gnu make - What does @: (at symbol colon) mean in a Makefile?

ID : 20164

viewed : 28

Tags : makefilegnu-makemakefile

Top 5 Answer for gnu make - What does @: (at symbol colon) mean in a Makefile?

vote vote


It means "don't echo this command on the output." So this rule is saying "execute the shell command : and don't echo the output.

Of course the shell command : is a no-op, so this is saying "do nothing, and don't tell."


The trick here is that you've got an obscure combination of two different syntaxes. The make(1) syntax is the use of an action starting with @, which is simply not to echo the command. So a rule like

always:        @echo this always happens 

won't emit

   echo this always happens    this always happens 

Now, the action part of a rule can be any shell command, including :. Bash help explains this as well as anywhere:

$ help : :: :     Null command.      No effect; the command does nothing.      Exit Status:     Always succeeds. 
vote vote


For those curious about why you might do this, it is useful if you want to pretend like something was done, so that Make doesn't output "Nothing to be done for" your target.

One example is if you have a phony target that you always execute, and in it you have a bunch of conditionals in the command. You want to have at least something in case those conditions come up false and nothing gets done.

For example (from Linux's scripts/Makefile.clean):

__clean: $(subdir-ymn) ifneq ($(strip $(__clean-files)),)     +$(call cmd,clean) endif ifneq ($(strip $(__clean-dirs)),)     +$(call cmd,cleandir) endif ifneq ($(strip $(clean-rule)),)     +$(clean-rule) endif     @: 
vote vote


vote vote


I heard that 31 was chosen so that the compiler can optimize the multiplication to left-shift 5 bits then subtract the value.

vote vote


Here's a citation a little closer to the source.

It boils down to:

  • 31 is prime, which reduces collisions
  • 31 produces a good distribution, with
  • a reasonable tradeoff in speed

Top 3 video Explaining gnu make - What does @: (at symbol colon) mean in a Makefile?