finish*
that project.  I'd very much like to see someone give that another go.

GNU Emacs never used Automake but its developers eventually decided to require GNU Make. This has not proved to be a problem in practice, as GNU Make is ubiquitous, and Automake features not directly supported by GNU Make don't seem to be needed by Emacs builds.

One possible way forward is to have an Autoconf 2 that builds atop GNU Make, both as a partial replacement for Automake (which is what Emacs does already), and as a way to speed up and simplify configuration. If 'configure' were mostly a front end to a GNU Make invocation, it could run configuration probes in parallel which would certainly be a win for me. And perhaps configuration probes could be written in GNU Make rather than m4, which would also be a win because it'd be one less language to learn. (Of course we could continue to support existing m4-based probes, run sequentially, as well as letting Automake do its thing for people who prefer Automake.)

Whatever way forward is chosen will surely need coordination with Gnulib, which has essentially taken over most of the low-level system-specific porting tasks that Autoconf used to have. When Emacs adopted Gnulib but did not want to use Automake, we had to hack on Gnulib to support that; bigger hacks to Gnulib will surely be needed to support any of the changes proposed here.

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