Build from source#

Build status


If you just want to test the latest changes to kitty, you don’t need to build from source. Instead install the latest nightly build.

kitty is designed to run from source, for easy hack-ability. All you need to get started is a C compiler and the go compiler. After installing those, run the following commands:

git clone && cd kitty
./ build

That’s it, kitty will be built from source, magically. You can run it as kitty/launcher/kitty.

This works, because the ./ build command downloads all the major dependencies of kitty as pre-built binaries for your platform and builds kitty to use these rather than system libraries.

If you make changes to kitty code, simply re-run ./ build to build kitty with your changes.


If you plan to run kitty from source long-term, there are a couple of caveats to be aware of. You should occassionally run ./ deps to have the dependencies re-downloaded as they are updated periodically. Also, the built kitty executable assumes it will find source in whatever directory you first ran ./ build in. If you move/rename the directory, run make clean && ./ build. You should also create symlinks to the kitty and kitten binaries from somewhere in your PATH so that they can be conveniently launched.


On macOS, you can use kitty/launcher/ to run kitty as well, but note that this is an unsigned so some functionality such as notifications will not work as Apple disallows this. If you need this functionality, you can try signing the built with a self signed certificate, see for example, here.

Building in debug mode#

The following will build with debug symbols:

./ build --debug

To build with sanitizers and debug symbols:

./ build --debug --sanitize

For more help on the various options supported by the build script:

./ build -h

Building the documentation#

To have the kitty documentation available locally, run:

./ deps -for-docs && ./ docs

To develop the docs, with live reloading, use:

./ deps -for-docs && ./ docs -live-reload


These dependencies are needed when building against system libraries only.

Run-time dependencies:

  • python >= 3.8

  • harfbuzz >= 2.2.0

  • zlib

  • libpng

  • liblcms2

  • libxxhash

  • openssl

  • freetype (not needed on macOS)

  • fontconfig (not needed on macOS)

  • libcanberra (not needed on macOS)

  • ImageMagick (optional, needed to display uncommon image formats in the terminal)

Build-time dependencies:

  • gcc or clang

  • go >= 1.21 (see go.mod for go packages used during building)

  • pkg-config

  • For building on Linux in addition to the above dependencies you might also need to install the following packages, if they are not already installed by your distro:

    • libdbus-1-dev

    • libxcursor-dev

    • libxrandr-dev

    • libxi-dev

    • libxinerama-dev

    • libgl1-mesa-dev

    • libxkbcommon-x11-dev

    • libfontconfig-dev

    • libx11-xcb-dev

    • liblcms2-dev

    • libssl-dev

    • libpython3-dev

    • libxxhash-dev

Build and run from source with Nix#

On NixOS or any other Linux or macOS system with the Nix package manager installed, execute nix-shell to create the correct environment to build kitty or use nix-shell --pure instead to eliminate most of the influence of the outside system, e.g. globally installed packages. nix-shell will automatically fetch all required dependencies and make them available in the newly spawned shell.

Then proceed with make or make app according to the platform specific instructions above.

Notes for Linux/macOS packagers#

The released kitty source code is available as a tarball from the GitHub releases page.

While kitty does use Python, it is not a traditional Python package, so please do not install it in site-packages. Instead run:

make linux-package

This will install kitty into the directory linux-package. You can run kitty with linux-package/bin/kitty. All the files needed to run kitty will be in linux-package/lib/kitty. The terminfo file will be installed into linux-package/share/terminfo. Simply copy these files into /usr to install kitty. In other words, linux-package is the staging area into which kitty is installed. You can choose a different staging area, by passing the --prefix argument to

You should probably split kitty into three packages:


Installs the terminfo file


Installs the shell integration scripts (the contents of the shell-integration directory in the kitty source code), probably to /usr/share/kitty/shell-integration


Installs the main program

This allows users to install the terminfo and shell integration files on servers into which they ssh, without needing to install all of kitty. The shell integration files must still be present in lib/kitty/shell-integration when installing the kitty main package as the kitty program expects to find them there.


You need a couple of extra dependencies to build linux-package. tic to compile terminfo files, usually found in the development package of ncurses. Also, if you are building from a git checkout instead of the released source code tarball, you will need to install the dependencies from docs/requirements.txt to build the kitty documentation. They can be installed most easily with python -m pip -r docs/requirements.txt.

This applies to creating packages for kitty for macOS package managers such as Homebrew or MacPorts as well.

Cross compilation#

While cross compilation is neither officially supported, nor recommended, as it means the test suite cannot be run for the cross compiled build, there is some support for cross compilation. Basically, run:

make prepare-for-cross-compile

Then setup the cross compile environment (CC, CFLAGS, PATH, etc.) and run:

make cross-compile

This will create the cross compiled build in the linux-package directory.