Developer command-line tools setup

After my previous post, Gregory Pakosz wondered why I was using xcrun, as he did not need to (turns out he set to install command-line developer tools in the Xcode prefs, so otool and friends were in /usr/bin). That got me thinking a bit about the setup for accessing command-line tools we can assume another developer has.

Starting from the olden days of Mac OS X and up until recently, the Developer Tools were a system-spanning install, most definitely not self-contained. In particular, either as standard or as an option offered at install, you could install command-line tools like the compiler and more in /usr/bin, directly accessible to your shell; and even if some disabled the option, they would add /Developer/usr/bin to their $PATH. As a result, you could just assume otool, libtool, gcc, etc. would be directly accessible in the environment of a fellow developer, and just give command lines directly using them when conversing with them by email, Twitter, blog posts, etc.

Then the iPhone SDK happened, and our numbers grew immensely (waving at you guys!), but habits were generally kept. And then Xcode 4 happened and emphasized being a one stop shop for your entire development process. And with Xcode 4.3 Xcode truly became self-contained, with no longer any installation per se; these days it is possible, and I suspect common, to develop and submit iPhone apps without needing to be aware of the Terminal at all (not that this is a bad thing, mind you).

In my case I initially missed installing the command-line tools as instead of meeting the customization step of the install process and enabling everything except WebObjects, now I simply had Xcode as an application in /Applications and never thought to seek the installs in the Xcode preferences.

I have now enabled that preference and installed the tools in /usr/bin, but still I missed it initially, so who knows how many others do. Also, it occurs to me more and more build systems and other scripts in the Mac/iOS development world are now aware of the Xcode hierarchy, and rely on xcode-select -print-path and/or an environment variable to locate the developer directory and use the tools in there directly; as a result, the Command Line Tools install is now mostly for the benefit of open source/Unix stuff which simply assumes cc/gcc is in the path, and maybe we should start thinking about it as being for that specific purpose.

So my question is, should we simply assume command-line developer tools are in the path and write our blogs posts, emails, and Twitter messages as usual (maybe with a reminder to “make sure you have the Command Line Tools installed in the Xcode prefs.”)? Or should we start considering these tools do not necessarily belong in /usr/bin and instead instruct our readers to use xcode-select -switch then xcrun, or even instruct them to directly add the Developer/usr/bin folder inside Xcode to the $PATH (which is likely to break from time to time as the paths change)? What do you think? As usual, write me at wanderingcoder@sfr.fr.

Okay, feedback is not unanimous in either direction. For now I will keep putting xcrun, with the assumption that it will help those who have not installed the Command Line Tools, while those who have will know enough to remove it from the command line before use. — August 8, 2012
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