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2.5 Controlling What Gets Processed

Definition processing directives can only be processed if the '#' character is the first character on a line. Also, if you want a '#' as the first character of a line in one of your string assignments, you should either escape it by preceding it with a backslash `\', or by embedding it in the string as in "\n#".

All of the normal C preprocessing directives are recognized, though several are ignored. There is also an additional #shell - #endshell pair. Another minor difference is that AutoGen directives must have the hash character (#) in column 1.

The final tweak is that #! is treated as a comment line. Using this feature, you can use: `#! /usr/local/bin/autogen' as the first line of a definitons file, set the mode to executable and "run" the definitions file as if it were a direct invocation of AutoGen. This was done for its hack value.

The ignored directives are: `#assert', `#ident', `#pragma', and `#if'. Note that when ignoring the #if directive, all intervening text through its matching #endif is also ignored, including the #else clause.

The AutoGen directives that affect the processing of definitions are:

#define name [ <text> ]

Will add the name to the define list as if it were a DEFINE program argument. Its value will be the first non-whitespace token following the name. Quotes are not processed.

After the definitions file has been processed, any remaining entries in the define list will be added to the environment.


This must follow an #if otherwise it will generate an error. It will be ignored.


This must follow an #if, #ifdef or #ifndef. If it follows the #if, then it will be ignored. Otherwise, it will change the processing state to the reverse of what it was.


This must follow an #if, #ifdef or #ifndef. In all cases, this will resume normal processing of text.


Ends the text processed by a command shell into autogen definitions.

#error [ <descriptive text> ]

This directive will cause AutoGen to stop processing and exit with a status of EXIT_FAILURE.

#if [ <ignored conditional expression> ]

#if expressions are not analyzed. Everything from here to the matching #endif is skipped.

#ifdef name-to-test

The definitions that follow, up to the matching #endif will be processed only if there is a corresponding -Dname command line option.

#ifndef name-to-test

The definitions that follow, up to the matching #endif will be processed only if there is not a corresponding -Dname command line option or there was a canceling -Uname option.

#include unadorned-file-name

This directive will insert definitions from another file into the current collection. If the file name is adorned with double quotes or angle brackets (as in a C program), then the include is ignored.


Alters the current line number and/or file name. You may wish to use this directive if you extract definition source from other files. getdefs uses this mechanism so AutoGen will report the correct file and approximate line number of any errors found in extracted definitions.

#option opt-name [ <text> ]

This directive will pass the option name and associated text to the AutoOpts optionLoadLine routine (see section process a text string for options). The option text may span multiple lines by continuing them with a backslash. The backslash/newline pair will be replaced with two space characters. This directive may be used to set a search path for locating template files For example, this:

#option templ-dirs $ENVVAR/dirname
will direct autogen to use the ENVVAR environment variable to find a directory named dirname that (may) contain templates. Since these directories are searched in most recently supplied first order, search directories supplied in this way will be searched before any supplied on the command line.


Invokes $SHELL or `/bin/sh' on a script that should generate AutoGen definitions. It does this using the same server process that handles the back-quoted ` text. CAUTION let not your $SHELL be csh.

#undef name-to-undefine

Will remove any entries from the define list that match the undef name pattern.

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