C++ Quickstart With CMake

This document is designed to allow you to get the Abseil development environment up and running using CMake. We recommend that each person starting development with Abseil code at least run through this quick tutorial. If your project uses Bazel instead, please find the Bazel Quickstart.


Running the Abseil code within this tutorial requires:

  • A compatible platform (e.g. Windows, Mac OS X, 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.
  • Git for interacting with the Abseil source code repository, which is contained on GitHub. To install Git, consult the Set Up Git guide on GitHub.
  • CMake for building your project and Abseil. Abseil supports CMake 3.5+.

Getting the Abseil Code

Building and testing Abseil is relatively straightforward:

# Change to the directory where you want to create the code repository
$ cd ~
$ mkdir Source && cd Source
$ git clone https://github.com/abseil/abseil-cpp.git
Cloning into 'abseil-cpp'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 149, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (1083/1083), done.

Git will create the repository within a directory named abseil-cpp. Navigate into this directory and run all tests:

$ cd abseil-cpp
$ mkdir build && cd build
-- Configuring done
-- Generating done
-- Build files have been written to: ${PWD}

CMAKE_CXX_STANDARD=11 instructs CMake to build using the C++11 standard, which is our minimum language level of support.

Now you can build the CMake target tests:

$ cmake --build . --target all
[ 99%] Linking CXX executable absl_flat_hash_map_test
[ 99%] Built target absl_flat_hash_map_test
[100%] Linking CXX executable absl_hash_test
[100%] Built target absl_hash_test

Once you have built the CMake tests, run them in parallel with the ctest command:

$ ctest
Test project ${PWD}
      Start  1: absl_absl_exception_safety_testing_test
100% tests passed, 0 tests failed out of 98

Creating and Running a Binary

Now that you’ve obtained the Abseil code and verified that you can build and test it, you’re ready to use it within your own project.

Linking Your Code to the Abseil Repository

First, create (or select) a source code directory for your work. This directory should generally not be the abseil-cpp directory itself – we prefer that abseil-cpp reside as a subdirectory of your project’s source tree.

# Change to your main development directory and create a new development
# directory. (If you already have a development directory you'd wish to use,
# you can use that.)
$ cd ~/Source
$ mkdir TestProject; cd TestProject

Creating Your Test Code

Within your TestProject create an examples directory and populate it with a copy of the Abseil source code.

$ mkdir examples; cd examples
$ git clone https://github.com/abseil/abseil-cpp.git
Cloning into 'abseil-cpp'...

Now, create a hello_world.cc C++ file within your examples 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";

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

Creating Your CMakeLists.txt File

Now, create a CMakeLists.txt file within your examples directory like the following:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.5)


# Abseil requires C++11

# Process Abseil's CMake build system

add_executable(hello_world hello_world.cc)

# Declare dependency on the absl::strings library
target_link_libraries(hello_world absl::strings)

For more information on how to create CMakeLists.txt files, consult the CMake Tutorial.

Configure the CMake build from a fresh binary directory. This configuration is called an “out of source” build and is the preferred method for CMake projects.

$ cd ~/Source/TestProject/examples
$ mkdir build && cd build
$ cmake ..
-- The C compiler identification is GNU 7.3.0
-- The CXX compiler identification is GNU 7.3.0
-- Build files have been written to: ~/Source/CMakeTest/TestProject/examples/build

Now build our target (“hello_world”):

$ cmake --build . --target hello_world
Scanning dependencies of target strings_internal
[  3%] Building CXX object abseil-cpp/absl/strings/CMakeFiles/strings_internal.dir/internal/ostringstream.cc.o
[100%] Linking CXX executable hello_world
[100%] Built target hello_world

Now run your binary:

$ ./hello_world
Joined string: foo-bar-baz

Congratulations! You’ve created your first binary using Abseil code.

What’s Next