Fine-grained verbosity control in Makefiles

Do you want a quiet build, but with the ability to use CMake’s VERBOSE=1 argument? Put these two lines at the start of your Makefile:

AT_ = @
AT = $(AT_$(VERBOSE))

then substitute all your @ echo suppressors with $(AT). This is an old-timey trick that gives you instant Makefile karma, firmly establishes your UNIX creds, and is all made possible thanks to the beauty of computed variable names. If the VERBOSE argument is not given, then $(VERBOSE) resolves to nil, so that $(AT) in turn resolves to $(AT_), i.e. @.

Recently I’ve taken to extending this idea in my own monstrosities to allow fine-grained, multi-level verbosity control. This allows me to control the amount of crud which gets dumped to the screen over various levels, but requires a little more boilerplate:

V_default := 0
V ?= $(V_default)

__verbosity_1_ = @
__verbosity_1_0 = @

__verbosity_2_ = @
__verbosity_2_0 = @
__verbosity_2_1 = @

V1 = $(__verbosity_1_$(V))
V2 = $(__verbosity_2_$(V))

.PHONY: foo
foo:
    $(V1)touch run-quietly.txt
    $(V2)touch run-really-quietly.txt

So now I can have my super quiet build:

$ make

My “tell me what’s going on” build:

$ make V=1
touch run-quietly.txt

And my “tell me all the thingz” build:

$ make V=2
touch run-quietly.txt
touch run-really-quietly.txt

You can apply this idea for other stuff too, like by adding an O=1 argument to enable enabling different optimisation levels with their own compiler flags.

A full time geek and research student with a passion for developing great software, often late at night.