Why is it a bad idea to rewrite Tufão build system under qmake

Since Tufão 0.4, I’ve been using CMake as the Tufão build system, but occasionally I see some users reimplementing the qmake-based project files and I thought it’d be a good idea to explain/document why such rewrite is a bad idea. This is the post.

Simply and clear (1 reason)

It means *nothing* to your qmake-based project.

What your qmake-based project needs is a *.pri file to you include in your *.pro file. And such *.pri file *is* generated (and properly included in your Qt-installation) by Tufão. You’ll just write the usual “CONFIG += TUFAO” without *any* pain.

Why won’t I use qmake in Tufão ever again (long answer)

Two reasons why is it a bad idea:

  • You define only one target per file. You need subdirs. It’s hard.
    • The Tufão unit testing based on Qt Test requires the definition of separate executables per test and the “src/tests/CMakeLists.txt” CMake file beautifully defines 13 tests. And with the CMake-based system, all you need to do to add a new test is add a single line to the previously mentioned file. QMake is so hard that I’d define a dumb test system that only works after you install the lib, just to free myself from the qmake-pain.
  • There is no easy way to preprocess files.
    • And if you use external commands that you don’t provide yourself like grep, sed or whatever, then your build system will be less portable than autotools. Not every Windows developer likes autotools and your approach (external commands) won’t be any better.
    • All in all, it becomes hard to write a build system that will install the files required by projects that use QMake, CMake or PKG-CONFIG (Tufão supports all three).

The reasons above are the important reasons, but there are others like the fact that documentation is almost as bad as the documentation for creation of QtCreator plugins.

The ever growing distance from QMake

When Tufão grows, sometimes the build system becomes more complicated/demanding, and when it happens, I bet the QMake-based approach will become even more difficult to maintain. The most recent case of libtufao.pro that I’m aware of had to include some underdocumented black magic like the following just to meet the Qt4/5 Tufão 0.x demand:

You like a CMake-based Tufão

The current CMake-based build system of Tufão provides features that you certainly enjoy. At least the greater stability of the new unit testing framework requires CMake and you certainly want a stable library.

QMake hate

In the beginning, QMake met Tufão requirements of a build system, but I wouldn’t use it again for demanding projects.

But I don’t hate QMake and I’d use it again in a Qt-based project if, and only if, I *know* it won’t have demanding needs. Of course I’ll hate QMake if people start to overuse it (and creating me trouble).

And if you still wants to maintain a QMake-based Tufão project file, at least you’ve been warned about the *pain* and inferior solution you’ll end up with.

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