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ZIM library

The ZIM library is the reference implementation for the ZIM file format. It's a solution to read and write ZIM files on many systems and architectures. More information about the ZIM format and the openZIM project at

latest release Build Status Doc Status codecov CodeFactor License: GPL v2

Packaging status


This document assumes you have a little knowledge about software compilation. If you experience difficulties with the dependencies or with the ZIM library compilation itself, we recommend to have a look to kiwix-build.


Although the ZIM library can be compiled/cross-compiled on/for many systems, the following documentation explains how to do it on POSIX ones. It is primarily though for GNU/Linux systems and has been tested on recent releases of Ubuntu and Fedora.


The ZIM library relies on many third parts software libraries. They are prerequisites to the Kiwix library compilation. Following libraries need to be available:

  • Z (package zlib1g-dev on Ubuntu)
  • LZMA (package liblzma-dev on Ubuntu)
  • ICU (package libicu-dev on Ubuntu)
  • Zstd (package libzstd-dev on Ubuntu)
  • Xapian - optional (package libxapian-dev on Ubuntu)
  • UUID (package uuid-dev on Ubuntu)
  • Google Test - optional (package googletest on Ubuntu)

To build the documentations you need the packages :

These dependencies may or may not be packaged by your operating system. They may also be packaged but only in an older version. The compilation script will tell you if one of them is missing or too old. In the worse case, you will have to download and compile a more recent version by hand.

If you want to install these dependencies locally, then ensure that meson (through pkg-config) will properly find them.


The ZIM library builds using Meson version 0.43 or higher. Meson relies itself on Ninja, Pkg-config and few other compilation tools.

Install first the few common compilation tools:

  • Meson
  • Ninja
  • Pkg-config

These tools should be packaged if you use a cutting edge operating system. If not, have a look to the "Troubleshooting" section.


Once all dependencies are installed, you can compile ZIM library with:

meson . build
ninja -C build

By default, it will compile dynamic linked libraries. All binary files will be created in the build directory created automatically by Meson. If you want statically linked libraries, you can add --default-library=static option to the Meson command.

If you want to build the documentation, we need to pass the -Ddoc=true option and run the doc target:

meson . build -Ddoc=true
ninja -C build doc

Depending of you system, ninja may be called ninja-build.


If you want to install the libzim and the headers you just have compiled on your system, here we go:

ninja -C build install

You might need to run the command as root (or using sudo), depending where you want to install the libraries. After the installation succeeded, you may need to run ldconfig (as root).


If you want to uninstall the libzim:

ninja -C build uninstall

Like for the installation, you might need to run the command as root (or using sudo).


If you need to install Meson "manually":

virtualenv -p python3 ./ # Create virtualenv
source bin/activate      # Activate the virtualenv
pip3 install meson       # Install Meson
hash -r                  # Refresh bash paths

If you need to install Ninja "manually":

git clone git://
cd ninja
git checkout release
./ --bootstrap
mkdir ../bin
cp ninja ../bin
cd ..

If the automated tests fail or timeout, you need to be aware that this test suite needs up to 16GB of memory. You can skip this specific tests with:


If the compilation still fails, you might need to get a more recent version of a dependency than the one packaged by your Linux distribution. Try then with a source tarball distributed by the problematic upstream project or even directly from the source code repository.


GPLv2 or later, see COPYING for more details.

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