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11.1.1 Project Files

Project files are written in a syntax close to that of Ada, using familiar notions such as packages, context clauses, declarations, default values, assignments, and inheritance. Finally, project files can be built hierarchically from other project files, simplifying complex system integration and project reuse.

A project is a specific set of values for various compilation properties. The settings for a given project are described by means of a project file, which is a text file written in an Ada-like syntax. Property values in project files are either strings or lists of strings. Properties that are not explicitly set receive default values. A project file may interrogate the values of external variables (user-defined command-line switches or environment variables), and it may specify property settings conditionally, based on the value of such variables.

In simple cases, a project's source files depend only on other source files in the same project, or on the predefined libraries. (Dependence is used in the Ada technical sense; as in one Ada unit withing another.) However, the Project Manager also allows more sophisticated arrangements, where the source files in one project depend on source files in other projects:

More generally, the Project Manager lets you structure large development efforts into hierarchical subsystems, where build decisions are delegated to the subsystem level, and thus different compilation environments (switch settings) used for different subsystems.

The Project Manager is invoked through the -Pprojectfile switch to gnatmake or to the gnat front driver. There may be zero, one or more spaces between -P and projectfile. If you want to define (on the command line) an external variable that is queried by the project file, you must use the -Xvbl=value switch. The Project Manager parses and interprets the project file, and drives the invoked tool based on the project settings.

The Project Manager supports a wide range of development strategies, for systems of all sizes. Here are some typical practices that are easily handled:

The destination of an executable can be controlled inside a project file using the -o switch. In the absence of such a switch either inside the project file or on the command line, any executable files generated by gnatmake are placed in the directory Exec_Dir specified in the project file. If no Exec_Dir is specified, they will be placed in the object directory of the project.

You can use project files to achieve some of the effects of a source versioning system (for example, defining separate projects for the different sets of sources that comprise different releases) but the Project Manager is independent of any source configuration management tools that might be used by the developers.

The next section introduces the main features of GNAT's project facility through a sequence of examples; subsequent sections will present the syntax and semantics in more detail. A more formal description of the project facility appears in Project File Reference.