Building Spirit on Unix/OSX

Binary packages are currently not provided! Therefore, you need to build the Spirit core library or the desktop user interface yourself.

The Spirit framework is designed to run across different platforms and uses CMake for its build process, which will generate the appropriate build scripts for each platform.

Core library


  • cmake >= 3.10
  • compiler with C++14 support, e.g. gcc >= 5.1


CMake is used to automatically generate makefiles.

# enter the top-level Spirit directory
$ cd spirit

# make a build directory and enter that
$ mkdir build
$ cd build

# Generate makefiles
$ cmake ..

# Build
$ make

Note that you can use the -j option of make to run the build in parallel.

To manually specify the build type (default is ‘Release’), call cmake --build . --config Release instead of make.

Desktop GUI

By default, the Qt desktop GUI will try to build. The corresponding CMake option is SPIRIT_UI_CXX_USE_QT. To build the immediate mode (IM GUI) instead, use SPIRIT_UI_USE_IMGUI=ON.

Additional requirements

  • OpenGL drivers >= 3.3
  • On Linux, the IM GUI requires xorg-dev and libglu1-mesa-dev or equivalent
  • The Qt GUI requires Qt >= 5.7 (including qt-charts)

Necessary OpenGL drivers should be available through the regular drivers for any remotely modern graphics card.

Python package

The Python package is built by default. The corresponding CMake option is SPIRIT_BUILD_FOR_PYTHON. The package is then located at core/python. You can then

  • make it locatable, e.g. by adding path/to/spirit/core/python to your PYTHONPATH
  • cd core/python and pip install -e . --user to install it

Alternatively, the most recent release version can be installed from the official package, e.g. pip install spirit --user.

OpenMP backend

The OpenMP backend can be used to speed up calculations by using a multicore CPU.

At least version 4.5 of OpenMP needs to be supported by your compiler.


You need to set the corresponding CMake variable, e.g. by calling

cd build
cd ..

CUDA backend

The CUDA backend can be used to speed up calculations by using a GPU.

Spirit uses unified memory. At least version 8 of the CUDA toolkit is required and the GPU needs compute capability 3.0 or higher!

If the GUI is used, compute capability 6.0 or higher is required! (see the CUDA programming guide: coherency)

Note that the GUI cannot be used on the CUDA backend on OSX! (see the CUDA programming guide: coherency and requirements)

Note: the precision of the core will be automatically set to float in order to avoid the performance cost of double precision operations on GPUs.


You need to set the corresponding SPIRIT_USE_CUDA CMake variable, e.g. by calling

cd build
cd ..

You may additionally need to

  • pass the CUDA_TOOLKIT_ROOT_DIR to cmake or edit it in the root CMakeLists.txt
  • select the appropriate arch for your GPU using the SPIRIT_CUDA_ARCH CMake variable

Web apps

Using emscripten, the Spirit core library and ImGUI app can be built to web assembly (wasm), meaning they can be run in the browser.

The CMake options you need to set to ON is called SPIRIT_BUILD_FOR_JS and SPIRIT_UI_USE_IMGUI.

You need to have emscripten available, meaning you might need to source, e.g. source /usr/local/bin/

Then to build, call

cd build
cmake .. -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE=/usr/local/emsdk/emscripten/1.38.29/cmake/Modules/Platform/Emscripten.cmake
cd ..

You will then have the mobile-capable app in the ui-web folder and the desktop app in ui-cpp/ui-imgui/webapp.

Further build configuration options

More options than described above are available, allowing for example to deactivate building the Python library or the unit tests.

To list all available build options, call

cd build
cmake -LH ..

The build options of Spirit all start with SPIRIT_.


Please note that the following steps are not well-tested!

This step is not needed, unless you wish to have spirit in your system directories or to create a .app bundle on OSX. You can set the installation directory during the configuration stage, i.e.

cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX:PATH=/usr/local ..

or point it to a local folder, e.g. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX:PATH=./install.

OSX .app bundle and installer

If you want to create a redistributable bundle on OSX, use

cd build
make install

This will gather dependencies, such as Qt dlls, in a .app folder and fix the link paths to make it redistributable. This app can be redistributed or “installed” by placing it in your “Applications” directory.

You may need to update permissions,

chmod -R +x build/

Note that the bundle is already built with the regular make command. To make it redistributable, it is necessary to use make install.

You can also create an installer as follows:

mkdir -p build && cd build
make -j
make package

Note that one can choose the generator as cpack -G DragNDrop.