Installation on macOS

On the Mac, you can install NEST either via Homebrew or manually. If you want to use PyNEST, you need to have a version of Python with some science packages installed, see the section Python on Mac for details.

Installation via Homebrew

The easiest way to install NEST on a Mac is to install it via the Homebrew package manager:

  • To install homebrew, follow the instructions at

  • Then, in a terminal

    • Add the homebrew/science tap by running:

      brew tap brewsci/science
    • For information on what options NEST has and what will be installed, run:

      brew info nest
    • To install nest, execute

      brew install nest

Options have to be appended, so for example, to install NEST with PyNEST run:

brew install nest --with-python

This will install the most recent release version of NEST. To build NEST from the most recent sources on Github, use:

brew install nest --HEAD

Manual installation

The clang/clang++ compiler that ships with OS X/macOS does not support OpenMP threads and creates code that fails some tests. You therefore need to use GCC to compile NEST under OS X/macOS.

Installation instructions here have been tested under OS X 10.11 El Capitan and macOS 10.12 Sierra with Anaconda Python 2 and 3 and all other dependencies installed via Homebrew. See below for Manual installation with dependencies from MacPorts.

  • Install Xcode from the AppStore.

  • Install the Xcode command line tools by executing the following line in the terminal and following the instructions in the windows that will pop up:

xcode-select --install
  • Install dependencies via Homebrew:

brew install gcc cmake gsl open-mpi libtool
  • Create a directory for building and installing NEST (you should always build NEST outside the source code directory; installing NEST in a “place of its own” makes it easy to remove NEST later).

  • Extract the NEST tarball as a subdirectory in that directory or clone NEST from GitHub into a subdirectory:

mkdir NEST       # directory for all NEST stuff
tar zxf nest-simulator-x.y.z.tar.gz
mkdir bld
cd bld
  • Configure and build NEST inside the build directory:

cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX:PATH=</install/path> \
      -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=gcc-6 \
      -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=g++-6 \
make -j4         # -j4 builds in parallel using 4 processes
make install
make installcheck

To compile NEST with MPI support, add -Dwith-mpi=ON as cmake option.

Manual installation with dependencies from MacPorts

The following should work if you install dependencies using MacPorts (only steps that differ from the instructions above are shown):

  • Install dependencies via MacPorts:

    sudo port install gcc6 cmake gsl openmpi-default libtool \
    python27 py27-cython py27-nose doxygen
  • Configure and build NEST inside the build directory

cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX:PATH=</install/path> \
      -DPYTHON_LIBRARY=/opt/local/lib/libpython2.7.dylib \
      -DPYTHON_INCLUDE_DIR=/opt/local/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/include/python2.7 \
      -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=/opt/local/bin/gcc-mp-6 \
      -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=/opt/local/bin/g++-mp-6 \
make -j4         # -j4 builds in parallel using 4 processes
make install
make installcheck

To compile NEST with MPI support, add -Dwith-mpi=ON as cmake option.

Python on Mac

The version of Python shipping with OS X/macOS is rather dated and does not include key packages such as NumPy. Therefore, you need to install Python via a channel that provides scientific packages.

One well-tested source is the Anaconda Python distribution for both Python 2 and 3. If you do not want to install the full Anaconda distribution, you can also install Miniconda and then install the packages needed by NEST by running:

conda install numpy scipy matplotlib ipython cython nose

Alternatively, you should be able to install the necessary Python packages via Homebrew, but this has not been tested.