Creating shortcuts with parameters using CMake/CPack and NSIS

CMake/CPack does a pretty good job of making it relatively easy to create a basic Windows installer. Sometimes, however, it trips you up when you want to do something seemingly common. One such example is creating Start Menu shortcuts for an executable where you also want to pass it some command line arguments. Surprisingly, CMake/CPack doesn’t give you a simple or generic way to do this. It provides very basic functionality via the CPACK_PACKAGE_EXECUTABLES variable in the CPack module, but that’s just a simple mapping of executable to menu shortcut name with no opportunity to provide command line arguments.

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Building GoogleTest and GoogleMock directly in a CMake project

UPDATED December 2015:
Since the original article was written, gtest and gmock have been merged and moved into a single repository on Github under the name GoogleTest. I’ve updated the content here to reflect the changes and the article now also covers both gtest and gmock. I’ve also revised the general purpose implementation to make it more flexible, expanded its documentation and made it available on Github under a MIT license. I hope you find it useful.


Using gtest/gmock with CMake is awesome. Not so awesome is when you don’t have a pre-built gtest/gmock available to use. This article demonstrates a convenient way to add them with automated source download and have them build directly as part of your project using add_subdirectory(). Unlike other common approaches, no manual information has to be provided other than the package to download. The approach is general enough to be applied to any CMake-based external project, not just gtest/gmock.

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OnLeavingScope: The sequel

In a previous article, the OnLeavingScope class was presented as a technique for robustly and concisely handling scenarios involving multi-step setup, run and cleanup stages. It focused on ease of learning and wide applicability rather than performance, so while the implementation was complete, it was not necessarily optimal. This article picks up where the previous article left off and deals with some of the more advanced aspects to provide some improvements.

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Let your compiler do your housekeeping

A common sequence of steps we mortal software developers frequently find ourselves implementing goes something like this:

  1. Perform some sort of setup or acquire some sort of resource.
  2. Carry out some arbitrary sequence of actions.
  3. Tear down things we setup or release resources we acquired in step 1.

There are well-known patterns for implementing this scenario robustly, but when there are multiple sub-steps to be performed in the setup phase and where any of those sub-steps can each fail individually, things get more complicated. This article presents a concise, self-documenting and robust way to handle these more complicated cases. A follow-up article will extend this further to improve some performance characteristics and ends up having a lot in common with the ScopeGuard11 pattern described in various places online.

The multi-step setup problem

Conceptually, the problem we want to solve can be described as follows:

  1. For each setup sub-step:
    • Perform sub-step.
    • If sub-step fails, stop and release/clean up after all previous setup sub-steps.
  2. Carry out some arbitrary sequence of actions.
  3. Tear down things we setup or release resources we acquired in all sub-steps of step 1.

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Handling binary assets and test data with CMake

A common situation facing many projects is how to incorporate large binary assets into the main source code and its build process. Examples of such assets include firmware binaries for embedded products, videos, user manuals, test data and so on. These binary assets often have their own workflow for managing source materials, change history and building the binaries. This article demonstrates an approach to handling this situation with CMake builds.

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CMake targets with detailed dependencies

If only software build systems would do what we intuitively expect! I’m sure many of you have your own horror stories of having to unravel convoluted scripts, project settings, compiler bugs, etc. in order to get code to build, despite the project requirements seeming to be relatively simple. If you work with cross-platform software, this is probably a pain point you are particularly familiar with. This article demonstrates some more recent features of CMake which greatly reduce that pain.

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