back to listing index

How do you get the list of targets in a makefile?

[web search]
Original source (
Tags: make
Clipped on: 2017-02-15

Image (Asset 1/7) alt=

Curiously, GNU make has no feature for listing just the names of targets defined in a makefile. The -p option produces output that includes all targets, but buries them in a lot of other information.

Place the following rule in a makefile for GNU make to implement a target named list that simply lists all target names in alphabetical order - i.e.: invoke as make list:

.PHONY: list
    @$(MAKE) -pRrq -f $(lastword $(MAKEFILE_LIST)) : 2>/dev/null | awk -v RS= -F: '/^# File/,/^# Finished Make data base/ {if ($$1 !~ "^[#.]") {print $$1}}' | sort | egrep -v -e '^[^[:alnum:]]' -e '^$@$$' | xargs

Note: On pasting this, make sure that the last line is indented by exactly 1 tab.

Note that sorting the resulting list of targets is the best option, since not sorting doesn't produce a helpful ordering in that the order in which the targets appear in the makefile is not preserved.
Also, the sub-targets of a rule comprising multiple targets are invariably output separately and will therefore, due to sorting, usually not appear next to one another; e.g., a rule starting with a z: will not have targets a and z listed next to each other in the output, if there are additional targets.

Explanation of the rule:

  • .PHONY: list
    • declares target list a phony target, i.e., one not referring to a file, which should therefore have its recipe invoked unconditionally
  • $(MAKE) -prRn -f $(lastword $(MAKEFILE_LIST)) : 2>/dev/null
    • Invokes make again in order to print and parse the database derived from the makefile:
      • -p prints the database
      • -Rr suppresses inclusion of built-in rules and variables
      • -q only tests the up-to-date-status of a target (without remaking anything), but that by itself doesn't prevent execution of recipe commands in all cases; hence:
      • -f $(lastword $(MAKEFILE_LIST)) ensures that the same makefile is targeted as in the original invocation, regardless of whether it was targeted implicitly or explicitly with -f ....
        Caveat: this will break if your makefile contains include directives; to address this, define variable THIS_FILE := $(lastword $(MAKEFILE_LIST)) before any include directives and use -f $(THIS_FILE) instead.
      • : is a deliberately invalid target that is meant to ensure that no commands are executed; 2>/dev/null suppresses the resulting error message. Note: This relies on -p printing the database nonetheless, which is the case as of GNU make 3.82. Sadly, GNU make offers no direct option to just print the database.
  • -v RS=
    • This is an awk idiom that breaks the input into blocks of contiguous non-empty lines.
  • /^# File/,/^# Finished Make data base/
    • Matches the range of lines in the output that contains all targets (true as of GNU make 3.82) - by limiting parsing to this range, there is no need to deal with false positives from other output sections.
  • if ($$1 !~ "^[#.]")
    • Selectively ignores blocks:
      • # ... ignores non-targets, whose blocks start with # Not a target:
      • . ... ignores special targets
    • All other blocks should each start with a line containing only the name of an explicitly defined target followed by :
  • egrep -v -e '^[^[:alnum:]]' -e '^$@$$' removes unwanted targets from the output:
    • '^[^[:alnum:]]' ... excludes hidden targets, which - by convention - are targets that start neither with a letter nor a digit.
    • '^$@$$' ... excludes the list target itself
  • xargs
    • Effectively converts the output lines to a single-line, space-separated list; omit this if you want each target name to appear on its own line.
answered Oct 13 '14 at 12:22

Hot Network Questions

Technology Life / Arts Culture / Recreation Science Other
  1. Stack Overflow
  2. Server Fault
  3. Super User
  4. Web Applications
  5. Ask Ubuntu
  6. Webmasters
  7. Game Development
  8. TeX - LaTeX
  9. Software Engineering
  10. Unix & Linux
  11. Ask Different (Apple)
  12. WordPress Development
  1. Geographic Information Systems
  2. Electrical Engineering
  3. Android Enthusiasts
  4. Information Security
  5. Database Administrators
  6. Drupal Answers
  7. SharePoint
  8. User Experience
  9. Mathematica
  10. Salesforce
  11. ExpressionEngine® Answers
  12. Cryptography
  1. Code Review
  2. Magento
  3. Signal Processing
  4. Raspberry Pi
  5. Programming Puzzles & Code Golf
  6. more (7)
  1. Photography
  2. Science Fiction & Fantasy
  3. Graphic Design
  4. Movies & TV
  5. Music: Practice & Theory
  6. Seasoned Advice (cooking)
  7. Home Improvement
  8. Personal Finance & Money
  9. Academia
  10. more (8)
  1. English Language & Usage
  2. Skeptics
  3. Mi Yodeya (Judaism)
  4. Travel
  5. Christianity
  6. English Language Learners
  7. Japanese Language
  8. Arqade (gaming)
  9. Bicycles
  10. Role-playing Games
  11. Anime & Manga
  12. Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair
  13. more (17)
  1. MathOverflow
  2. Mathematics
  3. Cross Validated (stats)
  4. Theoretical Computer Science
  5. Physics
  6. Chemistry
  7. Biology
  8. Computer Science
  9. Philosophy
  10. more (3)
  1. Meta Stack Exchange
  2. Stack Apps
  3. Area 51
  4. Stack Overflow Talent
site design / logo © 2017 Stack Exchange Inc; user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required
rev 2017.2.15.25118