Linux Tools Project/Autotools/User Guide
The Autotools plug-in for Eclipse extends the CDT (C/C++ Development Tools) to add support for maintaing and building C/C++ projects that use GNU Autotools.
GNU Autotools are a set of tools used to make projects portable to multiple systems. In most cases, a configuration script is created which is invoked prior to performing the first build. The configuration script may perform tests of the platform, OS, or what is locally installed, and use the results of these tests to create an appropriate Makefile for the project. What is tested is fully controllable by the developer by way of special input files which are fed to the Autotools themselves.
Typically, the most commonly used Autotools are 'autoconf', 'automake', and 'aclocal'. The 'autoconf' tool takes a 'configure.in' or 'configure.ac' input file and creates the 'configure' script. As mentioned, the configure script is what is invoked prior to the build. The 'automake' tools takes a 'Makefile.am' input file and creates a 'Makefile.in' output file. The 'Makefile.in' file is used by the 'configure' script to layout how the resulting 'Makefile' will be generated (sort of template). The 'aclocal' tool creates a macro repository containing macros that are needed by the 'autoconf' tool. Typically, the macros make it easy to perform tests (e.g. test that a certain header file exists or find the compiler). For more details on the GNU Autotools, see http://www.gnu.org/software/autoconf/ and http://www.gnu.org/software/automake/