cmake Getting started with cmake Simple "Hello World" Project


Given a C++ source file main.cpp defining a main() function, an accompanying CMakeLists.txt file (with the following content) will instruct CMake to generate the appropriate build instructions for the current system and default C++ compiler.

main.cpp (C++ Hello World Example)

#include <iostream>

int main()
    std::cout << "Hello World!\n";
    return 0;


cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.4)


add_executable(app main.cpp)

See it live on Coliru

  1. cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.4) sets a minimum CMake version required to evaluate the current script.

  2. project(hello_world) starts a new CMake project. This will trigger a lot of internal CMake logic, especially the detection of the default C and C++ compiler.

  3. With add_executable(app main.cpp) a build target app is created, which will invoke the configured compiler with some default flags for the current setting to compile an executable app from the given source file main.cpp.

Command Line (In-Source-Build, not recommended)

> cmake .
> cmake --build .

cmake . does the compiler detection, evaluates the CMakeLists.txt in the given . directory and generates the build environment in the current working directory.

The cmake --build . command is an abstraction for the necessary build/make call.

Command Line (Out-of-Source, recommended)

To keep your source code clean from any build artifacts you should do "out-of-source" builds.

> mkdir build
> cd build
> cmake ..
> cmake --build .

Or CMake can also abstract your platforms shell's basic commands from above's example:

> cmake -E make_directory build
> cmake -E chdir build cmake .. 
> cmake --build build