MacOS compilation

RobWork can be built by the user. This guide shows the steps for doing this in macOS High Sierra v. 10.13.

If you have any suggestions or additions to the guide, please post it on the issue tracker . This guide was last revised in April 2020.

RobWork is basically multiple projects:

  • RobWork : is the core part including math, kinematics, planning and so on.

  • RobWorkStudio : is the GUI which enable visualization and more user friendly interfaces through gui plugins

  • RobWorkSim : is an extension to the RobWork core functionality which adds dynamic simulation of bodies, devices and several tactile sensors.

Note that RobWork is needed to run RobWorkStudio and RobWorkSim. Therefore it is not possible to use these, without having RobWork installed on the machine.

Installing dependencies

RobWork depends on third-party software that must be installed prior to compilation. This includes both build tools and third-party libraries. In Linux it is quite easy to set up the dependencies as these are available as packages in the systems package manager.

The commands shown in the following must be run from a terminal.

To install most dependencies homebrew is used.

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

Build Tools

To be able to checkout code it is necessary to install some source code management (SCM) tools. To be able to checkout the code from our own Git repository, a Git client is needed.

brew install git

To compile the C++ code, CMake must be used to prepare RobWork for compilation.

brew install cmake

RobWork Required Dependencies

Boost and eigen are the only required dependency for RobWork

brew install boost eigen

RobWork Optional Dependencies

Xerces can be used some places in RobWork for opening XML files. It is no longer a strict requirement, as RobWork is now able to use a Boost parser instead. If you enable compilation of non-standard parts of RobWork, or need to compile old RobWork-dependent projects, it might be a good idea to compile Xerces:

brew install xerces-c

SWIG (optional) is a tool that makes it possible to generate a LUA script interface for RobWork. SWIG must be version 4 or newer (since we use C++17). Python and Java interfaces are also possible, but require that Python or Java SDK is installed as well. All of these interfaces can be generated if you install the following packages:

brew install swig lua boost-python3 python openjdk

to use Java you need to link it to the system installed packages with:

sudo ln -sfn $(brew --prefix)/opt/openjdk/libexec/openjdk.jdk /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/openjdk.jdk

RobWorkStudio Required Dependencies

RobWorkStudio requires Qt to be installed. Only Qt5 is supported:

brew install qt5

RobWorkSim Dependencies

If you need to do dynamic simulations, you will probably need the RobWorkSim package. If you are in doubt and just need RobWorkStudio, you can likely skip this.

Open Dynamics Engine (ODE) can be installed through the package manager:

brew install ode

Bullet Physics can also be installed through the package manager.

brew install bullet

Building RobWork

When the dependencies are installed, go ahead and download the newest version of RobWork from the Git repository at:

In the terminal, this is done as follows: (be sure that you are located in the directory where you want to install RobWork) In this guide we will install in the home directory

cd ~
git clone
cd RobWork


In order to access the repository, you will need to have an account at and follow the procedure here to gain access:

Setup CMake Options & Environment

Before running CMake to build RobWork, some environment variables might need to be set. This is generally not needed when installing dependencies through the package manager. If one or more dependencies were compiled manually, one must be careful that CMake actually finds the dependency correctly. A good advice before building RobWork, is to actually read the CMake output carefully. Running CMake will be discussed later, but the CMake output will typically reveal early in the process if a dependency was not found. Building RobWork can take quite some time, and it is a petty building everything, just to discover that some functionality was disabled due to a unmet dependency (especially a problem for the optional dependencies).

There are overall two methods to let RobWork know where a dependency is installed. One is to set an environment variable, another is to set CMake options when running the CMake command. Environment variables can be set up one time for all in the users home folder in the .bash_profile file, while CMake options has to be specified each time you need to rebuild RobWork from scratch. The later does however give more fine-grained control, as it allows multiple versions of dependencies to be installed on the system. The version to use is then selected explicitly when running CMake.

In CMake Options & Environment: we try to give an overview of the correct variables to set for the various dependencies.

Compiling RobWork

In the following it is assumed that RobWork was checked out to the folder ~/RobWork, and that this is the current directory. Add a build directory for each of the projects you want to build:

mkdir Build
mkdir Build/RW
mkdir Build/RWStudio
mkdir Build/RWSim
mkdir Build/RWHardware

Now we are ready to build RobWork. Run CMake in the newly created build directory for RobWork, and run make afterwards to build the project:

cd ~/RobWork/Build/RW
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ../../RobWork
make -j4

Look carefully through the CMake output before running the make command. Check that there is no errors, and that the required dependencies are correctly found. The -j4 argument to make will build RobWork on 4 CPU cores. Note that you need at least 1 GB of memory per thread when building. Ie. building with 4 cores requires around 4 GB of RAM.

For RobWorkStudio:

cd ~/RobWork/Build/RWStudio
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ../../RobWorkStudio
make -j4

For RobWorkSim:

cd ~/RobWork/Build/RWSim
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ../../RobWorkSim
make -j4

Finally, we need to add the following paths to ~/.bash_profile:

export RW_ROOT=~/RobWork/RobWork/
export RWS_ROOT=~/RobWork/RobWorkStudio/
export RWSIM_ROOT=~/RobWork/RobWorkSim/

Remember to only add paths to the components you have actually installed. Ie. if you only installed RobWork and RobWorkStudio, the paths for RobWorkSim should not be set.

By setting these environment variables, it will be possible for other projects to find the RobWork projects.