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Re: Running autoconf and autoreconf without autotools in the path

From: Nick Bowler
Subject: Re: Running autoconf and autoreconf without autotools in the path
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2021 16:04:42 -0400

On 2021-07-20, Christopher O Cowan <> wrote:
>> On Jul 19, 2021, at 2:05 PM, Christopher O Cowan 
>> <> wrote:
>> Just curious if there is a feature within autotools to allow me run
>> autoconf and similar utilities via an absolute path, without the autotools
>> suite commands, in the PATH.  Maybe this already exists, and I just
>> haven’t stumbled across it?

You should be able to configure and install autoconf with whatever
prefix setting you want and just run it from there.  What specific
problem are you having?

> So, looking at closely at the autoconf package, it seems autoreconf
> and autoheader (both written in perl), have this feature, for one or
> more of the ENV vars that I would expect.

Yes, if you are using the autoreconf helper script, the name of
all the tools it runs can be controlled by environment variables.
This is described in the manual[1].

Since autoreconf calls external tools that are not part of the autoconf
package, it cannot know in advance where these are installed so yes, you
will have to tell it if the result of a PATH lookup is not correct.

> Autoconf on the other hand, seems to only check for AUTO4MATE,

For autoconf, I think this should be all that matters?  Anyway for
autoconf you should not normally need to set anything: autoconf knows
where it was installed and will run the correct autom4te out of the box.

> a cursory check of aclocal shows it isn’t checking for any of these.

aclocal respects AUTOM4TE as well (note the spelling).  Furthermore,
when you configure automake it should embed the name used during
configuration into the installed script, so you should not normally
need to set anything except when you first install Automake.

I would say that using aclocal is probably the hardest part about
installing in a nonstandard prefix, because one of its jobs is to
pick up external macros installed by other packages.  If those are
installed with different prefixes aclocal will not find them.  But
you can make use of the 'dirlist' feature[2] to augment the search
path and make it more usable.

Note that since aclocal is part of Automake, not Autoconf, further
questions about it should be directed to the Automake list


Hope that helps,

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