Configure PLplot for Visual CXX CLI

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This page describes how to build PLplot using Visual Studio from the command line. If you wish to use the Integrated Development Environment see Configure PLplot for the Visual Studio IDE.

You need a working Visual C++ and CMake installation.

Start a DOS window (command window) - for instance via the Start menu item "Visual Studio Tools/Visual Studio 2008 command prompt". CMake must be able to run the Visual C/C++ compiler. (You can also use the batch file vcvarsall.bat in the directory "<MSVC++ isntall directory>\VC" to take care of all settings).

Create a new directory for building PLplot (say: d:\build-plplot) and change to that directory. Add the directory "d:\build-plplot\dll" to the path.

So the commands are:

mkdir build-plplot
cd build-plplot
set path=d:\build-plplot\dll;%path%

Now run CMake (assuming CMake is already in the path and sources for PLplot are in "d:\plplot":

cmake d:\plplot -G "NMake Makefiles" -DBUILD_TEST=ON

(The latter option ensures that the examples are built. Many more options are available)

Once CMake has generated all the makefiles, you can build the PLplot libraries and examples via the nmake command:


To install the libraries:

nmake install

Note: The above assumes you are not using wxWidgets.

Note: With the above receipe you get one single build. You should get into the habit of using separate directories for different builds, even for the "Visual Studio" generator (see below), as this avoids any possibility of clashes and separate build directories are much easier to handle.

Using Python

If you want to use the Python bindings, please note that the MSVC compiler triggers some special handling within the Python interfacing. To avoid problems, it is best to add the following option to the CMake command:


The background for this is described in the Install_Python page.

Using wxWidgets

If you do use wxWidgets, here is a slightly adjusted receipe:

(Depending upon how you built wxWidgets you may need to specify additional parameters to the cmake call. Check Configuration of wxWidgets driver for more details.)

Start a DOS window like before. Now (note the added commands and command options):

mkdir build-plplot
cd build-plplot
set path=d:\build-plplot\dll;%path%
set WXWINDLL=%WXWIN%\lib\vc_lib
cmake d:\plplot -G "NMake Makefiles" -DwxWidgets_LIB_DIR=%WXWINDLL% 
nmake install

For those who are not familiar with NMake and CMake here is an explanation of what we have just done. Nmake is a command line compiler included with Microsoft VC++ which can be used to build from source. Instead of project files it uses make files. To avoid creating make files for multiple compilers plplot includes CMake files. These are interpreted by CMake, along with the variables specified on the command line, to generate make files for many different compilers. So, in order, we performed the following actions:

Set up needed paths including MSVC++ paths using vcvarsall
Called CMake to generate make files for a specific build
Called "Nmake" to build PLplot
Called "Nmake install" to move the libraries and header files to the install folder

Note: during the build the various DLLs are put in the subdirectory "dll" under the build directory. It is important that this directory is contained in the path during the build if you use the dynamic drivers facility as otherwise calls to get-drv-info will fail and the drivers won't be installed successfully. In addition, if you use wxWidgets driver you also must ensure that the wxWidgets DLL itself is in the path as well.

Alternatively you can use the GUI version of CMake, an easy-to-use user-interface that presents the available build options and lets you set them. It is mostly a matter of taste, but:

  • The GUI version provides an overview of the build opions that are available
  • The command-line version is particularly useful if you are experimenting with these options, as it can be run from a batchfile

Some of the options that are available for CMake:

  • -DCMAKE_VERBOSE_MAKEFILE=ON: makefiles provide verbose informations
  • -DBUILD_TEST=ON: all examples will be built also (for test purposes)
  • Configuration of wxWidgets driver

If you used the -DBUILD_TEST=ON option, you may need to copy some files in order to run the examples:

cd examples\c
copy ..\..\..\data\*.fnt .

and additionally some dlls for a shared plplot built:

copy ..\..\dll\plplotd.dll .
copy ..\..\dll\plplotcxxd.dll . (for c++ examples)
copy ..\..\dll\csirocsa.dll . (if library was built)

and for the wxWidgets driver (if wxWidgets library is shared):

copy %WXWIN%\lib\gcc_dll\wxmsw26d_vc_custom.dll .

if this dll is not in the path.

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