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CMake

You can also use the nlohmann_json::nlohmann_json interface target in CMake. This target populates the appropriate usage requirements for INTERFACE_INCLUDE_DIRECTORIES to point to the appropriate include directories and INTERFACE_COMPILE_FEATURES for the necessary C++11 flags.

External

To use this library from a CMake project, you can locate it directly with find_package() and use the namespaced imported target from the generated package configuration:

# CMakeLists.txt
find_package(nlohmann_json 3.2.0 REQUIRED)
...
add_library(foo ...)
...
target_link_libraries(foo PRIVATE nlohmann_json::nlohmann_json)

The package configuration file, nlohmann_jsonConfig.cmake, can be used either from an install tree or directly out of the build tree.

Embedded

To embed the library directly into an existing CMake project, place the entire source tree in a subdirectory and call add_subdirectory() in your CMakeLists.txt file:

# Typically you don't care so much for a third party library's tests to be
# run from your own project's code.
set(JSON_BuildTests OFF CACHE INTERNAL "")

# If you only include this third party in PRIVATE source files, you do not
# need to install it when your main project gets installed.
# set(JSON_Install OFF CACHE INTERNAL "")

# Don't use include(nlohmann_json/CMakeLists.txt) since that carries with it
# unintended consequences that will break the build.  It's generally
# discouraged (although not necessarily well documented as such) to use
# include(...) for pulling in other CMake projects anyways.
add_subdirectory(nlohmann_json)
...
add_library(foo ...)
...
target_link_libraries(foo PRIVATE nlohmann_json::nlohmann_json)

Embedded (FetchContent)

Since CMake v3.11, FetchContent can be used to automatically download the repository as a dependency at configure type.

Example:

include(FetchContent)

FetchContent_Declare(json
  GIT_REPOSITORY https://github.com/nlohmann/json
  GIT_TAG v3.7.3)

FetchContent_GetProperties(json)
if(NOT json_POPULATED)
  FetchContent_Populate(json)
  add_subdirectory(${json_SOURCE_DIR} ${json_BINARY_DIR} EXCLUDE_FROM_ALL)
endif()

target_link_libraries(foo PRIVATE nlohmann_json::nlohmann_json)

Note

The repository https://github.com/nlohmann/json download size is huge. It contains all the dataset used for the benchmarks. You might want to depend on a smaller repository. For instance, you might want to replace the URL above by https://github.com/ArthurSonzogni/nlohmann_json_cmake_fetchcontent.

Supporting Both

To allow your project to support either an externally supplied or an embedded JSON library, you can use a pattern akin to the following:

# Top level CMakeLists.txt
project(FOO)
...
option(FOO_USE_EXTERNAL_JSON "Use an external JSON library" OFF)
...
add_subdirectory(thirdparty)
...
add_library(foo ...)
...
# Note that the namespaced target will always be available regardless of the
# import method
target_link_libraries(foo PRIVATE nlohmann_json::nlohmann_json)
# thirdparty/CMakeLists.txt
...
if(FOO_USE_EXTERNAL_JSON)
  find_package(nlohmann_json 3.2.0 REQUIRED)
else()
  set(JSON_BuildTests OFF CACHE INTERNAL "")
  add_subdirectory(nlohmann_json)
endif()
...

thirdparty/nlohmann_json is then a complete copy of this source tree.