Abseil Compiler Flags

The Abseil C++ code is compiled using flags indicated within this guide. Our objective is to support as many warning flags as possible, to minimize the chance that your code will be impacted by flags that you may need in your development environment. However, given the plethora of possible compilation configurations, that is not always possible, and we’ve found some flags to be counter-productive.

This guide describes the warning flags we are using, per compiler. We do disable some flags to keep our code as noise-free as possible. Notes on flags that we do not support and have intentionally disabled are provided within this guide. Separately, some flags are also disabled within existing tests. In both cases, we will continue to work to reduce the number of flags we need to disable.

These flags (and flags sets) are defined in the Abseil code repository within the copts.py file.

Abseil Warning Flags

At a high level, Abseil defines two sets of flags:


ABSL_TEST_COPTS includes all flags within ABSL_DEFAULT_COPTS but disables a number of them to avoid problems with certain tests. In general, you should treat ABSL_DEFAULT_COPTS as the canonical list of Abseil compiler flags. We hope to harmonize these flag sets in the future.

In practice, ABSL_DEFAULT_COPTS contains one of the following flag sets, depending on the compiler it is invoked under:

  • ABSL_GCC_FLAGS for GNU gcc compilers
  • ABSL_LLVM_FLAGS for Clang compilers
  • ABSL_MSVC_FLAGS for Visual Studio/msvc compilers

These flag sets are documented below.

GCC Flags

The ABSL_GCC_FLAGS set of compiler flags has the following characteristics:

  • All “normal” flags are set via -Wall and -Wextra. (Note that not “all” flags are contained with the GCC all set.)
  • Additionally, Abseil enables the following flags, which are generally recommended for all C++ code:
    • -Wcast-qual
    • -Wconversion-null
    • -Wmissing-declarations
    • -Woverlength-strings
    • -Wpointer-arith
    • -Wunused-local-typedefs
    • -Wunused-result
    • -Wvarargs
    • -Wvla
    • -Wwrite-strings
  • Abseil disables -Wsign-compare because of the presence of signed and unsigned integer comparisons in our codebase (mostly between Abseil and the standard library).


Options to Request or Suppress Warnings

Clang Flags

The ABSL_LLVM_FLAGS set of compiler flags is the most extensive set and provides the most code analysis, which is why we recommend a Clang compiler. The Clang compiler flag set has the following characteristics:

  • All “normal” flags are set via -Wall, -Wextra and -Weverything. (Note that, like with GCC, not “all” flags are contained with the Clang all set.)
  • -Wconversion is disabled to turn off the overly-broad set of implicit conversion warnings. Many (but not all) of these implicit conversion warnings are later turned on.
  • Additionally, the following flags are disabled to prevent warnings based on implicit type casts:
    • -Wno-double-promotion
    • -Wno-float-conversion
    • -Wno-old-style-cast
  • -Wrange-loop-analysis is disabled because Clang’s implementation only ignores actual POD types; turning this warning on would require even small value types such as absl::string_view to be defined as const references within a range loop.
  • -Wglobal-constructors is disabled because some low-level initialization abstractions (mostly internal) require them. In general, however, you should avoid global constructors.
  • -Wpadded and -Wpacked are disabled because these flags are typically used as advisory warnings.
  • -Wgcc-compat is disabled because we want to use Clang-specific features in a Clang compilation branch and not get unnecessary warnings about GCC.
  • -Wcomma and -Wextra-semi are disabled because they are still valid C++ code (and occur in cases of macro expansion).
  • -Wformat-literal is disabled because some of our logging code passes their literal arguments to helper functions as non-literal variables.
  • -Wswitch-enums is disabled because it would break any users of existing enums, if additional enum entries were added.


MSVC Flags

The ABSL_MSVC_FLAGS set of compiler flags is specific to MSVC/Visual Studio and has the following characteristics:

  • All “level 3” flags are set via the \W3 flag. (See Warning Levels).
  • The following flags are disabled because they are advisory only:
    • /wd4005 prevents warnings about macro redefinitions.
    • /wd4068 prevents warnings on unknown pragmas.
    • /wd4244 prevents warnings on implicit conversions.
    • /wd4267 prevents warnings on conversion from size_t to int.
    • /wd4800 prevents warnings on implicit conversion to type bool.
  • The following Windows macro definitions are also defined:
    • /DNOMINMAX to prevent Windows overrides of std min/max functions.
    • /DWIN32_LEAN_AND_MEAN to reduce the amount of Windows-specific header files.
    • /D_CRT_SECURE_NO_WARNINGS to prevent Windows from complaining about standard C++ functions.