Build options

Most non-trivial builds require user-settable options. As an example a program may have two different data backends that are selectable at build time. Meson provides for this by having a option definition file. Its name is meson.options and it is placed at the root of your source tree. For versions of meson before 1.1, this file was called meson_options.txt.

Here is a simple option file.

option('someoption', type : 'string', value : 'optval', description : 'An option')
option('other_one', type : 'boolean', value : false)
option('combo_opt', type : 'combo', choices : ['one', 'two', 'three'], value : 'three')
option('integer_opt', type : 'integer', min : 0, max : 5, value : 3) # Since 0.45.0
option('free_array_opt', type : 'array', value : ['one', 'two'])  # Since 0.44.0
option('array_opt', type : 'array', choices : ['one', 'two', 'three'], value : ['one', 'two'])
option('some_feature', type : 'feature', value : 'enabled')  # Since 0.47.0
option('long_desc', type : 'string', value : 'optval',
       description : 'An option with a very long description' +
                     'that does something in a specific context') # Since 0.55.0

For built-in options, see Built-in options.

Build option types

All types allow a description value to be set describing the option, if no description is set then the name of the option will be used instead.


The string type is a free form string. If the default value is not set then an empty string will be used as the default.


Booleans may have values of either true or false. If no default value is supplied then true will be used as the default.


A combo allows any one of the values in the choices parameter to be selected. If no default value is set then the first value will be the default.


An integer option contains a single integer with optional upper and lower values that are specified with the min and max keyword arguments.

This type is available since Meson version 0.45.0.


Arrays represent an array of strings. By default the array can contain arbitrary strings. To limit the possible values that can used set the choices parameter. Meson will then only allow the value array to contain strings that are in the given list. The array may be empty. The value parameter specifies the default value of the option and if it is unset then the values of choices will be used as the default.

As of 0.47.0 -Dopt= and -Dopt=[] both pass an empty list, before this -Dopt= would pass a list with an empty string.

This type is available since version 0.44.0


A feature option has three states: enabled, disabled or auto. It is intended to be passed as value for the required keyword argument of most functions. Currently supported in add_languages(), compiler.find_library(), compiler.has_header(), dependency(), find_program(), import() and subproject() functions.

  • enabled is the same as passing required : true.
  • auto is the same as passing required : false.
  • disabled do not look for the dependency and always return 'not-found'.

When getting the value of this type of option using get_option(), a special feature object is returned instead of the string representation of the option's value. This object can be passed to required:

d = dependency('foo', required : get_option('myfeature'))
if d.found()
  app = executable('myapp', 'main.c', dependencies : [d])

To check the value of the feature, the object has three methods returning a boolean and taking no argument:

  • .enabled()
  • .disabled()
  • .auto()

This is useful for custom code depending on the feature:

if get_option('myfeature').enabled()
  # ...

If the value of a feature option is set to auto, that value is overridden by the global auto_features option (which defaults to auto). This is intended to be used by packagers who want to have full control on which dependencies are required and which are disabled, and not rely on build-deps being installed (at the right version) to get a feature enabled. They could set auto_features=enabled to enable all features and disable explicitly only the few they don't want, if any.

This type is available since version 0.47.0

Deprecated options

Since 0.60.0

Project options can be marked as deprecated and Meson will warn when user sets a value to it. It is also possible to deprecate only some of the choices, and map deprecated values to a new value.

# Option fully deprecated, it warns when any value is set.
option('o1', type: 'boolean', deprecated: true)

# One of the choices is deprecated, it warns only when 'a' is in the list of values.
option('o2', type: 'array', choices: ['a', 'b'], deprecated: ['a'])

# One of the choices is deprecated, it warns only when 'a' is in the list of values
# and replace it by 'c'.
option('o3', type: 'array', choices: ['a', 'b', 'c'], deprecated: {'a': 'c'})

# A boolean option has been replaced by a feature, old true/false values are remapped.
option('o4', type: 'feature', deprecated: {'true': 'enabled', 'false': 'disabled'})

# A feature option has been replaced by a boolean, enabled/disabled/auto values are remapped.
option('o5', type: 'boolean', deprecated: {'enabled': 'true', 'disabled': 'false', 'auto': 'false'})

Since 0.63.0 the deprecated keyword argument can take the name of a new option that replace this option. In that case, setting a value on the deprecated option will set the value on both the old and new names, assuming they accept the same values.

# A boolean option has been replaced by a feature with another name, old true/false values
# are accepted by the new option for backward compatibility.
option('o6', type: 'boolean', value: 'true', deprecated: 'o7')
option('o7', type: 'feature', value: 'enabled', deprecated: {'true': 'enabled', 'false': 'disabled'})

# A project option is replaced by a module option
option('o8', type: 'string', value: '', deprecated: 'python.platlibdir')

Using build options

optval = get_option('opt_name')

This function also allows you to query the value of Meson's built-in project options. For example, to get the installation prefix you would issue the following command:

prefix = get_option('prefix')

It should be noted that you cannot set option values in your Meson scripts. They have to be set externally with the meson configure command line tool. Running meson configure without arguments in a build dir shows you all options you can set.

To change their values use the -D option:

$ meson configure -Doption=newvalue

Setting the value of arrays is a bit special. If you only pass a single string, then it is considered to have all values separated by commas. Thus invoking the following command:

$ meson configure -Darray_opt=foo,bar

would set the value to an array of two elements, foo and bar.

If you need to have commas in your string values, then you need to pass the value with proper shell quoting like this:

$ meson configure "-Doption=['a,b', 'c,d']"

The inner values must always be single quotes and the outer ones double quotes.

To change values in subprojects prepend the name of the subproject and a colon:

$ meson configure -Dsubproject:option=newvalue

NOTE: If you cannot call meson configure you likely have a old version of Meson. In that case you can call mesonconf instead, but that is deprecated in newer versions

Yielding to superproject option

Suppose you have a master project and a subproject. In some cases it might be useful to have an option that has the same value in both of them. This can be achieved with the yield keyword. Suppose you have an option definition like this:

option('some_option', type : 'string', value : 'value', yield : true)

If you build this project on its own, this option behaves like usual. However if you build this project as a subproject of another project which also has an option called some_option, then calling get_option returns the value of the superproject. If the value of yield is false, get_option returns the value of the subproject's option.

Built-in build options

There are a number of built-in options. To get the current list execute meson configure in the build directory.

Visual Studio

Startup project

The backend_startup_project option can be set to define the default project that will be executed with the "Start debugging F5" action in visual studio. It should be the same name as an executable target name.

project('my_project', 'c', default_options: ['backend_startup_project=my_exe'])
executable('my_exe', ...)


The backend_max_links can be set to limit the number of processes that ninja will use to link.

The results of the search are