Build visit quickstart


Building VisIt is really a two-step process. The first step is to build the third party libraries. The second step is to build VisIt itself against these third party libraries. A script called build_visit manages this entire process. It downloads the third party libraries, patches them to deal with OS quirks, compiles the third party libraries, then downloads VisIt and builds it against those third party libraries. When successful, build_visit can spare you from all the nasty details of the VisIt build process.


The options for build_visit are documented here.

build_visit also downloads the VisIt source code. build_visit releases are paired up with VisIt releases. If you get build_visit for release 2.1, it will get the source code for release 2.1. If you get build_visit from the trunk, it will always get the source code from the trunk.

How to get build_visit

  • For the latest released version, look here.
  • For the trunk, call:
svn cat > build_visit
svn co
chmod 755 build_visit

How to run build_visit

To have build_visit download and build all third party libraries and the VisIt source code:

./build_visit --makeflags -j4

If you want to store the third party libraries in a permanent place, we recommend you use the --thirdparty-path option.

mkdir /path/to/visit/3rdparty
./build_visit --thirdparty-path /path/to/visit/3rdparty --makeflags -j4

FAQ about the build process

Saving your work

  • Q: I anticipate building VisIt many times. Do I really need to build the third party libraries repeatedly?
  • A: No, you do not need to build the third party libraries repeatedly. build_visit will produce a file name "$(hostname).cmake", where $(hostname) is the name of your computer. The compilation of VisIt itself uses this ".cmake" file to locate the third party libraries. You can re-use your third-party library builds by simply re-using the .cmake file. Simply copy the .cmake file into VisIt's trunk/src/config-site directory and then run cmake on the VisIt sources.

Using unsupported versions of third party libraries

  • Q: Many operating systems come with versions of Qt, Python, etc. Can I use those versions instead of building them?
  • A: VisIt developers prefer that you use known versions of third party libraries. This is primarily because if you use an unsupported version, and if VisIt crashes, then it is unclear where the blame lies (in the unsupported version versus in VisIt). By using only supported versions of third party libraries, we can avoid this problem.
    • You are probably OK using existing versions of Qt, Python, and HDF5. That said, we have made changes to VTK and it is important that you only use the version we support.

How to tell build_visit to not build Qt/HDF5/Python

  build_visit --no-thirdparty

This option will disable the download and the building of the required 3rd party libraries.

 build_visit --no-thirdparty --mesa --vtk --qt

This would build Mesa, VTK, & Qt, but would not build Python.

How to tell the build of VisIt itself which third party library to use

As previously mentioned, build_visit generates a ".cmake" config-site file. That file sets up environment variables that VisIt's CMake build system uses. You can direct VisIt's build system to use your version of the third party library by editing the .cmake file to have its environment variables point at your install locations. For more information about VisIt's CMake build system, see VisIt CMake Build System.