Add a custom build rule to the generated build system.

There are two main signatures for add_custom_command.

Generating Files

The first signature is for adding a custom command to produce an output:

add_custom_command(OUTPUT output1 [output2 ...]
                   COMMAND command1 [ARGS] [args1...]
                   [COMMAND command2 [ARGS] [args2...] ...]
                   [MAIN_DEPENDENCY depend]
                   [DEPENDS [depends...]]
                   [BYPRODUCTS [files...]]
                   [IMPLICIT_DEPENDS <lang1> depend1
                                    [<lang2> depend2] ...]
                   [WORKING_DIRECTORY dir]
                   [COMMENT comment]
                   [VERBATIM] [APPEND] [USES_TERMINAL])

This defines a command to generate specified OUTPUT file(s). A target created in the same directory (CMakeLists.txt file) that specifies any output of the custom command as a source file is given a rule to generate the file using the command at build time. Do not list the output in more than one independent target that may build in parallel or the two instances of the rule may conflict (instead use the add_custom_target() command to drive the command and make the other targets depend on that one). In makefile terms this creates a new target in the following form:


The options are:


Append the COMMAND and DEPENDS option values to the custom command for the first output specified. There must have already been a previous call to this command with the same output. The COMMENT, MAIN_DEPENDENCY, and WORKING_DIRECTORY options are currently ignored when APPEND is given, but may be used in the future.


Specify the files the command is expected to produce but whose modification time may or may not be newer than the dependencies. If a byproduct name is a relative path it will be interpreted relative to the build tree directory corresponding to the current source directory. Each byproduct file will be marked with the GENERATED source file property automatically.

Explicit specification of byproducts is supported by the Ninja generator to tell the ninja build tool how to regenerate byproducts when they are missing. It is also useful when other build rules (e.g. custom commands) depend on the byproducts. Ninja requires a build rule for any generated file on which another rule depends even if there are order-only dependencies to ensure the byproducts will be available before their dependents build.

The BYPRODUCTS option is ignored on non-Ninja generators except to mark byproducts GENERATED.


Specify the command-line(s) to execute at build time. If more than one COMMAND is specified they will be executed in order, but not necessarily composed into a stateful shell or batch script. (To run a full script, use the configure_file() command or the file(GENERATE) command to create it, and then specify a COMMAND to launch it.) The optional ARGS argument is for backward compatibility and will be ignored.

If COMMAND specifies an executable target (created by the add_executable() command) it will automatically be replaced by the location of the executable created at build time. (Use the TARGET_FILE generator expression to reference an executable later in the command line.) Additionally a target-level dependency will be added so that the executable target will be built before any target using this custom command. However this does NOT add a file-level dependency that would cause the custom command to re-run whenever the executable is recompiled.

Arguments to COMMAND may use generator expressions. References to target names in generator expressions imply target-level dependencies, but NOT file-level dependencies. List target names with the DEPENDS option to add file-level dependencies.


Display the given message before the commands are executed at build time.


Specify files on which the command depends. If any dependency is an OUTPUT of another custom command in the same directory (CMakeLists.txt file) CMake automatically brings the other custom command into the target in which this command is built. If DEPENDS is not specified the command will run whenever the OUTPUT is missing; if the command does not actually create the OUTPUT then the rule will always run. If DEPENDS specifies any target (created by the add_custom_target(), add_executable(), or add_library() command) a target-level dependency is created to make sure the target is built before any target using this custom command. Additionally, if the target is an executable or library a file-level dependency is created to cause the custom command to re-run whenever the target is recompiled.

Arguments to DEPENDS may use generator expressions.


Request scanning of implicit dependencies of an input file. The language given specifies the programming language whose corresponding dependency scanner should be used. Currently only C and CXX language scanners are supported. The language has to be specified for every file in the IMPLICIT_DEPENDS list. Dependencies discovered from the scanning are added to those of the custom command at build time. Note that the IMPLICIT_DEPENDS option is currently supported only for Makefile generators and will be ignored by other generators.


Specify the primary input source file to the command. This is treated just like any value given to the DEPENDS option but also suggests to Visual Studio generators where to hang the custom command. At most one custom command may specify a given source file as its main dependency.


Specify the output files the command is expected to produce. If an output name is a relative path it will be interpreted relative to the build tree directory corresponding to the current source directory. Each output file will be marked with the GENERATED source file property automatically. If the output of the custom command is not actually created as a file on disk it should be marked with the SYMBOLIC source file property.


The command will be given direct access to the terminal if possible. With the Ninja generator, this places the command in the console pool.


All arguments to the commands will be escaped properly for the build tool so that the invoked command receives each argument unchanged. Note that one level of escapes is still used by the CMake language processor before add_custom_command even sees the arguments. Use of VERBATIM is recommended as it enables correct behavior. When VERBATIM is not given the behavior is platform specific because there is no protection of tool-specific special characters.


Execute the command with the given current working directory. If it is a relative path it will be interpreted relative to the build tree directory corresponding to the current source directory.

Build Events

The second signature adds a custom command to a target such as a library or executable. This is useful for performing an operation before or after building the target. The command becomes part of the target and will only execute when the target itself is built. If the target is already built, the command will not execute.

add_custom_command(TARGET target
                   PRE_BUILD | PRE_LINK | POST_BUILD
                   COMMAND command1 [ARGS] [args1...]
                   [COMMAND command2 [ARGS] [args2...] ...]
                   [BYPRODUCTS [files...]]
                   [WORKING_DIRECTORY dir]
                   [COMMENT comment]
                   [VERBATIM] [USES_TERMINAL])

This defines a new command that will be associated with building the specified target. When the command will happen is determined by which of the following is specified:


Run before any other rules are executed within the target. This is supported only on Visual Studio 7 or later. For all other generators PRE_BUILD will be treated as PRE_LINK.


Run after sources have been compiled but before linking the binary or running the librarian or archiver tool of a static library. This is not defined for targets created by the add_custom_target() command.


Run after all other rules within the target have been executed.