Installation Guide

Quick installation

FriCAS now tries to support standard GNU build/installation conventions. So if you have sources and all prerequisites, then

configure && make && sudo make install

should work. The above will install FriCAS files into /usr/local/lib/fricas/ and put the fricas command into /usr/local/bin/. You can give arguments to configure to change those locations.


Standard build tools

To build FriCAS you need standard build tools like C compiler and make.


To build FriCAS you need one of the following Lisp variants:

All Lisp implementations should give essentially the same functionality, however performance (speed) may differ quite a lot. ATM CMU CL port should be considered experimental, it received only little testing. Also CMU CL seem to have problems on some machines. By default FriCAS tries to use SBCL, since it is fast and reliable. On 64-bit AMD64 on average SBCL is the fastest one (9 times faster than CLISP), Clozure CL the second (about 1.5 times slower than SBCL), than GCL and ECL (about 3 times slower than SBCL) and CLISP is the slowest one. Note: very old versions of ECL were much (about 4 times) slower, you should use reasonably new version if you care about speed.

Some computation work much faster on 64-bit machines, especially when using SBCL.

X libraries (optional, but needed for graphics and HyperDoc)

On Debian (or Ubuntu) install the following packages.

sudo apt install libx11-dev libxt-dev libice-dev \
                 libsm-dev libxau-dev libxdmcp-dev libxpm-dev

GMP (optional)

You you use SBCL or Clozure CL the --enable-gmp configure option is available only if the development version of GMP is installed. Note: using GMP should work on all SBCL and Clozure CL platforms except for Clozure CL on Power PC.

sudo apt install libgmp-dev

LaTeX (optional)

If you run FriCAS in Emacs (efricas) you can enable

)set output tex on

to show rendered TeX output. For that to work, you need the following.

sudo apt install texlive auctex dvipng

In order to build the FriCAS Book, you also need the following LaTeX packages (available from CTAN).


SphinxDoc (optional)

The documentation is built via Sphinx.

sudo apt install python3 python3-pip
pip3 install -U Sphinx

Aldor (optional)

If you want to use Aldor to extend the FriCAS library, you must, of course, hava Aldor installed, and add --enable-aldor to your configure options when you compile FriCAS.

Extra libraries needed by ECL

This only applies if you use Debian ECL.

sudo apt install libffi-dev

Detailed installations instructions

We assume that you have installed all necessary prerequisittes.

  1. Change to a directory with enough (0.8 GB) free space.

  2. Fetch sources.

    git clone --depth 1

    Remove the --depth 1 option for access to the change history.

  3. Create build directory and change to it

    mkdir fr-build
    cd fr-build
  4. Configure. Assuming that you want fricas files to be installed in /tmp/usr.

    ../fricas/configure --with-lisp=/path/to/your/lisp --prefix=/tmp/usr

    where /path/to/your/lisp is name of your Lisp. For example, type

    ../fricas/configure --with-lisp="sbcl --dynamic-space-size 4096" --prefix=/tmp/usr --enable-gmp --enable-aldor

    to build with SBCL and 4 GiB dynamic space, use GMP, and enable the build of the Aldor library


    ../fricas/configure --help

    to see all possible options.

  5. Build and install

    make install

    Optionaly, to gain confidence that your build works, you can run tests

    make check

Extra information

The preferred way to build FriCAS is to use an already installed Lisp. Also, it is preferable to use a separate build directory. Assuming that the source tree is in $HOME/fricas, you build in $HOME/fricas-build subdirectory and your Lisp is called sbcl the following should just work.

cd $HOME/fricas-build
$HOME/fricas/configure --with-lisp=sbcl && make && sudo make install

Currently --with-lisp option accepts all supported lisp variants, namely SBCL, CLISP, ECL, GCL and Clozure CL (openmcl). Note: the argument is just a command to invoke the respective Lisp variant. Build machinery will automatically detect which Lisp is in use and adjust as needed.

HyperDoc and graphics

If you compile FriCAS from the FriCAS git repository, and configure does not detect the xvfb-run program, then graphic examples will not be built. This results in broken HyperDoc pages – all graphic examples will be missing (and trying to access them will crash hypertex).

The get working graphic examples login into X and replace make above by the following

make MAYBE_VIEWPORTS=viewports

Alternatively, after make finishes use

make viewports

Important: building graphic examples accesses the X server, so it will not work on text console. During build drawings will temporarily appear on the screen. Redirecting X via ssh should work fine, but may be slow.

It is possible to use the xvfb-run program, replacing make viewports above by

xvfb-run -a -n 0 -s '-screen 0 1024x768x24' make viewports

Algebra optimization

When writing/compiling programs there is always tradeoff between speed and safety. Programs may include many checks to detect errors early (and allow recovery). Such programs are safe but checks take time so the program is slower. Or a program may just blindly goes forward hoping that everything goes well. Typically the second program will be faster, but in case of problems it may crash without any hint why and take user data with it.

Safety checks may be written by programmers, but another possibility is to have a compiler which automatically inserts various checks. FriCAS is compiled by a Lisp compiler and Lisp compilers may insert safety checks. How many checks are inserted may be controlled by the user. By default FriCAS tries to strike good balance between speed and safety. However, some FriCAS users want different tradeoff. The


option to configure allows changing this setting: S is a Lisp expression specifying speed/safety tradeoff used by Lisp compiler. For example:

--enable-algebra-optimization="((speed 3) (safety 0))"

chooses fastest (but unsafe) variant, while

--enable-algebra-optimization="((speed 2) (safety 3))"

should be very safe (but possibly slow).

Note: this setting affects only algebra (that is mathematical code). The rest of FriCAS always uses default setting. Rationale for this is that mathematical code is unlikely to contain errors which can crash the whole system.

Using GMP with SBCL or Clozure CL

Currently on average FriCAS is fastest when compiled using SBCL. However, SBCL normally uses its own routines for computations with large numbers and those routines are slower than GMP. FriCAS now has special support to replace sbcl arithmetic routines by GMP. To use this support install GMP including header files (development package if you install via a package manager). Currently there are two available GMP versions, version 5 is much faster than version 4. Then configure FriCAS adding --enable-gmp option to the configure arguments.

FriCAS also has support for using GMP with Clozure CL. Currently Clozure CL with GMP works on 32/64 bit Intel/AMD processors and ARM (using Clozure CL with GMP is not supported on Power PC processors).

When you have GMP installed in a non-standard location (this usually means anything other than /usr or /usr/local) then you can specify the location with


This supposes that the include file is in PATH/include and libgmp is in PATH/lib. If you have a different setup, then you can specify

--with-gmp-include=INCLUDEPATH --with-gmp-lib=LIBPATH

(specify the directories where the include files and libgmp are found, respectively).

These options also implicitly set --enable-gmp. However, if --enable-gmp=no is given, then --with-gmp=..., --with-gmp-include=... and --with-gmp-lib=... is ignored.

Building documentation

After a build of FriCAS, (suppose your build directory is under $BUILD), the FriCAS home page can be built via

cd $BUILD/src/doc
make doc

This builds the full content of the FriCAS home page including the FriCAS Book (also known as the FriCAS User Guide) into the directory src/doc/html from which it can be committed to the gh-pages branch of the official FriCAS git repository.

Most links also work fine if you start

firefox src/doc/html/index.html

but some links point to the web. If you want the links referring only to the data on your computer, you call the compilation like this

cd $BUILD/src/doc
make localdoc

This will have broken references to the FriCAS Demos and Tutorials as they live in a separate repository. Do the following to get a local copy and thus have working references.

cd $BUILD/src/doc/html
git clone -b gh-pages

For more control on the generation of the FriCAS website content, you can set various variables (see src/doc/ in the FriCAS git repository. For example, if you like to push to your forked FriCAS repository and refer to branch foo instead of master then do as follows (replace hemmecke by your account name).

     BRANCH=foo \

If you want to change the version information provided by default through, you can add a variable assignment like this to the above command.

PACKAGE_VERSION=$(git log -1 --pretty=%H)
PACKAGE_VERSION="1.3.6+ `date +'%Y-%m-%d %H:%M'`"

Then, checkout the gh-pages branch and put the data from $BUILD/src/doc/html into your gh-pages branch.

git clone
git checkout gh-pages
git rm -rf .
rm '.gitignore'
echo '' > .nojekyll
cp -a $BUILD/src/doc/html/* .
rm -r _sources/api/
git add .
git commit -m "$PACKAGE_VERSION"
git push origin gh-pages

Of course, leave out the --orphan switch, if you already have an appropriate gh-pages branch.

Optional: If you add

text/x-spad       spad

to /etc/mime.types and in firefox associate text/x-spad with your editor, then clicking on a .spad file opens the .spad file in in this editor.

Aldor library

You can not only extend the FriCAS library by .spad files (SPAD programs), but also by .as files (Aldor programs). For the latter to work FriCAS needs a library

This library can be build as follows. (An Aldor compiler is of course a prerequisite.)

configure --enable-aldor --prefix=/tmp/usr
( cd src/aldor &&  make )
make install

After that you should be able to compile and use the program below in a FriCAS session via

sieve 10

The program is:

-- A prime number sieve to count primes <= n.
#include "fricas"

N ==> NonNegativeInteger;
import from Boolean, N, Integer;

sieve(n: N): N  == {
    isprime: PrimitiveArray Boolean := new(n+1, true);
    np: N := 0;
    two: N := 2;
    for p in two..n | isprime(p::Integer) repeat {
        np := np + 1;
        for i in two*p..n by p::Integer repeat {
            isprime(i::Integer) := false;

Known problems

  • currently on when using case insensitive filesystem (typically on Mac OSX and Windows), the git version can be only build in a separate directory (in-tree build will fail). This does not affect release tarball.

  • In general, any error when generating documentation will cause build to hang.

  • 32-bit sbcl from 1.5.9 to 2.1.3 may miscompile floating point comparisons. Due to this most plots wil fail. The problem is fixed in developement version of sbcl. Alternatively, use older version of sbcl. 64-bit sbcl works OK.

  • by default sbcl 1.0.54 and newer limits memory use to 1GB, which is too small for heavy use. To work around this one can pass --dynamic-space-size argument during sbcl build to increase default limit. We recommend limit slightly smaller than amount of available RAM (in this way FriCAS will be able to use almost all RAM, but limit should prevent thrashing).

  • Some Linux versions, notably SuSE, by default seem to have very small limit on virtual memory. This causes build failure when using sbcl or Clozure CL. Also if limit on virtual memory is too small sbcl-based or Clozure CL-based FriCAS binary will silently fail at startup. The simplest workaround is to increase limit, in the shell typing

    ulimit -v unlimited

    Alternatively for sbcl one can use --dynamic-space-size argument to decrease use of virtual memory.

  • On new Linux kernel build using Clisp may take very long time. This is caused by frequent calls to fsync performed without need by Clisp.

  • on some systems (notably MAC OSX) when using sbcl default limit of open files may be too low. To workaround increase limit (experiments suggest that 512 open files is enough). This should not be needed in FriCAS 1.1.7.

  • sbcl from 1.3.1 to 1.3.4 runs out of memory when compiling FriCAS. This is fixed in newer versions of sbcl.

  • using sbcl from 1.0.47 to 1.0.49 compilation is very slow (few hours on fast machine). This is fixed in newer versions of sbcl.

  • sbcl-1.0.29 has a bug in the directory function which causes build failure. This problem is fixed in

  • has broken complex tanh function – you will get wrong results when applying tanh to Complex DoubleFloat.

  • in sbcl 1.0.35 and up Control-C handling did not work. This should be fixed in current FriCAS.

  • prerelease gcl from gcl git repository is incompatible with FriCAS and build will fail.

  • older gcl had serious problems on Macs and Windows.

  • released gcl-2.6.9 has a bug which causes failure of FriCAS build. This problem is fixed in 2.6.10 and later but but there is a different one. Namely, FriCAS builds but apparently on some machines is miscompiled using released 2.6.10 or 2.6.11 or 2.6.12.

  • On Gentoo system installed gcl probably will not work, one need to build own one.

  • Older version of gcl are incompatible with Fedora “exec-shield” and strong address space randomization (setting randomize_va_space to 2). Newest CVS version of 2.6.8 branch of gcl fixes this problem.

  • gcl needs bfd library. Many Linux systems include version of bfd library which is incompatible with gcl. In the past we advised to use in such case the following configure line

    configure --disable-xgcl --disable-dynsysbfd --disable-statsysbfd --enable-locbfd
  • Boehm garbage collector included in old ECL (version 6.8) is incompatible with Fedora strong address space randomization (setting randomize_va_space to 2). Using newer version of Boehm garbage collector (7.0 or 7.1) or newer ECL should solve this problem.

  • Striping FriCAS binaries is likely to break them. In particular Clisp based FriCAS may crash with message

    module 'syscalls' requires package OS.

    while sbcl will show only loader prompt.

  • On Mac OSX Tiger some users reported problems with pseudoterminals, build stopped with the message

    fork_Axiom: Failed to reopen server: No such file or directory

    This problem is believed to be fixed in FriCAS-1.0.5 (and later).

  • ECL 9.6.2 (and probably also 9.6.1 and 9.6.0) has a bug with handling string constants which causes build based on this version to fail. This bugs is fixed in newer versions. ECL 9.7.1 generates wrong C code, so that build fails. This is fixed in newer versions.

  • Unicode-enabled ECL before 9.8.4 is unable to build FriCAS.

  • ECL up to version 0.9l may segfault at exit. This is usually harmless, but may cause build to hang (for example when generating ug13.pht).

  • Clozure CL 1.10 apparently miscompiles some operations on U32Matrix. Version 1.11 works OK.

  • Clozure CL 1.7 and 1.6 apparently miscompiles FriCAS. Versions 1.8 and newer and 1.5 and earlier work OK.

  • Clozure CL earlier than release 1.2 (former Openmcl) has a bug in Lisp printer. This bug causes incorrect printing of FriCAS types. Also, Clozure CL earlier than release 1.2 has bug in complex cosine function. Those bugs are fixed in release 1.2. If you want to use earlier version you can work around the bugs applying the contib/omcl.diff patch and recompiling the compiler (see the patch or Clozure CL documentation for instructions).

  • Older versions of Clisp may fail to build FriCAS complaining about opening already opened file – this is error is spurious, the file in question in fact is closed, but for some reason Clisp got confused.