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Configuring and Building Boost with CMake

This page describes how to configure and build Boost with CMake. By following these instructions, you should be able to get CMake, configure a Boost build tree to your liking with CMake, and then build, install, and package Boost libraries.

Download CMake

There are precompiled binaries for CMake on several different platforms. The installation of these pre-compiled binaries is mostly self-explanatory. If you need to build your own copy of CMake, please see the CMake installation instructions. In these instructions, we will do things such that the Boost source tree (with CMake build files) is available in the directory $BOOST/src and that the build will happen in $BOOST/build:

  src/     # (source checked out to here)
  build/   # (build output here) 

Note that it is not actually necessary to set any environment variable BOOST, this is a convention used in this document.

Check out Boost-CMake

At present, the CMake build system is developed externally from Boost itself. To get a copy of the Boost release branch with the CMake build system, retrieve it from the Boost Subversion repository with the URL].

On unix:

mkdir $BOOST
svn co $BOOST/src

Configure the Boost source tree

This is the makefile generation step, using CMake's configuration tool. This step differs depending on whether you are using CMake's GUI on Microsoft Windows or whether you are using the command-line tools provided on Unix.

On Windows

Run CMake by selecting it from the Start menu.

  • Use the Browse... button to point CMake at the Boost source code in $BOOST\src.
  • Use the second Browse... button to select the directory where Boost will build binaries, $BOOST\build.
  • CMake will ask you what kind of project files or make files to build. If you're using Microsoft Visual Studio, select the appropriate version to generate project files. Otherwise, you can use Borland's make files, generate NMake files, etc.
  • Click Configure a first time to configure Boost, which will search for various libraries on your system and prepare the build.
  • You will then be given the opportunity to tune build options in the CMake GUI (see also CMakeBuildConfiguration. These options will affect what libraries are built and how. They will initially appear red. Click Configure again when you are done editing them.
  • Finally, click OK to generate project files.

On Unix

Create the directory that will hold the binaries that CMake build,

mkdir $BOOST/build 

Change into the build directory you have just created:

cd $BOOST/build 

Run the CMake configuration program, providing it with the Boost source directory:

cmake $BOOST/src 

You'll see output from cmake. It looks somewhat like this:

% cmake $BOOST/src 
-- Check for working C compiler: /usr/bin/gcc
-- Check for working C compiler: /usr/bin/gcc -- works
-- Check size of void*
-- Check size of void* - done
-- Check for working CXX compiler: /usr/bin/c++
-- Check for working CXX compiler: /usr/bin/c++ -- works
-- Scanning subdirectories:
--  + io
--  + any
--  + crc
--  + mpl

  (etc, etc)

--  + program_options
--  + ptr_container
--  + type_traits
-- Configuring done
-- Generating done
-- Build files have been written to: $BOOST/build

The directory $BOOST/build should now contain a bunch of generated files, including a top level Makefile, something like this:

 % ls
CMakeCache.txt           CPackConfig.cmake    Makefile  
cmake_install.cmake      libs/                CMakeFiles/     
CPackSourceConfig.cmake  bin/                 lib/

That's it! You've now configured your source tree and are ready to start building Boost.

Build Boost

Like configuration, the way in which one builds Boost with CMake differs from one platform to another, depending on your platform and how you configured CMake. Either way, you'll be using the tools provided to you by your compiler or operating system vendor.

Microsoft Visual Studio

If you have generated project files for Microsoft Visual Studio, you will need to start up Visual Studio to build Boost. Once Visual Studio has loaded, load the solution or projectBoost from the Boost build directory you set in the CMake configuration earlier. Then, just click "Build" to build all of Boost.

On Unix (and when using makefile variants on Microsoft Windows)

One builds using standard "make" tools. In the directory $BOOST/build (where the generated makefiles are) run make:


That's it! Once the build completes (which make take a while, if you are building all of the Boost libraries), the Boost libraries will be available in the lib subdirectory of your build directory, ready to be used, installed, or packaged.

Installing Boost

The installation of Boost's headers and compiled libraries uses the same tools as building the library. With Microsoft Visual Studio, just load the Boost solution or project and build the 'INSTALL' target to perform the installation. Unix and makefile users will change into the Boost build directory and use the install make target, e.g.,

make install