CLion 2024.1 Help


CMakeLists.txt file contains a set of directives and instructions describing the project's source files and targets (executable, library, or both).

When you create a new project, CLion generates CMakeLists.txt file automatically and places it in the project root directory. To open a project, you can point CLion to the top-level CMakeLists.txt and choose Open as Project.

Example below shows the CMakeLists.txt file of a simple "Hello, World" project:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.13) # CMake version check project(simple_example) # Create project "simple_example" set(CMAKE_CXX_STANDARD 14) # Enable c++14 standard # Add main.cpp file of the project root directory as a source file set(SOURCE_FILES main.cpp) # Add executable target with source files listed in SOURCE_FILES variable add_executable(simple_example ${SOURCE_FILES})

You can edit CMakeLists.txt files right in the editor. Make sure to reload the project after editing. Automatic reload feature is disabled by default, you can turn it on by setting the Automatically reload CMake project on editing checkbox in Settings | Build, Execution, Deployment | CMake.

Subdirectory CMakeLists.txt files

For projects with complex structure, you can create subdirectory CMakeList.txt files to describe the build, contents, and target rules for the subproject.

The type of the target added by the subdirectory CMakeLists.txt can vary depending on the role of the module.

CMakeLists.txt files in subdirectories

CMakeLists.txt file templates

When you create a CMake or CMake-based (CUDA, Qt) project via the New Project wizard, CLion uses different templates to generate CMakeLists.txt depending on the project type and settings. You can fine-tune these templates in Settings | Editor | File and Code Templates, the Other tab:

File templates for new CMake projects

When editing a template text, you can use common predefined variables and the following CMake-specific variables:


the main.cpp/main.c/libary.cpp/library.c file of the project.


the selected language standard.


the major number of the minimum supported CMake version. For example, if the version if 3.20, this variable corresponds to 3.


the minor number of the minimum supported CMake version. For example, if the version if 3.20, this variable corresponds to 20.


SHARED for shared libraries.


the selected Qt version.


the Qt libraries required for the selected project type. By default, they are Core for Qt Console Executable and Core, Gui, Widgets for Qt Widgets Executable.

There is also a template for CMake scripts that you can add to an existing project via New | CMakeLists.txt in the context menu of the project view. By default, this template is empty. You can edit it using the same variables in Settings | Editor | File and Code Templates, the Files tab:

File template for a new CMakeLists.txt file

Coding assistance in CMakeLists.txt

Code completion

CLion provides code completion for most of the elements in your CMakeLists.txt. For example, you can get the list of the packages bundled with CMake when writing a find_package() command:

Completion in CMake

Quick fix for CMake minimal version

You can quickly adjust the minimal required version of CMake. Locate the warning in CMake output and click Fix:

Quick fix for CMake minimal version

CLion will change the version in the cmake_minimum_required() command:

CMake minimal version changed

Adding targets via the Generate menu

  1. Press Alt+Insert and select the target type:

    Generate menu for CMake
  2. Choose the files to be added to the new target:

    Choose target files
  3. CLion will add an add_executable or add_library command:

    The result of adding a library target via the Generate menu

Live templates for CMake

Use live templates to quickly insert a structure or a command. For example, type exe and press Tab to add an executable target:

CMake live template for add_executable
add_executable template inserted

Find the full list of CMake live templates in Settings | Editor | Live Templates | CMake.

Parameter info popup

The Parameter Info popup shows signature variants for CMake commands as you type:

Parameter info for CMake

By default, the popup appears within 1 second (1000 milliseconds) after you type an opening bracket. You can change this in the Parameter Info settings.

To invoke parameter info manually, press Ctrl+P.

Quick documentation popup

Quick Documentation popup helps you get more information on the elements in your CMake code. To invoke it, use mouse hover or press Ctrl+Q.

For example, you can view quick documentation for completion suggestions:

Quick doc in CMake completion

Code folding

Folding/unfolding in CMake scripts is available for macros and functions, if-else clauses, blocks, comments, as well as arbitrary code selections (make sure to enable Custom folding regions in Settings | Editor | General | Code Folding for this to work).

CMake code folding

Structure view

Structure view for CMake shows variables, functions, macros, and targets used your script. To open it, press Alt+7 (for the tool window) or Ctrl+F12 (for the popup).

Structure view for CMake

Customizable syntax highlighting

You can adjust the color and font scheme for CMake files in Settings | Editor | Color Scheme | CMake:

Color scheme settings for CMake

Code style for CMake files

In Settings | Editor | Code Style | CMake, you can adjust the code style being applied to CMake files. When you change a certain setting, the Preview pane shows how this will affect your code.

CMake code style settings
Last modified: 16 April 2024