C++ Quickstart

Note: this Quickstart uses Bazel as the official build system for Abseil, which is supported on most major platforms (Linux, Windows, macOS, for example) and compilers. The Abseil source contains a WORKSPACE file and BUILD.bazel files for that purpose.

This document is designed to allow you to get the Abseil development environment up and running. We recommend that each person starting development with Abseil code at least run through this quick tutorial.

Abseil also supports building with CMake. For information, please see the CMake Quickstart.


Running the Abseil code within this tutorial requires:

  • A compatible platform (e.g. Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.). Most platforms are fully supported. Consult the Platforms Guide for more information.
  • A compatible C++ compiler supporting at least C++11. Most major compilers are supported.

Although you are free to use your own build system, most of the documentation within this guide will assume you are using Bazel.

To download and install Bazel (and any of its dependencies), consult the Bazel Installation Guide.

Set Up a Bazel Workspace to Work with Abseil

A Bazel workspace is a directory on your filesystem that contains the source files for the software you want to build. Each workspace directory has a text file named WORKSPACE which may be empty, or may contain references to external dependencies required to build the outputs.

First, set up your development directory:

mkdir my_workspace && cd my_workspace

A common and recommended way to consume Abseil is to use Bazel’s external dependencies feature. One way to do this is with an http_archive rule. To do this, create a WORKSPACE file in the root directory of your Bazel workspace with the following content:

load("@bazel_tools//tools/build_defs/repo:http.bzl", "http_archive")

  name = "com_google_absl",
  urls = ["https://github.com/abseil/abseil-cpp/archive/98eb410c93ad059f9bba1bf43f5bb916fc92a5ea.zip"],
  strip_prefix = "abseil-cpp-98eb410c93ad059f9bba1bf43f5bb916fc92a5ea",

In the above example, a ZIP archive of the Abseil code is downloaded from GitHub. 98eb410c93ad059f9bba1bf43f5bb916fc92a5ea is the git commit hash of the Abseil version being used (it is recommended that this value be updated often to point to the most recent commit). Bazel strongly recommends that you provide the SHA-256 of the specified file within the sha256 field of the http_archive rule. See the Bazel reference for more information.

Bazel also requires a dependency on the rules_cc repository to build C++ code, so add the following http_archive rule to the WORKSPACE file:

  name = "rules_cc",
  urls = ["https://github.com/bazelbuild/rules_cc/archive/262ebec3c2296296526740db4aefce68c80de7fa.zip"],
  strip_prefix = "rules_cc-262ebec3c2296296526740db4aefce68c80de7fa",

If you wish to run Abseil’s unit tests to verify it works properly in your environment, you will also need to add a dependency on GoogleTest:

  name = "com_google_googletest",
  urls = ["https://github.com/google/googletest/archive/011959aafddcd30611003de96cfd8d7a7685c700.zip"],
  strip_prefix = "googletest-011959aafddcd30611003de96cfd8d7a7685c700",

Now you can optionally run Abseil’s unit tests with a single bazel command:

$ bazel test --test_tag_filters=-benchmark @com_google_absl//...
INFO: Analyzed 346 targets (42 packages loaded, 1890 targets configured).
INFO: Found 189 targets and 157 test targets...
Executed 157 out of 157 tests: 157 tests pass.
INFO: Build completed successfully, 1660 total actions

Creating and Running a Binary

Now that you’ve setup a Bazel workspace with Abseil as a dependency, you’re ready to use it within your own project.

In this example, we will create a hello_world.cc C++ file within your Bazel workspace directory:

#include <iostream>
#include <string>
#include <vector>

#include "absl/strings/str_join.h"

int main() {
  std::vector<std::string> v = {"foo", "bar", "baz"};
  std::string s = absl::StrJoin(v, "-");

  std::cout << "Joined string: " << s << "\n";

  return 0;

Note that we include an Abseil header file using the absl prefix.

Creating Your BUILD File

Now, create a BUILD file with a cc_binary rule in the same directory as your hello_world.cc file:

  name = "hello_world",
  deps = ["@com_google_absl//absl/strings"],
  srcs = ["hello_world.cc"],

For more information on how to create Bazel BUILD files, consult the Bazel Tutorial.

We declare a dependency on the Abseil strings library (//absl/strings) using the prefix we declared in our WORKSPACE file (@com_google_absl).

Build our target (“hello_world”) and run it:

$ bazel build //examples:hello_world
INFO: Analysed target //examples:hello_world (12 packages loaded).
INFO: Found 1 target...
Target //examples:hello_world up-to-date:
INFO: Elapsed time: 0.180s, Critical Path: 0.00s
INFO: Build completed successfully, 1 total action

$ bazel run //examples:hello_world
INFO: Running command line: bazel-bin/examples/hello_world
Joined string: foo-bar-baz

Congratulations! You’ve created your first binary using Abseil code. If you want to see a full, working example of code using Abseil, see the bazel-hello directory in the abseil-hello repository.

What’s Next