Project Generation Automation

August 19, 2011

During the last several months or more I’ve started several projects, only to abandon them at, or soon after, blank screen.  Mike “PoV” Kasprzak made a blog post about using premake to create a project.  My process had been copy a template directory, with some basic code to get to blank screen, to where I want my new project, rename as needed – create the Visual Studio project and setup everything; include and library directories, debug working directory, post-build events, etc etc…  Two to three hours later I had a blank screen, and rarely had motivation to continue much further.

Enough with that.

I started playing with my “make.lua” premake script first, and my immediate impression was, ‘meh’.  But after an hour I realized the potential it had.  I copied my template directory and used premake to make the project.  During the process I realized it was powerful enough to set include/lib directories, and all the other tedious settings I previously had to do manually.  It also occurred to me that I could use a windows batch file “CreateProject.bat” to automate the process even more.

Quickly CreateProject.bat would copy the template directory to a new location, rename it to the project and call premake to create the project on the spot.  This wasn’t quite enough, I wanted it to build the project in both Debug and Release, and do some find/replace in files as needed for personal preference.  While talking about this automation project with Pekka “pekuja” Kujansuu “sed” was mentioned.  Sed is a stream editor on the unix platform which has find and replace capabilities.  With great help from Pekka and Mike, I was able to get it to do what I needed with renaming.


This all took several, eight to twelve, hours but the next, or any future, time I need to make a project, is is a matter of typing  “CreateProject MyNewProject” inside command-line and all the magic happens.  My final step will be to setup a script to add the project to a subversion repository, but that will be a few weeks or whenever I get around to it.  I am amazed at how rewarding this feels.

The files that do the magic are here, although probably needs quite a bit of work to generate a project that would be useful to your needs:

  • CreateProject.bat – This is the main access point that gets the automation rolling.
  • make.lua – This is used by premake to setup the solution and project as needed.
  • build.bat – This is a small bat to build from command-line with VS2010.