Note: Make sure you have cmake 2.6.2 or greater and a compiler installed (gcc, Visual Studio 2005/2008, ...)

CISST Libraries

On Linux

1) Prepare directories for cisst

mkdir cisst
cd cisst
mkdir build
mkdir source

2) Do the following commands in the source directory to get the source tree from the cisst SVN repository

svn co source

3) Once you have downloaded everything into source, use CMake to configure cisst in the build directory

cd build
ccmake ../source

4) After creating the project using the CMake GUI, make the cisst library



Using XCode on Mac OS X Leopard

Note 1: Installation on Mac OS X Tiger should be similar.
Note 2: For cisstStereoVision only: If you plan to use OpenCV, you need to install and compile OpenCV on your system following  these instructions before creating the project using CMake.
Note 3: For cisstStereoVision only: If you plan to use the svlImageWindow filter or other modules with X11 dependency, you need to install the X11 development package from the Mac OS X installation disks.
Note 4: You may use XCode for editing, compiling and debugging. However command line applications have to be executed from the Terminal because XCode does not open a command line for them by default. (Although there might be a way to force it somehow.)

1) In the Terminal, prepare directories for cisst

mkdir cisst
cd cisst
mkdir build
mkdir source
cd source

2) Do the following commands in the source directory to get the source tree from the cisst SVN repository

svn co

3) Once you have downloaded everything into source, use CMake to configure cisst in the build directory

cd ../build
ccmake -G Xcode ../source

4) Open the project in XCode by double clicking on cisst.xcodeproj in Finder.
Note: When opening the project, XCode might ask for the directory to be used with the project. In that case just leave the default selection and continue.

On Windows

Note1: You need to install  CMake.

1) Download and install  Tortoise SVN

2) Checkout cisst from

3) Once you have downloaded everything into source, use CMake to configure cisst in the build directory

  1. Run CMake.
    • Where is the source code: cisst source directory.
    • Where to build the binaries: custom build directory.
  2. Click Configure and turn ON the desired libraries; e.g.:
    • CISST_BUILD_cisstMultiTask = ON
    • CISST_BUILD_cisstNumerical = ON
    • CISST_BUILDcisstOSAbstraction = ON
    • CISST_BUILD_cisstParameterTypes = ON
  3. Click Configure and set:
    • CISSTNETLIB_DIR = cisstNetlib directory
  4. Click Configure and click Generate.
  5. Open cisst.sln under cisst build directory.
  6. Build ALL_BUILD in debug and release configurations.

Optional External Dependencies

The following external dependencies are optional. The cisst libraries can be compiled without them, but with less functionality.


cisstNetLib is a customized binary distribution of some elements from the Netlib repository (which is Fortran code). The binary files can be downloaded and extracted  here, though it is more convenient to use CMake to download it, as follows (assuming you have an Internet connection):

  1. Select the BUILD_LIBS_cisstNumerical option, then press Configure
  2. Two new CMake entries will appear: CISSTNETLIB_DIR and CISSTNETLIB_DOWNLOAD_NOW
  3. Select CISSTNETLIB_DOWNLOAD_NOW and press Configure again
  4. Depending on your OS, you may be prompted for additional information, such as 32 vs. 64 bits
  5. CMake will automatically download the cisstNetLib libraries to your build tree and set the paths


Supported Platforms


General Guideline

  1.  Download and install ZeroC's ICE.
    • There are two ways to install ICE; One is to build ICE using source distribution and the other one is to use pre-built archives.
    • If you choose the first method, you also need 3rd party packages.
    • If you use pre-built packages, it should be the easiest and fastest way to install ICE. However, the binary distribution archive may not be available for your environment so you need to to check if ZeroC provides binary distribution archive for your environment (see  here).
  2. Build cisst library with CISST_MTS_HAS_ICE option turned on.


The easiest and quickest installation method on Windows is to use .msi file.


Binary distribution can be installed through the package manager (e.g. apt-get on Ubuntu, yum on Fedora)

Mac OS X

Use port : sudo port install ice-cpp

IDE Setup

Visual Studio 2008/2010 IDE

  • The Ice Visual Studio Extension comes with Ice package installer and is automatically installed and activated if Visual Studio 2008 is found on the target machine.
    • If you install Visual Studio 2008 or Visual Studio 2010 after installing Ice, you will have to re-run the Ice installer and choose "Repair" to install the extension.
  • To activate the extension:
  1. Right-click on cisstMultiTask project in Solution Explorer and choose "Ice Configuration..."
  2. Set options as follows:

Visual C++ Express

  • The Ice Visual Studio Extension is not available for Visual C++ Express and you need to configure Visual Studio manually (Microsoft does not allow plug-in extensions to run with Express editions of Visual Studio).
  • Please follow the steps below:
  1. In the IDE, choose Tools->Options->Projects and Solutions->VC++ Directories
  2. Select Include files
    • Add <Ice installation root directory>\include
  3. Select Library files
    • For x86 libraries add <Ice installation root directory>\lib
    • For x64 libraries add <Ice installation root directory>\lib\x64
  4. Select Executable files
    • For x86 binaries add <Ice installation root directory>\bin
    • For x64 binaries add <Ice installation root directory>\bin\x64

Run-time Environment Setup

To use Ice for C++, there are two ways to set up the environment.

  1. Add the Ice bin directory to your PATH.
  • On x86 platforms:
    (command line prompt)> set PATH=<Ice installation root directory>\bin;%PATH%
  • On x64 platforms: (Note: the x64 directory must come first in your PATH)
    (command line prompt)> set PATH=<Ice installation root directory>\bin;%PATH%
    (command line prompt)> set PATH=<Ice installation root directory>\bin\x64;%PATH%
  • If you're using C++Builder: (Note: the bcc10 directory must come first in your PATH)
    (command line prompt)> set PATH=<Ice installation root directory>\bin;%PATH%
    (command line prompt)> set PATH=<Ice installation root directory>\bin\bcc10;%PATH%
  1. Copy necessary DLL files to the same folder as your executable
    • For Ice-3.4.1
      • Debug compilation: bzip2d.dll, ice.dll, ice34d.dll, iceutil34d.dll
      • Release compilation: bzip2.dll, ice.dll, ice34.dll, iceutil34.dll
    • For Ice-3.3.x
      • Debug compilation: bzip2d.dll, ice.dll, ice33d.dll, iceutil33d.dll
      • Release compilation: bzip2.dll, ice.dll, ice33.dll, iceutil33.dll


To wrap the cisst libraries for Python, the following steps are needed:

  1. Install Python on your system (Version 2.X, where X is >= 3). The cisst libraries have not been tested with Python 3.X.
  2. Install numpy, because the cisst mathematical types (e.g., fixed size and dynamic vectors and matrices) are mapped to numpy arrays.
  3. Install SWIG, which automatically wraps C++ code for Python (as well as other languages)

To use the Interactive Research Environment (IRE):

  1. Select the CISST_BUILD_cisstInteractive CMake option
  2. Install wxPython or iPython


To use XML within cisst, you must turn ON the CISST_BUILD_cisstCommonXML option in CMake. There are two options for XML support: libXML2 or Qt. CMake will attempt to find these packages on its own. If both are present, the default is to use libXML2. This can be changed in CMake by modifying the CISST_XML_LIB variable to be either !LibXml2 or QtXML. Note, however, that to use the Qt XML, your code must have a QApplication (i.e., it is not enough to just link with the Qt libraries). Also, if you are getting linker errors in external projects, be sure that cisstCommonXML is added to your cisst_target_link_libraries, i.e.:

cisst_target_link_libraries (yourProgram cisstCommon cisstCommonXML ....)


  • Go to and download the zlib, libxml2, and iconv zipped folders. Extract these.
  • Each folder has a lib, include, and bin subfolder. Put the contents of the lib, include, and bin files of the zlib and iconv into their respective places (subfolders of the same name) in the libxml2 folder. The end result should be that each folder within libxml2 should contain the following:
    • bin
      • libxml2.dll
      • minigzip.exe
      • zlib1.dll
      • iconv.exe
      • iconv.dll
      • xmlcatalog.exe
      • xmllint.exe
    • include
      • libxml folder
      • iconv.h
      • zconf.h
      • zlib.h
    • lib
      • iconv_a.lib
      • zdll.lib
      • zlib.lib
      • iconv.lib
      • libxml2.lib
      • libxml2_a.lib
      • libxml2_a_dll.lib
  • You can discard the original zlib and iconv folders, which should now be empty.
  • Now that this is done, run cmake on your CISST folder and turn on CISST_HAS_XML, it will ask you the location of xmllint.exe, include, and libxml2.lib.
  • Remember to recompile CISST afterwards.


Note 1: The  stable version of FLTK is 1.1.x.
Note 2: If you are using 64-bit OS, please see  this guideline for compiling FLTK on 64-bit machine.
Note 3: For information about writing cisst FLTK components, see this page.


  1. Download and extract  FLTK 1.1.9.
  2. Run CMake.
    • Where is the source code: FLTK source directory.
    • Where to build the binaries: custom build directory.
  3. Click Configure.
  4. Click Configure and click Generate.
  5. Open FLTK.sln under FLTK build directory.
  6. Build ALL_BUILD in release configuration.
  7. Build INSTALL in release configuration (This places the libraries under Program Files/FLTK).


Please refer to for general installation instructions.


  1. Download Qt installer from
    • Select "LGPL" version
    • Select "Qt libraries 4.6 for Windows (VS 2008, 190 MB)"
  2. Install Qt
  3. Set the environment variables
    • Add <Qt_DIR>/bin to PATH (eg."C:/Qt/4.6.0/bin")

PyQt (optional)

  1. Download SIP source from
  2. Extract the source to your favorite directory (<PyQt_SOURCE_DIR>)
  3. Open Visual Studio Command Prompt
    • cd <PyQt_SOURCE_DIR>
    • python
    • nmake
    • nmake install
  4. Download PyQt installer from
  5. Install PyQt


  1. Open Terminal
    • Make sure to install the correct versions!
    • sudo port install qt4-mac
    • sudo port install py26-pyqt4 (optional)



  1. Download and install  CMake 2.6.3.
  2. Download and install vtk SOURCE  VTK source.
  1. Start CMake, select visual studio 9 (or later) as the compiler.
    • Where is the source code: select the directory where you unzipped the source (something like "vtk-5.4.2")
    • Enter the director where to build the binaries, eg. vtk-5.4.2\build
    • Turn on :
    • BUILD_SHARED_LIBS: this causes the VTK dlls to be built
    • Optional packages:
    • VTK_USE_HYBRID: this causes vtkHybrid.lib/dll to be built
    • VTK_USE_PATENTED: this causes vtkPatented.lib/dll to be built
    • Click configure and then generate
  2. Open build directory, open the .sln file and compile ALL_BUILD in Release mode. (or debug)
    • Right click on INSTALL project and Project Only->Build Only INSTALL.
    • This should have installed VTK in the C:/Program Files/VTK/lib/vtk-5.4
  3. Use the following option in CMake for including VTK in your projects:
    • Remember to point CMake to the C:/Program Files/VTK/lib/vtk-5.4 and not the directory where the source code of build related files are (this might be detected wrongly by CMake)
    • first we have to find VTK, (make sure you add the dll path to the PATH variable)
        message(FATAL_ERROR "VTK not found")
    • Then add desired libraries to the program


The cisst libraries include a component viewer(mtsComponentViewer class in cisstMultiTask) that displays an interactive graphical visualization of the components in the system, whether a single process or distributed between different processes. This component viewer relies on the uDrawGraph package that can be obtained  here.

After installing it, be sure to add the binary directory to your path.


  • Download LINUX package from  here
  • Extract uDraw: tar xfz uDrawGraph-3.1.1-0-linux-i386.tar.gz
  • Copy to /usr/local/: sudo mv uDrawGraph-3.1 /usr/local/
  • Add the binary directory to path and $UDG_HOME (add the following block to .bashrc file)
  # uDrawGraph                                                                                                                                                                                       
  if [ -f /usr/local/uDrawGraph-3.1/README.txt ]; then   
      export UDG_HOME=/usr/local/uDrawGraph-3.1   
      export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/uDrawGraph-3.1/bin  


The OpenGL Utility Toolkit (GLUT) is used by sawGLUTSimulator.


  • Download and install GLUT  here. For detailed installation process, please refer to README-win32.txt file (which is a bit dated) and/or the following:
    • Copy glut32.dll to C:\Windows\System32 (on a 64-bit machine, this should be C:\Windows\SysWOW64).
    • Copy glut.h to your C++ include directory; by convention this should be in a GL subdirectory
      • For Visual Studio 2008, this could be C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\VC\include\GL (create the GL subdirectory if it does not exist, or put the file in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\VC\include)
      • For Visual Studio 2003, this could be C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003\Vc7\PlatformSDK\Include\gl
    • Copy glut32.lib to your C++ library directory
      • For Visual Studio 2008, this could be C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\VC\lib
      • For Visual Studio 2003, this could be C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003\Vc7\PlatformSDK\Lib


  • Install the freeglut package
    • On Fedora, "yum install glut-devel"
    • On Ubuntu, "apt-get install freeglut3-dev"

Hardware Drivers

Galil Motion Controller

  1. Download and install  GalilTools
  2. Obtain and copy debug .dll and .lib files to corresponding folders under Program Files.

National Instruments Data Acquisition (DAQ) Hardware

  1. Download and install  NI-DAQmx 9.0.

3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator 3D Mouse

  1. Download and install  SpaceNavigator SE.


The new way (automatic)

We now use CMake External Project to download and patch CppUnit. This is convenient on computers that don't already have CppUnit. For Linux and Mac OS, we still recommend to use the native package managers to install the development versions of CppUnit (using apt-get, port, ...). On other computers (Windows mostly), you can now use the cisst CMake configuration option CISST_USE_EXTERNAL. When CISST_USE_EXTERNAL is turned on and you turn on the option to build the cisst unit tests (CISST_BUILD_TESTS), CppUnit sources will downloaded and compiled along cisst when you are building cisst. Please note that this requires a network connection for the first build.

The old way (manual)

The latest stable version of CppUnit package is 1.12.1. There is a CMake patch available for cppunit, which can be obtained via the Tracker/Patches link in the  SourceForge cppunit page. We have updated this patch and attached it here:

Depending on the compiler (e.g., for MingW), it may also be necessary to patch the file TypeInfoHelper.cpp, in the src/cppunit subfolder, by adding the following line:

#include <malloc.h>

This CMakeLists.txt has been modified to build a static library, but can be edited to produce a dynamic library (e.g., DLL).

If CppUnit 1.12.0 is built from source code and you're using Microsoft Visual Studio C++ 2008, there are probably compilation errors such as the following (this does not seem to occur with 1.12.1):

.\MsDevCallerListCtrl.cpp(67) : error C3505: cannot load type library '{80CC9F66-E7D8-4DDD-85B6-D9E6CD0E93E2}'
.\MsDevCallerListCtrl.cpp(67) : fatal error C1104: fatal error importing libid: '80cc9f66-e7d8-4ddd-85b6-d9e6cd0e93e2'

This is because the CppUnit 1.12.0 currently supports up to MSVS 7 of IDE for automation (see  this link). In order to fix this error, you need to patch line 67 of MsDevCallerListCtrl.cpp as follows:


#import "libid:80cc9f66-e7d8-4ddd-85b6-d9e6cd0e93e2" version("7.0") lcid("0") raw_interfaces_only named_guids


#if (_MSC_VER < 1500)
#import "libid:80cc9f66-e7d8-4ddd-85b6-d9e6cd0e93e2" version("7.0") lcid("0") raw_interfaces_only named_guids
#import "libid:80cc9f66-e7d8-4ddd-85b6-d9e6cd0e93e2" version("9.0") lcid("0") raw_interfaces_only named_guids