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IMP Manual  develop.3e83b1f578,2019/10/15
Building modules out of tree

Normally to build an IMP module it is placed in the modules subdirectory together with the rest of the IMP source code and then all of IMP is built, as per the installation instructions. However, this makes builing a module an expensive process (as the build system needs to check whether any part of IMP has changed, not just the module itself) and it is awkward to build a module against multiple versions of IMP, for example against both the latest stable release and a more recent nightly build.

An alternative is to build one or more IMP modules 'out of tree', treating them as their own CMake projects in their own directories, and pointing them to existing IMP installation(s) using IMP's existing CMake configuration.

Module layout

Out of tree modules can be maintained in one of two ways:

  1. A top-level modules directory containing a number of subdirectories, one per module; the name of each subdirectory is the name of the module. This mimics the way IMP itself maintains multiple modules.
  2. All of a single module's files can be placed in the top-level directory, as is done for the PMI module. This has the advantage that the module can also be cloned directly into IMP's modules directory and built 'in tree', as well.

CMake configuration

Place the FindIMP.cmake file into a suitable directory, say a tools subdirectory. This file will help CMake to find the IMP installation, as described earlier.

Make a top-level CMakeLists.txt file. This file

  • Adds the tools directory to the CMake search path, so that CMake can find IMP;
  • Finds the IMP package;
  • Uses the imp_build_module CMake macro, provided in IMP's CMake configuration, to build the module;
  • For the single module case, detect an 'in tree' build and fall back to using IMP's own CMake scripts.

A suitable CMakeLists.txt can be found in the PMI repository - all that needs to be changed is CMAKE_MODULE_PATH (if FindIMP.cmake was not put in the tools directory) and the second argument to imp_build_module, which is the module name. (If multiple modules are being built under the modules directory, this second argument should be omitted - the module names will match those of the subdirectories.)


The module can now be built like any other CMake project - i.e. make a build directory, and run CMake in that build directory, giving it the path to the module source code. (You may need to set the IMP_DIR variable to help CMake find IMP.)

Testing and running

After a successful build, the build directory will contain a script. This can be used just like that in IMP itself. It will add both the out of tree module(s) and IMP to the search path so that the module can be tested or used.