CMake Performance Tips

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Revision as of 19:45, 13 August 2012 by Andreas Mohr (talk | contribs) (Skip find_package())
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While CMake itself is already very fast, there are some tuning things you can do to ensure works as fast as possible.

CMake build time

Build it with optimization enabled

Ok, this is obvious, but anyway. Let's say you build CMake yourself without any special settings, e.g.

$ cmake ..
$ make

If you do it this way, you will get a CMake with optimizations turned off. There are different ways to get an optimized build. You can select one of the predefined build types:

$ make



$ export CXXFLAGS=-O2
$ cmake ..
$ make


$ export CXXFLAGS=-O2
$ cmake ..
$ make edit_cache (or ccmake ..)
... edit CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS in the advanced view
$ make

CMake built with optimizations enabled can give you an almost 50% performance boost (time for running CMake on VTK went down from 25 s to 14 s).


There are two ways to append values to a variable in CMake:

  SET(myVar ${myVar} newItem)

and since CMake 2.4 there is the new LIST() command:

  LIST(APPEND myVar newItem)

LIST(APPEND ...) is for large lists and appends much faster than using SET().

CMake configure time

Reduce add_custom_command()s DEPENDS lists

If your build setup happens to contain many targets which all depend on the same sizeable list of file dependencies, then it might be useful to establish one single custom command (plus its associated target) which DEPENDS on those many files and creates one single OUTPUT "stamp file" ("one of the files changed" watchdog file) which can then be DEPENDS-fed into all affected add_custom_command()s as a single file dependency. A very nice way to figure out whether this applies to your build environment is to do: <source lang="bash"> ninja -t graph > /tmp/graphviz.log dot -Tsvg /tmp/graphviz.log >/tmp/cmake_ninja.svg </source> and watch the resulting graph monstrosity in awe :)

Use an include guard

For CMake modules (files referenced via include() statement), you could use something like: <source lang="CMake"> if(my_module_xyz_included)


endif(my_module_xyz_included) set(my_module_xyz_included true) </source> at the beginning of your module file, to avoid repeated parsing within sibling scopes (sub directories, etc.), which also cuts down on amount of <source lang="bash"> cmake --trace </source> log traffic.

Conditional find_package()

Some other part may already have queried this package and thus caused the corresponding CACHE variable to have been set. find_package() is quite expensive, and AFAIK this yields some nice speedup. This might be questionable, though, in case of changing requirements/requested configurations between project units (but in that case you'd probably have a conflict anyway since there's only a single CACHE variable involved).

<source lang="CMake"> if(NOT xyz_EXECUTABLE)

 find_package(xyz REQUIRED)

endif(NOT xyz_EXECUTABLE) </source>

Split modules into functions/definitions

As a general hint, it might be useful to split module files into containing either clean stateless non-specific (generic) helper functions or content which defines specific settings and calls some helper functions.

Loop optimizations

Use these tricks to do an initial match query over the entire list prior to iterating over each element, and return() ASAP. I did not profile it whether these tricks are indeed faster, but for large lists it should be useful.

<source lang="CMake"> if("${list}" MATCHES ${elem_query}) # shortcut :)

 foreach(elem ${list})
   if(${elem} STREQUAL ${elem_query})
     set(elem_found true)
     return()/break() # don't forget these...
   endif(${elem} STREQUAL ${elem_query})
 endforeach(elem ${list})

endif("${list}" MATCHES ${elem_query}) </source>