Installing using CMake

💬 CMake is an extensible, open-source software build system. CMake uses simple CMakeLists.txt configuration files placed in each source directory to generate standard Makefile build files. CMake generates a native build environment that will compile source code, create libraries, generate wrappers and build executable binaries in arbitrary combinations.


💬 In this tutorial we’ll use CMake to install a simple C++ Hello World application.

  1. It is recommended to use the fast local disk when compiling software on CSC supercomputers to move I/O load away from the parallel file system. Go there and download the source code from Allas:

    cd $TMPDIR
  2. Extract the package and move into the hello-cmake directory:

    tar xvf hello-cmake.tgz
    cd hello-cmake
  3. Most codes ship with a README or INSTALL file outlining the installation procedure. When compiling other codes, start by reading these carefully. In this case, the README just points to this tutorial page.
  4. Before compiling, one should ensure all the dependencies needed by the software are available. Remember to always first check whether these can be found on the CSC supercomputers as pre-installed modules. This example depends on the Boost library, so check if it is available:

    module spider boost
  5. Load the module with:

    module load boost/1.79.0

Building with CMake

💡 When your build generates files, they have to go somewhere. An in-source build puts them in your source tree, while an out-of-source build puts them in a completely separate directory. The latter alternative, which is covered below, is typically recommended, as you can build multiple variants of the code in separate directories.

  1. Load the cmake module:

    module load cmake
  2. Create and move to a build directory in the root of the source code:

    mkdir build
    cd build
  3. It is recommended to install own software under the /projappl directory of your project. The installation directory can be specified using the CMake flag -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=<path to install dir>. CMake also requires you to specify the source code root directory, so run the cmake command as:

    cmake .. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/projappl/<project>/$USER/hello-cmake  # replace <project> with your CSC project, e.g. project_2001234
  4. If you get errors, try to fix the problems. For example, if you did not load the boost module, you’ll get an error Could NOT find Boost. Often it is easiest to delete everything in the build directory and start from the beginning after fixing all issues.
  5. After running cmake, run make to compile the application:


    💡 make can also be run in parallel. For example, to run using 8 cores, use make -j 8. However, do not compile in parallel on the login node, but use instead an interactive session. See CSC’s usage policy for details.

  6. Finally, install into the specified directory under /projappl with:

    make install
  7. Check what was installed and where:

    cat install_manifest.txt

Test the installed application

  1. Own software installations are not automatically added to your PATH, which means that the installed binaries (commands) cannot be used without specifying the full path. To access the commands directly from anywhere, the directory containing the binaries should be added to PATH:

    export PATH="/projappl/<project>/$USER/hello-cmake/bin:$PATH"  # replace <project> with your CSC project, e.g. project_2001234
  2. Try to run the program by typing:

  3. You probably got an error like:

    hi: error while loading shared libraries: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
  4. This happens because the program depends on a library file and does not know where to look for it. This is a quite common issue with self-installed software. To fix the situation, add the lib path to the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable:

    export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="/projappl/<project>/$USER/hello-cmake/lib:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH"  # replace <project> with your CSC project, e.g. project_2001234
  5. Retry running the program, it should now work!

Bonus: Create your own module for the program

💡 Users can create their own modules for self-installed applications. See the “Module system” section for more details about the CSC module system.

💬 CSC uses the Lmod module system in which the Lua language is used to write modulefiles.

  1. Create a directory for your own modulefiles:

    mkdir -p /projappl/<project>/$USER/my-modules  # replace <project> with your CSC project, e.g. project_2001234
    cd /projappl/<project>/$USER/my-modules        # replace <project> with your CSC project, e.g. project_2001234
  2. In this directory, create a directory for the “Hello World” program and move there:

    mkdir -p hello-cmake
    cd hello-cmake
  3. Let’s assume this is version 0.0.1 of the “Hello World” program. Create a file 0.0.1.lua and paste the contents below to it (using e.g. nano). Remember to change <project> and <user> to match your CSC project and username:

    -- This is an example modulefile for hello-cmake module
    -- Edit <project> and <user> below as needed to match the installation root directory
    local root = '/projappl/<project>/<user>/hello-cmake'
    local version = '0.0.1'
    prepend_path('PATH', pathJoin(root, 'bin'))
    prepend_path('LD_LIBRARY_PATH', pathJoin(root, 'lib'))
    if (mode() == 'load') then
       LmodMessage('Hello World version', version, 'loaded.')
  4. The example highlights a few Lmod/Lua features:
    • Comments are specified with --.
    • local is used to declare local variables, in this case for the version number and installation path.
    • load() is used to load modules the program depends on.
    • PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH are modified using prepend_path(), and pathJoin() function is used together with root variable to compose the full paths to the bin and lib directories.
    • A message is printed to the standard output when the module is loaded using an if clause and LmodMessage.
  5. To make your own modules available you need to modify your MODULEPATH variable. This can be done by hand or using module use <path> command, and is required each time you start a new shell session:

    module use /projappl/<project>/$USER/my-modules                     # replace <project> with your CSC project, e.g. project_2001234
    # or
    export MODULEPATH=/projappl/<project>/$USER/my-modules:$MODULEPATH  # replace <project> with your CSC project, e.g. project_2001234
  6. Now that the module system knows where to search for your own modules, you can check if the module you created is available:

    module avail hello-cmake
  7. Load the module and check if you can run hi command:

    module load hello-cmake/0.0.1

More information

  • Not all software use CMake build system. For an example how to build software using the traditional configure-make procedure, see this tutorial.
  • If you get stuck when compiling your own software, don’t hesitate to ask for help from CSC Service Desk
  • Documentation on how to compile on Puhti, Mahti and LUMI.