Building GrADS v1.9 from Sources

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Quick Instructions[edit]

Here is the quickest way to build GrADS from sources:

  • Choose a working directory and make sure you have GNU make.
  • Get the supplibs either pre-compiled or compile it yourself. In order to build GrADS v1.9, v2.0.0 of the supplibs is required; v2.0.1 and higher are intended for building GrADS 2.0 only.
Pre-compiled: Download the binary Supplemental Libraries (Supplibs) from our site, and untar them in this working directory:
    % gunzip supplibs-2.0.0.tar.gz
    % tar xvf supplibs-2.0.0.tar
The compiled libraries along with binaries and header files are contained in a platform dependent subdirectory; e.g. i686-pc-linux-gnu in case of a Linux build. Provide a symbolic link named supplibs to that directory:
    % ln -s supplibs-2.0.0/i686-pc-linux-gnu supplibs
If your platform specific name is different, modify the above line accordingly.
Building from source: Download the supplibs sources from our site, untar them in the same location, and build them:
    % cd supplibs-2.0.0/src
    % gmake install     
Do not configure or issue a simple make; just do a gmake install as indicated above. Once the build has finished successfully, provide a symbolic link named 'supplibs' pointing to the platform dependent directory which contains the newly build libraries:
    % cd ../..
    % ln -s supplibs-2.0.0/i686-pc-linux-gnu supplibs
The name of the installation directory for the supplementary libraries (i686-pc-linux-gnu on a typical Linux PC) depends on the build machine's architecture and operating system. You therefore might have to modify the above line accordingly.
  • Download the GrADS sources from, untar them in this same working directory, configure and make:
    % cd grads-<version>
    % ./configure
    % gmake 
    % gmake check
    % gmake bin-dist   (to create binary tarball)
    % gmake data-dist  (to create data tarball)
    % gmake install

If your source tarball has the directory extensions/ in it you can build the OpenGrADS extensions with

    % gmake gex-dist

Read on if you need more information. For installation instructions here.


There are three different methods for having GrADS installed on your computer:

  1. If it is included in your Linux distribution, for example, recent versions of Red Hat and Fedora distributions, install it directly from your CD or from the net with update tools such as yum, apt or urpmi.
  2. Install one of the binaries distributions from the GrADS download page at COLA, or from the OpenGRADS download page at sourceforge. This usually works for a large number of platforms and gives you binaries loaded with all the features.
  3. If 1) or 2) fail, or for security reasons you prefer to build from sources, this is a viable option as well. The information in this page will guide you through the necessary steps in buiding GrADS from sources: from a fully featured build to a customized build that fits your needs.

Like most applications of this nature, many of GrADS capabilities are implemented by means of external libraries: NetCDF, HDF, OPeNDAP, to name a few. These dependencies are fairly complex packages themselves, and porting them to a new platform require experience with this sort of activity. The good news is, these packages build fairly easily in popular platforms such as Linux, Mac OS X, Unices and even Windows. The GrADS code itself is very compact and easily portable. If you are going to have a problem, it will most likely be building one of the external packages, not GrADS.

There are a few options to satisfy GrADS external dependencies:

  1. The GrADS developers maintain a central repository with source code for these packages, with binaries available for the supported platforms. See Supplemental Libraries (Supplibs) for more information.
  2. Your OS distributions may provide development version for a number of these libraries. For Linux in particular, you would want to install packages with names having -devel in it as these will include the header files necessary to compile GrADS.
  3. Or else, you download the sources from the package website and do the build yourself. Compared to using sources from the supplibs in 1) the only risk of this method is that you may end up using a version of the package that is not quite compatible with GrADS. You have been advised.

However, except for the X11 client libraries, you do not need to resolve all the external dependences. If the GrADS configure script cannot find the necessary package, it will disable the GrADS feature that required that package. The next section will help identifying which packages are relevant to build GrADS with the features that you need.

Deciding which external libraries you need[edit]

As of this writing there are several GrADS executables, each implementing different options for reading and writing data files. Table 1 summarizes these executables, their I/O capabilities and the external packages necessary to build them.

GrADS Executable Reads Writes Required External Packages
gradsc bin, GRIB bin, GRIB X11
gradsnc bin, GRIB, nc bin, GRIB, nc X11, NetCDF-3, udunits
gradsnc4 bin, GRIB, nc, nc-4/hdf-5 bin, grib, nc X11, NetCDF-4, HDF-5, udunits
gradshdf bin, GRIB, nc, hdf-4 bin, GRIB, hdf-4 X11, HDF-4, udunits
gradsdap bin, GRIB, nc, http:// bin, GRIB, nc X11, dap, nc-dap, gadap, udunits, curl, xml2
Table 1. GrADS executables showing their reading/writing capabilities and external packages required.

In the Reads/Writes columns, nc stands for the XDR format used by NetCDF prior to version 4, hdf-4 is the HDF Version 4 format, while nc-4/hdf-4 stands for the particular flavor of HDF Version 5 written by the NetCDF Version 4 library. The X11 client libraries is the only common requirement to all versions; GrADS has been known to build against X11R5 and later versions of X Windows. The core graphics engine only requires libX11.a, while the Graphical User Interface (GUI) based on the Athena Widgets is included only if libXaw.a or equivalent is present. (The supplibs come with libneXtaw.a a replacement for the classic Athena Widgets.)

So, decide which features you need and use Table 1 to determine which of the dependencies you need to supply. Generally, binary distributions of the supplibs will fulfill all these requirements.

Getting the sources[edit]

The source code for the official releases of GrADS can be obtained from the GrADS download page at COLA. Recent OpenGRADS releases such as GrADS v1.9.0-rc1 are available from our site:

Doing the build[edit]

Using the Supplibs[edit]

See the [Quick Instructions] above. Starting from pre-compiled supplibs usually make the process of building GrADS quite easy. Just make sure that you untar the supplibs at directory parallel to your sources, and provide a symbolic link supplibs pointing to the platform dependent directory within supplibs-2.0.0 containing the binary supplibs. Alternatively, you may set the environment variable SUPPLIBS with the location of your supplibs. For more information, enter

  % configure --help

to obtain a description of other configuration parameters such as compilers and compilers. Usually you don't have to set these parameters, but they may handy if you want to tweak the build somehow. Also note that building GrADS 1.9 requires the use supplibs-2.0.0; higher versions of the supplibs are intended for building GrADS 2.x.

Platform specific notes follow.

FreeBSD 6.3/DesktopBSD 1.6[edit]

  • Updated gcc to 4.2, including gfortran
  • Set the following environment variables before running configure:
export CC=gcc42
export CXX=g++42
export XAW7_CFLAGS=/usr/local/include
export XAW7_LIBS=/usr/local/lib/libXaw7.a

Then as usual

gmake check

Mac OS X[edit]

When setting up the supplibs, symlink the platform specific folder to supplibs, e.g.,

% ln -s supplibs-2.0.0/i686-apple-darwin8.10.1 supplibs

In general, supplibs to not need to rebuilt with every minor OS upgrade. For example, supplibs built for i686-apple-darwin8.10.1 work just fine for i686-apple-darwin8.11.1.

Building the Dependencies from Scratch[edit]

My suggestion would be for you to build the supplibs from sources, as it contains all that is necessary and the build mechanism ensures that all the libraries are built cooperatively. A single tarball with sources for the supplibs are available here:

If you insist in downloading the sources from the developers of each library, no problem. I'd still suggest starting with the versions provided in the supplibs.

Satisfying dependences with packages in your OS distribution[edit]

The main point to remember here is that you will need development versions of each library, usually having -devel in the package name. A few Linux distrbutions are discussed bellow. Please help us improve this documentation by providing us with notes for additional distributions. When configuring enter:

  ./configure --enable-dyn-supplibs


Many dependencies of grads are available in the fedora repository (since Fedora 3, in fedora extras and in main fedora after the merge, in fedora 7):

  • udunits-devel
  • readline-devel
  • zlib-devel
  • libjpeg-devel
  • gd-devel
  • libXaw-devel, Xaw3d-devel or neXtaw-devel
  • libsx-devel
  • hdf-devel
  • netcdf-devel
  • libnc-dap-devel
  • libdap-devel

With a monolithic X (in RHEL/Centos 4, fedora up to fedora 4), the X libraries development package is xorg-x11-devel. In recent fedora distributions, the X lib packages that may be needed are libXmu-devel and libX11-devel.

For RHEL/Centos most of these packages are in the EPEL repository or other third party repository (although it is often recommended not to mix incompatible third party repositories).

Another important note is that since fedora 5, wgrib is a separate package.


Arch Linux ( is a lightweight and flexible linux distribution that tries to Keep It Simple.

As it is a rolling distro, there is no such thing as a release (for easy installation You can have a snapshot four to six times each year).

You can find the GrADS sources in the AUR repository at Following the Arch way of making packages, You need to:

 tar zxvf opengrads-cvs.tar.gz
  • Enter into the opengrads-cvs directory and use makepkg
 cd opengrads-cvs
  • To install repository packages needed but not installed, You can use
 makepkg -s
  • libnc-dap is in the AUR repository as well, so repeat the procedure for the libnc-dap first.
  • netcdf-pre is in the AUR repository as well, so if You need the gradsnc4 executable, repeat the procedure for the hdf5-pre and netcdf-pre first.

All the other dependencies are in the community or extra repositories.

If everithing goes OK at the end, the package opengrads-cvs-YYYYMMDD-X.[i686-x86_64].pkg.tar.gz should be in the directory or in PKGDEST as configured in /etc/makepkg.conf ready for installation with pacman.

 pacman -U opengrads-cvs*.pkg.tar.gz

More in-depth guide on building packages for Arch can be found at: Helper programs such as yaourt ( can help in making Arch packages. Please note that also in Arch wgrib is a separate package:

MacOS X: Fink[edit]

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MacOS X: MacPorts[edit]

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Contact Information[edit]

If you would like to help us improving this documentation please drop a note at our open-discussion forum.