qiBuild documentation

Managing dependencies with qiBuild: an overview


Here we will use the same project layout we used in the Managing dependencies between projects tutorial.

Make sure you have followed it before going further.

A quick reminder of what we want.

We have a project called world, which contains a dynamic library also called world. So we have a libworld.so on linux, and libworld.dylib on mac, and a world.dll on windows.

Then we have a project called hello, which contains a executable also called hello, which uses code from the world library.

Using the following two lines of cmake

qi_use_lib(hello world)

we want to:

  • add the correct include directories when building hello
  • link hello with the world library, without mixing a world library compiled in release with an hello executable compiled in debug (on windows at least)
  • make sure that the hello executable will find the world library, without messing up with PATH, LD_LIBRARY_PATH or DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH
  • generate a world-config.cmake so that the world library is usable by standard CMake project when installed.

Overview of the process: the power of the SDK layout

If you have a look at hello/qibuild.manifest, you will see the following lines

[project "hello"]
depends = world

Each time you run qibuild, it looks for a .qi to guess your current worktree.

After this, the worktree is parsed to find qibuild.manifest files.

Here, there are two qibuild.manifest files, so qibuild can find the two projects: hello and world.

The relevant lines of the CMakeLists.txt are:.

In world/CMakeLists

qi_create_lib(world SRC world/world.h world/world.cpp)

In hello/CMakeLists.txt

qi_create_bin(hello "main.cpp")
qi_use_lib(hello world)


For those already familiar with CMake:
We use qi_create_lib and qi_create_bin instead of add_executable and add_library

We never have to call find_package or include_directories, or target_link_libraries.

This first part is the job is done by the qi_create_bin and qi_create_lib functions.

Those are just wrappers for add_executable and add_library.

They just set a few properties (like the RUNTIME_OUTPUT_LOCATION for instance).

There are other properties that are used so that the executable can find the dynamic libraries it depends on at runtime, more on this later.

This way, we always generate binaries and libraries in the SDK directory. The build/sdk contains only the results of the compilation that are necessary to be used by other projects.

Also, the executables are created in build/sdk/bin, and the libraries in build/sdk/lib, so that we stick to the FHS convention inside the build/sdk directory.

On Windows, the binaries compiled in debug contain _d in their names, so you can share the same build directory, and the same Visual Studio solution for several build configurations, without the risk of a mix of binaries compiled in release and binaries compiled in debug.

This is done by something like

# in qibuild/general


# in internal/layout:

qi_persistent_set(QI_SDK_BIN "bin")
qi_persistent_set(QI_SDK_LIB "lib")

# then, in target.cmake


  set_target_properties("${name}" PROPERTIES DEBUG_POSTFIX "_d")

The call to qi_stage_lib causes a world-config.cmake to be generated in world/build/sdk/cmake/

When using qibuild configure hello, a dependencies.cmake files is generated in hello/build/dependencies.cmake

(this file is automatically included by the qibuild.cmake file at the root of the hello project)

This file contains a call to

list(INSERT CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH 0 "QI_WORK_TREE/world/build/sdk")

So when qi_use_lib(hello world) is called, we only have run


Since the variable CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH is correctly set, CMake can find the world-config.cmake file in the build dir of world.

Since everything under build/sdk follows the standard FHS conventions, finding the library in sdk/lib is also works.

SDK and redistributable config files


you can see qibuild as a way to automatically follow the cmake conventions See the CMake wiki for more information

In fact we have two different world-config files.

The first one is installed. It is supposed to be used with a world pre-compiled package, from an other machine than the one used to compile world. We call it the redistributable config file.

The second one is generated in build/sdk/share/cmake/world/world-config.cmake so that CMake will find it if CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH is set to build/sdk. We call it the SDK config file.

There are several differences between the redistributable config file and the SDK config file.

  • The SDK file never has to call find_* functions: since we have just built the library, we know where it is. The redistributable file however must call find_library, and find_path.
  • The SDK file uses absolute paths : we don’t care because we will never share this file with anyone. The redistributable file must only use relative paths to the root dir of the package.

This is how we can set ROOT_DIR to world-prefix from world-config.cmake

We now we have a layout looking like:

|__ share
|   |__ cmake
|       |__ world
|           |__ world-config.cmake
|__ include
|   |__ world
|       |__ world.h
|__ lib
    |__ libworld.so

So we generate the following code to set ROOT_DIR

get_filename_component(_cur_dir ${CMAKE_CURRENT_LIST_FILE} PATH)
set(_root_dir "${_cur_dir}/../../../")
get_filename_component(ROOT_DIR ${_root_dir} ABSOLUTE)

Calling qi_stage_lib

The complete signature to qi_stage_lib is in fact:


When flags are missing, we will guess them.

Note that prefix is always the name of a cmake target, i.e the first argument of something like qi_create_lib. There is an error message if you try to use qi_stage_lib on something that is not a target.

Let’s go through the variables one by one:

only used in the sdk file. During the configuration of hello, we will simply call include_directories(WORLD_INCLUDE_DIRS)

If not given, this can be guessed using the “directory properties”, like so:

get_directory_property(_inc_dirs INCLUDE_DIRECTORIES)
only used in the redistributable file. The file will contain something like:

A few words about what this variable is for.

Let’s assume a client of the world library wants to use #include<world.h>, but world.h is installed in world-prefix/include/world/world.h

Other people, on the other hand, want to use #include<world/world.h>.

The standard CMake way to deal with this is to call

find_path(WORLD_INCLUDE_DIR world.h PATH_SUFFIXES world)
find_path(WORLD_INCLUDE_DIR world/world.h)

(hence the name of the variable)

This will never be guessed, because it’s too specific.

used by both config files. During the configuration of hello, we will simply call

This will never been guessed. We could have done something like:

get_target_property(_world_defs world COMPILE_DEFINITIONS)

But most of the time you don’t have to propagate the compile flags everywhere.

used by both config files. If world depends on an thirdparty library (boost for instance), we want to make sure that whenever we use qi_use_lib(hello world), we also add the boost include directories.

Unless the world headers have been very carefully written, (using private pointer implementations, forward declarations and the like), there’s a great chance we will also need the boost headers when compiling hello, that’s why we always propagate the dependencies by default.

This is guessed using the previous call to qi_use_lib. In our example, after using qi_use_lib(world boost), WORLD_DEPENDS contains “boost”.

used by both config files. In this case the SDK and the redistributable config file do not use the same code.

In the SDK file, we use something like:

get_target_property(_world_location world LOCATION)

In the redistributable file, we use:

find_library(world ...)

Calling qi_use_lib

So what happens when using a qi_use_lib?

When using qi_use_lib(foo bar), we will always call


But we have several cases here:

  • We are using a bar-config.cmake that was generated by qibuild.
  • We are using the custom bar-config.cmake in qibuild/cmake/modules. This can happen because the upstream FindBar.cmake does not exist or is not usable. (For instance, the upstream FindGTest.cmake sets GTEST_BOTH_LIBRARIES, instead of GTEST_LIBRARIES ...)
  • We are using upstream CMake FindBar.cmake.

To do this, we have to search for the -config.cmake files generated by qiBuild, then look for upstream Find-\*.cmake

The relevant lines of code are:

find_package(${_pkg} NO_MODULE QUIET)
find_package(${_pkg} REQUIRED)


You can NOT specify optional dependencies when using qi_use_lib.

That’s because it’s hard to know from CMake whether the foo-config.cmake file was not found or the foo-config.cmake was found, the FOO_INCLUDE_DIRS was found, but not the FOO_LIBRARIES). If you really want to have optional dependencies, you can do this this way:

find_package(FOO QUIET)

  qi_use_lib(bar FOO)