Makefile Best-Practices

The more projects you work on, the more streamlined your tooling gets. Hopefully. Various services using different languages have different tooling requirements, of course. A sweet Makefile can be the entry to a unified tooling interface.

As long as I can run make build deploy in a project, I’m happy. Do you a have more complex interface to deploy a dev environment? Rethink your tooling and remove obstacles for people who want to work on your project or contribute to your code.

Hide Commands

You might have noticed, make will list the invoked commands in a target per default. You can avoid this, and have a more slick output using @ in front of your commands:

greet:
  @ echo "Hi!"
# Without @
$ > make greet

echo "Hi!"
Hi!

# With @
$ > make greet

Hi!

Wildcard Targets

You can always access environment variables in a Makefile, but for composition, you may want to use wildcard targets in make files.

greet-%:
  @ echo Hi $*!
# Say Hi to Frank
$ > make greet-Frank

Hi Frank!

Foreach and Lists

Together with wildcard targets, using lists and foreach can be a powerful addition to your make toolbox:

NAMES := Anne Frank Paul

greet-%:
  @ echo Hi $*!
greet:
  @ make $(foreach NAME,$(NAMES),greet-$(NAME))
# Say Hi to everybody!
$ > make greet

Hi Anne!
Hi Frank!
Hi Paul!

I plan to write down more Best Practices soonish