[fpc-pascal] Makefiles vs Pascal Automation

L505 fpcmail at z505.com
Sat Oct 28 09:04:12 CEST 2006

In many cases makefiles take about just as long to create as shell scripts or pascal
programs - they just offer a nice framework to automate compiling in an easy way - but in
sort of a funny syntax. But makefiles kind of become ugly when they get big - and because
they have a poor syntax compared to pascal programs - couldn't one just write a pascal
program to automate the compilation process, instead of a makefile? (if a good framework
was in place).

A reusable "automation" unit or framework would need to be created so that automating the
compile process from within a pascal program was easy.

After thinking about it, I determined that makefiles are actually PROGRAMS in disguise -
not config files, as their syntax seems to lead us to believe. They are config files on
steroids. Config files generally don't execute instructions.. config files are more
geared toward storage of settings. But makefiles do execute instructions! Makefiles are
programs, not settings files.

So if makefiles are actually mini-programs, why couldn't we simply write makefiles in
pascal instead of writing makefiles in makefile-language/fpcmake-language?

Psuedo Example.. let's consider I have to make four CGI programs in one shot. I want to
rename EXE or ELF programs to CGI programs after the compilation is done. Compiling four
programs using Make is possible, writing up a makefile.. but it could also be done this

program Maker;
  CompileTools; //the framework that simulates MAKE
  targets : array of [1..4] = ('index.pp', 'main.pp', 'login.pp', 'logout.pp');
  // compile several programs
  if OStarget = linux then
     writeln('compiling 4 programs for linux..');
  // 4 could actually be "CompileCount", if framework implemented such a thing
  if OStarget = windows then
     writeln('compiling 4 programs for windows..');
  for i:= 1 to 4 do
   RenameFile(CompiledEXE[i], CompiledEXEName[i] + '.cgi');
  DeleteFiles('*.ppu', '*.a', '*.o');

At the command line:
  maker all

Instead of using make:
  make all

The framework in the maker program would handle "all", "clean", etc.
Instead of writing a new makefile each time we wanted to automated compilation, we would
simple write a new pascal program which used the maker framework.

Why did I come across this idea? The same reason I sometimes build a pascal program
instead of using a shell script!
The same reason that HTML files would make poor executables! The same reason that config
files are really not meant to be programs... but rather settings files. Similarly, a
config file is really not a program - and makefiles are becoming INI files on steroids -

If compiling the MAKER program each time is too much work, then maybe this would be a
good use for PascalScript.

So basically my main point is that make files have become executable INI files -
something INI files really aren't intended to be - with less power and clarity than a
real pascal program.
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