In the old days one called g++ compiler with a lot of command line switches to tell it where to find all include files and libraries. Nowadays civilized libraries register themselves with a tool called pkg-config. This tool knows how to generate all command line switches for you if you provide library name.

To list all libraries registered with the tool call

pkg-config –list-all
To see which libraries need to be linked with openssl library use
pkg-config –libs openssl
The tool will output: -lssl -lcrypto which are exactly the command switches you should provide to compiler. So if you wanted to link your sample with the openssl library you could write:
g++ -o sample sample.cpp `pkg-config --libs --cflags openssl`
It really is that simple. Of course you immediately became interested in how exactly pkg-config does its magic, right? After all if you produce a library of your own you want it to be civilized and to register with pkg-config.

Here's how it's done. When you call pkg-config with a library name (for eample libpqxx) it first examines the contents of the /usr/lib/pkgconfig folder seeking for a file named libpqxx.pc. If it can't find it there it examines PKG_CONFIG_PATH variable repeating the search for libpqx.pc in each folder in this path.

After finding a match it extracts required library data. Here is the contents of libpqxx.pc file to get a feeling of how this works.

Name: libpqxx
Description: a C++ API to the PostgreSQL database management system.
Version: 3.0
Libs: -L${libdir} -L/usr/lib -lpqxx
Cflags: -I${includedir} -I/usr/include/postgresql
As you can see data in this description file is abundant. So after matching .pc file with the library pkg-config can easily generate output for command switches.

So there. With tiny bit of new knowledge your library can now register itself properly with the system. You can also create .pc files for libraries that don't behave as good citizens to simplify compilation. Or even debug foreign make files that fail.

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