(autoconf.info)Coding Style

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9.6 Coding Style

The Autoconf macros follow a strict coding style.  You are encouraged to
follow this style, especially if you intend to distribute your macro,
either by contributing it to Autoconf itself, or via other means.

   The first requirement is to pay great attention to the quotation.
For more details, see Note: Autoconf Language, and Note: M4

   Do not try to invent new interfaces.  It is likely that there is a
macro in Autoconf that resembles the macro you are defining: try to
stick to this existing interface (order of arguments, default values,
etc.).  We _are_ conscious that some of these interfaces are not
perfect; nevertheless, when harmless, homogeneity should be preferred
over creativity.

   Be careful about clashes both between M4 symbols and between shell

   If you stick to the suggested M4 naming scheme (Note: Macro Names),
you are unlikely to generate conflicts.  Nevertheless, when you need to
set a special value, _avoid using a regular macro name_; rather, use an
"impossible" name.  For instance, up to version 2.13, the macro
`AC_SUBST' used to remember what SYMBOL macros were already defined by
setting `AC_SUBST_SYMBOL', which is a regular macro name.  But since
there is a macro named `AC_SUBST_FILE', it was just impossible to
`AC_SUBST(FILE)'!  In this case, `AC_SUBST(SYMBOL)' or
`_AC_SUBST(SYMBOL)' should have been used (yes, with the parentheses).

   No Autoconf macro should ever enter the user-variable name space;
i.e., except for the variables that are the actual result of running the
macro, all shell variables should start with `ac_'.  In addition, small
macros or any macro that is likely to be embedded in other macros
should be careful not to use obvious names.

   Do not use `dnl' to introduce comments: most of the comments you are
likely to write are either header comments which are not output anyway,
or comments that should make their way into `configure'.  There are
exceptional cases where you do want to comment special M4 constructs,
in which case `dnl' is right, but keep in mind that it is unlikely.

   M4 ignores the leading blanks and newlines before each argument.
Use this feature to indent in such a way that arguments are (more or
less) aligned with the opening parenthesis of the macro being called.
For instance, instead of

     AC_CACHE_CHECK(for EMX OS/2 environment,
     [AC_COMPILE_IFELSE([AC_LANG_PROGRAM(, [return __EMX__;])],
     [ac_cv_emxos2=yes], [ac_cv_emxos2=no])])


     AC_CACHE_CHECK([for EMX OS/2 environment], [ac_cv_emxos2],
     [AC_COMPILE_IFELSE([AC_LANG_PROGRAM([], [return __EMX__;])],

or even

     AC_CACHE_CHECK([for EMX OS/2 environment],
                                                        [return __EMX__;])],

   When using `AC_RUN_IFELSE' or any macro that cannot work when
cross-compiling, provide a pessimistic value (typically `no').

   Feel free to use various tricks to prevent auxiliary tools, such as
syntax-highlighting editors, from behaving improperly.  For instance,
instead of:

     m4_bpatsubst([$1], [$"])


     m4_bpatsubst([$1], [$""])

so that Emacsen do not open an endless "string" at the first quote.
For the same reasons, avoid:

     test $[#] != 0

and use:

     test $[@%:@] != 0

Otherwise, the closing bracket would be hidden inside a `#'-comment,
breaking the bracket-matching highlighting from Emacsen.  Note the
preferred style to escape from M4: `$[1]', `$[@]', etc.  Do not escape
when it is unnecessary.  Common examples of useless quotation are
`[$]$1' (write `$$1'), `[$]var' (use `$var'), etc.  If you add
portability issues to the picture, you'll prefer `${1+"$[@]"}' to
`"[$]@"', and you'll prefer do something better than hacking Autoconf

   When using `sed', don't use `-e' except for indenting purposes.
With the `s' and `y' commands, the preferred separator is `/' unless
`/' itself might appear in the pattern or replacement, in which case
you should use `|', or optionally `,' if you know the pattern and
replacement cannot contain a file name.  If none of these characters
will do, choose a printable character that cannot appear in the pattern
or replacement.  Characters from the set `"#$&'()*;<=>?`|~' are good
choices if the pattern or replacement might contain a file name, since
they have special meaning to the shell and are less likely to occur in
file names.

   Note: Macro Definitions, for details on how to define a macro.  If
a macro doesn't use `AC_REQUIRE', is expected to never be the object of
an `AC_REQUIRE' directive, and macros required by other macros inside
arguments do not need to be expanded before this macro, then use
`m4_define'.  In case of doubt, use `AC_DEFUN'.  All the `AC_REQUIRE'
statements should be at the beginning of the macro, and each statement
should be followed by `dnl'.

   You should not rely on the number of arguments: instead of checking
whether an argument is missing, test that it is not empty.  It provides
both a simpler and a more predictable interface to the user, and saves
room for further arguments.

   Unless the macro is short, try to leave the closing `])' at the
beginning of a line, followed by a comment that repeats the name of the
macro being defined.  This introduces an additional newline in
`configure'; normally, that is not a problem, but if you want to remove
it you can use `[]dnl' on the last line.  You can similarly use `[]dnl'
after a macro call to remove its newline.  `[]dnl' is recommended
instead of `dnl' to ensure that M4 does not interpret the `dnl' as
being attached to the preceding text or macro output.  For example,
instead of:

     [AC_MSG_CHECKING([for X])
     # ...omitted...
       AC_MSG_RESULT([libraries $x_libraries, headers $x_includes])

you would write:

     AC_MSG_CHECKING([for X])
     # ...omitted...
       AC_MSG_RESULT([libraries $x_libraries, headers $x_includes])
     ])# AC_PATH_X

   If the macro is long, try to split it into logical chunks.
Typically, macros that check for a bug in a function and prepare its
`AC_LIBOBJ' replacement should have an auxiliary macro to perform this
setup.  Do not hesitate to introduce auxiliary macros to factor your

   In order to highlight the recommended coding style, here is a macro
written the old way:

     dnl Check for EMX on OS/2.
     dnl _AC_EMXOS2
     [AC_CACHE_CHECK(for EMX OS/2 environment, ac_cv_emxos2,
     ac_cv_emxos2=yes, ac_cv_emxos2=no)])
     test "$ac_cv_emxos2" = yes && EMXOS2=yes])

and the new way:

     # _AC_EMXOS2
     # ----------
     # Check for EMX on OS/2.
     [AC_CACHE_CHECK([for EMX OS/2 environment], [ac_cv_emxos2],
     [AC_COMPILE_IFELSE([AC_LANG_PROGRAM([], [return __EMX__;])],
     test "$ac_cv_emxos2" = yes && EMXOS2=yes[]dnl
     ])# _AC_EMXOS2

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