More detailed make instruction

The full syntax of the make command is the following, but parts of the command can be left out if you run it from other directories than the root (as you might already have noticed by reading the simple instructions).

<keyboard>-<subproject>-<keymap>-<target>, where:

  • <keyboard> is the name of the keyboard, for example planck
    • Use allkb to compile all keyboards
  • <subproject> is the name of the subproject (revision or sub-model of the keyboard). For example, for Ergodox it can be ez or infinity, and for Planck rev3 or rev4.
    • If the keyboard doesn't have any subprojects, it can be left out
    • To compile the default subproject, you can leave it out, or specify defaultsp
    • Use allsp to compile all subprojects
  • <keymap> is the name of the keymap, for example algernon
    • Use allkm to compile all keymaps
  • <target> will be explained in more detail below.

Note: When you leave some parts of the command out, you should also remove the dash (-).

As mentioned above, there are some shortcuts, when you are in a:

  • keyboard folder, the command will automatically fill the <keyboard> part. So you only need to type <subproject>-<keymap>-<target>
  • subproject folder, it will fill in both <keyboard> and <subproject>
  • keymap folder, then <keyboard> and <keymap> will be filled in. If you need to specify the <subproject> use the following syntax <subproject>-<target>
    • Note in order to support this shortcut, the keymap needs its own Makefile (see the example here)
  • keymap folder of a subproject, then everything except the <target> will be filled in

The <target> means the following

  • If no target is given, then it's the same as all below
  • all compiles the keyboard and generates a <keyboard>_<keymap>.hex file in whichever folder you run make from. These files are ignored by git, so don't worry about deleting them when committing/creating pull requests.
  • dfu, teensy or dfu-util, compile and upload the firmware to the keyboard. If the compilation fails, then nothing will be uploaded. The programmer to use depends on the keyboard. For most keyboards it's dfu, but for Infinity keyboards you should use dfu-util, and teensy for standard Teensys. To find out which command you should use for your keyboard, check the keyboard specific readme. Note that some operating systems needs root access for these commands to work, so in that case you need to run for example sudo make dfu.
  • clean, cleans the build output folders to make sure that everything is built from scratch. Run this before normal compilation if you have some unexplainable problems.

Some other targets are supported but, but not important enough to be documented here. Check the source code of the make files for more information.

You can also add extra options at the end of the make command line, after the target

  • make COLOR=false - turns off color output
  • make SILENT=true - turns off output besides errors/warnings
  • make VERBOSE=true - outputs all of the gcc stuff (not interesting, unless you need to debug)
  • make EXTRAFLAGS=-E - Preprocess the code without doing any compiling (useful if you are trying to debug #define commands)

The make command itself also has some additional options, type make --help for more information. The most useful is probably -jx, which specifies that you want to compile using more than one CPU, the x represents the number of CPUs that you want to use. Setting that can greatly reduce the compile times, especially if you are compiling many keyboards/keymaps. I usually set it to one less than the number of CPUs that I have, so that I have some left for doing other things while it's compiling. Note that not all operating systems and make versions supports that option.

Here are some examples commands

  • make allkb-allsp-allkm builds everything (all keyboards, all subprojects, all keymaps). Running just make from the root will also run this.
  • make from within a keyboard directory, is the same as make keyboard-allsp-allkm, which compiles all subprojects and keymaps of the keyboard. NOTE that this behaviour has changed. Previously it compiled just the default keymap.
  • make ergodox-infinity-algernon-clean will clean the build output of the Ergodox Infinity keyboard. This example uses the full syntax and can be run from any folder with a Makefile
  • make dfu COLOR=false from within a keymap folder, builds and uploads the keymap, but without color output.

The Makefile

There are 5 different make and Makefile locations:

  • root (/)
  • keyboard (/keyboards/<keyboard>/)
  • keymap (/keyboards/<keyboard>/keymaps/<keymap>/)
  • subproject (/keyboards/<keyboard>/<subproject>)
  • subproject keymap (/keyboards/<keyboard>/<subproject>/keymaps/<keymap>)

The root contains the code used to automatically figure out which keymap or keymaps to compile based on your current directory and commandline arguments. It's considered stable, and shouldn't be modified. The keyboard one will contain the MCU set-up and default settings for your keyboard, and shouldn't be modified unless you are the producer of that keyboard. The keymap Makefile can be modified by users, and is optional. It is included automatically if it exists. You can see an example here - the last few lines are the most important. The settings you set here will override any defaults set in the keyboard Makefile. The file is required if you want to run make in the keymap folder.

For keyboards and subprojects, the make files are split in two parts Makefile and All settings can be found in the file, while the Makefile is just there for support and including the root Makefile. Keymaps contain just one Makefile for simplicity.

Makefile options

Set these variables to no to disable them, and yes to enable them.


This allows you to hold a key and the salt key (space by default) and have access to a various EEPROM settings that persist over power loss. It's advised you keep this disabled, as the settings are often changed by accident, and produce confusing results that makes it difficult to debug. It's one of the more common problems encountered in help sessions.

Consumes about 1000 bytes.


This gives you control over cursor movements and clicks via keycodes/custom functions.


This allows you to use the system and audio control key codes.


This allows you to print messages that can be read using hid_listen.

By default, all debug (dprint) print (print, xprintf), and user print (uprint) messages will be enabled. This will eat up a significant portion of the flash and may make the keyboard .hex file too big to program.

To disable debug messages (dprint) and reduce the .hex file size, include #define NO_DEBUG in your config.h file.

To disable print messages (print, xprintf) and user print messages (uprint) and reduce the .hex file size, include #define NO_PRINT in your config.h file.

To disable print messages (print, xprintf) and KEEP user print messages (uprint), include #define USER_PRINT in your config.h file.

To see the text, open hid_listen and enjoy looking at your printed messages.

NOTE: Do not include uprint messages in anything other than your keymap code. It must not be used within the QMK system framework. Otherwise, you will bloat other people's .hex files.

Consumes about 400 bytes.


This enables magic commands, typically fired with the default magic key combo LSHIFT+RSHIFT+KEY. Magic commands include turning on debugging messages (MAGIC+D) or temporarily toggling NKRO (MAGIC+N).


Enables your LED to breath while your computer is sleeping. Timer1 is being used here. This feature is largely unused and untested, and needs updating/abstracting.


This allows the keyboard to tell the host OS that up to 248 keys are held down at once (default without NKRO is 6). NKRO is off by default, even if NKRO_ENABLE is set. NKRO can be forced by adding #define FORCE_NKRO to your config.h or by binding MAGIC_TOGGLE_NKRO to a key and then hitting the key.


This enables your backlight on Timer1 and ports B5, B6, or B7 (for now). You can specify your port by putting this in your config.h:



This enables MIDI sending and receiving with your keyboard. To enter MIDI send mode, you can use the keycode MI_ON, and MI_OFF to turn it off. This is a largely untested feature, but more information can be found in the quantum/quantum.c file.


This allows you to send unicode symbols via UC(<unicode>) in your keymap. Only codes up to 0x7FFF are currently supported.


This allows sending unicode symbols using X(<unicode>) in your keymap. Codes up to 0xFFFFFFFF are supported, including emojis. You will need to maintain a separate mapping table in your keymap file.

Known limitations:

  • Under Mac OS, only codes up to 0xFFFF are supported.
  • Under Linux ibus, only codes up to 0xFFFFF are supported (but anything important is still under this limit for now).

Characters out of range supported by the OS will be ignored.


This allows you to interface with a Bluefruit EZ-key to send keycodes wirelessly. It uses the D2 and D3 pins.


This allows you output audio on the C6 pin (needs abstracting). See the audio section for more information.


Uses buzzer to emulate clicky switches. A cheap imitation of the Cherry blue switches. By default, uses the C6 pin, same as AUDIO_ENABLE.


Use this to debug changes to variable values, see the tracing variables section for more information.


This enables using the Quantum SYSEX API to send strings (somewhere?)

This consumes about 5390 bytes.

Customizing Makefile options on a per-keymap basis

If your keymap directory has a file called Makefile (note the filename), any Makefile options you set in that file will take precedence over other Makefile options for your particular keyboard.

So let's say your keyboard's makefile has BACKLIGHT_ENABLE = yes (or maybe doesn't even list the BACKLIGHT_ENABLE option, which would cause it to be off). You want your particular keymap to not have the debug console, so you make a file called Makefile and specify BACKLIGHT_ENABLE = no.

You can use the docs/ as a template/starting point.

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