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12.1.1 Conversion of Guile Types

There is only one “data type” in make: a string. GNU Guile, on the other hand, provides a rich variety of different data types. An important aspect of the interface between make and GNU Guile is the conversion of Guile data types into make strings.

This conversion is relevant in two places: when a makefile invokes the guile function to evaluate a Guile expression, the result of that evaluation must be converted into a make string so it can be further evaluated by make. And secondly, when a Guile script invokes one of the procedures exported by make the argument provided to the procedure must be converted into a string.

The conversion of Guile types into make strings is as below:


False is converted into the empty string: in make conditionals the empty string is considered false.


True is converted to the string ‘#t’: in make conditionals any non-empty string is considered true.


A symbol or number is converted into the string representation of that symbol or number.


A printable character is converted to the same character.


A string containing only printable characters is converted to the same string.


A list is converted recursively according to the above rules. This implies that any structured list will be flattened (that is, a result of ‘'(a b (c d) e)’ will be converted to the make string ‘a b c d e’).


Any other Guile type results in an error. In future versions of make, other Guile types may be converted.

The translation of ‘#f’ (to the empty string) and ‘#t’ (to the non-empty string ‘#t’) is designed to allow you to use Guile boolean results directly as make boolean conditions. For example:

$(if $(guile (access? "myfile" R_OK)),$(info myfile exists))

As a consequence of these conversion rules you must consider the result of your Guile script, as that result will be converted into a string and parsed by make. If there is no natural result for the script (that is, the script exists solely for its side-effects), you should add ‘#f’ as the final expression in order to avoid syntax errors in your makefile.

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