Creating Libraries and Executables

In the previous section, we learned the basics about how to create a CMake project with BLT, how to configure the project and how to build and test BLT’s built-in third party libraries.

We now move on to creating libraries and executables using two of BLT’s core macros: blt_add_library() and blt_add_executable().

We begin with a simple executable that calculates \pi by numerical integration (example_1). We will then extract that code into a library, which we link into a new executable (example_2).

Example 1: Basic executable

This example is as basic as it gets. After setting up a BLT CMake project, like blank_project in the previous section, we can start using BLT’s macros. Creating an executable is as simple as calling the following macro:

blt_add_executable( NAME    example_1
                    SOURCES example_1.cpp )

This tells CMake to create an executable named example_1 with one source file (example_1.cpp).

You can create this project yourself or you can run the already provided tutorial/calc_pi project. For ease of use, we have combined many examples into this one CMake project. After running the following commands, you will create the executable <build dir>/bin/example_1:

cd <BLT repository/docs/tutorial/calc_pi
mkdir build
cd build
cmake -DBLT_SOURCE_DIR=../../.. ..


This is one of the core macros that enables BLT to simplify our CMake-based project. It unifies many CMake calls into one easy to use macro. blt_add_executable() creates a CMake executable target with the given sources, sets the output directory to <build dir>/bin (unless overridden with the macro parameter OUTPUT_DIR) and handles internal and external dependencies in a greatly simplified manner. There will be more on that in the following section.

Example 2: One library, one executable

This example is a bit more exciting. This time we are creating a library that calculates the value of pi and then linking that library into an executable.

First, we create the library with the following BLT code:

blt_add_library( NAME    calc_pi
                 HEADERS calc_pi.hpp calc_pi_exports.h
                 SOURCES calc_pi.cpp )

Just like before, this creates a CMake library target that will get built to <build dir>/lib/libcalc_pi.a.

Next, we create an executable named example_2 and link in the previously created library target:

blt_add_executable( NAME       example_2
                    SOURCES    example_2.cpp 
                    DEPENDS_ON calc_pi)

The DEPENDS_ON parameter properly links the previously defined library into this executable without any more work or CMake function calls.


This is another core BLT macro. It creates a CMake library target and associates the given sources and headers along with handling dependencies the same way as blt_add_executable does. It also provides a few commonly used build options, such as overriding the output name of the library and the output directory. It defaults to building a static library unless you override it with SHARED or with the global CMake option BUILD_SHARED_LIBS.

Object Libraries

BLT has simplified the use of CMake object libraries through the blt_add_library macro. Object libraries are a collection of object files that are not linked or archived into a library. They are used in other libraries or executables through the DEPENDS_ON macro argument. This is generally useful for combining smaller libraries into a larger library without the linker removing unused symbols in the larger library.

blt_add_library(NAME    myObjectLibrary
                SOURCES source1.cpp
                HEADERS header1.cpp
                OBJECT  TRUE)

blt_add_exectuble(NAME       helloWorld
                  SOURCES    main.cpp
                  DEPENDS_ON myObjectLibrary)


Due to record keeping on BLT’s part to make object libraries as easy to use as possible, you need to define object libraries before you use them if you need their inheritable information to be correct.