Firedrake is installed using its install script:
curl -O https://raw.githubusercontent.com/firedrakeproject/firedrake/master/scripts/firedrake-install
In the simplest cases, such as on a Mac with Homebrew installed or on an Ubuntu workstation on which the user has sudo acccess, the user can simply run:
firedrake-install with no arguments will install Firedrake in
a python venv created in a
firedrake subdirectory of the
current directory. Run:
python3 firedrake-install --help
for a full list of install options. In particular, you may
wish to customise the set of options used to build PETSc. To do so,
set the environment variable
firedrake-install. You can see the set of options passed
to PETSc by providing the flag
You will need to activate the venv in each shell from which you use Firedrake:
Should you use
csh, you will need:
Installation and MPI¶
firedrake-install will prompt the PETSc installer to
download and install its own MPICH library and executables in the
virtual environment. This has implications for the performance of the
resulting library when run in parallel. Instructions on how best to
configure MPI for the installation process are found here.
Testing the installation¶
We recommend that you run the test suite after installation to check that Firedrake is fully functional. Activate the venv as above and then run:
cd $VIRTUAL_ENV/src/firedrake pytest tests/regression/ -k "poisson_strong or stokes_mini or dg_advection"
This command will run a few of the unit tests, which exercise a good
chunk of the functionality of the library. These tests should take a
minute or less. If they fail to run for any reason, please see the
section below on how to diagnose and debug a failed installation. If
you want to run the entire test suite you can do
instead, but this takes several hours.
There is a known issue which causes parallel tests to hang without
failing. This is particularly a problem on MacOS and is due to the
version of MPICH installed with Firedrake failing to resolve the
local host at ip address
127.0.0.1. To resolve this issue modify
the hosts database at
/etc/hosts to include the entries:
127.0.0.1 LOCALHOSTNAME.local 127.0.0.1 LOCALHOSTNAME
LOCALHOSTNAME is the name returned by running the hostname
command. Should the local host name change, this may require updating.
The install script will install an upgrade script in firedrake/bin/firedrake-update. Running this script will update Firedrake and all its dependencies.
You should activate the venv before running firedrake-update.
Just like the
firedrake-install script, running:
gives a full list of update options. For instance additional Firedrake
packages can be installed into an existing Firedrake installation using
Firedrake requires Python 3.7.x to 3.11.x. On MacOS Arm (M1 or M2) Python 3.9.x to 3.11.x is required. Many externally managed dependencies such as VTK have yet to create binary wheels for 3.11.x, but we have generated these for the major supported platforms. The installation script is tested on Ubuntu and MacOS X. On Ubuntu 22.04 or later, the system installed Python 3 is supported and tested. On MacOS, the homebrew installed Python 3 is supported and tested:
brew install python3
Installation is likely to work well on other Linux platforms, although the script may stop to ask you to install some dependency packages. Installation on other Unix platforms may work but is untested. On Linux systems that do not use the Debian package management system, it will be necessary to pass the –no-package-manager option to the install script. In this case, it is the user’s responsibilty to ensure that they have the system dependencies:
A C and C++ compiler (for example gcc/g++ or clang), GNU make
A Fortran compiler (for PETSc)
Blas and Lapack
Python version 3.7.x-3.11.x (3.9.x-3.11.x on MacOS Arm)
The Python headers
autoconf, automake, libtool
Firedrake has been successfully installed on Windows 10 using the Windows Subsystem for Linux. There are more detailed instructions for WSL on the Firedrake wiki. Installation on previous versions of Windows is unlikely to work.
We strive to make Firedrake work on as many platforms as we can. Some tools, however, make this challenging or impossible for end users.
Anaconda. The Anaconda Python distribution and package manager are
often recommended in introductory data science courses because it does
effectively handle many aggravating problems of dependency management.
Unfortunately, Anaconda does a poor job of isolating itself from the
rest of your system and assumes that it will be both the only Python
installation and the only supplier of any dependent packages. Anaconda
will install compilers and MPI compiler wrappers and put its compilers
right at the top of your
PATH. This is a problem because Firedrake
needs to build and use its own MPI. (We keep our MPI isolated from the
rest of your system through virtual environments.) When installed on a
platform with Anaconda, Firedrake can accidentally try to link to the
incompatible Anaconda installation of MPI.
There are three ways to work around this problem.
Remove Anaconda entirely.
PATHenvironment variable to remove any traces of Anaconda, then install Firedrake. If you need Anaconda later, you can re-enable it with a shell script that will add those directories back onto your path.
Use a Docker image that we’ve built with Firedrake and its dependencies already installed.
MacOS system Python. The official MacOS installer on the Python website does not have a working SSL by default. A working SSL is necessary to securely fetch dependent packages from the internet. You can enable SSL with the system Python, but we strongly recommend using a Python version installed via Homebrew instead.
Mac OS has multiple competing package managers which sometimes cause
issues for users attempting to install Firedrake. In particular, the
assembler provided by MacPorts is incompatible with the Mac system
compilers in a manner which causes Firedrake to fail to install. For
this reason, if you are installing Firedrake on a Mac which also has
MacPorts installed, you should ensure that
/opt/local/sbin are removed from your
PATH when installing or
using Firedrake. This should ensure that no MacPorts installed tools
Debugging install problems¶
firedrake-install fails, the following flowchart describes some
common build problems and how to solve them. If you understand the
prognosis and feel comfortable making these fixes yourself then great!
If not, feel free to ask for more help in our
If you don’t see the issue you’re experiencing in this chart, please ask us on Slack or create a post on github discussions. To help us diagnose what’s going wrong, please include the following log files:
firedrake-install.logfrom Firedrake, which you can find in the directory where you invoked
make.logfrom PETSc, which you can find in
src/petsc/inside the directory where Firedrake virtual environment was created
Likewise, if it’s
firedrake-update that fails, please include the
firedrake-update.log. You can find this in the Firedrake
Recovering from a broken installation script¶
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position that
firedrake-update won’t run because of a bug, and the bug has been
fixed in Firedrake master, then the following procedure will rebuild
firedrake-update using the latest version.
From the top directory of your Firedrake install, type:
cd src/firedrake git pull ./scripts/firedrake-install --rebuild-script
You should now be able to run
Firedrake can output data in VTK format, suitable for viewing in
Paraview. On Ubuntu and similar systems, you can obtain Paraview by
paraview package. On Mac OS, the easiest approach
is to download a binary from the paraview website.
Building the documentation¶
If you want to be able to view and edit the documentation locally, run:
python3 firedrake-install --documentation-dependencies
when installing Firedrake, or in an existing instalation (after running
source firedrake/bin/activate to activate the virtual env) run:
The documentation can be found in
and can be built by executing:
This will generate the HTML documentation (this website) on your local machine.
Firedrake and its dependencies can be removed by deleting the Firedrake
install directory. This is usually the
created after having run
firedrake-install. Note that this will not
undo the installation of any system packages which are Firedrake
dependencies: removing these might affect subsequently installed
packages for which these are also dependencies.