Octave for Debian systems

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For Debian, and Debian based distributions such as Ubuntu, specific solutions.

Pre-compiled binaries

Binary packages for Octave and many Octave-Forge packages are provided by all versions of Debian and Ubuntu. These are the most well-tested binaries available and should work best for most users.

sudo apt-get install octave

Aside the octave package that installs GNU Octave, other pieces of it are split over multiple packages. These are octave-doc, octave-info, and octave-htmldoc for the documentation; liboctave-dev for the octave development header files and mkoctfile, which are required to install Octave Forge packages; and octave-dbg for the debugging symbols.

For Debian stable users, there may also be newer packages available in backports, so don't forget to check there.

The GNU Octave Team on Launchpad maintain a Personal Package Archive (PPA) providing a binary packages of the latest stable versions of Octave for all versions of Ubuntu. To set up your system to install these packages

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:octave/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install octave

Compiling from source

The only tricky part is to install the dependencies. Once that is solved, installing from source should be as easy as ./configure && make && make install. See the manual for the configure options.

Install dependencies

Note that different Debian and Ubuntu versions may have slightly different package names but their differences should be pretty small, mostly limited to version numbers.

The easy way (but possibly incomplete)

The easy way to install most of the necessary dependencies is to sudo apt-get build-dep octave. This will install all packages necessary to build and prepare a Debian package for the octave version available on your system repositories. However:

  • will install unnecessary packages related to the building of a Debian package;
  • may miss some new dependencies;
  • may install packages that are no longer octave dependencies.

The even easier way

The MXE-octave package provides a way to compile Octave for different platforms. Dependencies and certain flags are handled automatically.

The right way

The best way is to select and install all the dependencies as listed in the INSTALL.OCTAVE file. The following are their package names in Debian repositories (they will have their own dependencies which your package maintainer will solve automatically). If you are building development versions, you'll require some more packages as listed on etc/HACKING and INSTALL. Many of them will already be installed on your system. Install the dependencies by typing

sudo apt-get install

followed by the package names of the table below.

Dependency Debian 8 Jessie (stable) Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr (LTS)
Required build tools

gcc g++ gfortran make

gcc g++ gfortran make

Required external packages

libblas-dev liblapack-dev libpcre3-dev

libblas-dev liblapack-dev libpcre3-dev

Optional build tools for the development version

autoconf automake bison flex gperf gzip icoutils librsvg2-bin libtool perl rsync tar

autoconf automake bison flex gperf gzip icoutils librsvg2-bin libtool perl rsync tar

Optional, but strongly recommended. Check the Octave manual for more information on them.
ARPACK libarpack2-dev libarpack2-dev
cURL libcurl4-gnutls-dev libcurl4-gnutls-dev
epstool epstool epstool
FFTW3 libfftw3-dev libfftw3-dev
fig2dev transfig transfig
FLTK libfltk-dev * libfltk-dev *
fontconfig libfontconfig1-dev libfontconfig1-dev
FreeType libfreetype6-dev libfreetype6-dev
gl2ps libgl2ps-dev libgl2ps-dev
GLPK libglpk-dev libglpk-dev
GNU Readline libreadline-dev libreadline-dev
gnuplot gnuplot gnuplot
GraphicsMagick++ libgraphicsmagick++-dev * libgraphicsmagick++-dev *
HDF5 libhdf5-serial-dev libhdf5-serial-dev
Java JDK openjdk-7-jdk openjdk-7-jdk
libsndfile libsndfile1-dev libsndfile1-dev
LLVM llvm-dev llvm-dev
lpr lpr lpr
makeinfo texinfo texinfo
OpenGL libgl-dev * libgl-dev *
OSMesa libosmesa6-dev libosmesa6-dev
pstoedit pstoedit pstoedit
PortAudio portaudio19-dev portaudio19-dev
Qhull libqhull-dev libqhull-dev
QRUPDATE libqrupdate-dev libqrupdate-dev
QScintilla libqscintilla2-dev libqscintilla2-dev

libqt4-dev libqtcore4 libqtwebkit4 libqt4-network libqtgui4

libqt4-dev libqtcore4 libqtwebkit4 libqt4-network libqtgui4

SuiteSparse libsuitesparse-dev libsuitesparse-dev
Xft libxft-dev libxft-dev
zlib zlib1g-dev zlib1g-dev

Packages marked with * in the table above are virtual packages (you'll have to pick one of the displayed versions).

Info icon.svg
if only the native graphics toolkit will be used, gnuplot will not be necessary.
Warning icon.svg
  • The Debian repositoriy has several libraries for dealing with HDF data files. The recommended is libhdf5-serial-dev. However, the msh package requires gmsh which is incompatible with it.
  • The GraphicsMagick++ library (libgraphicsmagick++-dev) on the Debian repositories was compiled with quantum 8 which limits reading images to 8 bit. The solution is to recompile GraphicsMagick with quantum 16 or 32 before building Octave.


HDF5 issue

With current Debian versions you may get the following when building from source:

HDF5 library not found.  Octave will not be able to save or load HDF5 data files.

The problem is that there are multiple versions of the hdf5 package. Octave was written with the serial version in mind but it is likely to work with the others (OpenMPI and Mpich). Due to the naming scheme done in Debian, it is required to specify the location of the libraries. See bug #38928 for details but basically, use the following when running configure:

./configure CPPFLAGS=-I/usr/include/hdf5/serial LDFLAGS=-L/usr/lib/$(dpkg-architecture -qDEB_HOST_MULTIARCH)/hdf5/serial

64-bit support (EXPERIMENTAL)

In order to use large Arrays, it is required to configure Octave with

./configure --enable-64

This requires modification and recompilation of dependency packages from the Debian repository, namely OpenBLAS.


The instructions are taken from the Debian openblas source package. To create a custom OpenBLAS package, optimized only for your specific machine, proceeds as follows.

Install the build dependencies:

sudo aptitude build-dep openblas
sudo aptitude install devscripts

Get the sources of the package:

apt-get source openblas

Compile the package:

cd openblas-<VERSION>

Edit the file debian/rules and add at the end of line 6 BINARY=64 INTERFACE64=1 to the variable MAKE_OPTIONS

fakeroot debian/rules custom

It should produce a package that you can install with:

sudo dpkg -i ../libopenblas-base_<DEBVERSION>.deb
sudo dpkg -i ../libopenblas-dev_<DEBVERSION>.deb