Chapter 5. Target Types, Platform Types, and Platforms

Table of Contents

5.1. Platform Structure
5.2. Object-Code Platforms
5.3. Output Directories

Abuild was designed with multiplatform operation in mind from the beginning. Up to this point, we have largely glossed over how abuild deals with multiple platforms. In this chapter, we will cover this aspect of abuild's operation in detail.

5.1. Platform Structure

Abuild classifies platforms into a three-level hierarchy. The three levels are described by the following terms:

target type

A target type encompasses the overall kind of targets that are being built. A target type essentially encapsulates a build paradigm. Abuild understands three target types: platform-independent for truly platform-independent products like scripts and documentation, object-code for compiled object code like C and C++, and java for Java byte code and related products. One could argue that Java code is platform-independent, but since Java code has its own build paradigm, abuild considers it to be a separate target type. Be careful not to confuse target type with target, defined in Section 3.2, “Basic Terminology”.

platform type

A platform type essentially defines a grouping of platforms. Platform types belong to target types and contain platforms. When configuring build items, developers assign build items to platform types rather than to platforms or target types. The platform-independent target type has only platform type: indep. The java target type has only one platform type: java. [11] Platform types are most useful in the object-code target type. Abuild has only one built-in platform type in the object-code target type: native. The native platform type applies to build items that are expected to be able to be built and run on the host platform. Additional platform types to support embedded platforms or cross compilers can be added in plugins (see Section 29.3, “Adding Platform Types and Platforms”).


The abuild platform is the lowest level of detail in describing the environment in which a target is intended to be used. The expectation is that compiled products (object files, libraries, binary executables, java class files, etc.) produced for one platform are always compatible with other products produced for that platform but are not necessarily compatible with products produced for a different platform. If two different versions of a compiler generate incompatible object code (because of incompatible runtime library versions or different C++ name mangling conventions, for example), then a host running one compiler may generate output belonging to a different platform from the same host running a different version of the compiler. For the indep platform type in the platform-independent target type, there is only one platform, which has the same name as the platform type: indep. For the java platform type in the java target type, there is also only one platform, which also shares its name with the platform type: java. Platforms become interesting within the object-code target type. When we refer to platforms, we are almost always talking about object-code platforms.

This table (Table 5.1, “Built-in Platforms, Platform Types, and Target Types”) shows the target types along with the built-in platform types and platforms that belong to them.

Table 5.1. Built-in Platforms, Platform Types, and Target Types

Target TypePlatform TypePlatform
object-codenativebased on available tools

When a build item is defined with multiple platform types, they must all belong to the same target type. (Since the only target type that has more than one platform type is object-code, this means the target type of a build item with multiple platform types will always be object-code.) Some interface variables are also based on target type. For example, it may be permissible for a java build item to depend on a C++ build item if the C++ build item exports native code or provides an executable code generator, but it would never make sense for a java build item to have an include path or library path in the sense of a C/C++ build item. When one build item depends on another, the platforms on which the two build items are being built come into play. We discuss this in Chapter 24, Cross-Platform Support.

[11] At one time, it was planned for abuild to support different platform types for different versions of Java byte code. Although this would have been useful for build trees that had complex requirements for mixing JDKs of different versions, this capability would have added a lot of complexity to support a practice that is unusual and largely undesirable.