In this article I’ll show you how I made a “recursive”, “combining” Makefile for the KISS Launcher project. Basically, we had the need to generate internationalized screenshots of the Android app. We have a number of screenshots, and a number of locales to iterate through:

Locales:

en-US fr-FR

Source files (templates):

1.svg 2.svg 3.svg 4.svg

The idea is to use Inkscape to export a variation of each screenshot into a locale specific folder. I’m told that can be referred as “combination” or “cartesian product”. With the previous files and locales, this would result in the following tree of files:

├── 1.svg
├── 2.svg
├── 3.svg
├── 4.svg
├── en-US
│   ├── 1.png
│   ├── 2.png
│   ├── 3.png
│   └── 4.png
└─── fr-FR
    ├── 1.png
    ├── 2.png
    ├── 3.png
    └── 4.png

The list of targets is thus the following:

en-US/1.png
en-US/2.png
en-US/3.png
en-US/4.png
fr-FR/1.png
fr-FR/2.png
fr-FR/3.png
fr-FR/4.png

Let’s first generate this list of targets using a basic Makefile:

locales     := fr-FR en-US
templates   := 1.svg 2.svg 3.svg 4.svg

localized_screenshots = $(foreach locale, $(locales), $(addprefix ${locale}/, $(templates:.svg=.png)))

$(info $$localized_screenshots is [${localized_screenshots}])

all: $(localized_screenshots)

.PHONY: all clean

clean:
	rm -f $(localized_screenshots)

The foreach loop is quite straightforward: it iterates over the locales and does a substitution of the svg extension to png ($(templates:.svg=.png), it works on a list!), and adds the current locale prefix to each item.

Here how it looks for now:

$ make
$localized_screenshots is [ fr-FR/1.png fr-FR/2.png fr-FR/3.png fr-FR/4.png  en-US/1.png en-US/2.png en-US/3.png en-US/4.png]
make: *** No rule to make target 'fr-FR/1.png', needed by 'all'.  Stop.

Okay! We can see that we generated the correct targets: make is looking for a 'fr-FR/1.png' rule. Let’s see how we can write them!

A first intuition would be to write something like this:

%/%.png: %.svg:
	# Generate SVG here

But GNU make doesn’t allow for multiple wildcards in rules, that’s unfortunate. Instead, we’ll go for a more “dynamic” approach: we’ll generate the rules with the eval function. That’s basically like using pre-processor macros:

locales     := fr-FR en-US
templates   := 1.svg 2.svg 3.svg 4.svg

# eval argument is expanded twice; first by the eval function, then the results of that expansion are expanded again
# when they are parsed as makefile syntax. This means you may need to provide extra levels of escaping for “$” characters when using eval.
define LOCALE_rule
$(1)/%.png: %.svg
    @echo The locale is $(1) and the target is [email protected]
endef

# Replace eval with info to see what eval evals to!
$(foreach locale, $(locales), $(eval $(call LOCALE_rule,$(locale))))

As you can see, we’re still using one wildcard, for the template name. But we replaced the locale name with “$1”, which is the argument we gave to the eval call, when we iterate through all the locales in the foreach loop. If we run make with the above code, and replace eval by info, we have the following output:

$ make
fr-FR/%.png: %.svg
        @echo The locale is fr-FR and the target is [email protected]
en-US/%.png: %.svg
        @echo The locale is en-US and the target is [email protected]
make: *** No targets.  Stop.

Nice! We can see our info printed two generated rules, one for each locale. That means we’re done! If we put it all together:

# Inspired from https://stackoverflow.com/a/32535737/2367848
locales     := fr-FR en-US
templates   := 1.svg 2.svg 3.svg 4.svg

localized_screenshots = $(foreach locale, $(locales), $(addprefix ${locale}/, $(templates:.svg=.png)))

all: $(localized_screenshots)

# eval argument is expanded twice; first by the eval function, then the results of that expansion are expanded again
# when they are parsed as makefile syntax. This means you may need to provide extra levels of escaping for “$” characters when using eval.
define LOCALE_rule
$(1)/%.png: %.svg
	@echo The locale is $(1) and the target is [email protected]
	./translate.sh $1 $$^ [email protected]
endef

# Replace eval with info to see what eval evals to!
$(foreach locale,$(locales),$(eval $(call LOCALE_rule,$(locale))))

.PHONY: all clean

clean:
	rm -f $(localized_screenshots) $(localized_screenshots_raw)

As the first comment points out, this Makefile was inspired from this StackOverflow answer, but instead of having two “define” templates, we keep only 1 and instead use the native make wildcards ;)