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Functions for String Substitution and Analysis

Here are some functions that operate on strings:

$(subst from,to,text)
Performs a textual replacement on the text text: each occurrence of from is replaced by to. The result is substituted for the function call. For example,
$(subst ee,EE,feet on the street)
substitutes the string `fEEt on the strEEt'.
$(patsubst pattern,replacement,text)
Finds whitespace-separated words in text that match pattern and replaces them with replacement. Here pattern may contain a `%' which acts as a wildcard, matching any number of any characters within a word. If replacement also contains a `%', the `%' is replaced by the text that matched the `%' in pattern. `%' characters in patsubst function invocations can be quoted with preceding backslashes (`\'). Backslashes that would otherwise quote `%' characters can be quoted with more backslashes. Backslashes that quote `%' characters or other backslashes are removed from the pattern before it is compared file names or has a stem substituted into it. Backslashes that are not in danger of quoting `%' characters go unmolested. For example, the pattern `the\%weird\\%pattern\\' has `the%weird\' preceding the operative `%' character, and `pattern\\' following it. The final two backslashes are left alone because they cannot affect any `%' character. Whitespace between words is folded into single space characters; leading and trailing whitespace is discarded. For example,
$(patsubst %.c,%.o,x.c.c bar.c)
produces the value `x.c.o bar.o'. Substitution references (see section Substitution References) are a simpler way to get the effect of the patsubst function:
is equivalent to
$(patsubst pattern,replacement,$(var))
The second shorthand simplifies one of the most common uses of patsubst: replacing the suffix at the end of file names.
is equivalent to
$(patsubst %suffix,%replacement,$(var))
For example, you might have a list of object files:
objects = foo.o bar.o baz.o
To get the list of corresponding source files, you could simply write:
instead of using the general form:
$(patsubst %.o,%.c,$(objects))
$(strip string)
Removes leading and trailing whitespace from string and replaces each internal sequence of one or more whitespace characters with a single space. Thus, `$(strip a b c )' results in `a b c'. The function strip can be very useful when used in conjunction with conditionals. When comparing something with the empty string `' using ifeq or ifneq, you usually want a string of just whitespace to match the empty string (see section Conditional Parts of Makefiles). Thus, the following may fail to have the desired results:
.PHONY: all
ifneq   "$(needs_made)" ""
all: $(needs_made)
all:;@echo 'Nothing to make!'
Replacing the variable reference `$(needs_made)' with the function call `$(strip $(needs_made))' in the ifneq directive would make it more robust.
$(findstring find,in)
Searches in for an occurrence of find. If it occurs, the value is find; otherwise, the value is empty. You can use this function in a conditional to test for the presence of a specific substring in a given string. Thus, the two examples,
$(findstring a,a b c)
$(findstring a,b c)
produce the values `a' and `' (the empty string), respectively. See section Conditionals that Test Flags, for a practical application of findstring.
$(filter pattern...,text)
Removes all whitespace-separated words in text that do not match any of the pattern words, returning only matching words. The patterns are written using `%', just like the patterns used in the patsubst function above. The filter function can be used to separate out different types of strings (such as file names) in a variable. For example:
sources := foo.c bar.c baz.s ugh.h
foo: $(sources)
        cc $(filter %.c %.s,$(sources)) -o foo
says that `foo' depends of `foo.c', `bar.c', `baz.s' and `ugh.h' but only `foo.c', `bar.c' and `baz.s' should be specified in the command to the compiler.
$(filter-out pattern...,text)
Removes all whitespace-separated words in text that do match the pattern words, returning only the words that do not match. This is the exact opposite of the filter function. For example, given:
objects=main1.o foo.o main2.o bar.o
mains=main1.o main2.o
the following generates a list which contains all the object files not in `mains':
$(filter-out $(mains),$(objects))
$(sort list)
Sorts the words of list in lexical order, removing duplicate words. The output is a list of words separated by single spaces. Thus,
$(sort foo bar lose)
returns the value `bar foo lose'. Incidentally, since sort removes duplicate words, you can use it for this purpose even if you don't care about the sort order.

Here is a realistic example of the use of subst and patsubst. Suppose that a makefile uses the VPATH variable to specify a list of directories that make should search for dependency files (see section VPATH: Search Path for All Dependencies). This example shows how to tell the C compiler to search for header files in the same list of directories.

The value of VPATH is a list of directories separated by colons, such as `src:../headers'. First, the subst function is used to change the colons to spaces:

$(subst :, ,$(VPATH))

This produces `src ../headers'. Then patsubst is used to turn each directory name into a `-I' flag. These can be added to the value of the variable CFLAGS, which is passed automatically to the C compiler, like this:

override CFLAGS += $(patsubst %,-I%,$(subst :, ,$(VPATH)))

The effect is to append the text `-Isrc -I../headers' to the previously given value of CFLAGS. The override directive is used so that the new value is assigned even if the previous value of CFLAGS was specified with a command argument (see section The override Directive).

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