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Building projectM from source

Suggested: use CMake. See

This document describes the deprecated GNU Autotools setup.

Quick Start (Debian / Ubuntu)

For other operating systems (Windows/macOS), see the OS-specific sections below.

Install the build tools and dependencies

Mandatory packages:

sudo apt install build-essential libgl1-mesa-dev mesa-common-dev libsdl2-dev libglm-dev

Optional packages for additional features:

sudo apt install qtbase5-dev # For building Qt-based UIs
sudo apt install llvm-dev # for using the experimental LLVM Jit
sudo apt install libvisual-0.4-dev # To build the libvisual plug-in
sudo apt install libjack-jackd2-dev # To build the JACK visualizer application

Download the projectM sources

If you want to use a stable version of projectM, download the latest release from the Releases page on GitHub and unpack it. You can then skip to the next step.

If you prefer a bleeding-edge version or want to modify the code, clone the Git repository:

sudo apt install git # Probably already installed
git clone /path/to/local/repo
cd /path/to/local/repo
git fetch --all --tags

Build and install projectM

Older projectM releases use autoconf/automake for building. If your repository has a CMakeLists.txt file on the top level, skip to the CMake part right below.

Replace /usr/local with your preferred installation prefix.

Configure the project using autoconf

sudo apt install autoconf automake libtool
./configure --prefix=/usr/local

Configure the project using CMake

sudo apt install cmake
mkdir build
cd build

Build and install

Independent of the method of configuration, this will build projectM and install it to /usr/local or the configured installation prefix set in the step before:

make -j && sudo make install

Note: You won't need to use sudo if the install prefix is writeable by your non-privileged user.

Test projectM

If you have a desktop environment installed, you can now run [prefix]/bin/projectMSDL.


Depending on the OS/distribution and packaging system, libraries might be split into separate packages with binaries and development files. To build projectM, both binaries and development files need to be installed.

General build dependencies for all platforms:

  • A working build toolchain.
  • OpenGL: 3D graphics library. Used to render the visualizations.
  • GLES3: OpenGL libraries for embedded systems, version 3. Required to build projectM on mobile devices, Raspberry Pi and Emscripten.
  • glm: OpenGL Mathematics library. Optional, will use a bundled version with autotools or if not installed.
  • SDL2: Simple Directmedia Layer. Version 2.0.5 or higher is required to build the standalone visualizer application (projectMSDL).
  • LLVM: Low-Level Virtual Machine. Optional and experimental, used to speed up preset execution by leveraging the LLVM JIT compiler.

Only relevant for Linux distributions, FreeBSD and macOS:

  • pkgconfig: Required to find some library dependencies.
  • Qt5: Qt cross-platform UI framework. Used to build the Pulseaudio and JACK visualizer applications. Requires the Gui and OpenGL component libraries/frameworks.
  • Pulseaudio: Sound system for POSIX platforms. Required to build the Pulseaudio visualizer application.
  • JACK: Real-time audio server. Required to build the JACK visualizer application.
  • libvisual 0.4: Audio visualization library with plug-in support. Required to build the projectM libvisual plug-in.

When using the classic autotools-based build system on UNIX platforms:

  • GNU automake and autoconf: Used to create the configuration script and generate the Makefiles.
  • libtool: Optional. Used by autoconf is available.
  • which: Determines full paths of shell executables. Should already be installed by default on the majority of POSIX-compliant OSes.

When using the new CMake-based build system:

  • CMake: Used to generate platform-specific build files.

Only relevant for Windows:

  • vcpkg: C++ Library Manager for Windows. Optional, but recommended to install the aforementioned library dependencies and/or using CMake to configure the build.
  • NuGet: Dependency manager for .NET. Optional, but recommended when building with the pre-created Visual Studio solutions.
  • GLEW: The OpenGL Extension Wrangler Library. Only required if using CMake to configure the build, the pre-created solutions use a bundled copy of GLEW.

Building on Linux and macOS

Installing dependencies

  • Linux distributions will have packages available for most (if not all) required libraries. The package names and commands to install them vary widely between distributions (and even versions of the same distribution). Please refer to the documentation of your build OS on how to find and install the required libraries.
  • On *BSD, install the appropriate Ports with pkg install.
  • On macOS, using Homebrew is the recommended way of installing any dependencies not supplied by Xcode.

Building with CMake

IMPORTANT NOTE: Currently, CMake build support is still in active development and considered unfinished. It is working and produces running binaries, but there are still some features, build internals and whole targets missing. While testing the CMake build files on any platform and feedback on this is strongly encouraged, CMake-based builds should not yet be used in any production environment until this message is gone.

The steps documented below are a bare minimum quickstart guide on how to build and install the project. If you want to configure the build to your needs, require more in-depth information about the build process and available tweaks, or on how to use libprojectM in your own CMake-based projects, see

Using CMake is the recommended and future-proof way of building projectM. CMake is a platform-independent tool that is able to generate files for multiple build systems and toolsets while using only a single set of build instructions. CMake support is still new and in development, but will replace the other project files (automake/autoconf scripts, Visual Studio solutions and Xcode projects) in this repository once mature and stable.

Building the project with CMake requires two steps:

  • Configure the build and generate project files.
  • Build and install the project using the selected build tools.

Note: When building with CMake, the build directory should always be separate from the source directory. Generating the build files directly inside the source tree is possible, but strongly discouraged. Using a subdirectory, e.g. cmake-build inside the source directory is fine though.

This documentation only covers project-specific information. CMake is way too versatile and feature-rich to cover any possible platform- and toolset-specific configuration details here. If you are not experienced in using CMake, please first read the official CMake documentation (at least the User Interaction Guide) for basic usage instructions.

Configure the build

Configuring a non-debug build with default options and install prefix (/usr/local) can be done with these commands, building in a subdirectory inside the source directory:

cd /path/to/source
mkdir cmake-build
cd cmake-build
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..

CMake will check all required dependencies and display any errors. If configuration was successful, a summary of the build configuration is printed and CMake should display a Generating done line. The project is now ready to build.

Compile and install the project

Depending on your generator choice, you can use your selected toolset as usual to build and install projectM:

  • With Unix Makefiles, run make && sudo make install.
  • With Ninja, run ninja && sudo ninja install.
  • With Xcode, select the appropriate target and configuration in Xcode and build it, or INSTALL to install the project.

You can also use CMake's build mode to run the selected toolset and build any specified target. CMake knows which command to call and which parameters to pass, so the syntax works on all platforms with all generators. If you've already set the top-level build directory as working directory, simply pass . as /path/to/build/dir:

cmake --build /path/to/build/dir --config Release
sudo cmake --build /path/to/build/dir --config Release --target install

If you don't need root permissions to install running the second command without sudo is sufficient.

If you want to provide arguments directly to the toolset command, add -- at the end of the CMake command line followed by any additional arguments. CMake will pass these unchanged and unchecked to the subcommand:

cmake --build /path/to/build/dir --config Release -- -j 4

Building with automake/autoconf

projectM ships with a set of scripts to check build dependencies and configure the build according to the user's preferences and toolchain.

Note: These scripts might be removed in the future in favor of using CMake as the sole build system tool on all platforms, so if you're planning to base new work on the projectM libraries, consider using CMake instead.

The source distribution only contains templates for the configure script and other files, so these need to be generated first. cd into the top-level source directory and execute:


You should now have an executable configure script ready. This will be used to check the platform and dependencies and finally configure the Makefiles for the actual build. The script accepts numerous parameters to customize the build. The most important ones and their requirements are listed in the table below. To get a full list of available parameters, options and influential environment variables, run ./configure --help.

Important build options and their requirements:

Configure flag Required dependencies Produced binary
--enable-sdl SDL2 projectMSDL
--enable-pulseaudio Qt5, Pulseaudio projectM-pulseaudio
--enable-jack Qt5, JACK projectM-jack
--enable-threading pthreads
--enable-llvm LLVM
--enable-gles GLES3

For example, to configure the project to build and install only the libprojectM libraries and the SDL-based standalone visualizer in the default location (/usr/local), run the following commands:

./configure --enable-sdl    # supply additional options here, info in Dependencies

sudo make install

Building on Windows

Using the provided project files

Windows build bypasses the autogen/configure pipeline and uses manually created Visual Studio/MSVC project files in msvc/. See .appveyor.yml for command line building.

Some dependencies are included verbatim (GLEW), while others leverage the NuGet ecosystem and are downloaded automatically (SDL2).

The Visual Studio solution is quite old and unmaintained. If you experience issues importing it, try using CMake to generate the solution for your Visual Studio version instead.

With CMake

To build the projectM library and the SDL-based standalone application, CMake can be used as on any other platform. Using vcpkg to pull in the build dependencies is highly recommended, as CMake can't use NuGet (NuGet pulls in dependencies using the project files, while CMake requires the libraries before creating the project files).

Installing the dependencies with vcpkg

As stated above, using vcpkg is the easiest way to get the required dependencies. First, install vcpkg from GitHub by following the official guide. Then install the following packages for your desired architecture (called "triplet"):

  • glew
  • sdl2

The glew package will also pull in the opengl libraries.

Example to install the libraries for the x64 architecture, run from a Visual Studio command prompt:

vcpkg install glew:x64-windows sdl2:x64-windows

Creating the Visual Studio solution

CMake provides separate generators for different Visual Studio versions. Newer CMake versions will support recent Visual Studio releases, but may remove generators for older ones. To get a list of available generators from the command line, use the -G switch without an argument. The CMake GUI will present you a dropdown list you can easily select from.

To set the build architecture in Visual Studio builds, use the -A switch and specify either Win32 or X64 as the argument. If you want to build for both architectures, create separate build directories and configure them accordingly.

To make CMake aware of the installed vcpkg packages, simply use the provided toolchain file when configuring the projectM build by pointing CMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE to it.

Here is a full command line example to create a Visual Studio 2019 solution for X64:

cmake -G "Visual Studio 16 2019" -A "X64" -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE="<path to vcpkg>/scripts/buildsystems/vcpkg.cmake" -S "<path to source dir>" -B "<path to build dir>"

If you use the CMake GUI, check the "Specify toolchain file for cross-compiling" option in the first page of the configuration assistant, then select the above vcpkg.cmake file on the second page.

Another option is to open the project folder in a recent Visual Studio version as a CMake project and configure CMake using Visual Studio's JSON-based settings file.

Building the solution

To build the project, open the generated solution in Visual Studio and build it like any other solution. Each time the CMake files are changed, Visual Studio will automatically regenerate the CMake build files and reload the solution before continuing the build. Be aware that in old Visual Studio versions (2015 and earlier) the reload-and-continue might not work properly.

You can also build the solution with msbuild via the command line, or use CMake's build wrapper to do that for you:

cmake --build "<path to build dir>" --config Release

Using Ninja to build

The Ninja build system is shipped with Visual Studio since version 2019 and used by default if loading a CMake project directly from within the IDE. Ninja can also be installed separately.

To configure the build directory for Ninja, pass Ninja or Ninja Multi-Config as the argument for the -G switch. The difference between both generators is that the former uses CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE to specify the configuration ( e.g. Debug or Release) while the latter supports all configurations in a single build directory, specified during build time.

The architecture is determined from the toolset, so make sure to run the commands in the correct Visual Studio command prompt, e.g. "Native Tools for X64".

Configure and build for a single-configuration Release build with vcpkg:

cmake -G "Ninja" -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE="<path to vcpkg>/scripts/buildsystems/vcpkg.cmake" -S "<path to source dir>" -B "<path to build dir>"
cmake --build "<path to build dir>"

Same, but using the multi-configuration generator:

cmake -G "Ninja Multi-Config" -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE="<path to vcpkg>/scripts/buildsystems/vcpkg.cmake" -S "<path to source dir>" -B "<path to build dir>"
cmake --build "<path to build dir>" --config Release

Notes on other platforms and features

Raspberry Pi (and other embedded systems)

Build using NDK for Android

Install Android Studio, launch SDK Manager and install NDK

make && make install-strip

Now you should be able to copy ./src/libprojectM/.libs/ and appropriate headers to projectm-android, and build it using Android Studio


There are some optimizations for parsing preset equations that leverage the LLVM JIT. You can try ./compile --enable--llvm to enable them. They may not work with newer version of LLVM (


libprojectM is the core library. It is made up of three sub-libraries:


Made up of everything in src/libprojectM/Renderer. These files compose the libRenderer sub-library.

MilkdropPresetFactory / NativePresetFactory

From their respective folders. Native presets are visualizations that are implemented in C++ instead of .milk preset files. They are completely optional. Milkdrop presets are technically optional but the whole thing is basically useless without them.

If you don't want native presets, and you probably don't, don't bother with them. Ideally there should be a configure option to disable them, probably on by default (at this time this is needed for autoconf:


libprojectM can either have a configuration hard-coded or load from a configuration file. It's up to each application to decide how to load the config file. The config file can have paths defined specifying where to load fonts and presets from.

You will want to install the config file and presets somewhere, and then define that path for the application you're trying to build.