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This page describes a proposal for a formal backwards/ forwards compatibility feature.
==The ADD_DEFINITIONS Command==
Consider code such as
which tries to add the option
to the compile command line. The code works in CMake 2.4's <code>Unix Makefiles</code> generator and produces a definition as if
#define FOO "hello world"
appeared in the source code. It works only because of the way the makefile generator happens to place the definition string in the command line. It may not work with the VS IDE generators.
In CMake HEAD we provide the <code>COMPILE_DEFINITIONS</code> directory property so that one may write
set_property(DIRECTORY PROPERTY COMPILE_DEFINITIONS "FOO=\"hello world\"")
to get the correct behavior on all generators. Since CMake HEAD contains the appropriate escaping support it is desirable to allow the user to write
and get the expected behavior. Unfortunately if we were to start escaping the definitions given to <code>add_definitions</code> we would break compatibility with projects that are already adding their own escapes. In hindsight we should have either supported escapes from the beginning or make the command give an error that the definition value is not supported, but it is too late now.
A similar problem appears in the <code>add_custom_command</code> command where support for properly escaping all arguments was added late. The solution currently used by that command is to require the user to add a <code>VERBATIM</code> argument to the command to get proper escaping. Using that solution for <code>add_definitions</code> would make the user write
add_definitions(VERBATIM "-DFOO=\"hello world\"")
just to get CMake to do the right thing. For compatibility CMake would have to implement the wrong behavior by default forever.
==Missing Link Directories==
Projects used to be able to write this (wrong) code and it would work by accident:
target_link_libraries(myexe /path/ to/ libA. so B)
where "<code>B</code>" is meant to link "<code>/path/to/libB. so</ code>". This code is incorrect
because it asks CMake to link to <code>B</ code> but does not provide the proper
linker search path for it. It used to work by accident because the
<code>-L/ path/ to</ code> would get added as part of the implementation of linking to
A. The correct code would be
target_link_libraries(myexe /path/to/libA.so B)
or even better
target_link_libraries(myexe /path/to/libA.so /path/to/libB.so)
Currently we provide the <code>CMAKE_OLD_LINK_PATHS</ code> variable to allow projects or users to quickly work around the problem. Full compatibility would require us to support thie behavior by default forever. That would allow new projects to be written with the same bug.
An alternative is to require all libraries to be linked via full path (where target names are expanded automatically). Whenever a non-full-path is given we could produce a warning that tells the user to start using <code>find_library</ code> or something like that but then implement the old linker search path computation for compatibility. It is desirable to let projects that have been updated for newer CMake versions tell CMake that they know what they are doing and to not warn or use the compatibility behavior.
We propose the following solution to this problem.
Each change that introduces a compatibility issue is assigned a new identification number (like CM00001 or something). Then we try to detect cases in user code where it '''might''' be an issue and deal with it. We can maintain in the implementation of CMake a mapping from feature id to a rule to deal with the issue when encountered. The possible means of dealing with such cases are:
! Rule !! Behavior !! Meaning !! Default?
| QUIET || old || Project suppresses the diagnostic || only in special cases
| WARN || old || Emit warning when case is encountered || most cases
| ERROR || none || Emit error when case is encountered || only for cases that can be detected with no false positives
| FIXED || new || Project declares the case has been resolved || never? distant future release after creation of issue?
Several releases after a compatibility issue has been introduced we can remove implementation of support for the old behavior and enable a boolean "REQUIRED" flag internally that requires a project to declare the issue FIXED. Much further in the future we might make the default setting of the issue FIXED and remove the check altogether.
==Proposed CMAKE_FEATURE Command==
We will introduce a new command for projects to use for setting the rule for each feature. A better name may be needed. Perhaps <code>cmake_compatibility</code>?
cmake_feature(SET <feature-id> <QUIET|WARN|ERROR|FIXED>)
sets the current rule for the feature. It is an error to specify a feature id that does not exist (because it might refer to a feature id introduced in a future version of CMake).
cmake_feature(VERSION <major[.minor[.patch] ]>)
sets the current rules for all features to match the defaults in a given CMake version and also requires the running CMake to equal that version. It also enforces a check that the running CMake is at least that version. The <code>cmake_minimum_required(VERSION)</code> command could be equivalent.
pushes or pops the current feature state on a stack. The stack is automatically pushed/popped when entering a new directory (under <code>add_subdirectory</code> for example). Within a directory the number of PUSH and POP calls must match or it is an error. This signature is useful in a .cmake script meant for inclusion in other projects. It could write
cmake_feature(SET CMF_00001 FIXED)
... code using CMF_00001 ...
The command could also provide an alias for each feature id that is more human readable:
cmake_feature(SET CMF_ESCAPE_DEFINITIONS FIXED)
Let's define a few example feature ids
! Id !! Alias !! Description
| CMF_00001 || CMF_ESCAPE_DEFINITIONS || Enable proper escaping of definitions added with ADD_DEFINITIONS
| CMF_00002 || CMF_ESCAPE_CUSTOM_COMMANDS || Enable proper escaping of custom command lines with ADD_CUSTOM_COMMAND, make VERBATIM argument an error