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If you are new to Automake, maybe you know that it is part of a set of tools called The Autotools. Maybe you've already delved into a package full of files named configure, configure.ac, Makefile.in, Makefile.am, aclocal.m4, ..., some of them claiming to be generated by Autoconf or Automake. But the exact purpose of these files and their relations is probably fuzzy. The goal of this chapter is to introduce you to this machinery, to show you how it works and how powerful it is. If you've never installed or seen such a package, do not worry: this chapter will walk you through it.
If you need some teaching material, more illustrations, or a less automake-centered continuation, some slides for this introduction are available in Alexandre Duret-Lutz's Autotools Tutorial. This chapter is the written version of the first part of his tutorial.