Build guide

F3D uses a CMake based build system, so building F3D just requires installing needed dependencies, configuring and building. If you are not used to such processes please take a look at our getting started guide.


  • CMake >= 3.1.
  • VTK >= 9.0.0 (9.2.6 recommended).
  • A C++17 compiler.
  • A CMake-compatible build system (Visual Studio, XCode, Ninja, Make, etc.).
  • Optionally, Assimp >= 5.0.
  • Optionally, Open CASCADE OCCT >= 7.5.2.
  • Optionally, Alembic >= 1.7.
  • Optionally, OpenUSD >= 23.05.
  • Optionally, OpenVDB >= 10.0.0, enable IOOpenVDB VTK module.
  • Optionally, Draco >= 1.5.
  • Optionally, Python >= 3.6 and pybind11 >= 2.2.
  • Optionally, Java >= 18.
  • Optionally, OpenEXR >= 3.0.

VTK compatibility

As stated in the dependencies, F3D is compatible with VTK >= 9.0.0, however, many features are only available in certain conditions. We suggest using VTK 9.2.6 with RenderingRayTracing, RenderingExternal, IOExodus and IOOpenVDB modules enabled in order to get as many features as possible in F3D.

Configuration and building

Configure and generate the project with CMake, then build the software using your build system.

Here is some CMake options of interest:

  • F3D_BUILD_APPLICATION: Build the F3D executable.
  • BUILD_TESTING: Enable the tests.
  • F3D_MACOS_BUNDLE: On macOS, build a .app bundle.
  • F3D_WINDOWS_GUI: On Windows, build a Win32 application (without console).
  • F3D_WINDOWS_BUILD_SHELL_THUMBNAILS_EXTENSION: On Windows, build the shell thumbnails extension.
  • F3D_PLUGINS_STATIC_BUILD: Build all plugins as static library (embedded into libf3d) and automatically loaded by the application. Incompatible with F3D_MACOS_BUNDLE.
  • BUILD_SHARED_LIBS: Build the libf3d and all plugins as static library (embedded into f3d executable). The library and plugin_sdk component will not be installed.

Some modules, plugins and bindings depending on external libraries can be optionally enabled with the following CMake variables:

  • F3D_MODULE_RAYTRACING: Support for raytracing rendering. Requires that VTK has been built with OSPRay and VTK_MODULE_ENABLE_VTK_RenderingRayTracing turned on. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_MODULE_EXTERNAL_RENDERING: Support for external render window. Requires that VTK has been built with VTK_MODULE_ENABLE_VTK_RenderingExternal turned on. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_MODULE_EXR: Support for OpenEXR images. Requires OpenEXR. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_PLUGIN_BUILD_EXODUS: Support for ExodusII (.ex2) file format. Requires that VTK has been built with IOExodus module (and hdf5). Enabled by default.
  • F3D_PLUGIN_BUILD_OCCT: Support for STEP, IGES and BREP file formats. Requires OpenCASCADE. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_PLUGIN_BUILD_ASSIMP: Support for FBX, DAE, OFF, DXF, X and 3MF file formats. Requires Assimp. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_PLUGIN_BUILD_ALEMBIC: Support for ABC file format. Requires Alembic. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_PLUGIN_BUILD_DRACO: Support for DRC file format. Requires Draco. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_PLUGIN_BUILD_USD: Support for USD file format. Requires OpenUSD. Disabled by default.
  • F3D_PLUGIN_BUILD_VDB: Support for VDB file format. Requires that VTK has been built with IOOpenVDB module (and OpenVDB). Disabled by default.
  • F3D_BINDINGS_PYTHON: Generate python bindings (requires Python and pybind11). Disabled by default.
  • F3D_BINDINGS_JAVA: Generate java bindings (requires Java and JNI). Disabled by default.


It’s possible to use VCPKG to automatically build dependencies. A manifest file vcpkg.json is available at your convenience. Please read VCPKG documentation.
Basically, just install VCPKG, and configure F3D using -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE=[path to vcpkg]/scripts/buildsystems/vcpkg.cmake option.


Installation can be done through CMake, by running the following command:

cmake --install ${your_build_dir}

Individual components can also be installed by specifying the component name:

cmake --install ${your_build_dir} --component ${component_name}

Here is the list of all the components:

Name Installed by default Operating system Description
application YES ALL F3D application.
configuration NO ALL Default configuration files, config and thumbnail.
library YES ALL libf3d library binaries.
plugin YES ALL libf3d plugins.
dependencies NO ALL libf3d runtime dependencies. Can be used to create a self-contained and relocatable package. System libraries are excluded.
sdk NO ALL libf3d SDK (headers and CMake config files) for library and application find_package components.
plugin_sdk NO ALL libf3d plugin SDK (headers and CMake config files including macros) for pluginsdk find_package components.
licenses YES ALL F3D and third party licenses.
documentation YES Linux man documentation.
shellext YES Windows/Linux Desktop integration.
python YES ALL Python bindings.
java YES ALL Java bindings.
mimetypes NO Linux Plugins mimetype XML files for integration with Freedesktop.
assets YES Linux Assets for integration with Freedesktop.
colormaps NO ALL Color maps presets, see documentation