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7.1 Defining C Preprocessor Symbols

A common action to take in response to a feature test is to define a C preprocessor symbol indicating the results of the test. That is done by calling AC_DEFINE or AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED.

By default, AC_OUTPUT places the symbols defined by these macros into the output variable DEFS, which contains an option `-Dsymbol=value' for each symbol defined. Unlike in Autoconf version 1, there is no variable DEFS defined while configure is running. To check whether Autoconf macros have already defined a certain C preprocessor symbol, test the value of the appropriate cache variable, as in this example:

if test "$ac_cv_func_vprintf" != yes; then

If AC_CONFIG_HEADERS has been called, then instead of creating DEFS, AC_OUTPUT creates a header file by substituting the correct values into #define statements in a template file. See section 4.8 Configuration Header Files, for more information about this kind of output.

Macro: AC_DEFINE (variable, value, [description])
Macro: AC_DEFINE (variable)
Define the C preprocessor variable variable to value (verbatim). value should not contain literal newlines, and if you are not using AC_CONFIG_HEADERS it should not contain any `#' characters, as make tends to eat them. To use a shell variable (which you need to do in order to define a value containing the M4 quote characters `[' or `]'), use AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED instead. description is only useful if you are using AC_CONFIG_HEADERS. In this case, description is put into the generated `config.h.in' as the comment before the macro define. The following example defines the C preprocessor variable EQUATION to be the string constant `"$a > $b"':


If neither value nor description are given, then value defaults to 1 instead of to the empty string. This is for backwards compatibility with older versions of Autoconf, but this usage is obsolescent and may be withdrawn in future versions of Autoconf.

Macro: AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED (variable, value, [description])
Macro: AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED (variable)
Like AC_DEFINE, but three shell expansions are performed--once--on variable and value: variable expansion (`$'), command substitution (``'), and backslash escaping (`\'). Single and double quote characters in the value have no special meaning. Use this macro instead of AC_DEFINE when variable or value is a shell variable. Examples:

AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED(config_machfile, "$machfile")
AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED(GETGROUPS_T, $ac_cv_type_getgroups)

Due to a syntactical bizarreness of the Bourne shell, do not use semicolons to separate AC_DEFINE or AC_DEFINE_UNQUOTED calls from other macro calls or shell code; that can cause syntax errors in the resulting configure script. Use either spaces or newlines. That is, do this:


or this:

  LIBS="$LIBS -lelf"])

instead of this:


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