M4(1) General Commands Manual M4(1)
m4 - macro processor
m4 [ files ]
M4 is a macro processor intended as a front end for Ratfor, C, and
other languages. Each of the argument files is processed in order; if
there are no arguments, or if an argument is `-', the standard input is
read. The processed text is written on the standard output.
Macro calls have the form
name(arg1,arg2, . . . , argn)
The `(' must immediately follow the name of the macro. If a defined
macro name is not followed by a `(', it is deemed to have no arguments.
Leading unquoted blanks, tabs, and newlines are ignored while collect-
ing arguments. Potential macro names consist of alphabetic letters,
digits, and underscore `_', where the first character is not a digit.
Left and right single quotes (`') are used to quote strings. The value
of a quoted string is the string stripped of the quotes.
When a macro name is recognized, its arguments are collected by search-
ing for a matching right parenthesis. Macro evaluation proceeds nor-
mally during the collection of the arguments, and any commas or right
parentheses which happen to turn up within the value of a nested call
are as effective as those in the original input text. After argument
collection, the value of the macro is pushed back onto the input stream
M4 makes available the following built-in macros. They may be rede-
fined, but once this is done the original meaning is lost. Their val-
ues are null unless otherwise stated.
define The second argument is installed as the value of the macro
whose name is the first argument. Each occurrence of $n in
the replacement text, where n is a digit, is replaced by the
n-th argument. Argument 0 is the name of the macro; missing
arguments are replaced by the null string.
undefine removes the definition of the macro named in its argument.
ifdef If the first argument is defined, the value is the second
argument, otherwise the third. If there is no third argu-
ment, the value is null. The word unix is predefined on UNIX
versions of m4.
Change quote characters to the first and second arguments.
Changequote without arguments restores the original values
divert M4 maintains 10 output streams, numbered 0-9. The final out-
put is the concatenation of the streams in numerical order;
initially stream 0 is the current stream. The divert macro
changes the current output stream to its (digit-string) argu-
ment. Output diverted to a stream other than 0 through 9 is
undivert causes immediate output of text from diversions named as
arguments, or all diversions if no argument. Text may be
undiverted into another diversion. Undiverting discards the
divnum returns the value of the current output stream.
dnl reads and discards characters up to and including the next
ifelse has three or more arguments. If the first argument is the
same string as the second, then the value is the third argu-
ment. If not, and if there are more than four arguments, the
process is repeated with arguments 4, 5, 6 and 7. Otherwise,
the value is either the fourth string, or, if it is not
incr returns the value of its argument incremented by 1. The
value of the argument is calculated by interpreting an ini-
tial digit-string as a decimal number.
eval evaluates its argument as an arithmetic expression, using
32-bit arithmetic. Operators include +, -, *, /, %, ^ (expo-
nentiation); relationals; parentheses.
len returns the number of characters in its argument.
index returns the position in its first argument where the second
argument begins (zero origin), or -1 if the second argument
does not occur.
substr returns a substring of its first argument. The second argu-
ment is a zero origin number selecting the first character;
the third argument indicates the length of the substring. A
missing third argument is taken to be large enough to extend
to the end of the first string.
translit transliterates the characters in its first argument from the
set given by the second argument to the set given by the
third. No abbreviations are permitted.
include returns the contents of the file named in the argument.
sinclude is identical to include, except that it says nothing if the
file is inaccessible.
syscmd executes the UNIX command given in the first argument. No
value is returned.
maketemp fills in a string of XXXXX in its argument with the current
errprint prints its argument on the diagnostic output file.
dumpdef prints current names and definitions, for the named items, or
for all if no arguments are given.
B. W. Kernighan and D. M. Ritchie, The M4 Macro Processor