The Contiki‐NG build system

The Contiki-NG build system is designed to compile a full system image to a variety of hardware platforms. The resulting binary includes both the application code and the Contiki-NG Operating System code.

A simple example project Makefile can be found in examples/hello-world/:

CONTIKI_PROJECT = hello-world
CONTIKI = ../..
include $(CONTIKI)/Makefile.include

After defining the project name and Contiki-NG path, the common makefile is simply included. By running make from this directory, the hello-world system will be build for the default target: native. The native target is a special platform that builds Contiki-NG as a program able to run on the development system (e.g. Linux). Just run the file build/native/hello-world.native after compiling it.

To compile the hello-world application for a different platform, use the flag TARGET, e.g. with TARGET=zoul. On some platforms, an additional BOARD is necessary to further specify the target.

Build system output structure

The build system will generate a number of files that will be placed in a number of locations. This guide uses the hello-world example as a use-case, but the output will be the same for all other examples.

The build system will always put the final build output file (firmware) in the example’s build/$(TARGET)/[ $(BOARD) ] directory. This is the firmware to use to programme your device (embedded targets) or to execute (native paltform). For the hello-world example, this will be called build/$(TARGET)[ /$(BOARD) ]/hello-world.$(TARGET) (e.g. build/native/hello-world.native or build/zoul/hello-world.zoul.

The build system will create a build/ directory, and within it various sub-directories, where it will place intermediate files as well as the final build output file (firmware). The logic is as follows:

  • A directory named build/$(TARGET) will always be created (e.g. build/native or build/zoul).

  • If the platform supports the BOARD make variable, then a board-specific sub-directory will also be created under build/$(TARGET). For example build/zoul/remote-reva or build/cc26x0-cc13x0/launchpad/cc2650.

  • You may wish to switch between different configurations while building an example. For instance, you may wish to have a build to be used for debugging and testing and a separate build to be used for deployment. The Contiki-NG supports this through the BUILD_DIR_CONFIG make variable, to which you can assign different values for your different builds. If you do choose to use BUILD_DIR_CONFIG, then the build system will create a further subdirectory called $(BUILD_DIR_CONFIG)/ under build/$(TARGET)/[ $(BOARD) ]/. For example build/zoul/remote-reva/deploy if you run make BUILD_DIR_CONFIG=deploy.

  • Lastly, a further sub-directory called obj will be created under build/$(TARGET)/[ $(BOARD) ]/[ $(BUILD_DIR_CONFIG) ]. For example build/cc26x0-cc13x0/launchpad/cc2650/debug/obj.

With the above sub-directory structure in mind, the build system will output files as follows:

  • All compilation output files (.o) and dependency files (.d) will be placed under the obj/ dir.

  • All link and post-processing out files (e.g. hello-world.elf, hello-world.hex, hello-world.bin) will be placed in build/$(TARGET)/[ $(BOARD) ]/[ $(BUILD_DIR_CONFIG) ]. In the same directory, you will often also file a .map file. Lastly, this directory also holds the hello-world.$(TARGET) file.


To clean built artifacts, use:

  • clean: Removes all build output files for TARGET, including the entire build/$(TARGET) dir. There is currently no way to only clean files built for a specific BOARD.

  • distclean: Cleans all build output files for all Contiki-NG targets and also deletes the entire build/ directory. It basically invokes make TARGET=xyz clean for all Contiki-NG supported platforms and once this has finished it then force-removes the build/ directory.

More options

The following make target are provided:

  • viewconf: shows the value of important Make and C constants, for inspection of the Contiki-NG configuration

  • targets: shows the list of supported TARGET

  • boards: shows the list of supported BOARD for the current TARGET

  • savetarget: saves the current TARGET and BOARD under, for use in subsequent runs of make

  • savedefines: saves the current DEFINES flags for subsequent runs of make

  • %.o: produces an object file from a given source file

  • %.e: produces the pre-processed version of a given source file

  • %.s: produces an assembly file from a given source file

  • %.ramprof: shows a RAM profile of a given firmware

  • %.flashprof: shows a Flash/ROM profile of a given firmware

  • login: view the serial output of the device connected to PORT

  • serialview: same as login, but prepend serial output with a unix timestamp

  • serialdump: same as serialview, but also save the output to a file

  • motelist-all: prints a list of connected devices

  • usage and help: show a brief help

Makefiles used in the Contiki-NG build system

The Contiki-NG build system is composed of a number of Makefiles. These are:

  • Makefile: the project’s makefile, located in the project directory. This Makefile can define the MODULES variable, a list of modules that should be included. It can also configure the Contiki-NG networking stack (see The Contiki-NG configuration system), as well as any other standard Makefile rules and flags.

  • Top-level Makefiles, located in Contiki-NG’s source tree’s root:

    • Makefile.include: the system-wide makefile. When make is run, Makefile.include includes the Makefile.$(TARGET) as well as all makefiles for the modules in the MODULES list (which is specified by the project’s Makefile).

    • Contains definitions of the help and usage targets.

    • Some build have dependencies on utilities under the tools dir. This Makefile makes sure those dependencies get built when required.

    • Makefile.embedded: Contains additional Makefile logic that applies to all of Contiki-NG’s embedded platforms; that is all platforms except native and cooja.

    • Makefile.identify-target: This Makefile can be used to identify the selected TARGET used for a specific build. It can be included by example Makefiles that need to take decisions based on the value of the TARGET make variable.

  • Makefile.$(TARGET) (where $(TARGET) is the name of the platform): rules for the specific platform, located in the platform’s subdirectory in arch/platform. It contains the list of C files (CONTIKI_TARGET_SOURCEFILES) that the platform adds to the Contiki-NG system. The Makefile.$(TARGET) also includes the Makefile.$(CPU) from the arch/cpu/$(CPU)/ directory.

  • Makefile.$(CPU) (where $(CPU) is the name of the CPU/MCU): rules for the CPU architecture, located in the CPU architecture’s subdirectory in arch/cpu/.

  • Makefile.$(MODULE) (where $(MODULE) is the name of a module in the os directory): optional, module-specific makefile rules.