Make for Windows Developers

2018-12-04 linux devops

How do modern developers chain complex commands together to build software products? Javascript developers may tend to use NPM scripts, Windows developers may use a more object oriented approach with Powershell. However, Make is the tried and true approach for most build pipelines. With the advent of WSL, what used to be reserved for Linux developers, can now be used universally as a basic build command tool on all major operating systems.


There are several versions of make available, like CMake some better than others. If you are on OSX, you’ll need to install the XCode Command Line Tools. Ubuntu should already have make installed. On a Linux debian system like Ubuntu, if you don’t already have make, run sudo apt-get install build-essential. On Windows, you should download the WSL.

Make Basics

A Makefile is a plain text file that is tab sensitive. Meaning, commannds are separated by tabs and line breaks, therefore, it’s important to use an editor with the correct encoding. The basic structure of a modern Makefile might look like the following. A makefile basically is a better way to organize a bunch of shell scripts. Each make command basically just spins up it’s own shell process.

    @echo "Cleaning build"

build: clean
    @npm run build

run: build
    @sudo docker run -it alpine

To run this Makefile, just type make run on the console.

Create a Makefile on your project root folder and start writing build commands. You can chain them together, introduce environment variables and even nest makefiles to call then recursively. Below is an example of one that does a variety of things.

# Gets the version from the initialized git repository
version:=$(shell git rev-parse --short HEAD)

# Prints the version
	@echo "Commit: ${version}"

A Real World Example

I actually use make to build my Hugo blog and below is what the build process looks like. So, building and publishing my blog to AWS S3 as a static site is as simple as calling make deploy -B.

	rm -rf public

publish: clean
	hugo -s ./

	hugo server -wDs ./ -d dev & xdg-open http://localhost:1313/

deploy: publish
	aws s3 cp public/ s3:// --recursive  --include "*" --acl public-read