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message headers won't build first

asked 2014-08-05 09:00:06 -0600

Ralff gravatar image

I have been using ROS hydro and indigo for the past year, and I can't get my custom message files to build in the correct order. Whenever I move my packages to a new computer and do a fresh build, I get errors about missing message header files. I am usually able to get everything to build if I remove the executables from my CMakeLists and only build the message files first, but this is cumbersome since I have 8 or 9 custom packages.

Is there something I can do to my CMakeLists to fix this problem?

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answered 2014-08-06 04:51:08 -0600

Chrissi gravatar image

updated 2016-04-25 09:57:29 -0600

As McMudro said you are missing some dependencies. To make it bit clearer:

catkin creates several files which are used as flags to determine if something has been built or not. The flags for messages are always following the same naming convention:


Where 'package_name' is of course the name of your package and '_generate_messages_cpp' is a fixed name for the build flag and cannot be changed. One of the problems is that if you misspell it, catkin will not complain but it also does not have any effect. Therefore you have to make sure that you always spell it right.

One example would be:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.8.3)

find_package(catkin REQUIRED COMPONENTS genmsg roscpp std_msgs geometry_msgs ... message_generation)

## Generate messages in the 'msg' folder


  INCLUDE_DIRS include
# LIBRARIES strands_gazing
  CATKIN_DEPENDS std_msgs geometry_msgs ...
# DEPENDS system_lib


## Declare a cpp executable
add_executable(foo foo.cpp)

## Add cmake target dependencies of the executable/library
## as an example, message headers may need to be generated before nodes
add_dependencies(foo my_package_generate_messages_cpp)

## Specify libraries to link a library or executable target against

Where the important line is this one add_dependencies(foo my_package_generate_messages_cpp) which makes sure that the flag my_package_generate_messages_cpp exists before trying to build foo. Therefore it makes sure that the message headers are generated before building the binary.

Now, what if you have custom messages in other packages on which this package relies and which therefore have to be build first? You could include them in the same way in the add_dependency line but it is much more convenient to use one of catkins makros for this: ${catkin_EXPORTED_TARGETS} which contains all the _generate_messages_cpp flags for all the catkin packages you listed in the find_package line. So all you have to change is:

  • Add your second package to the find_package statement of the first one: find_package(catkin REQUIRED COMPONENTS my_other_package genmsg roscpp geometry_msgs ... message_generation)
  • Add the macro to the dependencies add_dependencies(foo my_package_generate_messages_cpp ${catkin_EXPORTED_TARGETS})

In fact it can never hurt to include this macro.

Another very common source of error is including the my_other_package_generate_messages_cpp flag in the dependencies of my_package (e.g. by using the catkin macro described above) and forgetting to add it in the package.xml file. If you do not add my_other_package as a build and run dependency to the package.xml of my_package, catkin will assume that both packages try to build the messages in my_other_package and since you cannot have the same type of message twice it will exit with a cmake error. So in this case your package.xml file would have to look similar to this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>





Hope that helps.

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Thanks. The problem was that I didn't add the dependencies for the message files from other packages for generating the messages. I only had the dependencies for the package itself.

Ralff gravatar image Ralff  ( 2014-08-06 08:45:17 -0600 )edit

Hi Chrissi, maay I know where did you find those informations? I ve read lolts of tutorials about CMake but I found your explanation better than all those tutorials together

Andromeda gravatar image Andromeda  ( 2014-09-03 13:29:19 -0600 )edit

Thank you. I have to say that I found that part very poorly documented so I found most of that via extensive google searches. But this is not a feature of cmake but more catkin related.

Chrissi gravatar image Chrissi  ( 2014-09-03 14:55:23 -0600 )edit

Wow!!! Chrissi... Respect!

Andromeda gravatar image Andromeda  ( 2014-09-03 15:14:14 -0600 )edit

I was having the same problem but your answer wasn't enough. I had to first build only the first package catkin_make --pkg my_package and then run catkin_make. However, I have this question, does it make sense to my_package to depend on my_other_package? That seems not very good.

Javier V. Gómez gravatar image Javier V. Gómez  ( 2015-05-21 04:39:00 -0600 )edit

I don't get the problem. If you have to build one package first than the dependencies in the second package are not correctly defined. If you follow those instructions it should always work. You have to depend on packages if you use their custom messages.

Chrissi gravatar image Chrissi  ( 2015-05-21 06:07:44 -0600 )edit

I have a srv_pkg (only with srv, no nodes) and user_pkg which depends on srv_pkg. In your first point, you do srv_pkg depend on user_pkg, but I do not understand why. However, it is clear that user_pkg should depend on srv_pkg. I have tried lots of things and couldn't make it work :(

Javier V. Gómez gravatar image Javier V. Gómez  ( 2015-05-21 06:31:29 -0600 )edit

In the example my_package would be your user_pkg and therefore it has to depend on srv_pkg if you then add the ${catkin_EXPORTED_TARGETS} to the add_dependencies and also add srv_pkg to the package.xml of the user_pkg it should build fine.

Chrissi gravatar image Chrissi  ( 2015-05-21 06:48:14 -0600 )edit

answered 2014-08-05 09:13:02 -0600

McMurdo gravatar image

You are probably missing the line

add_dependencies(name_of_exe package_name_generate_messages_cpp)

in your CMakeLists.txt. This line should be present after target_link_libraries for the same exe.

If you have that, you will build the messages before the exe files.

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For some reason THIS is always the line that gets forgotten by most users in the CMake. Anytime, I have a build issue with messages, I always end up needing to add this line to someone's CMake file.

pbeeson gravatar image pbeeson  ( 2016-11-22 09:56:09 -0600 )edit

Thank you! The Creating a ROS msg and srv tutorial doesn't mention this, so I really appreciate your answer.

ntwong0 gravatar image ntwong0  ( 2018-11-16 21:17:35 -0600 )edit

@ntwong0: no, because the next tutorial explains it.

gvdhoorn gravatar image gvdhoorn  ( 2018-11-17 03:12:47 -0600 )edit

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Asked: 2014-08-05 09:00:06 -0600

Seen: 23,256 times

Last updated: Apr 25 '16