Compile on Linux

NOTE: These instructions are for compiling the development branch.

You can also compile with meson instead of cmake.


You will need to have a C++ compiler installed on your computer. GCC 6 (or higher) and Clang 8 (or higher) should work.

You will also need to have CMake (3.5.1 or higher) and Boost (1.71 or higher) installed

Installing pre-requisites with root/administrator priveleges

Install these using your distribution’s package manager


sudo apt install build-essential cmake libboost-all-dev

CentOS 8

sudo yum group install "Development Tools"
sudo yum install cmake boost-devel

Installing pre-requisites on Linux computing clusters

If you are compiling revbayes on a Linux cluster, you might need to select a version of gcc or cmake that is more recent than the default version.

Most high-performance compute clusters have additional software available as “modules”. Using the module avail command followed by the name of the library will tell you if there is already a sufficiently recent version installed, thus saving you the effort of installing boost or cmake yourself:

module avail
module help gcc boost cmake
module load gcc

CMake, GCC and Boost are all commonly used in computational research, there will likely be a sufficiently recent version of gcc and cmake, and perhaps a recent enough version of boost.

Installing pre-requisites without root/administrator priveleges

If there is no compiler, you will need your administrator to install build-essential (or equivalent package containing gcc) for you. If possible, ask them to install cmake as well.

Installing cmake

The simplest way to install cmake is to download a CMake executable. For example:

curl -O -L
tar -zxf cmake-3.22.1-linux-x86_64.tar.gz
cmake-3.22.1/bin/cmake --version
echo "cmake installed at: $(cd cmake-3.22.1/bin; pwd)/cmake"

Note the full path to the cmake executable! You may replace the call to cmake on line 161 of with this path to use your custom cmake installation.

In the rare cases where the downloaded cmake executable will not run on your computer, you can also compile from source:

curl -O -L
tar -xzvf cmake-3.22.1.tar.gz
cd cmake-3.22.1/
./bootstrap -- -DCMAKE_USE_OPENSSL=OFF
bin/cmake --version
echo "cmake installed at: $(cd bin; pwd)/cmake"

Note the full path to the cmake executable.

Installing boost

Then you can compile boost:

curl -O -L
tar -xzvf boost_1_74_0.tar.gz
cd boost_1_74_0
./ --with-libraries=atomic,chrono,filesystem,system,regex,thread,date_time,program_options,math,serialization --prefix=../installed-boost-1.74.0
./b2 link=static install
echo -e "\n    BOOST root is at $(cd ../installed-boost-1.74.0; pwd)\n"

This creates a new directory called installed-boost-1.74.0 that contains the boost installation. This directory is called the BOOST “root”. You will need the path to the BOOST root for the next step.

To set up an IDE such as XCode, the following directory should be added to compiler include paths:


The following directory should be added to linker library paths:



Download RevBayes from our github repository. Clone the repository using git by running the following command in the terminal:

git clone --branch development revbayes

To compile with the system boost:

cd revbayes/projects/cmake

You will likely see some compiler warnings. This is normal.

To compile revbayes using a locally compiled boost, do the following. Be sure to replace the paths in the build command with those you got from boost in the previous step.

./ -boost_root /path/to/installed-boost-1.74.0

For the MPI version:

./ -mpi true

This produces an executable called rb-mpi.

Note that compiling the MPI version requires that an MPI library is installed. If you have root, openmpi can be install with apt or yum. If not, if can be downloaded and compiled.