Is CMake a Scripting Language?


Scott Campbell

Is CMake a Scripting Language?

CMake is a popular build system generator that allows developers to efficiently manage the build process of their projects. It is often compared to scripting languages like Python or Bash due to its ability to automate tasks and define complex build configurations. However, it is important to note that CMake itself is not a scripting language.

What is CMake?

CMake stands for “cross-platform make” and was initially developed by Kitware in 2000. It provides a platform-independent way of generating build files for various build systems such as Make, Ninja, Visual Studio, and Xcode. CMake uses its own language, known as the CMake Language (CML), to define the build configurations.

How does CMake work?

CMake operates by reading the CMakeLists.txt file present in the project’s root directory. This file contains instructions written in the CML that describe how the project should be built. These instructions can include defining source files, setting compilation flags, specifying dependencies, and more.

When running CMake on a project, it generates platform-specific build files based on the instructions provided in the CMakeLists.txt file. For example, if you are working on a Unix-like system and want to use Make as your build system, running CMake will generate a Makefile that can be used with the Make command-line tool.

Is CML a scripting language?

The CMake Language (CML) used by CMake shares some similarities with scripting languages but has distinct differences that set it apart. While scripting languages are typically used to write scripts that are executed directly by an interpreter or runtime environment, the purpose of CML is solely to generate build files.

Unlike scripting languages, CML does not support control structures like loops or conditionals. It is primarily used for defining variables, setting properties, and specifying build Targets. CML is a declarative language that focuses on describing the desired build configuration rather than executing commands.

Key features of CMake

  • Cross-platform: CMake allows developers to write build configurations that can be easily generated for different platforms and build systems.
  • Modularity: CMake supports modular project organization by allowing the use of separate CMakeLists.txt files in subdirectories.
  • Dependency management: CMake provides mechanisms to handle dependencies between libraries and components, making it easier to manage complex projects.
  • Extensibility: CMake can be extended with custom modules and functions to provide additional functionality.

In conclusion, while CMake shares some similarities with scripting languages, it is important to understand that it is not a scripting language itself. It is a powerful build system generator that uses its own language (CML) to define the build configurations. Understanding this distinction will help developers leverage the capabilities of CMake effectively in their projects.

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