[cmake-developers] why can target_include_directories() not be applied to custom targets?

Petr Kmoch petr.kmoch at gmail.com
Sun Jul 8 05:16:46 EDT 2018

Hi Drew,

a custom target can do literally anything, it's just a buildsystem wrapper
for running arbitrary executables; or often not even that, and is just a
collection of custom commands. There is nothing CMake automatically does
with the properties [INTERFACE_]INCLUDE_DIRECTORIES set on a custom command.

Note that if you need the properties set for some reason (i.e. if your
custom command/target code uses them for something), you can still set them
just fine using set_property() or set_target_properties(). However, I
expect this to be a very rare thing to do, so I think it's OK
target_include_directories() actually errors out on custom targets. IMO
it's much more likely that a non-custom target was intended.

(Note that I am just an ordinary CMake user, so the above is in no way


On 7 July 2018 at 21:27, Drew Parsons <dparsons at debian.org> wrote:

> Commit 510fdcb18801076e2041eaae2941375eecc93ec2 at
> https://gitlab.kitware.com/cmake/cmake/commit/
> 510fdcb18801076e2041eaae2941375eecc93ec2
> prevents custom targets from using target_include_directories().
> This makes no sense to me.  A custom target is still a target. It needs
> to be compiled, it uses -I flags.
> Can you explain the ban on applying target_include_directories() to
> custom targets?
> Drew
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