Help! redo rebuilds every time, even if dependencies are clean!

Many people are confused by this at first. The redo command always rebuilds the target you requested. If you want to only conditionally rebuild the target, use redo-ifchange.

The same rule applies inside .do scripts. If a .do script calls redo dep, then it will always redo the target called dep. If it called redo-ifchange dep, it will only redo dep if its dependencies have changed.

Typically, you want your toplevel script to use redo-ifchange. But a script probably should use redo, because you want it to always clean up your extra files. A probably also uses redo for its testing sub-tasks, because you might want to run your tests repeatedly.

For rationale, see Why does 'redo target' redo even unchanged targets?

I'm using redo-ifchange. How does redo decide my target is clean/dirty?

You can see (recursively) which dependencies checked by redo, and whether they are clean or dirty, by using redo -d (which is short for "dependencies" or "debug", whichever you prefer).

Does redo make cross-platform or multi-platform builds easy?

A lot of build systems that try to replace make do it by trying to provide a lot of predefined rules. For example, one build system I know includes default rules that can build C++ programs on Visual C++ or gcc, cross-compiled or not cross-compiled, and so on. Other build systems are specific to ruby programs, or python programs, or Java or .Net programs.

redo isn't like those systems; it's more like make. It doesn't know anything about your system or the language your program is written in.

However, there is a new project called redoconf which is now part of the redo distribution. It works kind of like autoconf does with make; drop it into your project and it will help with auto-detection, cross-compiling, and portability, so you can concentrate on actually writing your program.

Can I set my dircolors to highlight .do files in ls output?

Yes! At first, having a bunch of .do files in each directory feels like a bit of a nuisance, but once you get used to it, it's actually pretty convenient; a simple 'ls' will show you which things you might want to redo in any given directory.

Here's a chunk of my .dircolors.conf:

.do 00;35
*Makefile 00;35
.o 00;30;1
.pyc 00;30;1
*~ 00;30;1
.tmp 00;30;1

To activate it, you can add a line like this to your .bashrc:

eval `dircolors $HOME/.dircolors.conf`

Do end users have to have redo installed in order to build my project?

No. We include a very short and simple shell script called do in the minimal/ subdirectory of the redo project. minimal/do is like redo (and it works with the same *.do scripts), except it doesn't understand dependencies; it just always rebuilds everything from the top.

You can include do with your program so that non-users of redo can still build your program. Someone who wants to hack on your program will probably go crazy unless they install a copy of redo though.

Actually, redo itself isn't so big, so for large projects where it matters, you could just include it with your project.

Recursive make is considered harmful. Isn't redo even more recursive?

You probably mean this 1997 paper by Peter Miller.

Yes, redo is recursive, in the sense that every target is built by its own .do file, and every .do file is a shell script being run recursively from other shell scripts, which might call back into redo. In fact, it's even more recursive than recursive make. There is no non-recursive way to use redo.

However, the reason recursive make is considered harmful is that each instance of make has no access to the dependency information seen by the other instances. Each one starts from its own Makefile, which only has a partial picture of what's going on; moreover, each one has to stat() a lot of the same files over again, leading to slowness. That's the thesis of the "considered harmful" paper.

It turns out that non-recursive make should also be considered harmful. The problem is Makefiles aren't very "hygienic" or "modular"; if you're not running make recursively, then your one copy of make has to know everything about everything in your entire project. Every variable in make is global, so every variable defined in any of your Makefiles is visible in all of your Makefiles. Every little private function or macro is visible everywhere. In a huge project made up of multiple projects from multiple vendors, that's just not okay. Plus, if all your Makefiles are tangled together, make has to read and parse the entire mess even to build the smallest, simplest target file, making it slow.

redo deftly dodges both the problems of recursive make and the problems of non-recursive make. First of all, dependency information is shared through a global persistent .redo database, which is accessed by all your redo instances at once. Dependencies created or checked by one instance can be immediately used by another instance. And there's locking to prevent two instances from building the same target at the same time. So you get all the "global dependency" knowledge of non-recursive make. And it's a binary file, so you can just grab the dependency information you need right now, rather than going through everything linearly.

Also, every .do script is entirely hygienic and traceable; redo discourages the use of global environment variables, suggesting that you put settings into files (which can have timestamps and dependencies) instead. So you also get all the hygiene and modularity advantages of recursive make.

By the way, you can trace any redo build process just by reading the .do scripts from top to bottom. Makefiles are actually a collection of "rules" whose order of execution is unclear; any rule might run at any time. In a non-recursive Makefile setup with a bunch of included files, you end up with lots and lots of rules that can all be executed in a random order; tracing becomes impossible. Recursive make tries to compensate for this by breaking the rules into subsections, but that ends up with all the "considered harmful" paper's complaints. redo runs your scripts from top to bottom in a nice tree, so it's traceable no matter how many layers you have.