TODO   [plain text]

-*- outline -*-

Things it might be nice to do someday.  I haven't evaluated all of
these suggestions... their presence here doesn't imply my endorsement.
-djm & his successors.


* Soon

** --target & AC_ARG_PROGRAM
Shouldn't *any* `program' be installed as `$target_alias-program' even
if AC_ARG_PROGRAM is not called?  That would be much more predictable.

** RedHat's Autoconf page
should be removed.

Write a test that checks that it honors the values set by the user.

* Autoconf 2.52 or later

** Languages
Integrate other Fortrans etc.

I have still not understood what's the difference  between the two
which requires to have two different sources: AC_LANG_CALL and
AC_LANG_FUNC_LINK_TRY (which names seem to be inappropriate).
Wouldn't one be enough?

** autom4te
Eve it out of autoconf.  Install support for Autotest, M4sugar, and
M4sh.  Give a means to trace at the same time as we produce the
output.  autoconf shall use this feature to make autoheader obsolete,
and to produce some kind of input file for automake which should no
longer *ever* try to parse Autoconf files.

** Autotest
Document it.

And make AC_TRY_COMPILE etc. obsolete.

** Autoscan macros
Can be introduced even before specializing macros.  It just means that
specializing macros will call them.  OTOH, this doubles our work,
since specializing macros will save us from additional typing.  But
the more powerful autoscan is, the better...

** Libtool
Define once for all the hooks they need, any redefinition of
AC_PROG_CC etc. is way too dangerous and too limiting.  The GCC team
certainly has requirements too.

** Pentateuch
Heck, there is nothing after `Deuteronomy'!  We're stuck, but we
_must_ update the `history' section.  Can't go to `New testament', we
might hurt feelings?  In addition, it means that the Messiah has come,
which might be slightly presumptuous :).  Still, someone fluent in
English should write it.

We must find a solution for this macro which needs to find

** Revamp the language support
We should probably have a language for C89, and C99.  We must give the
means to the users to specify some needs over the compilers, and
actually look for a good compiler, instead of stopping at the first
compiler we find.

In fact, the AC_CHECK_PROG macro and variations have proved their
limitation: we really need something more powerful and simpler too.

We must take into account the specific problems of the GCC team.  We
must extend AC_CHECK_FUNCS in order to use the headers instead of fake
declarations as we currently do.  Default headers could be triggered
on when C99, but not with the other languages?

At the end, we should have a simple macro, such as AC_LANG_COMPILER
for instance, which is built over simpler macros.  Each language
support should come with these simpler macros, but each language
should follow the same process.

We also need to check the srcext which are supported by the compiler.
In fact, this macro is also probably the right place to check for
objext and exeext.

Should be: AC_PROG_CC_ISO?  Or even more specific for the ISO version?
Should include more tests (e.g., AC_C_CONST etc.)?

Defines $interpval.  This is not a standard name.  Do we want to keep
this?  Clarify our policy on those names.

** autoupdate
We should probably install the files which do not depend upon the
user, just the Autoconf library files.  But conversely autoupdate must
be opened to user macros, i.e., for instance libtool itself must be
able to say that AM_PROG_LIBTOOL is now AC_PROG_LIBTOOL, and have
autoupdate do its job on old

Decide with the Automake team whether this macro should list only `.c'
files, or it should include the `.h' too.  For instance the
AC_FUNC_GNU_GETOPT macro could provide the three files, likewise for
the macro which allows to choose a regex engine.

** Allow --recursive to config.status
So that --recheck does not pass --no-recursive to configure.

Well, back onto this one :( See Peter for very useful comments on the
technology.  Should we make this a new language?  AC_LANG(ISO C).  It
would be great to introduce AC_LANG_COMPILER in this release too.

* autoconf.texi
Move the specific macro documentation blocks into the source files,
and use a doc-block extraction/merge technique to get docuemntation
into texi-file.  This should help avoid bit-rot in the doc, and make
the doc easier to update when people add/change macros.  The name
"autodoc" is probably already taken so we probably need another one.


* Automake

** missing.m4
The test for a recent missing doesn't hide the error messages from the
old missing.

The section for old macros is not completely up to date.  For
instance, there is still AM_PROG_LIBTOOL.  Anyway, since autoupdate
takes care of them, it is no longer the role of Automake to handle
this.  Most should be removed.

Support should be enabled by default.

** Macros now swallowed by Autoconf.
error.m4, obstack.m4, ptrdiff.m4, strtod.m4, termios.m4, winsz.m4.


* m4

** I18n
The error messages for indir and dumpdef are uselessly different.  Fix
this for translators.

** Tracing `builtin'
F**k!  --trace FOO does not catch indir([FOO], $@)!

** Tracing builtins
GNU M4 1.4's tracing of builtins is buggy.  When run on this input:

| divert(-1)
| changequote([, ])
| define([m4_eval], defn([eval]))
| eval(1)
| m4_eval(2)
| undefine([eval])
| m4_eval(3)

it behaves this way:

| % m4 input.m4 -da -t eval
| m4trace: -1- eval(1)
| m4trace: -1- m4_eval(2)
| m4trace: -1- m4_eval(3)
| %


| % m4 input.m4 -da -t m4_eval
| %


* Autoconf 3

** Cache name spaces.
Cf the discussion with Kaveh.  One would like to
# Do something that changes the environment
in order not to erase the results of a check with another.

** Cache var names
should depend upon the current language.

** Use m4 lists?
I think one sad decision in Autoconf was to use white space separated
lists for some arguments.  For instance AC_CHECK_FUNCS(foo bar).  I
tend to think that, even if it is not as nice, we should use m4 lists,
i.e., AC_CHECK_FUNCS((foo, bar)) in this case.  This would ease
specializing loops, and more importantly, make them much more robust.

A typical example of things that can be performed if we use m4 lists
instead of white space separated lists is the case of things that have
a space in their names, eg, structures.

With the current scheme it would be extremely difficult to loop over
AC_CHECK_STRUCTS(struct foo struct bar), while it natural and well
defined for m4 lists: AC_CHECK_STRUCTS((struct foo, struct bar)).

I know that makes a huge difference in syntax, but a major release
should be ready to settle a new world.  We *can* provide helping tools
for the transition.  Considering the benefits, I really think it is
worth thinking. --akim

** Forbid shell variables as main arguments
The fact that we have to support shell variables as main argument
forbids many interesting constructions (specialization are not always
possible, equally for AC_REQUIRE'ing macros *with their arguments*).
Any loop should be handled by m4 itself, and nothing should be hidden
to it.  As a consequence, shell variables on the main arguments become
useless (the main reason we support shell variables is to allow the
loop versions of single argument macros, eg, to go from AC_CHECK_FUNC
to AC_CHECK_FUNCS). --akim

** Use the @SUBST@ technology also for headers instead of #undef.
This requires that acconfig.h becomes completely obsolete: autoheader
should generate all the templates.

** Specializing loops.
For instance, make AC_CHECK_FUNC[S] automatically use any particular
macros for the listed functions.
This requires to obsolete the feature `break' in ACTION-IF, since all
the loops are to be handled by m4, not sh.

** Faces of a test
Each macro can potentially come with several faces: of course the
configure snippet (AC_foo), a config.h snippet (AH_foo), a system.h
snippet (AS_foo), documentation (AD_foo) and, why not, the some C code
for instance to replace a function.

The motivation for the `faces' is to encapsulate.  It is abnormal that
once one has a configure macro, then she has to read somewhere to find
the piece of system.h to use etc.  The macros should come in a
self-contained way, or, said it another way, PnP.

A major issue is that of specialization.  AC_CHECK_HEADER (or another
name) for instance, will have as an effect, via system.h to include
the header.  But if the test for the header is specific, the generic
AS_CHECK_HEADER will still be used.  Conversely, some headers may not
require a specific AC_ tests, but a specialized AS_ macro.


* Make AC_CHECK_LIB check whether the function is already available
  before checking for the library.  This might involve adding another
  kind of cache variable to indicate whether a given function needs a
  given library.  The current ac_cv_func_ variables are intended to
  indicate whether the function is in the default libraries, but
  actually also take into account whatever value LIBS had when they
  were checked for.

  Isn't this the issue of AC_SEARCH_LIB? --akim
  How come the list of libraries to browse not an additional parameter
  of AC_CHECK_FUNC, exactly like for the headers? --akim


* Add AC_PROG_CC_POSIX to replace the current ad-hoc macros for AIX,
  Minix, ISC, etc.


* Support creating both config.h and DEFS in the same configure.


* Select the right CONFIG_SHELL automatically (for Ultrix, Lynx especially.)


* Doc: Centralize information on POSIX, MS-DOS, cross-compiling, and
  other important topics.


* Mike Haertel's suggestions:

** Provide header files containing decls for alloca, strings, etc.

** Cross compiling:

*** Error messages include instructions for overriding defaults using

*** Distribute a corresponding to a hypothetical bare POSIX system with c89.

** Site defaults:

*** Convention for consistency checking of env vars and options in so can print obnoxious messages if it doesn't like options or env vars that users use.


* Look at user contributed macros:
	IEEE double precision math


For AC_TYPE_SIGNAL signal handlers, provide a way for code to know
whether to do "return 0" or "return" (int vs void) to avoid compiler
warnings.  (Roland McGrath)


In config.status comment, put the host/target/build types, if used.


on, configure is getting the wrong answer for

The problem here is that there's severe name space pollution: when
conftest.c includes <ctype.h> to pick up any __stub macro definitions,
it's getting a prototype declaration for select(), which collides
with the dummy declaration in conftest.c.  (The chain of includes
is conftest.c -> <ctype.h> -> <sys/localedef.h> -> <sys/lc_core.h>
-> <sys/types.h> -> <sys/select.h>.)

	#define $ac_func __dummy_$ac_func
	#include <ctype.h>
	#undef $ac_func
From: (Karl Heuer)

The test for the isascii function was failing because that function is
also a macro.  He proposed that the test file look like this:

/* Remove any macro definition. */
#undef isascii
/* Override any gcc2 internal prototype to avoid an error.  */
char isascii(); isascii();

Andreas Schwab


It would be nice if I could (in the files) set
the path to config.h. You have config.h ../config.h ../../config.h's all
over the place, in the findutils-4.1 directory.
From: "Randall S. Winchester" <>


In a future version (after 2.2), make AC_PROG_{CC,RANLIB,anything else}
From Roland McGrath.


	ls -lt configure | sort
doesn't work right if is from a symlink farm, where the
symlink has either a timestamp of its own, or under BSD 4.4, it has
the timestamp of the current directory, neither of which
helps. Changing it to
	ls -Llt configure | sort
works for me, though I don't know how portable that is
_Mark_ <>


Here is the thing I would like the most;

AC_PKG_WITH(kerberos,,/usr/local/athena,-lkrb -ldes,[KERBEROS KRB4
[if hesiod is not in kerberos-root add --with-hesiod-root=somewhere]
AC_PKG_WITH(bind,,/usr/local/bind, [lib/resolv.a lib/lib44bsd.a], ,include)
After the apropriate checks, the existance of the paths, and libs and such
The cppflags should reverse the order so that you can have;
-I/usr/local/bind/include -I/usr/local/athena/include
-L/usr/local/athena/lib -lkrb -ldes /usr/local/bind/lib/libresolv.a
as order matters.

so one can give alternate paths to check for stuff ($PKG-ROOT/lib for
From: Randall Winchester


AC_C_CROSS assumes that configure was called like 'CC=target-gcc;
./configure'. I want to write a package that has target dependent
libraries and host dependent tools. So I don't like to lose the
distinction between CC and [G]CC_FOR_TARGET.  AC_C_CROSS should check
for equality of target and host.

It would be great if


would be set automatically if host != target.
AC_LANG_CROSS_C would be nice too, to check header files
etc. with GCC_FOR_TARGET instead of CC

Here is one simple test

if test "x$host" != "x$target"; then
AC_PROGRAMS_CHECK(AR_FOR_TARGET, $target-ar, $target-ar, ar)
AC_PROGRAMS_CHECK(RANLIB_FOR_TARGET, $target-ranlib, $target-ranlib, ranlib)
AC_PROGRAMS_CHECK(GCC_FOR_TARGET, $target-gcc, $target-gcc, gcc)

This could be improved to also look for gcc in PATH, but require the
prefix to contain the target e.g.:

target=m68k-coff -->GCC_FOR_TARGET = /usr/gnu/m68k-coff/bin/gcc

From: nennker@cs.tu-berlin.DE (Axel Nennker)


The problem occurs with the following libc functions in SunOS 5.4:

	fnmatch glob globfree regcomp regexec regerror regfree wordexp wordfree

It also occurs with a bunch more libposix4 functions that most people
probably aren't worried about yet, e.g. shm_open.

All these functions fail with errno set to ENOSYS (89)
``Operation not applicable''.

Perhaps Autoconf should have a specific macro for fnmatch, another for
glob+globfree, another for regcomp+regexec+regerror+regfree, and
another for wordexp+wordfree.  This wouldn't solve the problem in
general, but it should work for Solaris 2.4.  Or Autoconf could limit
itself to fnmatch and regcomp, the only two functions that I know have
been a problem so far.

From Paul Eggert.


Make easy macros for checking for X functions and libraries, such as Motif.


There are basically three ways to lock files
        lockf, fnctl, flock
I'd be interested in adding a macro to pick the "right one" if you're

From:    Rich Salz <>


Timezone calculations checks.


Support different default filesystem layouts, e.g. SVR4, Linux.
Of course, this can be done locally with


I wonder if it is possible to get the path for X11's app-defaults
directory by autoconf. Moreover, I'd like to have a general way of
accessing imake variables by autoconf, something like


Slaven Rezic <>


Cache consistency checking: ignore cache if environment
(CC or PATH) differs.
From Mike Haertel

So we need a general mechanism for storing variables' values in the cache,
and checking if they are the same after reading the cache.  Then we can add
to the list of variables as we come across the need.  So far we want
LD_LIBRARY_PATH and the internal variables for some of (all?) the args.
From: (Roland McGrath)

Hmm.  That list might include LD_LIBRARY_PATH, LD_RUN_PATH (for solaris),
and PATH.  I can't think of any others so far.
From: (Noah Friedman)


Every user running X11 usually has a directory like *X11* in his PATH
variable. By replacing bin by include, you can find good places to
look for the include files or libraries.

From: (Richard Verhoeven)


In most cases, when autoscan suggests something, using the search or
index command into the Info reader for autoconf manual quickly
explains me what the test is about.  However, for header files and
functions, the search might fail, because the test is not of the
specific kind.  The Autoconf manual should reflect somewhere all
header files or functions (non-specific features, generally)
triggering autoscan to generate tests, and tell in a few words what is
the problem, and the suggested approach for a solution; that is, how
one should use the result of testing the feature.



It would be nice if the configure script would handle an option such as
--x-libraries="/usr/openwin/lib /usr/dt/lib".

Rick Boykin <>

Under Solaris 2.4, the regular X includes and libs and the Motif
includes and libs are in different places.  The Emacs configure script
actually allows dir1:dir2:dir3 --

    if test "${x_libraries}" != NONE && test -n "${x_libraries}"; then
      LD_SWITCH_X_SITE=-L`echo ${x_libraries} | sed -e "s/:/ -L/g"`
      LD_SWITCH_X_SITE_AUX=-R`echo ${x_libraries} | sed -e "s/:/ -R/g"`
    if test "${x_includes}" != NONE && test -n "${x_includes}"; then
      C_SWITCH_X_SITE=-I`echo ${x_includes} | sed -e "s/:/ -I/g"`


    What messages should be produced by default, if any?

Probably only the few most important ones, like which configuration
name was used, whether X or Xt are in use, etc. The specific
decisions, and progress messages, should be recorded on the terminal
only if --verbose is used.

    --silent just supresses the "checking for...result"
    messages, not the "creating FOO" messages.

I think the default should be to suppress both.
From: Richard Stallman <>

There is no distinction now between
important decisions (we have X) vs minor decisions (we have lstat).
However, there are probably only a few things you deem important enough to
announce and only those few things will need to be changed.
Perhaps config.status could be written with comments saying what was
From: Roland McGrath <>


Another thing I wish for is a macro which figures out which libraries are
needed for BSD-sytle sockets.  AC_PATH_X already detects this it's just a matter of seperating out the socket-related code.
From: "Joel N. Weber II" <>


in order to use the AC_CANONICAL_SYSTEM macro, I have to have
install-sh somewhere nearby --- why is this?  I have no real reason to
distribute install-sh, other than that its absence breaks this code.

Shouldn't the above loop be looking for config.sub and config.guess?
From: (Jim Blandy)

adding AC_CANONICAL_HOST to my script caused
all sorts of odd/unexplained errors.  Obviously, I had to go
get copies of config.guess, config.sub and install-sh from the
autoconf distribution, but the error messages and autoconf docs
didn't explain that very well.
From: (Keith Bostic)


Perhaps also have AC_TRY_COMPILER try to link an invalid program, and
die if the compiler seemed to succeed--in which case it's not usable
with autoconf scripts.


autoreconf doesn't support having (in the same tree) both directories
that are parts of a larger package (sharing aclocal.m4 and
acconfig.h), and directories that are independent packages (each with
their own ac*).  It assumes that they are all part of the same
package, if you use --localdir, or that each directory is a separate
package, if you don't use it.

autoreconf should automatically figure out which ac* files to use--the
closest ones up the tree from each directory, probably, unless
overridden by --localdir.

Also, autoreconf recurses on all subdirectories containing a, not just those given by an AC_CONFIG_SUBDIRS directive.
This may not be a problem in practice.