CMake for Visual Studio Developers

Visual Studio projects are not human readable as such with its excessive XML tags. The layout is more machine friendly. The UI (Project->Properties) to modify the project file is rather clunky too. Finding options in the various tabs and tree items can be a challenge. Very often, trying to figure out changes made as part of a commit in a source control tool is a nightmare. CMake on the other hand gives the flexibility to organize, and it being simple text, viewing commit differences is just like source code.

Compatibility between different versions of Visual Studio is quite messy too. Its high maintenance if you have to deal with multiple versions of Visual Studio. CMake provides a neutral interface independent of Visual Studio nuances between versions. It is not only useful to manage multiple versions of Visual Studio but is a good tool to create a cross platform build system.

However, for someone from a Windows only Visual Studio development environment (with not much experience with Linux and classic Makefile) CMake can be a little intimidating. The language is much more “friendly” to those familiar with Linux style scripting. The documentation though quite detailed, is difficult to parse until you know the basics and know what to look for. Being able to map the CMake commands to the Visual Studio IDE makes learning much easier.

Having spent some time to understand the fundamentals and the relation with Visual Studio, I’ve documented it with an example and will hopefully help other developers jump start using CMake.

See CMake and Visual Studio for more details.

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Software Architecture – Art, Science and Engineering

Structural Architecture defines the outcome of a building to the world, so does Software Architecture to an application. It has a role from the very early stages of conception to the end of the development cycle.

It is like a painting that comes to life from a blank sheet of canvas. It begins with a concept on an empty page. Iterative changes and collaboration with other experts gives it an outline. Technological advances provides the opportunity for exploration while the same technology can limit the boundaries. The outline then evolves to well defined structure with tangible components. All this requires the skills of art, science and engineering.

Art is rather abstract and fluid. Such a mindset is critical in the early stages of defining a software architecture.

Science is often experimental and forward looking. These traits are essential to explore new frontiers in technology.

Engineering is a disciplined approach to adapting proven concepts. It is necessary to guarantee practical success.