23.3.5 Macro interface
When designing your macro, it is worth spending some time deciding on what your macro's interface--the macro's name and argument list--will be. Often, it will be possible to extract general purpose functionality into a generic macro and to write a second macro which is a client of the generic one. Like planning the prototype for a C function, this is usually a straightforward process of deciding what arguments are required by the macro to perform its function. However, there are a couple of further considerations and they are discussed below.
M4 macros refer to their arguments by number with a syntax such
To remain general purpose, the existing Autoconf macros follow the convention of keeping side-effects outside the definition of the macro. Here, when a user invokes `AC_CHECK_FILE', they must provide shell code to implement the side effect that they want to occur if the `FILE' is found or is not found. Some macros implement a basic and desirable action like defining a symbol like `HAVE_UNISTD_H' if no user-defined actions are provided. In general, your macros should provide an interface which is consistent with the interfaces provided by the core Autoconf macros.
M4 macros may have variable argument lists, so it is possible to implement macros which have defaults for arguments. By testing each individual argument against the empty string with `ifelse', it is possible for users to accept the default behavior for individual arguments by passing empty values:
One final point to consider when designing the interface for a macro is
how to handle macros that are generic in nature and, say, wish to set a
cache variable whose name is based on one of the arguments. Consider
the `AC_CHECK_HEADER' macro--it defines a symbol and makes an entry
in the cache that reflects the result of the test it performs.
`AC_CHECK_HEADER' takes an argument -- namely the name of a header
file to look for. This macro cannot just make a cache entry with a name
Some existing macros also allow the user to pass in the name of a cache variable name so that the macro does not need to compute a name. In general, this should be avoided, as it makes the macro harder to use and exposes details of the caching system to the user.