GUADEC presentation preview: compiling GNOME apps with the Meson build system

If you talk with software developers, sooner or later the topic drifts to tools. The most obvious one is the editor. People really love their editors and are happy to talk about the wonderful features they have and how they increase productivity. The second tool is the compiler, which also receive a lot of praise. The compilers we have today are massively better, faster and more powerful than ones from just 10 years ago. And then there’s the build systems, which are, well…

Sort of tolerated. Maybe. Ish.

The time has come to change that. Meson is a new build system that has been designed from the ground up for one purpose: to increase programmer productivity. The basic tenet is that every second spent writing build definitions is a second wasted, because that time and energy could instead have been spent on code. Every second spent waiting for the build system to do its work is likewise wasted. To demonstrate how Meson tackles this issue, here’s the full definition for building an executable with an external dependency:

project('sampleproject', 'c')
glib = dependency('glib-2.0')
executable('prog', 'prog.c', dependencies : glib)

This is all the developer needs to write. The build system takes care of the grunt work such as debug flags, cross compilation, dependency tracking and so on.

In addition to general features, Meson also has special support for tools used in GNOME development. These include GResources, GObject introspection and the like. This simplicity does not come at the expense of power, as compile times with Meson can be an order of magnitude less than with the Leading Brand build system.

If this has piqued your interest then do come to GUADEC presentation on Sunday, or, if you can’t wait that long, learn about the project yourself at mesonbuild.com.

See you in a few weeks,
Jussi

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