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CMake vs Make: What are the differences?

Introduction:

CMake and Make are both build automation tools used in software development. Although they serve a similar purpose, there are key differences between the two.

  1. Build System Language: CMake uses its own scripting language called "CMake language" to define the build process, while Make uses Makefile, a declarative language, to specify instructions for compiling and linking code.

  2. Platform Independence: CMake aims to provide a cross-platform build system by generating native build files for various platforms, such as Makefiles for Linux/Unix systems. In contrast, Make is primarily used on Unix-like systems, and the Makefiles it generates may not be compatible with other platforms.

  3. Dependency Tracking: CMake has built-in support for automatic dependency tracking. It can detect changes in source code files and automatically regenerate the build files when necessary. Make, on the other hand, relies on manually specifying dependencies in the Makefile, requiring developers to update these dependencies manually.

  4. Ease of Use: CMake provides a more user-friendly and intuitive syntax compared to Make. Its scripting language is designed to be less verbose and more readable, making it easier for developers to understand and maintain the build process. Makefiles, on the other hand, can be complex and difficult to grasp, especially for beginners.

  5. Customizability: CMake offers a greater level of customization and flexibility compared to Make. It provides a wide range of built-in functions and variables that developers can use to fine-tune the build process. Make, although powerful, has a more limited set of built-in features and may require more manual configuration for advanced customization.

  6. Integration with IDEs: CMake has better integration with modern Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) like Visual Studio and CLion. It can generate project files that IDEs understand and provide an easier and more feature-rich development experience. Make, on the other hand, lacks such seamless integration and often requires additional plugin/configuration to work with IDEs.

In summary, CMake differs from Make by using its own build system language, providing cross-platform compatibility, automatic dependency tracking, being more user-friendly, offering greater customization options, and having better IDE integration.

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Pros of CMake
Pros of Make
  • 1
    Has package registry
  • 1
    No-nonsense approach to builds. Just works
  • 0
    One-line Execution

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What is CMake?

It is used to control the software compilation process using simple platform and compiler independent configuration files, and generate native makefiles and workspaces that can be used in the compiler environment of the user's choice.

What is Make?

The GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Toolchain (Binutils, GDB, GLIBC)

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