Building Qt applications with GNU Autotools / without QMake

News: 2007-06-14 Autotroll 0.2 released 2008-12-09 A Git repository for Autotroll is available.


AutoTroll is very easy to use: it's a simple M4 file and piece of Makefile you need to include in your project. You invoke the magic macro AT_WITH_QT in your, and that's all, you're done: you can now use new flags in your Makefiles to build your applications. AutoTroll is released under the GPL with an exception to be used in non-GPL compatible projects. NEW! AutoTroll's sources are now available in a Git repository: git clone git:// You can download a sample project that uses Qt's example with AutoTroll: MD5 (autotroll-demo-0.2.tar.gz) = b42e44847a3fd8259ab594cedfc1d053


Several reasons why you might want to use AutoTroll: * Because QMake doesn't give as much power as Autoconf/Automake/Libtool. * Because your project already uses the GNU Autotools. * Because you are tired of make clean all just because qmake does not properly handle dependencies. The GNU Autotools give you and your users much more power than qmake can: * You can easily make your package configurable through the configure script (eg: your program depends on a library, say boost, and your user has installed it under a non-standard prefix: they can just run: ./configure --with-boost=PATH) * Your package can run sanity tests (through configure) before actually letting the user try compile it and get cryptic compilation errors. * These tests are much more reliable than the pre-computed grid of platforms and compilers of qmake. * The maintainers enjoy the benefits of the features provided by the Autotools (libtool, make distcheck, easy support of nested packages, etc.) * The packagers enjoy the benefits of the features provided by the Autotools (easily configurable setup, nice features such as DESTDIR installs for easy sandboxing and binary distributions) * The power users enjoy the benefits of the features provided by the Autotools (They can easily change the location where the package will be installed by changing the prefix, use their, tweak the compilation flags at configure or make time, use VPATH builds, use install-exec / install-data to maintain installations on NFS shares, and much more)


AutoTroll has been tested successfully with Qt 4.0+, Qt 4.1+, Qt 4.2+ and Qt 4.3+ on Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo) and Windows XP (Cygwin, MinGW) and Mac OSX (XCode). Qt 3 might be supported but hasn't been tested enough.

How does it work?

It's very simple: AutoTroll simply creates a fake Qt project at configure time, calls qmake and analyses the Makefile produced by qmake to deduce the various compilation FLAGS needed to build a Qt application. It's as simple as that and has the advantage of being portable on all plateforms where qmake works (instead of hardcoding some flags -- usually for Windows and Linux only -- which is what most other people do to integrate Qt stuff in an Autotool-based project).

Windows Issues

On Windows, AutoTroll is not enough if you plan to use Cygwin or MinGW. QMake will generate paths such as C:\Qt\bin\moc.exe and the shells will usually understand the command 'C:Qtbinmoc.exe' because the backslash did not actually escape anything. It is true that MinGW shell helps a lot with this kind of issue but MinGW does not always do all the translations needed and you will most likely run into troubles. Moreover, you might want to use a Cygwin shell instead simply because Cygwin offers more features and packages than MinGW. For all these reasons, I had to develop all sorts of wrappers in order to be able to transparently build UNIX projects on Windows. Read on << Back to