Automating Tasks with Aap

Aap is a flexible tool that can do what make does and much more. Learn how to write portable recipes for maintaining your Web sites and building programs.
Building with Another Language

For languages other than C and C++ you need to import a language module. A few standard modules are included with Aap. For example, this is how to build from D sources; D is a new programming language:

:import d
:program myprog : main.d common.d various.d args.d

The :import d command is used to load the support for the D language. Otherwise this process is similar to building from C sources.

You can write a module yourself to add support for a language. Because Aap is open source, you are encouraged to submit the module to be included in the Aap distribution. Until that happens, drop the file in the Aap modules directory; this works as a plugin.

Building a KDE Application

Building a KDE application involves working with a lot of tools, including using Qt Designer to create dialogs, generating header files from user-interface descriptions and generating interprocess communication code. Nevertheless, a recipe for building a KDE application can be as simple as this:

:import kde
:program logger : main.cpp
                  dcop.h {filetype = skel}
                         {var_OBJSUF = _skel.o}

Of the three input files, main.cpp can be compiled directly. The Qt Designer file logwidget.ui first needs to be processed by uic to generate an include file; then moc must be used. Aap recognizes the .ui suffix and takes care of all of this. Handling this kind of multistep compilation, from ui to h to moc to object file, is a useful feature in Aap. Doing the same thing in a Makefile requires far more explicit rules.

The dcop.h file contains special KDE items but has a normal suffix. It cannot be recognized automatically. Therefore the filetype attribute is specified explicitly. The :program command also needs to know the name of the object file, which is specified with the var_OBJSUF attribute. You do not need to specify explicitly the KDE tools being used; the complexity is hidden in the KDE module. This is considerably less complex than using automake.

Using Aap as a Better make

So far, you have used high-level Aap commands to specify quickly what needs to be done. For nonstandard tasks, you need to spell out the dependencies and commands. This mostly works like a Makefile. Besides shell commands, you can use portable Aap commands. If that is not enough, you can add a Python script.

Listing 6 shows what a low-level recipe looks like. Every dependency is given explicitly here—all depends on hello, hello is compiled from hello.c and hello.c is generated from scratch.

Because the build commands in a recipe are Aap commands, you need to use :sys to execute a shell (system) command. In the example, :sys cc executes the C compiler. Obviously, this works only on systems with the cc command. Using shell commands reduces the portability of a recipe.

The hello.c file is generated with :print commands. The first line uses >! $target to overwrite an existing hello.c file. Without the exclamation mark, you receive an error message if the file already exists. This line also contains $(#), which escapes the special meaning of the # character to start a comment. Likewise, $(<) and $(>) are used to get < and > characters instead of redirection.

The hello.c file is generated when it doesn't already exist; no source file dependency is specified. The file can be generated in another situation as well—if you change one of the :print commands, because it changes the signature of the build commands. When the build commands change, Aap knows that the target must be rebuilt.

The file is generated with Aap commands; no shell commands need to be used. This part of the recipe therefore can work on any system. But the number of Aap commands is limited. When you need more functionality and also require portability, you can use Python scripting.

All flow control in Aap recipes is done with Python, and Listing 7 illustrates an example of a recipe that applies patches to Vim. A loop is used to generate a list of patch filenames, starting with vim-6.2.001 and counting up to the last patch number, specified with LASTPATCH. Each of the patch files is to be downloaded and applied. The $* in done/$*Patches is used for rc-style variable expansion; done/ is prepended to every item in Patches.



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Anonymous's picture

Hi Bram
Thank you for your great tutorials.
I Use a lot of it myself and you have been a great help to turn to whenever i am stuck on a project.
Please keep up the good job.
Founder of
Install Software