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View the Project on GitHub creichert/dotfiles

19 September 2018

Self-documenting Makefiles

by creichert

I’ve been through quite a lot of iterations trying to get makefiles to automatically print help docs. Recently, I settled on this in a core Makefile

.PHONY: help
help: ## Show help & usage dialog.
	@bash -c 'perl -e "$$generate_help_docs" $(MAKEFILE_LIST)'

build: ##@core build the project

foo: ## foo docs

Then, at the bottom of the Makefile, I put this script. I tried my hardest to come up w/ something that was a less invasive blob but it make untenable.

export generate_help_docs
define generate_help_docs

# create an array of arrays of all the help docs grouped
# by @ tag

while(<>) {
    if(/^([a-z0-9-]+):.*\#\#(?:@(\w+))?\s(.*)$$/) {
        push(@{$$help{$$2}}, [$$1, $$3]);

use Text::Wrap;

$$right_pad = 30;
$$max_width = 80;

$$Text::Wrap::columns = $$max_width - int($$right_pad/2);

# print the help

print "usage: make [target]\n\n";
print "targets:\n";
foreach ( sort keys %help ) {

    if (length($$_) > 0) {
        print "$$_:\n";

    printf("  \033[36m%-30s\033[0m %s\n%s",

	    wrap('','                                   ', $$_->[1])
          ) for @{$$help{$$_}};

    print "\n";