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Compiling PCRE on non-Unix systems

This document contains the following sections:

  Generic instructions for the PCRE C library
  The C++ wrapper functions
  Building for virtual Pascal
  Stack size in Windows environments
  Comments about Win32 builds
  Building under Windows with BCC5.5
  Building PCRE on OpenVMS


I (Philip Hazel) have no experience of Windows or VMS sytems and how their
libraries work. The items in the PCRE distribution and Makefile that relate to
anything other than Unix-like systems are untested by me.

There are some other comments and files in the Contrib directory on the ftp
site that you may find useful. See


If you want to compile PCRE for a non-Unix system (especially for a system that
does not support "configure" and "make" files), note that the basic PCRE
library consists entirely of code written in Standard C, and so should compile
successfully on any system that has a Standard C compiler and library. The C++
wrapper functions are a separate issue (see below).

The PCRE distribution contains some experimental support for "cmake", but this
is incomplete and not documented. However if you are a "cmake" user you might
like to try building with "cmake".


The following are generic comments about building the PCRE C library "by hand".

 (1) Copy or rename the file config.h.generic as config.h, and edit the macro
     settings that it contains to whatever is appropriate for your environment.
     In particular, if you want to force a specific value for newline, you can
     define the NEWLINE macro.

     An alternative approach is not to edit config.h, but to use -D on the
     compiler command line to make any changes that you need.

     NOTE: There have been occasions when the way in which certain parameters
     in config.h are used has changed between releases. (In the configure/make
     world, this is handled automatically.) When upgrading to a new release,
     you are strongly advised to review config.h.generic before re-using what
     you had previously.

 (2) Copy or rename the file pcre.h.generic as pcre.h.

 (3) EITHER:
       Copy or rename file pcre_chartables.c.dist as pcre_chartables.c.

       Compile dftables.c as a stand-alone program, and then run it with the
       single argument "pcre_chartables.c". This generates a set of standard
       character tables and writes them to that file. The tables are generated
       using the default C locale for your system. If you want to use a locale
       that is specified by LC_xxx environment variables, add the -L option to
       the dftables command. You must use this method if you are building on
       a system that uses EBCDIC code.

     The tables in pcre_chartables.c are defaults. The caller of PCRE can
     specify alternative tables at run time.

 (4) Ensure that you have the following header files:


 (5) Also ensure that you have the following file, which is #included as source
     when building a debugging version of PCRE and is also used by pcretest.


 (6) Compile the following source files:


     Make sure that you include -I. in the compiler command (or equivalent for
     an unusual compiler) so that all included PCRE header files are first
     sought in the current directory. Otherwise you run the risk of picking up
     a previously-installed file from somewhere else.

 (7) Now link all the compiled code into an object library in whichever form
     your system keeps such libraries. This is the basic PCRE C library. If
     your system has static and shared libraries, you may have to do this once
     for each type.

 (8) Similarly, compile pcreposix.c and link the result (on its own) as the
     pcreposix library.

 (9) Compile the test program pcretest.c. This needs the functions in the
     pcre and pcreposix libraries when linking. It also needs the
     pcre_printint.src source file, which it #includes.

(10) Run pcretest on the testinput files in the testdata directory, and check
     that the output matches the corresponding testoutput files. Note that the
     supplied files are in Unix format, with just LF characters as line
     terminators. You may need to edit them to change this if your system uses
     a different convention.

(11) If you want to use the pcregrep command, compile and link pcregrep.c; it
     uses only the basic PCRE library (it does not need the pcreposix library).


The PCRE distribution also contains some C++ wrapper functions and tests,
contributed by Google Inc. On a system that can use "configure" and "make",
the functions are automatically built into a library called pcrecpp. It should
be straightforward to compile the .cc files manually on other systems. The
files called xxx_unittest.cc are test programs for each of the corresponding
xxx.cc files.


A script for building PCRE using Borland's C++ compiler for use with VPASCAL
was contributed by Alexander Tokarev. Stefan Weber updated the script and added
additional files. The following files in the distribution are for building PCRE
for use with VP/Borland: makevp_c.txt, makevp_l.txt, makevp.bat, pcregexp.pas.


The default processor stack size of 1Mb in some Windows environments is too
small for matching patterns that need much recursion. In particular, test 2 may
fail because of this. Normally, running out of stack causes a crash, but there
have been cases where the test program has just died silently. See your linker
documentation for how to increase stack size if you experience problems. The
Linux default of 8Mb is a reasonable choice for the stack, though even that can
be too small for some pattern/subject combinations. There is more about stack
usage in the "pcrestack" documentation.


There are two ways of building PCRE using the "configure, make, make install"
paradigm on Windows systems: using MinGW or using Cygwin. These are not at all
the same thing; they are completely different from each other. There is also
some experimental, undocumented support for building using "cmake", which you
might like to try if you are familiar with "cmake". However, at the present
time, the "cmake" process builds only a static library (not a dll), and the
tests are not automatically run.

The MinGW home page (http://www.mingw.org/) says this:

  MinGW: A collection of freely available and freely distributable Windows
  specific header files and import libraries combined with GNU toolsets that
  allow one to produce native Windows programs that do not rely on any
  3rd-party C runtime DLLs.

The Cygwin home page (http://www.cygwin.com/) says this:

  Cygwin is a Linux-like environment for Windows. It consists of two parts:

  . A DLL (cygwin1.dll) which acts as a Linux API emulation layer providing
    substantial Linux API functionality

  . A collection of tools which provide Linux look and feel.

  The Cygwin DLL currently works with all recent, commercially released x86 32
  bit and 64 bit versions of Windows, with the exception of Windows CE.

On both MinGW and Cygwin, PCRE should build correctly using:

  ./configure && make && make install

This should create two libraries called libpcre and libpcreposix, and, if you
have enabled building the C++ wrapper, a third one called libpcrecpp. These are
independent libraries: when you like with libpcreposix or libpcrecpp you must
also link with libpcre, which contains the basic functions. (Some earlier
releases of PCRE included the basic libpcre functions in libpcreposix. This no
longer happens.)

If you want to statically link your program against a non-dll .a file, you must
define PCRE_STATIC before including pcre.h, otherwise the pcre_malloc() and
pcre_free() exported functions will be declared __declspec(dllimport), with
unwanted results.

Using Cygwin's compiler generates libraries and executables that depend on
cygwin1.dll. If a library that is generated this way is distributed,
cygwin1.dll has to be distributed as well. Since cygwin1.dll is under the GPL
licence, this forces not only PCRE to be under the GPL, but also the entire
application. A distributor who wants to keep their own code proprietary must
purchase an appropriate Cygwin licence.

MinGW has no such restrictions. The MinGW compiler generates a library or
executable that can run standalone on Windows without any third party dll or
licensing issues.

But there is more complication:

If a Cygwin user uses the -mno-cygwin Cygwin gcc flag, what that really does is
to tell Cygwin's gcc to use the MinGW gcc. Cygwin's gcc is only acting as a
front end to MinGW's gcc (if you install Cygwin's gcc, you get both Cygwin's
gcc and MinGW's gcc). So, a user can:

. Build native binaries by using MinGW or by getting Cygwin and using

. Build binaries that depend on cygwin1.dll by using Cygwin with the normal
  compiler flags.

The test files that are supplied with PCRE are in Unix format, with LF
characters as line terminators. It may be necessary to change the line
terminators in order to get some of the tests to work. We hope to improve
things in this area in future.


Michael Roy sent these comments about building PCRE under Windows with BCC5.5:

  Some of the core BCC libraries have a version of PCRE from 1998 built in,
  which can lead to pcre_exec() giving an erroneous PCRE_ERROR_NULL from a
  version mismatch. I'm including an easy workaround below, if you'd like to
  include it in the non-unix instructions:

  When linking a project with BCC5.5, pcre.lib must be included before any of
  the libraries cw32.lib, cw32i.lib, cw32mt.lib, and cw32mti.lib on the command


Dan Mooney sent the following comments about building PCRE on OpenVMS. They
relate to an older version of PCRE that used fewer source files, so the exact
commands will need changing. See the current list of source files above.

"It was quite easy to compile and link the library. I don't have a formal
make file but the attached file [reproduced below] contains the OpenVMS DCL
commands I used to build the library. I had to add #define
POSIX_MALLOC_THRESHOLD 10 to pcre.h since it was not defined anywhere.

The library was built on:
O/S: HP OpenVMS v7.3-1
Compiler: Compaq C v6.5-001-48BCD
Linker: vA13-01

The test results did not match 100% due to the issues you mention in your
documentation regarding isprint(), iscntrl(), isgraph() and ispunct(). I
modified some of the character tables temporarily and was able to get the
results to match. Tests using the fr locale did not match since I don't have
that locale loaded. The study size was always reported to be 3 less than the
value in the standard test output files."

$! This DCL procedure builds PCRE on OpenVMS
$! I followed the instructions in the non-unix-use file in the distribution.
$! I had to set POSIX_MALLOC_THRESHOLD to 10 in PCRE.H since the symbol
$! did not seem to be defined anywhere.
$! I edited pcre.h and added #DEFINE SUPPORT_UTF8 to enable UTF8 support.
$! I had to set POSIX_MALLOC_THRESHOLD to 10 in PCRE.H since the symbol
$! did not seem to be defined anywhere.
$! C programs that want access to command line arguments must be
$! defined as a symbol
$! Arguments must be enclosed in quotes.
$! Test results:
$!   The test results did not match 100%. The functions isprint(), iscntrl(),
$!   isgraph() and ispunct() on OpenVMS must not produce the same results
$!   as the system that built the test output files provided with the
$!   distribution.
$!   The study size did not match and was always 3 less on OpenVMS.
$!   Locale could not be set to fr

Last Updated: 01 August 2007