Compile on MacOS

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Revision as of 08:00, 6 March 2017 by Ian.rees (talk | contribs) (Added note regarding Qt4 -> Qt5 transition)
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This page explains how to compile the latest FreeCAD source code on Mac OS X. It is meant as a starting point for developing on FreeCAD; if you instead want to try using the latest pre-release version of FreeCAD, downloads are available from our continuous integration system at .


First of all, you will need to install the following software.

Package Manager

For FreeCAD, we usually use Homebrew, though MacPorts was used previously.


FreeCAD uses CMake to build the source. CMake comes in two versions, command-line and GUI. Use whichever you prefer.

The command-line version of CMake will be automatically installed by Homebrew in the prerequisites step, or the GUI version can be downloaded directly from .

Installing the Dependencies

All of the needed libraries can be installed using Homebrew. We maintain a "tap" including a formula for FreeCAD, it can be used to get the relevant dependencies.

We are currently transitioning FreeCAD from Qt 4 to Qt 5; the Homebrew formula will default to installing Qt5.6 unless --with-qt4 is specified along with --only-dependencies.

Note that there is currently a bug where the dependencies aren't all installed on the first run of brew install... - the duplicate line below is intentional

brew tap homebrew/science
brew tap freecad/freecad
brew install --only-dependencies freecad
brew install --only-dependencies freecad

Getting the source

In this guide, the source and build folders are created in /Users/username/FreeCAD, but you can of course use whatever folder you want.

mkdir ~/FreeCAD
cd ~/FreeCAD

To get the FreeCAD source code, this command will create a "clone" of the FreeCAD git repository in to a new directory called FreeCAD-git:

git clone FreeCAD-git

Building FreeCAD

Create a new folder for the build:

mkdir ~/FreeCAD/build

Now you will need to run CMake to generate the build files. Several options will need to be given to CMake, which can be accomplished either with the CMake GUI application, or via the command line.

CMake Options

Name Value Notes
BUILD_QT5 1 (checked) Set 0 (unchecked) if building with Qt4.
CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE Debug Can be Debug or Release. Debug is generally used for development
BUILD_FEM_NETGEN 1 (checked)
FREECAD_CREATE_MAC_APP 1 (checked) If you want to make a , this CMake option will cause "make install" to create a bundle in CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX .


Open the CMake app, and fill in the source and build folder fields. In this case, it would be /Users/username/FreeCAD/FreeCAD-git for the source, and /Users/username/FreeCAD/build for the build folder.

Next, click the Configure button to populate the list of configuration options. This will display a dialog asking you to specify what generator to use. Leave it at the default Unix Makefiles. Configuring will fail the first time because there are some options that need to be changed. Note: You will need to check the Advanced checkbox to get all of the options.

Set options from the table above, then click Configure again and then Generate.

CMake command line

Open a terminal, cd in to the build directory that was created above. Run cmake with options from the table above, following the formula -D(Name)="(Value)", and the path to your FreeCAD source directory as the final argument.

$cd ~/FreeCAD/build
$cmake -DFREECAD_USE_EXTERNAL_KDL="1" ...options continue... -DFREECAD_CREATE_MAC_APP ="1" ../FreeCAD-git


Finally, from a terminal run make to compile FreeCAD.

cd ~/FreeCAD/build
make –j3

The -j option specifies how many make processes to run at once. One plus the number of CPU cores is usually a good number to use. However, if compiling fails for some reason, it is useful to rerun make without the -j option, so that you can see exactly where the error occurred.

See also Compiling - Speeding up.

If make finishes without any errors, you can now launch FreeCAD, either from Terminal with ./bin/FreeCAD, or by double clicking the executable in Finder.


FreeCAD development happens fast; every day or so there are bug fixes or new features. To get the latest changes, use git to update the source directory (see Source code management), then re-run the CMake and make steps above. It is not usually necessary to start with a clean build directory in this case, and subsequent compiles will generally go much faster than the first one.



"No CMAKE_Fortran_COMPILER could be found." during configuration - Older versions of FreeCAD will need a fortran compiler installed. With Homebrew, do "brew install gcc" and try configuring again, giving cmake the path to Fortran ie -DCMAKE_Fortran_COMPILER=/opt/local/bin/gfortran-mp-4.9 . Or, preferably use a more current version of FreeCAD source!


See OpenGL on MacOS for OpenGL issues when Qt 4.8 and earlier are used on MacOS.


When using CMake versions older than 3.1.0, it's necessary to set CMake variable FREETYPE_INCLUDE_DIR_freetype2 manually, eg /usr/local/include/freetype2

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