This directory contains CMake files that can be used to build protobuf with MSVC on Windows. You can build the project from Command Prompt and using an Visual Studio IDE.

You need to have CMake, Visual Studio and optionally Git installed on your computer before proceeding.

Most of the instructions will be given to the Сommand Prompt, but the same actions can be performed using appropriate GUI tools.

# Environment Setup

Open the appropriate Command Prompt from the Start menu.

For example x86 Native Tools Command Prompt for VS 2019:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Professional>


C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Professional>cd C:\Path\to
C:\Path\to>


Where C:\Path\to is path to your real working directory.

Create a folder where protobuf headers/libraries/binaries will be installed after built:

C:\Path\to>mkdir install


If cmake command is not available from Command Prompt, add it to system PATH variable:

C:\Path\to>set PATH=%PATH%;C:\Program Files (x86)\CMake\bin


If git command is not available from Command Prompt, add it to system PATH variable:

C:\Path\to>set PATH=%PATH%;C:\Program Files\Git\cmd


C:\Path\to>set PATH=%PATH%;C:\tools\ninja


Good. Now you are ready to continue.

# Getting Sources

You can get the latest stable source packages from the release page:

https://github.com/protocolbuffers/protobuf/releases/latest


For example: if you only need C++, download protobuf-cpp-[VERSION].tar.gz; if you need C++ and Java, download protobuf-java-[VERSION].tar.gz (every package contains C++ source already); if you need C++ and multiple other languages, download protobuf-all-[VERSION].tar.gz.

Or you can use git to clone from protobuf git repository.

 C:\Path\to> mkdir src & cd src
C:\Path\to\src> git clone -b [release_tag] https://github.com/protocolbuffers/protobuf.git


Where [release_tag] is a git tag like v3.0.0-beta-1 or a branch name like master if you want to get the latest code.

Go to the project folder:

 C:\Path\to\src> cd protobuf
C:\Path\to\src\protobuf>


Remember to update any submodules if you are using git clone (you can skip this step if you are using a release .tar.gz or .zip package):

C:\Path\to\src\protobuf> git submodule update --init --recursive


Good. Now you are ready for CMake configuration.

# CMake Configuration

CMake supports a lot of different generators for various native build systems.

Of most interest to Windows programmers are the following:

• Makefile. This generates NMake Makefiles for Visual Studio. These work, but they are rather slow.

• Visual Studio This generates a Visual Studio solution for the project.

• Ninja This uses the external tool Ninja to build. It is the fastest solution available.

Note that as of Visual Studio 2015, Visual Studio includes support for opening directly CMake-based projects.

It is considered good practice not to build CMake projects in the source tree but in a separate folder.

Create a temporary build folder and change your working directory to it:

 mkdir C:\Path\to\build\protobuf
cd C:\Path\to\build\protobuf
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>


The Makefile and Ninja generators can build the project in only one configuration, so you need to build a separate folder for each configuration.

To start using a Release configuration via the NMmake generator:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir release & cd release
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\release>cmake -G "NMake Makefiles" ^
-DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ^
-DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^
C:\Path\to\src\protobuf


It will generate a NMake Makefile in the current directory.

To use Debug configuration using Ninja:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir debug & cd debug
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\debug>cmake -G "Ninja" ^
-DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug ^
-DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^
C:\Path\to\src\protobuf


It will generate Ninja build scripts in current directory.

The Visual Studio generator is multi-configuration: it will generate a single .sln file that can be used for both Debug and Release:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir solution & cd solution
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution>cmake -G "Visual Studio 16 2019" ^
-DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^
C:\Path\to\src\protobuf


It will generate Visual Studio solution file protobuf.sln in current directory.

## Unit Tests

Unit tests are being built along with the rest of protobuf. The unit tests require Google Mock (now a part of Google Test).

A copy of Google Test is included as a Git submodule in the third-party/googletest folder. (You do need to initialize the Git submodules as explained above.)

Alternately, you may want to use protobuf in a larger set-up, you may want to use that standard CMake approach where you build and install a shared copy of Google Test.

After you've built and installed your Google Test copy, you need add the following definition to your cmake command line during the configuration step: -Dprotobuf_USE_EXTERNAL_GTEST=ON. This will cause the standard CMake find_package(GTest REQUIRED) to be used.

find_package will search in a default location, which on Windows is C:\Program Files. This is most likely not what you want. You will want instead to search for Google Test in your project‘s root directory (i.e. the same directory you’ve passed to CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX when building Google Test). For this, you need to set the CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH CMake variable. (There are other ways in CMake, see the manual for details.)

For example:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf>mkdir solution & cd solution
C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution>cmake -G "Visual Studio 16 2019" ^
-DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^
-DCMAKE_PREFIX_PATH=C:\Path\to\my_big_project ^
-Dprotobuf_USE_EXTERNAL_GTEST=ON ^
C:\Path\to\src\protobuf


In most cases, CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH and CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX will point to the same directory.

To disable testing completely, you need to add the following argument to you cmake command line: -Dprotobuf_BUILD_TESTS=OFF.

For example:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution>cmake -G "Visual Studio 16 2019" ^
-DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install ^
-Dprotobuf_BUILD_TESTS=OFF ^
C:\Path\to\src\protobuf


# Compiling

The standard way to compile a CMake project is cmake --build <directory>.

Note that if your generator supports multiple configurations, you will probably want to specify which one to build:

 cmake --build C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution --config Release


You can also run directly the build tool you've configured:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\release>nmake


or

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\debug>ninja


And wait for the compilation to finish.

If you prefer to use the IDE:

• Open the generated protobuf.sln file in Microsoft Visual Studio.
• Choose “Debug” or “Release” configuration as desired.
• From the Build menu, choose “Build Solution”.

And wait for the compilation to finish.

# Testing

To run unit-tests, first you must compile protobuf as described above. Then run:

 C:\Path\to\protobuf\cmake\build\release>ctest --progress --output-on-failure


You can also build the check target (not idiomatic CMake usage, though):

 C:\Path\to\protobuf\cmake\build\release>cmake --build . --target check


or

C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\release>ninja check


You can also build project check from Visual Studio solution. Yes, it may sound strange, but it works.

You should see output similar to:

 Running main() from gmock_main.cc
[==========] Running 1546 tests from 165 test cases.

...

[==========] 1546 tests from 165 test cases ran. (2529 ms total)
[  PASSED  ] 1546 tests.


To run specific tests, you need to pass some command line arguments to the test program itself:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\release>tests.exe --gtest_filter=AnyTest*
Running main() from gmock_main.cc
Note: Google Test filter = AnyTest*
[==========] Running 3 tests from 1 test case.
[----------] Global test environment set-up.
[----------] 3 tests from AnyTest
[ RUN      ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpack
[       OK ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpack (0 ms)
[ RUN      ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpackAny
[       OK ] AnyTest.TestPackAndUnpackAny (0 ms)
[ RUN      ] AnyTest.TestIs
[       OK ] AnyTest.TestIs (0 ms)
[----------] 3 tests from AnyTest (1 ms total)

[----------] Global test environment tear-down
[==========] 3 tests from 1 test case ran. (2 ms total)
[  PASSED  ] 3 tests.


Note that the tests must be run from the source folder.

If all tests are passed, safely continue.

# Installing

To install protobuf to the install folder you've specified in the configuration step, you need to build the install target:

 cmake --build C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\solution --config Release --target install


Or if you prefer:

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\release>nmake install


or

 C:\Path\to\build\protobuf\debug>ninja install


You can also build project INSTALL from Visual Studio solution. It sounds not so strange and it works.

This will create the following folders under the install location:

• bin - that contains protobuf protoc.exe compiler;
• include - that contains C++ headers and protobuf *.proto files;
• lib - that contains linking libraries and CMake configuration files for protobuf package.

Now you can if needed:

• Copy the contents of the include directory to wherever you want to put headers.
• Copy protoc.exe wherever you put build tools (probably somewhere in your PATH).
• Copy linking libraries libprotobuf[d].lib, libprotobuf-lite[d].lib, and libprotoc[d].lib wherever you put libraries.

To avoid conflicts between the MSVC debug and release runtime libraries, when compiling a debug build of your application, you may need to link against a debug build of libprotobufd.lib with “d” postfix. Similarly, release builds should link against release libprotobuf.lib library.

Static linking is now the default for the Protocol Buffer libraries. Due to issues with Win32‘s use of a separate heap for each DLL, as well as binary compatibility issues between different versions of MSVC’s STL library, it is recommended that you use static linkage only. However, it is possible to build libprotobuf and libprotoc as DLLs if you really want. To do this, do the following:

• Add an additional flag -Dprotobuf_BUILD_SHARED_LIBS=ON when invoking cmake
• Follow the same steps as described in the above section.
• When compiling your project, make sure to #define PROTOBUF_USE_DLLS.

When distributing your software to end users, we strongly recommend that you do NOT install libprotobuf.dll or libprotoc.dll to any shared location. Instead, keep these libraries next to your binaries, in your application's own install directory. C++ makes it very difficult to maintain binary compatibility between releases, so it is likely that future versions of these libraries will not be usable as drop-in replacements.

If your project is itself a DLL intended for use by third-party software, we recommend that you do NOT expose protocol buffer objects in your library's public interface, and that you statically link protocol buffers into your library.

# ZLib support

If you want to include GzipInputStream and GzipOutputStream (google/protobuf/io/gzip_stream.h) in libprotobuf, you will need to do a few additional steps.

Obtain a copy of the zlib library. The pre-compiled DLL at zlib.net works. You need prepare it:

• Make sure zlib's two headers are in your C:\Path\to\install\include path
• Make sure zlib's linking libraries (*.lib file) is in your C:\Path\to\install\lib library path.

You can also compile it from source by yourself.

Getting sources:

 C:\Path\to\src>git clone -b v1.2.8 https://github.com/madler/zlib.git
C:\Path\to\src>cd zlib


Compiling and Installing:

 C:\Path\to\src\zlib>mkdir C:\Path\to\build\zlib & cd C:\Path\to\build\zlib
C:\Path\to\build\zlib>mkdir release & cd release
C:\Path\to\build\zlib\release>cmake -G "Ninja" -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ^
-DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=C:\Path\to\install C:\Path\to\src\zlib
C:\Path\to\src\zlib\build\release>cmake --build . --target install


You can make debug version or use Visual Studio generator also as before for the protobuf project.

Now add bin folder from install to system PATH:

 C:\Path\to>set PATH=%PATH%;C:\Path\to\install\bin


You need reconfigure protobuf with flag -Dprotobuf_WITH_ZLIB=ON when invoking cmake.

Note that if you have compiled ZLIB yourself, as stated above, further disable the option -Dprotobuf_MSVC_STATIC_RUNTIME=OFF.

If it reports NOTFOUND for zlib_include or zlib_lib, you might haven't put the headers or the .lib file in the right directory.

If you already have ZLIB library and headers at some other location on your system then alternatively you can define following configuration flags to locate them:

 -DZLIB_INCLUDE_DIR=<path to dir containing zlib headers>
-DZLIB_LIB=<path to dir containing zlib>


Build and testing protobuf as usual.

# Notes on Compiler Warnings

The following warnings have been disabled while building the protobuf libraries and compiler. You may have to disable some of them in your own project as well, or live with them.

• C4244 - Conversion from ‘type1’ to ‘type2’, possible loss of data.
• C4251 - ‘identifier’ : class ‘type’ needs to have dll-interface to be used by clients of class ‘type2’
• C4267 - Conversion from ‘size_t’ to ‘type’, possible loss of data.
• C4305 - ‘identifier’ : truncation from ‘type1’ to ‘type2’
• C4355 - ‘this’ : used in base member initializer list
• C4800 - ‘type’ : forcing value to bool ‘true’ or ‘false’ (performance warning)
• C4996 - ‘function’: was declared deprecated

C4251 is of particular note, if you are compiling the Protocol Buffer library as a DLL (see previous section). The protocol buffer library uses templates in its public interfaces. MSVC does not provide any reasonable way to export template classes from a DLL. However, in practice, it appears that exporting templates is not necessary anyway. Since the complete definition of any template is available in the header files, anyone importing the DLL will just end up compiling instances of the templates into their own binary. The Protocol Buffer implementation does not rely on static template members being unique, so there should be no problem with this, but MSVC prints warning nevertheless. So, we disable it. Unfortunately, this warning will also be produced when compiling code which merely uses protocol buffers, meaning you may have to disable it in your code too.