(make.info)Phony Targets

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Phony Targets

   A phony target is one that is not really the name of a file.  It is
just a name for some commands to be executed when you make an explicit
request.  There are two reasons to use a phony target: to avoid a
conflict with a file of the same name, and to improve performance.

   If you write a rule whose commands will not create the target file,
the commands will be executed every time the target comes up for
remaking.  Here is an example:

             rm *.o temp

Because the `rm' command does not create a file named `clean', probably
no such file will ever exist.  Therefore, the `rm' command will be
executed every time you say `make clean'.

   The phony target will cease to work if anything ever does create a
file named `clean' in this directory.  Since it has no dependencies, the
file `clean' would inevitably be considered up to date, and its
commands would not be executed.  To avoid this problem, you can
explicitly declare the target to be phony, using the special target
`.PHONY' (Note: Special Built-in Target Names.) as

     .PHONY : clean

Once this is done, `make clean' will run the commands regardless of
whether there is a file named `clean'.

   Since it knows that phony targets do not name actual files that
could be remade from other files, `make' skips the implicit rule search
for phony targets (Note: Implicit Rules.).  This is why declaring a
target phony is good for performance, even if you are not worried about
the actual file existing.

   Thus, you first write the line that states that `clean' is a phony
target, then you write the rule, like this:

     .PHONY: clean
             rm *.o temp

   A phony target should not be a dependency of a real target file; if
it is, its commands are run every time `make' goes to update that file.
As long as a phony target is never a dependency of a real target, the
phony target commands will be executed only when the phony target is a
specified goal (Note: Arguments to Specify the Goals.).

   Phony targets can have dependencies.  When one directory contains
multiple programs, it is most convenient to describe all of the
programs in one makefile `./Makefile'.  Since the target remade by
default will be the first one in the makefile, it is common to make
this a phony target named `all' and give it, as dependencies, all the
individual programs.  For example:

     all : prog1 prog2 prog3
     .PHONY : all
     prog1 : prog1.o utils.o
             cc -o prog1 prog1.o utils.o
     prog2 : prog2.o
             cc -o prog2 prog2.o
     prog3 : prog3.o sort.o utils.o
             cc -o prog3 prog3.o sort.o utils.o

Now you can say just `make' to remake all three programs, or specify as
arguments the ones to remake (as in `make prog1 prog3').

   When one phony target is a dependency of another, it serves as a
subroutine of the other.  For example, here `make cleanall' will delete
the object files, the difference files, and the file `program':

     .PHONY: cleanall cleanobj cleandiff
     cleanall : cleanobj cleandiff
             rm program
     cleanobj :
             rm *.o
     cleandiff :
             rm *.diff

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