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Compiling libigl as a static library

Warning: compiling libigl as a static library is considerably more difficult than using it as a header-only library (see ../ instead). Do it only if you are experienced with C++, cmake and make, and you want to improve your compilation times.

Libigl is developed most often on Mac OS X, though has current users in Linux and Windows.

Linux/Mac OS X/Cygwin

Libigl may also be compiled to a static library. This is advantageous when building a project with libigl, since when used as an header-only library can slow down compile times.

To build the entire libigl library producing at least libigl/lib/libigl.a and possible other (automatically detected) extras, e.g. libigl/lib/libiglcgal.a from this current directory: issue:

    mkdir -p ../lib
    cd ../lib
    cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ../optional


You should expect to see a few linker warnings of the form:

/opt/local/bin/ranlib: file: libigl.a(*.cpp.o) has no symbols

These are (admittedly unpopular) functions that have never been used by us statically so we haven’t explicit instantiations (yet).


Finally there are a number of external libraries that we include in ./external/ because they are either difficult to obtain or they have been patched for easier use with libigl. Please see the respective readmes in those directories or build the tutorial using cmake, which will recursively build all dependencies.

Installing Embree 2.0

To build the embree library and executables on Mac OS X issue:

cd external/embree
mkdir build
cd build
cmake ..
# Or using a different compiler
#cmake .. -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=/opt/local/bin/gcc -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=/opt/local/bin/g++
# Could also install embree to your root, but libigl examples don't expect this
#sudo make install



This library extra contains functions for computing Bounded Biharmonic Weights, can be used with and without the mosek extra via the IGL_NO_MOSEK macro.


This library extra contains functions for computing mesh-mesh booleans, depending on CGAL and optionally Cork.


This library extra utilizes CGAL’s efficient and exact intersection and proximity queries.


This library extra utilizes embree’s efficient ray tracing queries.


This library extra provides support for reading and writing .mat workspace files, interfacing with Matlab at run time and compiling mex functions.


This library extra utilizes mosek’s efficient interior-point solver for quadratic programs.


This library extra uses libpng and YImage to read and write .png files.


This library extra provides a simplified wrapper to the tetgen 3d tetrahedral meshing library.


This library extra provides a simplified wrapper to the triangle 2d triangle meshing library.


This library extra utilizes glfw and glew to open an opengl context and launch a simple mesh viewer.


This library extra utilizes tinyxml2 to read and write serialized classes containing Eigen matrices and other standard simple data-structures.


Further documentation for developers is listed in style_guidelines.html.




Zip this directory without .git litter and binaries using:

git archive -prefix=libigl/ -o master

Explicit instantiations of templated functions

Special care must be taken by the developers of each function and class in the libigl library that uses C++ templates. If this function is intended to be compiled into the statically linked libigl library then function is only compiled for each explicitly instantiated declaration. These should be added at the bottom of the corresponding .cpp file surrounded by a


Of course, a developer may not know ahead of time which instantiations should be explicitly included in the igl static lib. One way to find out is to add one explicit instantiation for each call in one’s own project. This only ever needs to be done once for each template.

The process is somewhat mechanical using a linker with reasonable error output.

Supposed for example we have compiled the igl static lib, including the cat.h and cat.cpp functions, without any explicit instantiation. Say using the makefile in the libigl directory:


Now if we try to compile a project and link against it we may get an error like:

Undefined symbols for architecture x86_64:
"Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> igl::cat<Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> >(int, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&)", referenced from:
uniform_sample(Eigen::Matrix<double, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, int, double, Eigen::Matrix<double, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1>&)in Skinning.o
"Eigen::SparseMatrix<double, 0, int> igl::cat<Eigen::SparseMatrix<double, 0, int> >(int, Eigen::SparseMatrix<double, 0, int> const&, Eigen::SparseMatrix<double, 0, int> const&)", referenced from:
covariance_scatter_matrix(Eigen::Matrix<double, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, ArapEnergy, Eigen::SparseMatrix<double, 0, int>&)in arap_dof.o
arap_rhs(Eigen::Matrix<double, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, ArapEnergy, Eigen::SparseMatrix<double, 0, int>&)in arap_dof.o

This looks like a mess, but luckily we don’t really need to read it all. Just copy the first part in quotes

Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> igl::cat<Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> >(int, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&)

, then append it to the list of explicit template instantiations at the end of cat.cpp after the word template and followed by a semi-colon. Like this:

// Explicit template instantiation
template Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> igl::cat<Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> >(int, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&, Eigen::Matrix<int, -1, -1, 0, -1, -1> const&);

Then you must recompile the IGL static library.


And try to compile your project again, potentially repeating this process until no more symbols are undefined.


It may be useful to check that you code compiles with no errors first using the headers-only version to be sure that all errors are from missing template instantiations.

If you’re using make then the following command will reveal each missing symbol on its own line:

make 2>&1 | grep "referenced from" | sed -e "s/, referenced from.*//"

Alternatively you can use the function which (for well organized .h/.cpp pairs in libigl) automatically create explicit instantiations from your compiler’s error messages. Repeat this process until convergence:

cd /to/your/project
make 2>$LIBIGL/make.err
cat make.err | ./
make clean

Benefits of static library

  • Faster compile time: Because the libigl library is already compiled, only the new code in ones project must be compiled and then linked to IGL. This means compile times are generally faster.

  • Debug or optimized: The IGL static library may be compiled in debug mode or optimized release mode regardless of whether one’s project is being optimized or debugged.

Drawbacks of static library

  • Hard to use templates: Special care (by the developers of the library) needs to be taken when exposing templated functions.

Compressed .h/.cpp pair

Calling the script:

scripts/ igl.h igl.cpp

will create a single header igl.h and a single cpp file igl.cpp.

Alternatively, you can also compress everything into a single header file:

scripts/ igl.h

Benefits of compressed .h/.cpp pair

  • Easy incorporation: This can be easily incorporated into external projects.

Drawbacks of compressed .h/.cpp pair

  • Hard to debug/edit: The compressed files are automatically generated. They’re huge and should not be edited. Thus debugging and editing are near impossible.

  • Compounded dependencies: An immediate disadvantage of this seems to be that even to use a single function (e.g. cotmatrix), compiling and linking against igl.cpp will require linking to all of libigl‘s dependencies (OpenGL, GLUT, AntTweakBar, BLAS). However, because all dependencies other than Eigen should be encapsulated between #ifndef guards (e.g. #ifndef IGL_NO_OPENGL, it is possible to ignore certain functions that have such dependencies.

  • Long compile: Compiling igl.cpp takes a long time and isn’t easily parallelized (no make-j12 equivalent).

Here’s a tiny test example using igl.h and igl.cpp. Save the following in test.cpp:

#include <igl.h>
#include <Eigen/Core>

int main(int argc, char * argv[])
Eigen::MatrixXd V;
Eigen::MatrixXi F;
return (argc>=2 && igl::read_triangle_mesh(argv[1],V,F)?0:1);

Then compile igl.cpp with:

g++ -o igl.o -c igl.cpp -I/opt/local/include/eigen3 -DIGL_NO_OPENGL -DIGL_NO_ANTTWEAKBAR

Notice that we’re using -DIGL_NO_OPENGL -DIGL_NO_ANTTWEAKBAR to disable any libigl dependencies on OpenGL and AntTweakBar.

Now compile test.cpp with:

g++ -g -I/opt/local/include/eigen3/ -I/usr/local/igl/libigl/ -L/usr/local/igl/libigl/ -ligl -DIGL_NO_OPENGL -DIGL_NO_ANTTWEAKBAR -o test

Try running it with:

./test path/to/mesh.obj

The following bash one-liner will find all source files that contain the string OpenGL but don’t contain and IGL_NO_OPENGL guard:

grep OpenGL `grep -L IGL_NO_OPENGL include/igl/*`


  • OpenGL (disable with IGL_NO_OPENGL)
    • OpenGL >= 4 (enable with IGL_OPENGL_4)
  • AntTweakBar (disable with IGL_NO_ANTTWEAKBAR) Last tested 1.16 (see libigl/external/AntTweakBar)
  • GLEW Windows and Linux
  • OpenMP
  • libpng libiglpng extra only
  • Mosek libiglmosek extra only
  • Matlab libiglmatlab extra only
  • boost libiglboost, libiglcgal extra only
  • SSE/AVX libiglsvd3x3 extra only
  • CGAL libiglcgal extra only
    • boost
    • gmp
    • mpfr
  • CoMiSo libcomiso extra only

Optional (included in external/)

  • TetGen libigltetgen extra only
  • Embree libiglembree extra only
  • tinyxml2 libiglxml extra only
  • glfw libviewer extra only
  • LIM liblim extra only