3.5. Making Lists of Files Easier to Read

One drawback to the use of a Python list for source files is that each file name must be enclosed in quotes (either single quotes or double quotes). This can get cumbersome and difficult to read when the list of file names is long. Fortunately, SCons and Python provide a number of ways to make sure that the SConstruct file stays easy to read.

To make long lists of file names easier to deal with, SCons provides a Split function that takes a quoted list of file names, with the names separated by spaces or other white-space characters, and turns it into a list of separate file names. Using the Split function turns the previous example into:

Program('program', Split('main.c file1.c file2.c'))

(If you're already familiar with Python, you'll have realized that this is similar to the split() method of Python string objects.. Unlike the split() method, however, the Split function does not require a string as input and will wrap up a single non-string object in a list, or return its argument untouched if it's already a list. This comes in handy as a way to make sure arbitrary values can be passed to SCons functions without having to check the type of the variable by hand.)

Putting the call to the Split function inside the Program call can also be a little unwieldy. A more readable alternative is to assign the output from the Split call to a variable name, and then use the variable when calling the Program function:

src_files = Split('main.c file1.c file2.c')
Program('program', src_files)

Lastly, the Split function doesn't care how much white space separates the file names in the quoted string. This allows you to create lists of file names that span multiple lines, which often makes for easier editing:

src_files = Split("""
Program('program', src_files)

(Note this example uses the Python "triple-quote" syntax, which allows a string to span multiple lines. The three quotes can be either single or double quotes as long as they match.)