Building from Source

Sooner or later you will want to use the latest Dune features or add new features to the Dune code modules. On this page, we try to collect the details on how to build Dune from source and how special features of the tool chain work.

The text here covers the C++ part of Dune. If you want to use the Dune Python bindings then you should read the Dune Python installation instructions as well.

Note: The process described below works for Linux/UNIX based systems. On Windows systems follow the setup of a WSL and then proceed as described below.


In order to build DUNE you need at least the following software:

Detailed information on supported compiler and CMake versions can be found in the release notes for releases and in the list recent changes for the development branch master. See also the FAQ section for information about how to resolve the build dependencies.

The following software is recommended but optional:

This will provide you with the core DUNE features.

Some DUNE modules might support further software. At the end of the configuration process of each dune module, a list of found, optional and required dependencies is listed.

Getting the sources

First you need to download the DUNE core modules to your computer in one common directory. You can either download tarballs of the last releases of the core modules or download directly from our git repositories. Note: If you download the modules directly from git make sure to checkout a release branch if you don’t want to work with the current development version.

For instance, create a directory and clone the core modules:

mkdir dune; cd dune
git clone
git clone
git clone
git clone
git clone

Building DUNE modules

To compile the modules DUNE has to check several components of your system and whether prerequisites within the modules are met. For the ease of users we have designed a custom utility on top of CMake, dunecontrol. This can be found in the directory dune-common/bin/.

The typical way to run dunecontrol is using an options file and execute:

./dune-common/bin/dunecontrol --opts=config.opts all

This will configure and build all modules you have downloaded in the order of resolved dependencies.

The config.opts file contains, e.g.,


See below for more details on the options file.

More generally, you can separately run

./dune-common/bin/dunecontrol [OPTIONS] cmake [CMAKE_FLAGS]
./dune-common/bin/dunecontrol [OPTIONS] make [MAKE_FLAGS]

in order to first configure and then build all modules with the given flags.

From now on, we assume that dunecontrol is in your PATH, e.g., by running

echo 'export PATH=/path/to/dune-common/bin:${PATH}' >> ${HOME}/.bashrc
source ${HOME}/.bashrc

Building other DUNE modules

Besides the core modules you can find lots of other dune modules:

If you want to use one of those modules make sure to download the module and all dependencies in the same common directory as the DUNE core modules. Building your modules is done in the same way as building the core modules by calling dunecontrol.

Building a specific DUNE module (and its dependent modules)

You can instruct dunecontrol to build only a certain dune module, using the --only=<module_name> switch. Running dunecontrol script

dunecontrol --only=<module_name> all

where <module_name> is the name of that particular module given in the dune.module file, will build only the module <module_name>.

If you want to build a module and the modules it depends on, you must run:

dunecontrol --module=<module_name> all

Changing build mode and optimization flags

The flags passed to the compiler are controlled by CMake. Thus, in order to change these flags, you have to add a CMAKE_FLAG responsible for compiler (and/or linker) options.

One can either specify a global build mode:

dunecontrol cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=[Debug|MinSizeRel|RelWithDebInfo|Release]

(see CMake documentation for a more detailed description of the CMake option)

or you can specify compiler flags explicitly, e.g.,

dunecontrol cmake -DCMAKE_CXX_FLAGS="-O3 -DNDEBUG -march=native"

This is equivalent to specifying both, the release more and the additional -march=native flag:

dunecontrol cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release -DCMAKE_CXX_FLAGS="-march=native"

Both flags can be put into an options file, see below, or can be set by specifying the CMAKE_FLAGS environmental variable:

CMAKE_FLAGS='-DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release -DCMAKE_CXX_FLAGS="-march=native"' dunecontrol cmake

Note, if you do not specify anything, the CMake defaults are used which essentially means: no code optimization.

Speeding up the build process

Building several DUNE modules can be quiet time consuming. Using a concurrent build can speed this up. Either you can instruct make to use multiple threads when building,

dunecontrol make -jN

or you can specify another make-system, like Ninja build, by setting a different CMake generator:

dunecontrol cmake -GNinja
dunecontrol make

If parts of the code must be rebuild multiple times, a utility like ccache might be useful and can be specified as a COMPILER_LAUNCHER in CMake:

dunecontrol cmake -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER_LAUNCHER=/path/to/ccache

(see CMake documentation for a more detailed description of the CMake option)

Storing flags in an options file

As it is often not convenient to specify the desired options after the dunecontrol call, one can pass the options via file specified by the --opts option:

dunecontrol --opts=<file> COMMAND

Possible options for the options-file (or the environment) are

  • CMAKE_FLAGS: arguments passed to the cmake command
  • MAKE_FLAGS: arguments passed to the make command
  • BUILDDIR: build directory for an out-of-source build. default: build-cmake
  • CMAKE: executable to use for cmake
  • DUNE_CONTROL_PATH: A PATH variable to locate dune modules in its subdirectories, directories are separated by colon :

An example of an options file is

# set build mode and compiler flags,
# install to a custom directory,
# disable the MPI library,
# add a search path for external libraries
# and use Ninja-build instead of make as the build-tool
             -DCMAKE_CXX_FLAGS=\"-march=native\" \
             -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/path/where/to/install/dune \
             -DCMAKE_PREFIX_PATH=\"/path/to/lib1;/path/to/lib2\" \

Details about the dunecontrol utility

The general structure of a dunecontrol call is

dunecontrol [OPTIONS] COMMAND


The following atomic COMMANDs can be executed:

  • cmake: run the CMake system for each module and passes along the directories of the found dune modules
  • make: run make (or any other build tool that was configured) for each module
  • all: combination of cmake and make
  • exec: execute a command in each module directory
  • bexec: execute a command in each module’s build directory
  • update: pull the latest version from the Git repository
  • git: run a specific git command in all module directories


The following general OPTIONS are available:

  • --help: Show a detailed list of all options with description.
  • --module=<mod>, --only=<mod>, --current, --current-dep: Control which modules to build, see above.
  • --builddir=<dir>: Make out-of-source builds in a subdir <dir>. This directory is created inside each module. If <dir> is an absolute path, the build directory is set to <dir>/module-name for each module.
  • --opts=<file>: load default options from <file>

Creating your own DUNE project module

You can create your own dune project module by using the duneproject script available in dune-common/bin directory. Running the script will create a directory with supporting files (CMakeLists.txt etc.) and a sample .cc file. After creating the module you can build this as explained above under “Building a specific DUNE module”.

The DUNE Build System Documentation will also give you an excellent introduction to the build system and how to create new modules/projects your own.

Installing DUNE in HPC Clusters

Cluster architectures often have a linux based system that is quiet different from a desktop environment, with its own package management system that needs special handling of the installation such that everything is found properly. However, often it is enough to just load the (build) dependencies and build DUNE using dunecontrol the classical way as described above. There are also some non-official ways of building DUNE in HPC environments, e.g.

Warning: those descriptions and tools are often provided just for a single or a few DUNE releases and are sometimes outdated.

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