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This page contains information and tips on using compilers and build systems with ITK.

General Tips

Build systems

  • Always use CMake with ITK. CMake has generators for most major build systems. Attempting to, for example, use Visual Studio directly without CMake will make things much more difficult than they need to be.
  • ITK does not distribute binaries on purpose. An open source software development system has numerous advantages; one advantage is avoiding problems related building, distributing, and linking binaries. Have your build system build ITK from source on the the same platform and with the same compiler avoids these problems. Git submodules and the CMake ExternalProject system can help to do this.


  • ITK supports the latest GCC very well.
  • LLVM support is good.
  • The "Unix Makefile" CMake generator support is very good. Recent CMake generator support for the Ninja build system is experimental, but most experiments have been successful.


  • Use the latest version of Xcode or build LLVM from source for best results.


Avoid old versions of Visual Studio

Please avoid attempting to use ancient Visual Studio compilers, such as VS6, which has been put to rest. There are a number of preferable alternative to an old version of Visual Studio.

Make based build systems

The Visual Studio GUI may be very slow when it tries to handle a large project like ITK. These problems can be avoided with a make based build system.

Visual Studio CL compiler

The Visual Studio cl.exe compiler can be called directly with make based build systems. There are a few options.

  • nmake
  • jom

To use either of these systems, you must set the appropriate environment variables as specified here. Then specify the appropriate build system generator with CMake. NMake comes with Visual Studio, but does not perform parallel builds. JOM is similar to NMake, but it can perform parallel builds, so it is preferred.

MinGW compiler

CMake can generate Makefiles for the make executable to be executed in the MSYS shell. Make based build systems are also the backend for GUI tools like the CodeBlocks IDE or the QtCreator IDE, which conveniently come packaged with the MinGW compiler.