Building Stimfit


Alois Schlögl, Jose Guzman, Christoph Schmidt-Hieber


24 August, 2021

This document describes how to install Stimfit 0.16.0 under GNU/Linux. The installation was tested on Debian 10 (Buster) and 11 (Bullseye) with support for Python 3.*. It should work on other Debian-based systems (e.g. Ubuntu) as with newer version of Stimfit as well. I assume that you have the GNU C compiler (gcc) and the GNU C++ compiler (g++) and that both versions match.

What we need before we start

For the impatient, here are all Stimfit build dependencies:

$ sudo apt-get install \
                       python3-dev \
                       python3-numpy \
                       python3-matplotlib \
                       libhdf5-serial-dev \
                       swig \
                       python3-sip-dev \
                       python3-wxgtk4.0 \
                       libwxgtk3.0-gtk3-dev \
                       wx-common \
                       libfftw3-dev \
                       libbiosig-dev \
                       liblapack-dev \
                       chrpath \
                       git \
                       automake \
                       autoconf \
                       libtool \

This will get you, amongst others:

  • [wxWidgets]: C++ graphical user interface toolkit (version >= 2.8; tested with 3.0.5)

  • [wxPython]: GUI toolkit for the Python language.

  • [boost]: C++ library that is mainly used for its shared pointers (only needed when -std=c++17 is not supported)

  • [Biosig]: A library for reading a large number biomedical signal data formats.

  • [Lapack]: A linear algebra library.

  • [fftw]: Library for computing Fourier transformations.

  • [NumPy]: To handle numerical computations with Python (tested with version >=1.19).

  • [HDF5]: Hierarchical Data Format 5 (HDF5) to manage large amount of data.

  • [Matplotlib]: Plotting library for Python (use version >= 1.5.1)

In addition, you can install doxygen, python-sphinx (with graphviz and Latex) if you want to build the documentation.

Optional: PyEMF

[PyEMF] is needed to export figures to the windows meta file format (WMF/EMF). EMF is a vector graphics format and can be imported in different Office software including LibreOffice. To install it, do:

$ wget -O pyemf-2.0.0.tar.gz
$ tar xvf pyemf-2.0.0.tar.gz && cd pyemf-2.0.0
$ sudo python install

Download the Stimfit source code

You can download the latest development code for Stimfit from the Github code repository. For that, type from your current $HOME directory:

$ git clone

This will grab all the required files into $HOME/stimfit. If you’d like to update at a later point, do:

$ cd $HOME/stimfit
$ git pull

Build Stimfit

Go to the stimfit directory (in our example $HOME/stimfit) and type:

$ cd $HOME/stimfit
$ ./

to generate the configure script. Remember that we need Autoconf, Automake and LibTool to use autogen. After that, you can call it with


$ ./configure PYTHON_VERSION=3

The –enable-python option is activated as a default.

Finally, after running configure, you can type

$ make -j[N]

where [N] is the number of parallel builds you want to start. And finally:

$ sudo make install
$ sudo /sbin/ldconfig


If you want to install Stimfit as local user (e.g in ~/.local) with a local version of Python (e.g ~/.local/lib/python3.9) you have to add the following argument to configure script:

$ PYTHON=$HOME/.local/lib/python3.9 ./configure --prefix=$HOME/.local

and after that call make and make install as normal user. The Stimfit executable will be now in $HOME/.local

Building Stimfit with BioSig import filter

We recommend to build Stimfit with the BioSig library to import files in from different biomedical disciplines. It is necessary to read files acquired with HEKA amplifiers or with Signal from CED. To do it, follow this instructions:

Install libbiosig-dev through the package manager of your distribution:

sudo apt-get install libbiosig-dev

Alternatively, get the full version of biosig and its build requirements: you can obtain the latest BioSig version in BioSig downloads . Choose BioSig for C/C++, libbiosig (2.3.1 or higher is recommended because of improved support for ABF2, ATF, and AXG format).

sudo make install

Alternatively, you can obtain the latest developmental version from the git repository:

sudo apt-get install libsuitesparse-dev libz-dev gawk libdcmtk-dev

git clone biosig-code
cd biosig-code
autoconf # needed first time after getting repository
sudo make install

After that you can enter the option –with-biosig in the configure script of Stimfit and compile as usual.

Building documentation

The manual of Stimfit including the documentation is accessible on-line in To have your local copy, you will need to install sphinx version 1.7 or older:

sudo apt-get install python-sphinx

To build a local copy call:

sphinx-build $HOME/Stimfit/doc/sphinx/ <destination> # destination folder could be $HOME/tmp/stf/doc/

The html documentation will be located in <destination>/index.html

Additionally, the source code is documented with [Doxygen] and is also accessible on-line in If you want to have a local copy of the documentation, you will need to install the doxygen and gravphvix:

sudo apt-get install doxygen gravphvix

Enter a directory called doc inside Stimfit (e.g $HOME/stimfit/doc) and type:

cd $HOME/stimfit/doc
doxygen DoxyFile

The local documentation of the source code will be in $HOME/stimfit/doc/doxygen/html