(make.info.gz) Choosing the Shell
5.3.1 Choosing the Shell
The program used as the shell is taken from the variable `SHELL'. If
this variable is not set in your makefile, the program `/bin/sh' is
used as the shell.
Unlike most variables, the variable `SHELL' is never set from the
environment. This is because the `SHELL' environment variable is used
to specify your personal choice of shell program for interactive use.
It would be very bad for personal choices like this to affect the
functioning of makefiles. Variables from the Environment
Furthermore, when you do set `SHELL' in your makefile that value is
_not_ exported in the environment to commands that `make' invokes.
Instead, the value inherited from the user's environment, if any, is
exported. You can override this behavior by explicitly exporting
`SHELL' ( Communicating Variables to a Sub-`make'
Variables/Recursion.), forcing it to be passed in the environment to
However, on MS-DOS and MS-Windows the value of `SHELL' in the
environment *is* used, since on those systems most users do not set
this variable, and therefore it is most likely set specifically to be
used by `make'. On MS-DOS, if the setting of `SHELL' is not suitable
for `make', you can set the variable `MAKESHELL' to the shell that
`make' should use; if set it will be used as the shell instead of the
value of `SHELL'.
Choosing a Shell in DOS and Windows
Choosing a shell in MS-DOS and MS-Windows is much more complex than on
On MS-DOS, if `SHELL' is not set, the value of the variable
`COMSPEC' (which is always set) is used instead.
The processing of lines that set the variable `SHELL' in Makefiles
is different on MS-DOS. The stock shell, `command.com', is
ridiculously limited in its functionality and many users of `make' tend
to install a replacement shell. Therefore, on MS-DOS, `make' examines
the value of `SHELL', and changes its behavior based on whether it
points to a Unix-style or DOS-style shell. This allows reasonable
functionality even if `SHELL' points to `command.com'.
If `SHELL' points to a Unix-style shell, `make' on MS-DOS
additionally checks whether that shell can indeed be found; if not, it
ignores the line that sets `SHELL'. In MS-DOS, GNU `make' searches for
the shell in the following places:
1. In the precise place pointed to by the value of `SHELL'. For
example, if the makefile specifies `SHELL = /bin/sh', `make' will
look in the directory `/bin' on the current drive.
2. In the current directory.
3. In each of the directories in the `PATH' variable, in order.
In every directory it examines, `make' will first look for the
specific file (`sh' in the example above). If this is not found, it
will also look in that directory for that file with one of the known
extensions which identify executable files. For example `.exe',
`.com', `.bat', `.btm', `.sh', and some others.
If any of these attempts is successful, the value of `SHELL' will be
set to the full pathname of the shell as found. However, if none of
these is found, the value of `SHELL' will not be changed, and thus the
line that sets it will be effectively ignored. This is so `make' will
only support features specific to a Unix-style shell if such a shell is
actually installed on the system where `make' runs.
Note that this extended search for the shell is limited to the cases
where `SHELL' is set from the Makefile; if it is set in the environment
or command line, you are expected to set it to the full pathname of the
shell, exactly as things are on Unix.
The effect of the above DOS-specific processing is that a Makefile
that contains `SHELL = /bin/sh' (as many Unix makefiles do), will work
on MS-DOS unaltered if you have e.g. `sh.exe' installed in some
directory along your `PATH'.
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