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7.2 Libtool’s versioning system

Libtool has its own formal versioning system. It is not as flexible as some, but it is definitely the simplest of the more powerful versioning systems.

Think of a library as exporting several sets of interfaces, arbitrarily represented by integers. When a program is linked against a library, it may use any subset of those interfaces.

Libtool’s description of the interfaces that a program uses is simple: it encodes the least and the greatest interface numbers in the resulting binary (first-interface, last-interface).

The dynamic linker is guaranteed that if a library supports every interface number between first-interface and last-interface, then the program can be relinked against that library.

Note that this can cause problems because libtool’s compatibility requirements are actually stricter than is necessary.

Say ‘libhello’ supports interfaces 5, 16, 17, 18, and 19, and that libtool is used to link ‘test’ against ‘libhello’.

Libtool encodes the numbers 5 and 19 in ‘test’, and the dynamic linker will only link ‘test’ against libraries that support every interface between 5 and 19. So, the dynamic linker refuses to link ‘test’ against ‘libhello’!

In order to eliminate this problem, libtool only allows libraries to declare consecutive interface numbers. So, ‘libhello’ can declare at most that it supports interfaces 16 through 19. Then, the dynamic linker will link ‘test’ against ‘libhello’.

So, libtool library versions are described by three integers:

current

The most recent interface number that this library implements.

revision

The implementation number of the current interface.

age

The difference between the newest and oldest interfaces that this library implements. In other words, the library implements all the interface numbers in the range from number current - age to current.

If two libraries have identical current and age numbers, then the dynamic linker chooses the library with the greater revision number.


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