C++ – How to include external library (boost) into CLion C++ project with CMake


I have the following setup for C++ development:

  • OS X Yosemite
  • CLion 140.2310.6 (a cross-plattform C/C++-IDE by JetBrains using CMake as build system)
  • installed boost via brew install boost into /usr/local/Cellar/boost/

Now, my goal is to setup a simple project and include the boost library. I defined just one test.cpp file that looks like this:

#include <iostream>
#include <boost>

using namespace std;

int test() {
    cout << "Hello, World!" << endl;
    return 0; 

My CMakeLists.txt file looks like this:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.8.4) 

set(CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS "${CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS} -std=c++11") 


set(SOURCE_FILES main.cpp ./test.cpp)
add_executable(MyProject ${SOURCE_FILES}) 

When I build the project, I get the following error:

fatal error: 'boost' file not found

make[3]: *** [CMakeFiles/MyProject.dir/test.cpp.o] Error 1
make[2]: *** [CMakeFiles/MyProject.dir/all] Error 2
make[1]: *** [CMakeFiles/MyProject.dir/rule] Error 2
make: *** [MyProject] Error 2

I played around with adjusting paths here and there and also using add_library and target_link_libraries, none of which made the project build successfully.

Can someone point into the right direction how to make sure I can include boosts functionality into my CLion C++ project?

Thanks to @Waxo's answer I used the following code in my CMakeLists.txt file which:

set(Boost_INCLUDE_DIR /usr/local/Cellar/boost/1.57.0)
set(Boost_LIBRARY_DIR /usr/local/Cellar/boost/1.57.0/lib)
find_package(Boost COMPONENTS system filesystem REQUIRED)

I now got past the file not found-error, but instead I get the following:

CMake Error at /Applications/CLion

file STRINGS file "/usr/local/Cellar/boost/1.57.0/boost/version.hpp" cannot be read.

Call Stack (most recent call first): CMakeLists.txt:11

Any ideas what I am still missing? The referred line (685) in FindBoost.cmake is:
file(STRINGS "${Boost_INCLUDE_DIR}/boost/version.hpp" _boost_VERSION_HPP_CONTENTS REGEX "#define BOOST_(LIB_)?VERSION ")

Best Solution

After spending the whole afternoon on the issue, I solved it myself. It was a rather stupid mistake and all the hints in @Waxo's answer were really helpful.

The reason why it wasn't working for me that I wrote #include <boost> within my test.cpp-file, which apparently is just wrong. Instead, you need to refer directly to the header files that you actually want to include, so you should rather write e.g. #include <boost/thread.hpp>.

After all, a short sequence of statements should be enough to successfully (and platform-independently) include boost into a CMake project:

find_package(Boost 1.57.0 COMPONENTS system filesystem REQUIRED)
add_executable(BoostTest main.cpp)
target_link_libraries(BoostTest ${Boost_LIBRARIES})

These lines are doing the magic here. For reference, here is a complete CMakeLists.txt file that I used for debugging in a separate command line project:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.8.4)


message(STATUS "start running cmake...")

find_package(Boost 1.57.0 COMPONENTS system filesystem REQUIRED)


    message(STATUS "Boost_INCLUDE_DIRS: ${Boost_INCLUDE_DIRS}")
    message(STATUS "Boost_LIBRARIES: ${Boost_LIBRARIES}")
    message(STATUS "Boost_VERSION: ${Boost_VERSION}")



add_executable(BoostTest main.cpp)


    target_link_libraries(BoostTest ${Boost_LIBRARIES})

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