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8.1.1 Active Characters

To fully understand where proper quotation is important, you first need to know what the special characters are in Autoconf: ‘#’ introduces a comment inside which no macro expansion is performed, ‘,’ separates arguments, ‘[’ and ‘]’ are the quotes themselves(3), ‘(’ and ‘)’ (which M4 tries to match by pairs), and finally ‘$’ inside a macro definition.

In order to understand the delicate case of macro calls, we first have to present some obvious failures. Below they are “obvious-ified”, but when you find them in real life, they are usually in disguise.

Comments, introduced by a hash and running up to the newline, are opaque tokens to the top level: active characters are turned off, and there is no macro expansion:

# define([def], ine)
⇒# define([def], ine)

Each time there can be a macro expansion, there is a quotation expansion, i.e., one level of quotes is stripped:

int tab[10];
⇒int tab10;
[int tab[10];]
⇒int tab[10];

Without this in mind, the reader might try hopelessly to use her macro array:

define([array], [int tab[10];])
array
⇒int tab10;
[array]
⇒array

How can you correctly output the intended results(4)?


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