Building » Building the DIPlib project on macOS

Compiling DIPlib requires a few programs that do not come preinstalled on macOS. Here we offer a simple way to install these programs.

See CMake configuration for additional information on the build targets and CMake configuration options.

We mostly use the command line here, which you will find in the terminal window. To open a terminal window, press Command \-\ to bring up the Spotlight search tool, type terminal, and press \. Alternatively, in Finder, go to the ‘Applications’ folder, find the ‘Utilities’ folder in it, and the ‘Terminal’ app inside it.

Computers with an Apple Silicon chip (M1 and M2 processors)

If you are building DIPlib for use in C++ or Python on a Apple Silicon computer, you don’t need to do anything special. The instructions below will result in native (aarch64) binaries that will work well with the aarch64 version of Python and with your own aarch64 programs. If you already have Homebrew installed, make sure it is the Apple Silicon native version (installed in /opt/homebrew/, not in /usr/local/), so that all libraries and so forth that you install use the same architecture. Note that it is possible to run two versions of Homebrew side by side.

The latest versions of MATLAB run natively on Apple Silicon, again no special instructions are needed. But if you are running an older version of MATLAB for the x86_64 architecture (Intel), then you need to build DIPlib and DIPimage for that same x86_64 architecture.

Cross-compiling for the x86_64 architecture on an Apple Silicon Mac.

There are two ways to cross-compile DIPlib for the x86_64 architecture. We recommend running all the instructions below in x86_64 compatibility mode (through Rosetta 2, which is an emulation layer). Rosetta 2 can be installed by launching any program that is built for the x86_64 architecture, if you have MATLAB running, you already have Rosetta 2 installed. You can install Rosetta 2 manually by typing the following in a terminal window:

softwareupdate --install-rosetta

Simply open a terminal in x86_64 emulation mode, and run all instructions below in that terminal. In particular, installing Homebrew in such a terminal results in a x86_64 version of Homebrew, which installs in /usr/local/. All tools and libraries installed by this version of Homebrew will be for the x86_64 architecture. You can open a terminal in x86_64 emulation mode in various ways, the simplest is to just type

arch -x86_64 zsh

This starts a new shell in the current terminal window. exit will exit this shell, returning you to the previous, native shell in that same terminal window.

A second way to cross-compile DIPlib for the x86_64 architecture is by adding -DCMAKE_OSX_ARCHITECTURES=x86_64 to your cmake command (see “Building” below). This will have all tools run in native mode, but cross-compile to produce x86_64 binaries. This works, but I had trouble getting CMake to identify the right version of all the libraries, and attempting to link to aarch64 libraries, which of course doesn’t work. I was able to build DIPimage this way, by disabling all optional components that depend on external libraries.


You can install Xcode from the App Store if you don’t already have it installed. However, you will not need all of Xcode, it is the command line tools that we’re after. You can install them by typing in a terminal window:

xcode-select --install

This will bring up a dialog box asking if you want to install the developer command line tools.

The developer command line tools include git, make, compilers (clang) and linker.

However, cmake is not included in this package.


To install CMake, we recommend you use Homebrew. If you don’t have Homebrew installed yet, type the following in a terminal window (or rather, copy-paste it):

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"

See the Homebrew web site for up-to-date instructions.

Once Homebrew is installed, the following will install CMake (cmake):

brew install cmake

If you want to compile DIPviewer, you need to install glfw as well:

brew install glfw

To compile the documentation yourself (note that the compiled documentation can be found online), you need dox++. See Building the DIPlib documentation for details.

Finally, if you have a version of macOS that is older than 12.0, then you have Python 2 by default. You need to install Python 3:

brew install python3

Other useful tools available through Homebrew are Valgrind, QCacheGrind, and tools included in the binutils package, though we won’t use any of them in this guide.


Clang, as provided with Xcode, does support OpenMP, but does not provide the OpenMP library. If you want to enable parallel processing within DIPlib, you have two options:

  1. Install the OpenMP library for use with Xcode’s Clang:

    bash brew install libomp

    You will need at least CMake version 3.12 for this to work (Homebrew’s version is suitable).

  2. Install GCC:

    bash brew install gcc

In our experience, Clang is faster at compiling, but GCC usually produces slightly faster code.

Cloning the repository

Next, get the source repository from GitHub:

mkdir ~/src
cd ~/src
git clone

This creates a directory src/diplib in your home directory.


To build, run cmake and make from a build directory:

mkdir ~/src/diplib/target
cd ~/src/diplib/target
cmake ..
make -j check
make -j install

This will install to /usr/local. This is also where Homebrew puts its stuff. If you prefer to install elsewhere, change the cmake line with the following:


This will install DIPlib, DIPviewer, DIPjavaio, DIPimage and the documentation under the dip directory in your home directory.

Before running make, examine the output of cmake to verify all the features you need are enabled, and that your chosen dependencies were found. See CMake variables for a summary of all the CMake options to manually specify paths and configure your build.

PyDIP is installed separately through pip. Once the install target has finished building and installing, run

make pip_install

Note that it is necessary to install the DIPlib libraries before running the pip_install target. If this target fails with pip complaining about a non-existent file, one possible cause is building on a system with a newer version of macOS and an older version of Python. The wheel will be created for the newer macOS, but Python will expect a wheel matching the macOS version that Python was built on. Adding -DCMAKE_OSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET=12 to the cmake command and rebuilding the whole project would fix this issue (the 12 there being the version of macOS used to build you Python binaries, the error message will show what version you need to build for). [Also, binaries built for an older macOS will work on a newer macOS, but not the other way around].

We recommend you additionally specify the -DCMAKE_CXX_FLAGS="-march=native" option to cmake. This will enable additional optimizations that are specific to your computer. Note that the resulting binaries will likely be slower on another computer, and possibly not work at all.

If you build a static version of the DIPlib library, DIPimage and PyDIP will not work correctly.

Finally, if you installed the gcc package because you want to use OpenMP, add -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=gcc-11 -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=g++-11 to the cmake command line. By default, cmake will find the compiler that came with Xcode. These two options specify that you want to use the GCC compilers instead. (Note: at the time of this writing, gcc-11 and g++-11 were the executables installed by the gcc package. This will change over time, as new versions of GCC are adopted by HomeBrew. Adjust as necessary.)

Enabling Bio-Formats

If building only DIPimage (the MATLAB toolbox), skip this section and instead follow the directions you can read when you do help readim in MATLAB after installation.

First, make sure you have the Java 8 SDK (JDK 8) installed, you can obtain it from the Oracle website for commercial purposes, or from for an open-source build. Next, download bioformats_package.jar from the Bio-Formats website. You need to add the location of this file to the cmake command line using the -DBIOFORMATS_JAR=<path> flag.

When running CMake with the proper JDK installed, the DIPjavaio module becomes available.

Check the CMake output to see which JNI was found. It should match the version of Java found. These two should be listed together, but the JNI output is only produced on first run. Delete the CMakeCache.txt file to run cmake fresh and see all its output.

Sometimes the version of JNI found is not the one in the JDK. For example, on my Mac it might find the JNI that belongs to Java 6. In this case, add -DJAVA_HOME=<path> to the cmake command line:

cmake .. -DBIOFORMATS_JAR=$HOME/java/bioformats_package.jar \

Note that these arguments to cmake must be combined with the arguments mentioned earlier, into a single, long command line argument.

If an application that links to DIPjavaio pops up a message box saying that you need to install the legacy Java 6, then your Java 8 is not configured properly. See here for instructions on how to set it up.

Using DIPimage

Once the install target has finished building and installing the toolbox, start MATLAB. Type the following command:


This will make the toolbox available (replace /Users/<name>/dip with the actual path you installed to).

To get started using DIPimage, read the DIPimage User Manual, and look through the help, starting at

help DIPimage

Or start the GUI:


Using PyDIP

Once the pip_install target has finished installing, start Python. The following command will import the PyDIP package as dip, which is shorter to type and mimics the namespace used in the C++ library:

import diplib as dip

To get started using PyDIP, look through the help, starting at


The PyDIP User Manual is still quite short, but does contain some important information to get you started.