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meson - Man Page

a high productivity build system

Examples (TL;DR)


Meson is a build system designed to optimize programmer productivity. It aims to do this by providing simple, out-of-the-box support for modern software development tools and practices, such as unit tests, coverage reports, Valgrind, Ccache and the like.

The main Meson executable provides many subcommands to access all the functionality.

The setup command

Using Meson is simple and follows the common two-phase process of most build systems. First you run Meson to configure your build:

meson setup [ options ] [ build directory ] [ source directory ]

Note that the build directory must be different from the source directory. Meson does not support building inside the source directory and attempting to do that leads to an error.

After a successful configuration step you can build the source by running the actual build command in the build directory. The default backend of Meson is Ninja, which can be invoked like this.

ninja [ target ]

You only need to run the Meson command once: when you first configure your build dir. After that you just run the build command. Meson will autodetect changes in your source tree and regenerate all files needed to build the project.

The setup command is the default operation. If no actual command is specified, Meson will assume you meant to do a setup. That means that you can set up a build directory without the setup command like this:

meson [ options ] [ build directory ] [ source directory ]



print version number


print command line help

The configure command

meson configure provides a way to configure a Meson project from the command line. Its usage is simple:

meson configure [ build directory ] [ options to set ]

If build directory is omitted, the current directory is used instead.

If no parameters are set, meson configure will print the value of all build options to the console.

To set values, use the -D command line argument like this.

meson configure -Dopt1=value1 -Dopt2=value2

The introspect command

Meson introspect is a command designed to make it simple to  integrate with other tools, such as IDEs. The output of this command is in JSON.

meson introspect [ build directory ] [ option ]

If build directory is omitted, the current directory is used instead.



print all top level targets (executables, libraries, etc)


print the source files of the given target


print all files that make up the build system (meson.build, meson.options, meson_options.txt etc)


print all unit tests


print command line help

The test command

meson test is a helper tool for running test suites of projects using Meson. The default way of running tests is to invoke the default build command:

ninja [ test ]

meson test provides a richer set of tools for invoking tests.

meson test automatically rebuilds the necessary targets to run tests when used with the Ninja backend. Upon build failure, meson test will return an exit code of 125. This return code tells git bisect run to skip the current commit. Thus bisecting using git can be done conveniently like this.

git bisect run meson test -C build_dir



run tests as many times as specified


run tests under gdb


list all available tests


invoke all tests via the given wrapper (e.g. valgrind)


Change into the given directory before running tests (must be root of build directory).


run tests in this suite


do not run tests in this suite


do not split stderr and stdout in test logs


run benchmarks instead of tests


base of file name to use for writing test logs


how many parallel processes to use to run tests


do not redirect stdout and stderr


a multiplier to use for test timeout values (usually something like 100 for Valgrind)


use the specified test setup

The wrap command

Wraptool is a helper utility to manage source dependencies using the online wrapdb service.

meson wrap < command > [ options ]

You should run this command in the top level source directory of your project.



list all available projects


search projects by name


install a project with the given name


update the specified project to latest available version


show available versions of the specified project


show installed and available versions of currently used subprojects

Exit Status




Usage error, or an error parsing or executing meson.build.


Internal error.


meson test could not rebuild the required targets.

See Also




May 2024 meson 1.4.1