Building on Microsoft Windows

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This page is directed towards new developers that are interested in contributing to Octave. If you just want to install Octave, see Category:Installation.
For general Octave build instructions on Linux, read Building.

Contributing to Octave[edit]

Octave development is done mainly on Linux. But if you are running Windows, you can contribute to Octave nevertheless.

The easiest way to contribute (not only from Windows) is probably by changing or adding .m files.

If you found something you'd like to fix or improve, check out the bug tracker. It might have already been fixed in the development or (unreleased) stable version.

Octave is version controlled in a Mercurial repository at https://www.octave.org/hg/octave.

There are several Mercurial clients for Windows. One that nicely integrates with the Windows Explorer and that offers an easy to learn user interface is TortoiseHg. It is also quite easy to create Mercurial patches with that software. Those are the preferred way of contributing to Octave.

Building Octave[edit]

If you want to contribute changes to C++ files or are interested in testing the latest development or (unreleased) stable release, you can build Octave from source.

It seems to be possible to build Octave natively on Windows with the MSYS2 shell. (Be aware that this might take some time.) It is also possible to build Octave on Windows machines using virtual machines or Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Linux. The latter is the preferred way to build Octave.

Building Octave natively on Windows is experimental! The only supported way of creating Windows binaries of Octave is cross-building with MXE Octave (Windows Installer).

Virtual Machine[edit]

Most of Octave's developers are running Debian or Ubuntu [1]. So these are probably the Linux distributions for which you are most likely to get help if you should run into issues. The following focuses mainly on Ubuntu.

VMWare Player is free (as in no costs) for non-commercial use.

There are several sources for free complete Linux VM images on the web. One of them is osboxes.org. You can download an Ubuntu image for VMWare Player from their side. After the download has finished, unzip the image.

You also need a .vmx file to be able to start the Virtual Machine with VMWare Player. To create a .vmx file with minimal settings, open a text editor and save the following to a file called Ubuntu.vmx next to the VM image you downloaded:

File: Ubuntu.vmx
.encoding = "windows-1252"
config.version = "8"
virtualHW.version = "8"
scsi0.present = "TRUE"
scsi0.virtualDev = "lsilogic"
memsize = "2048"
scsi0:0.present = "TRUE"
scsi0:0.fileName = "Ubuntu.vmdk"
ethernet0.present = "TRUE"
ethernet0.virtualDev = "e1000"
displayName = "Ubuntu"
guestOS = "ubuntu-64"
virtualHW.productCompatibility = "hosted"

Change the line with Ubuntu.vmdk to the actual file name of the Ubuntu image you just downloaded.

You can start the VM by double-clicking on the .vmx file you just created.

Change the amount of memory or the number of processors you want to assign to the VM in the Virtual Machine settings in VMWare Player.

The login data for VMs downloaded from osboxes is:
username: osboxes
password: osboxes.org

Once you started the VM and logged in, continue as if you would run Ubuntu natively.

Windows Subsystem for Linux[edit]

The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) was not very interesting for serious development in its first version. Many of the shortcomings (like tediously slow "fork" and "stat") have been fixed in WSL2 which was released together with Windows 10 Update 2004.

To install WSL2 on Windows, follow the instructions by Microsoft.

WSL2 is basically a virtual machine running the Linux kernel that is more closely integrated into Windows. But it also has some limitations (see below).

Again it is possible to choose from several different Linux distributions. But for reasons already mentioned, you should choose Ubuntu.

Once you logged in to Ubuntu on WSL, continue as if you would run Ubuntu natively.

WSL (or WSL2) does not contain an X server. The X server on Linux is necessary to present program windows to the users. So by default, WSL is only a command line interface. You can start that command line interface with the "Ubuntu" shortcut in the start menu.

If you want to run the Octave GUI, you can install an X server. There are several you can choose from. One of them is VcXsrv. When you start VcXsrv, choose "Multiple Windows", "Start no client", deselect "Native opengl", and select "Disable access control" to be able to use the X server from WSL. Additionally, append the following lines to your .bashrc file in the home directory on the WSL Ubuntu:

export DISPLAY=$(awk '/nameserver / {print $2; exit}' /etc/resolv.conf 2>/dev/null):0
export LIBGL_ALWAYS_INDIRECT=1

You can access that file via the share "\\wsl$\Ubuntu\home\username\.bashrc" (where "Ubuntu" is the name of the distribution you installed and "username" is your username on that distribution.

Because of the basic lack of a graphical user interface (even if somewhat mitigated with the X server), using WSL(2) is not recommended for beginners.

Building natively (MSYS2)[edit]

Octave can also be compiled natively on Windows with the MSYS2 shell.

To set up a native build environment on Windows, download and install MSYS2 following the instructions on their website.

Use the "MSYS2 MinGW 64bit" shell for building Octave.

The following command can be used to install the necessary and optional build and run-time dependencies in MSYS2:

pacman -S base-devel mingw-w64-x86_64-toolchain mingw-w64-x86_64-lapack mingw-w64-x86_64-openblas mingw-w64-x86_64-pcre \
  mingw-w64-x86_64-arpack mingw-w64-x86_64-curl mingw-w64-x86_64-fftw mingw-w64-x86_64-fltk mingw-w64-x86_64-gl2ps mingw-w64-x86_64-glpk mingw-w64-x86_64-ghostscript mingw-w64-x86_64-gnuplot mingw-w64-x86_64-graphicsmagick mingw-w64-x86_64-hdf5 mingw-w64-x86_64-libsndfile mingw-w64-x86_64-portaudio mingw-w64-x86_64-qhull mingw-w64-x86_64-qrupdate mingw-w64-x86_64-qscintilla mingw-w64-x86_64-qt5 mingw-w64-x86_64-rapidjson mingw-w64-x86_64-suitesparse mingw-w64-x86_64-sundials \
  git mercurial mingw-w64-x86_64-ccache mingw-w64-x86_64-icoutils mingw-w64-x86_64-librsvg texinfo \
  unzip zip

Using ccache is optional. It speeds up compilation time but needs several GiB free disk space for its cache. If disk space is an issue, this step can be skipped. To prepend the path to the ccache helper scripts to the front of the PATH variable, add the following line near the end of the .bash_profile file in your MSYS2 $HOME directory:

export PATH="/mingw64/lib/ccache/bin:$PATH"

Like installing the build dependencies, this has to be done only once.

To build from the development sources, check out the Mercurial repository and run the bootstrap script:

hg clone https://www.octave.org/hg/octave
cd octave
./bootstrap

Create a sub-directory to avoid building in the source tree:

mkdir -p .build
cd .build

Configure with the following flags:

../configure \
  CC="x86_64-w64-mingw32-gcc" \
  CXX="x86_64-w64-mingw32-g++" \
  F77="x86_64-w64-mingw32-gfortran" \
  --disable-docs \
  ac_cv_search_tputs=-ltermcap

And build with the following flags:

make all -j8 \
  FLTK_LIBS="-lfltk_gl -lopengl32 -lglu32 -lfltk -lpthread"

If you didn't build with FLTK, omit overriding the respective flag.

Octave doesn't run correctly from the MSYS2 shell due to issues with readline and backslash as a file separator. To be able to work with it anyway, install it with the following commands (from the MSYS2 shell in .build):

make install
ln -sf /mingw64/libexec/octave/7.0.0/exec/x86_64-w64-mingw32/octave-gui.exe /mingw64/bin/octave-gui.exe
ln -sf /mingw64/libexec/octave/7.0.0/exec/x86_64-w64-mingw32/octave-svgconvert.exe /mingw64/bin/octave-svgconvert.exe

The latter two symlinks are only needed when building the GUI (i.e., Qt is not disabled).

Start Octave from a CMD shell (or with a batch script) with the following commands (assuming MSYS2 was installed in its default location):

set PATH=C:\msys64\mingw64\bin;C:\msys64\usr\bin;%PATH%
set MSYSTEM=MINGW64
set TERM=cygwin
set GNUTERM=wxt
set GS=gs.exe
set PERL5SHELL=bash -l -c
octave-gui --gui

If Octave was built without GUI, there won't be an octave-gui executable. In that case, replace the last line with octave-cli.

Footnotes[edit]