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Generating a JSON compilation database

To generate compile_commands.json for your project, you can use compilers, build systems, and specialized tools:

  • CMake

    Use the CMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS flag. You can either run


    or add the following line to your CMakeLists.txt script:


    The compile_commands.json file will be put into the build directory.

  • Clang (version 5.0 and later)

    The -MJ option writes a compilation entry per input file. You can use it for each file in the project, and then merge the outputs into a JSON-formatted compilation database (refer to the procedure example).

  • Ninja (version 1.2 and later)

    To get a compilation database, use the -t compdb option. Note that it requires rule names as arguments: -t compdb rule1 rule2... The list of rules is provided in the Ninja build file (default name, for example:

    rule cc command = gcc -c -o $out $in description = CC $out rule link command = gcc -o $out $in description = LINK $out

    To generate a compilation database for one rule named cc, specify the following:

    -t compdb cc > compile_commands.json

    But for multiple rules, you need to get their exact names from the build file and pass them to compdb (refer to one of the possible solutions).

  • Make-based projects

    The compiledb-generator tool creates compilation databases for make-based build systems.

  • Bear and intercept-build tools

    Bear and intercept-build from scan-build are the tools to help you get a compilation database by intercepting compiler calls during the build.

  • SourceTrail Visual Studio extension

    SourceTrail Extension generates a compilation database for Visual Studio solutions.

Last modified: 26 May 2024