Software Environment for High-Performance Simulation and Parallel Visualization
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Visualization Testing Laboratory for Exascale Computing (Vistle)

A modular data-parallel visualization system.

vistle: very smooth and elegant, nicely put together (Urban Dictionary)


Vistle source code is licensed under the LGPL v2.1. See lgpl-2.1.txt for details. This does not apply to the subdirectory 3rdparty.

Getting Vistle

Getting Vistle is as easy as

  git clone --recursive

Build Requirements

  • C++ compiler: support for C++11 (ISO/IEC 14882:2011) is required

    Known good compilers:

    • GCC (4.6, 4.8, 4.9)
    • Clang (Xcode 5.0–6.1)
    • Intel (14.0.2 - but use Boost 1.52 and not on Cray, 13.1.3 with GCC 4.6.3)
    • Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 (14.0)

    Known bad compilers:

    • GCC 4.4 (not enough C++11)
    • PGI 13.10 (no atomics for boost:interprocess)
    • Cray CC 8.2.3 (crashes on IceT, not enough C++11)
  • CMake: at least 2.8

  • MPI: Microsoft MPI, Open MPI, MPICH and MVAPCH2 has been used successfully.

  • Boost: Build boost with the following options:

       b2 --with-filesystem --with-iostreams --with-python \
           --with-serialization --with-system --with-thread \
           --with-date_time \


    • in order to switch MPI implementations without requiring a recompilation of boost, we compile Boost.MPI together with Vistle
    • Intel compiler (at least 14.0.2) does not work with 1.55 because of missing std::nullptr_t, use 1.52
  • Python: for interpreting Vistle scripts (.vsl), Python 2.7 and 3 should work.

  • Readline library: history and line editing for command line interface

  • COVISE/OpenCOVER: a version of COVISE including OpenCOVER compiled by you is necessary, get it from GitHub, needed for:

    • ReadCovise module
    • COVER module and COVER plug-ins
    • ray casting render module

    In addition you should set COVISEDESTDIR to a location where compiled COVER plug=ins should go.

  • OpenSceneGraph: the version of OpenSceneGraph that was used for compiling OpenCOVER

  • Qt: Qt 5 is required by the graphical user interface

You can set the environment variable EXTERNLIBS to a directory where Vistle should search for 3rd party libraries. It will search in e.g. $EXTERNLIBS/boost if CMake is looking for Boost.

macOS with Homebrew

Install most of Vistle's dependencies by invoking brew bundle within Vistle's root source directory.

Building Vistle

Create a subdirectory for building, change to it, and invoke CMake:

  cmake ..

Then build with your build tool, e.g.:

  make -j20

Invoking Vistle

Environment Set-Up

Vistle modules are run on clusters via MPI. You have to configure how they have to be spawned by providing a script named (or spawn_vistle.bat on Windows) somewhere in your PATH. It could be as simple as

  #! /bin/bash
  mpirun "$@"

But it also might require invoking your batch system.

For COVER to find its plug-ins, you should add the directory from COVISEDESTDIR to COVISE_PATH.

Command Line Switches


  vistle [--batch|--gui|--tui] [scriptfile]


  • -b|--batch: do not start a user interface

  • -g|--gui (default): start a graphical user interface on rank 0

  • -t|--tui: start a command line user interface on rank 0

You can connect a user interface to a running Vistle session later on, e.g.:

  vistle_gui localhost 31093

Source Code Organization

  • .../cmake: CMake modules

  • scripts: support scripts for building Vistle

  • 3rdparty: 3rd party source code

  • vistle: Vistle source code

    • vistle/util: support code
    • vistle/core: Vistle core data structures
    • vistle/userinterface: common library for user interfaces
    • vistle/rhr: library for remote hybrid rendering servers and clients
    • vistle/control: Python code for controlling a Vistle session
    • vistle/hub: Vistle session controller
    • vistle/gui: graphical user interface
    • vistle/blower: command line user interface (Python)
    • vistle/module: visualization algorithm modules and base library
      • vistle/module/general:
      • vistle/module/test: various debugging aids
    • vistle/renderer: renderer modules transforming geometry into pixels
      • vistle/renderer/DisCOVERay: a parallel remote hybrid rendering server based on Embree (CPU ray-casting)
      • vistle/renderer/OsgRenderer: a parallel remote hybrid rendering server based on OpenSceneGraph (OpenGL)
    • vistle/cover: plugins for OpenCOVER, e.g. for connecting to Vistle
      • vistle/cover/RhrClient: OpenCOVER remote hybrid rendering client plugin