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This page outlines the steps and resources required to compile OpenSpace on all platforms. You don’t need to follow these instructions just to download and use an OpenSpace binary (when packages become available) but you currently need to be able to compile from source to get the latest version of OpenSpace.

Please read this page first, since it contains details that apply to all platforms. Links to the platform-specific pages are included at the end of the page.

0. Hardware requirements

  • Dedicated graphics card that supports OpenGL 3.3 or higher. Most new graphics cards have this capability, but sometimes you need to update your drivers. Nvidia graphics cards work best, but AMD cards will work (but currently have some known issues).
  • A mouse makes navigation easier than using a trackpad, since you need both left and right mouse buttons
  • Enough disk space (all numbers approximate):
    • 1 GB of disk space to clone the GitHub repository
    • 650 MB of additional disk space to build OpenSpace
    • 10+ GB of disk space to hold the current OpenSpace dataset (about half for Scenes and half for SPICE kernels). Expect that to grow as time goes on.

1. Developer Tools

To compile OpenSpace on any platform you will need a Git client, CMake, and a C++ compiler.

Git Client

see Git for information about a Git client


CMake is a multi-platform project-generation tool. OpenSpace uses CMake so that we can more easily configure and compile OpenSpace on various platforms. We require CMake version 3.12 or above. If you favor the command line you can use the cmake command, but you might also like to know that you can use ccmake, which is CMake with an interactive curses interface.

Compiler / IDE

  • Visual Studio 2019 is the standard Interactive Development Environment (IDE) for Windows
  • XCode is the standard IDE on macOS
  • On Linux you can install either g++ or clang compilers, using either yum or apt-get, and use either emacs or vim, or any other editor of your choice.

OpenSpace is written in C++17 and thus requires modern compiler versions that support a large portion of the new standard. Thus we require the following versions of the compiler:

  • Windows: MSVC Visual Studio 16.7 (Visual Studio 2019)
  • macOS: clang (clang-802.0.42) (shipped with Xcode on Sierra)
  • Linux gcc 8

2. Required libraries

  • SGCT is the Simple Graphics Cluster Toolkit, which was developed at C-Research, Linköping University. SGCT is included as a submodule in OpenSpace, so it will automatically be updated and built.
  • GDAL is the Geospatial Data Abstraction Library. For Windows, this library is contained in the repository, otherwise you it is available via apt-get or homebrew or MacPorts. Suggested version: 2.1.2 or above
  • Qt is used for the launcher / profile editor GUI. Suggested version: 5.10 or above. The open-source version of Qt, if applicable to you, can be obtained here: As of 2020, this installer unfortunately needs a Qt user account. Select the Custom installation and select the newest version and any optional additional packages. Only the core Qt installation (e.g. Qt 6.2.0) is needed to run OpenSpace - no additional Qt packages are required. For Windows, make sure to get the Qt version that is called MSVC 2019 64-bit.

3. Compiling

Roughly speaking, the following steps are taken on any platform:

  1. Clone the Git repository including all submodules. If you use the commandline for this, a standard command would be: git clone --recursive --branch master This example specifies the master branch, but another branch name can be substituted (read Branching Model for more information about git branches).
  2. Start CMake and “Configure” using the CMakeLists.txt file in the OpenSpace directory
  3. Once you have the configuration set with no errors, use CMake to “generate” a project file
  4. Compile

Follow one of the linked instruction pages for your specific platform:

4. After compiling

  • See the Getting Started Guide: Using OpenSpace page for how to get started with running and using OpenSpace. The first time you run OpenSpace you should run the Launcher and sync at least one Scene to be able to view something.
  • The Coding Style describe the general coding guidelines that are applicable to the Ghoul and OpenSpace repository
  • See the OpenSpace Layout page for more information about the structure of OpenSpace directories
  • See the Deploy to a Windows Machine page for additional information about what goes where on Windows (and how to copy from one machine to another).
  • The source code is written in C++17 with the feature set supported by Visual Studio 2019.7. The available features are detailed here
  • Developers, before committing to the repository, read the post about Structuring commit messages. In general you can push to the feature branch you have been working on, but do not push directly to the master branch. Instead, send a Pull Requests.
  • Some useful information about C++ can be found in the form of C++ Core Guidelines and Exception Handling

5. FAQ


CMake Error at ext/ghoul/CMakeLists.txt:74 (include):
 include could not find load file:


You have called ADD_LIBRARY for library Ghoul without any source files. This typically indicates a problem with your CMakeLists.txt file
CMake Error at ext/ghoul/CMakeLists.txt:304 (find_package):
 By not providing \"FindGLM.cmake\" in CMAKE_MODULE_PATH this project has
 asked CMake to find a package configuration file provided by \"GLM\", but
 CMake did not find one.

 Could not find a package configuration file provided by \"GLM\" with any of
 the following names:


 Add the installation prefix of \"GLM\" to CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH or set \"GLM_DIR\"
 to a directory containing one of the above files.  If \"GLM\" provides a
 separate development package or SDK, be sure it has been installed.

A: The Git clone was not done recursively and thus the Ghoul CMakeLists.txt file is missing. Please reclone the repository using the --recursive flag