Meson file rewriter

Since version 0.50.0, Meson has the functionality to perform some basic modification on the files from the command line. The currently supported operations are:

  • For build targets:
    • Add/Remove source files
    • Add/Remove targets
    • Modify a select set of kwargs
    • Print some JSON information
  • For dependencies:
    • Modify a select set of kwargs
  • For the project function:
    • Modify a select set of kwargs
    • Modify the default options list

The rewriter has both, a normal command line interface and a "script mode". The normal CLI is mostly designed for everyday use. The "script mode", on the other hand, is meant to be used by external programs (IDEs, graphical frontends, etc.)

The rewriter itself is considered stable, however the user interface and the "script mode" API might change in the future. These changes may also break backwards compatibility to older releases.

We are also open to suggestions for API improvements.

Using the rewriter

All rewriter functions are accessed via meson rewrite. The Meson rewriter assumes that it is run inside the project root directory. If this isn't the case, use --sourcedir to specify the actual project source directory.

Adding and removing sources

The most common operations will probably be the adding and removing of source files to a build target. This can be easily done with:

meson rewrite target <target name/id> {add/rm} [list of sources]

For instance, given the following example

src = ['main.cpp', 'fileA.cpp']

exe1 = executable('testExe', src)

the source fileB.cpp can be added with:

meson rewrite target testExe add fileB.cpp

After executing this command, the new will look like this:

src = ['main.cpp', 'fileA.cpp', 'fileB.cpp']

exe1 = executable('testExe', src)

In this case, exe1 could also have been used for the target name. This is possible because the rewriter also searches for assignments and unique Meson IDs, which can be acquired with introspection. If there are multiple targets with the same name, Meson will do nothing and print an error message.

For more information see the help output of the rewriter target command.

Adding and removing extra_files

Since 0.61.0

In the same way you can add and remove source files from a target, you can modify a target's extra_files list:

meson rewrite target <target name/id> {add_extra_files/rm_extra_files} [list of extra files]

Setting the project version

It is also possible to set kwargs of specific functions with the rewriter. The general command for setting or removing kwargs is:

meson rewrite kwargs {set/delete} <function type> <function ID> <key1> <value1> <key2> <value2> ...

For instance, setting the project version can be achieved with this command:

meson rewrite kwargs set project / version 1.0.0

Currently, only the following function types are supported:

  • dependency
  • target (any build target, the function ID is the target name/ID)
  • project (the function ID must be / since project() can only be called once)

For more information see the help output of the rewrite kwargs command.

Note msys bash may expand / to a path. Passing // will be converted to / by msys bash but in order to keep usage shell-agnostic, the rewrite command also allows // as the function ID such that it will work in both msys bash and other shells.

Setting the project default options

For setting and deleting default options, use the following command:

meson rewrite default-options {set/delete} <opt1> <value1> <opt2> <value2> ...


Rewriting a Meson file is not guaranteed to keep the indentation of the modified functions. Additionally, comments inside a modified statement will be removed. Furthermore, all source files will be sorted alphabetically.

For instance adding e.c to srcs in the following code

# Important comment

srcs = [
'a.c', 'c.c', 'f.c',
# something important about b
       'b.c', 'd.c', 'g.c'


would result in the following code:

# Important comment

srcs = [


Using the "script mode"

The "script mode" should be the preferred API for third party programs, since it offers more flexibility and higher API stability. The "scripts" are stored in JSON format and executed with meson rewrite command <JSON file or string>.

The JSON format is defined as follows:

    "type": "function to execute",
  }, {
    "type": "other function",

Each object in the main array must have a type entry which specifies which function should be executed.

Currently, the following functions are supported:

  • target
  • kwargs
  • default_options

Target modification format

The format for the type target is defined as follows:

  "type": "target",
  "target": "target ID/name/assignment variable",
  "operation": "one of ['src_add', 'src_rm', 'target_rm', 'target_add', 'extra_files_add', 'extra_files_rm', 'info']",
  "sources": ["list", "of", "source", "files", "to", "add, remove"],
  "subdir": "subdir where the new target should be added (only has an effect for operation 'tgt_add')",
  "target_type": "function name of the new target -- same as in the CLI (only has an effect for operation 'tgt_add')"

The keys sources, subdir and target_type are optional.

kwargs modification format

The format for the type target is defined as follows:

  "type": "kwargs",
  "function": "one of ['dependency', 'target', 'project']",
  "id": "function ID",
  "operation": "one of ['set', 'delete', 'add', 'remove', 'remove_regex', 'info']",
  "kwargs": {
    "key1": "value1",
    "key2": "value2",

Default options modification format

The format for the type default_options is defined as follows:

  "type": "default_options",
  "operation": "one of ['set', 'delete']",
  "options": {
    "opt1": "value1",
    "opt2": "value2",

For operation delete, the values of the options can be anything (including null)

Extracting information

The rewriter also offers operation info for the types target and kwargs. When this operation is used, Meson will print a JSON dump to stderr, containing all available information to the rewriter about the build target / function kwargs in question.

The output format is currently experimental and may change in the future.

The results of the search are