Compiling from Source

This guide is intended to help developers to get our programs running.


To install our programs refer to Setup and Installation. If you come here from Setup and Installation, since our instructions have not worked for you, why not drop us a hint at the issue tracker?

The xtb source code is hosted at GitHub.

Building with meson

The xtb program source comes with a meson build-system (see for details). Despite being a rather young build-system, we decided to commit to the idea of using it for xtb due to its simplicity and speed compared to competing build-systems like Scons or Make.

To build xtb from the source the meson build system can be used. For a decent Fortran support verson 0.51 of meson or newer is required, additionally the default backend ninja is required with version 1.7 or newer.

Getting meson

To install the meson build system first check your package manager for an up-to-date meson version, usually this will also install ninja as dependency. Alternatively you can install the latest version of meson and ninja with pip (or pip3 depending on your system):

pip install meson ninja [--user]

If you prefer conda as a package manage you can install meson and ninja from the conda-forge channel. Make sure to select the conda-forge channel for searching packages.

conda config --add channels conda-forge
conda install meson ninja

Configure Intel Fortran build with MKL

The recommended build for xtb is with Intel Parallel Studio using the Intel Fortran compiler and the Math Kernel Library as default backend. Precompiled, statically linked xtb binaries for Linux are provided at the release page. The setup for the linear algebra backend defaults to MKL, therefore, only the compilers have to exported before configuring the build:

After the configuration step the build can be performed with ninja:

Note, ninja will by default use all the threads available on your system.


If you share the build machine with others it might be helpful to reduce the number of concurrent jobs using the -j flag.

By default the binary will be linked statically, other supported backends are:

backend linked against
mkl-static static MKL (default)
mkl shared MKL
mkl-rt MKL real time library
openblas OpenBLAS and if required LAPACK
netlib BLAS and LAPACK
custom -Dcustom_libraries=...


If you are using the MKL provided by conda-forge you have to link against the netlib backend

Configure GCC build with OpenBLAS

xtb can also be compiled with GCC version 8 or later. For this example we additonally choose to change the linear algebra backend to OpenBLAS, if you have Intel Parallel Studio installed, you can leave out the last argument to get the MKL backend.

The build system will check if the OpenBLAS library provides LAPACK features as well, if this is not the case it will additionally search for LAPACK. If you are compiling xtb on Darwin platforms, ensure that GCC is the actual GCC and not clang. The build can be performed just like before:

Testing the build with meson

After successfully building the xtb program ensure that it is working as expected. Run the testsuite with

All tests should pass, otherwise open an issue.

Installing with meson

To use xtb in production or to pack a release with precompiled binaries the project should be installed with ninja. The installation prefix defaults to /usr/local on Linux systems, you might want to adjust this first by configuring your build with

meson configure build --prefix=$HOME/.local

To perform the actual installation run

ninja -C build install

Depending on the installation prefix and your user rights ninja might ask for the root access to perform the installation.