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Quick Build Without the IDE

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25 May 2018CPOL
Quick compile and build at the command line.


There are times when it is useful to compile and build a small sample program without needing to load an IDE and go through the process of setting up a new project. This tip shows a simple method of setting up a command process that can be used with minimal work.


If you are not familiar with the use of the command processor in Windows, this tip is still quite easy to set up.

Using the Code

The idea for this came up as I was trying to reproduce problems that were posted on CodeProject. Rather than fire up Visual Studio or Eclipse, I just wanted to compile and run the user's source code in order to try and help diagnose their problem. The issue I faced was trying to remember the various paths to the different compilers, and the compiler options, in order to build the code. I got round this by creating simple command scripts that would set up the environment, which I could run in a command shell.

I first created separate subdirectories for each language that I was likely to use (C++ and Java first). I then created the following _setup.cmd scripts in each directory:

  1. C++ (Visual Studio creates the called script as part of its installation process.)
    call "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\VC\Auxiliary\Build\vcvarsall.bat" x86 %*
  2. Java
    @ECHO off
    TITLE Java Development
    set jpath=C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.8.0_162\bin
    set j

Obviously, these scripts need to be modified for your own environment, and directory paths.

So I now have some scripts which allow me to set up an environment to build either C++ or Java programs. But I still need to open a command shell and navigate to the correct directory in order to utilise them. How to make it even easier to get the shell open in the correct directory and ready to run with a simple mouse click? The answer is to create a Windows shortcut in the relevant directory with the following properties:

Target: (this is the same for all languages, unless you change the name of the _setup.cmd script)

C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /k .\_setup.cmd

Start in: (the name of the directory containing the _setup.cmd script)

C:\Users\myname\Documents\C++ ... or Java etc. as appropriate

If I now click the shortcut link, Windows will open a command shell in that directory and run the _setup.cmd script so it is ready to run a build.

The next challenge (for C++ especially) is to remember all the command line options for the compiler and linker. The easiest way is to create another script that will do the work for me. The obvious name for such a script is make.cmd (I was used to using make in Unix/Linux in my professional life). But I also want to type just "make" at the command line rather than "make sample.cpp". Thankfully, the command shell makes this fairly easy.

The make shell for C++ is:

SET ff=%1
IF "%ff%" == "" SET ff=Test
SET cf=%ff:.cpp=%
cl /D "UNICODE" /EHsc /MDd /nologo /Od /Oy- /RTC1 /W3 %cf%.cpp

The make script for Java is more or less the same:

SET ff=%1
IF "%ff%" == "" SET ff=Test
java %jf%

In each case, the sequence of commands (ignoring the @ECHO statements):

  • Capture the file name (if any) on the command line
  • If it is blank, then use a default source name (I use Test)
  • Remove any extension from the name (.cpp or .java)
  • Build the program, adjusting the options to your own needs
  • If the compile or link failed, then skip to the end
  • Otherwise, run the final executable

So, I can now navigate to either of my directories, click on the link and a command shell opens. I can then simply type "make", "make Test" or "make Test.cpp" in the command shell to test the code. I also have versions for Android and PHP, but leave those as exercises for the reader.


  • May 2018: Version 1


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Richard MacCutchan
United Kingdom United Kingdom
I was a Software Engineer for 40+ years starting with mainframes, and moving down in scale through midi, UNIX and Windows PCs. I started as an operator in the 1960s, learning assembler programming, before switching to development and graduating to COBOL, Fortran and PLUS (a proprietary language for Univac systems). Later years were a mix of software support and development, using mainly C, C++ and Java on UNIX and Windows systems.

Since retiring I have been learning some of the newer (to me) technologies (C#, .NET, WPF, LINQ, SQL, Python ...) that I never used in my professional life, and am actually able to understand some of them.

I still hope one day to become a real programmer.

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Posted 25 May 2018

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