Profanity Illustration

User Guide

Manual Building



Profanity uses the Autotools for it's build system. The Autotools consist of Autoconf and Automake. This page doesn't go in any detail about the Autotools, but describes the commands needed to build Profanity, and brief descriptions of the various stages. You will also need autoconf-archive.

You can either download the archive from the homepage or use git, a version control system, to get the latest code.

If you want to get the latest version from git you'll have to do:

git clone

After obtaining the source code, and extracting it, use the following commands to build and install

make install

The first step is only needed if you pulled from git

The final step requires root privileges.

Various dependencies are required to install Profanity, the ./configure script will fail if the minimum dependencies cannot be found.

The latest code in master is also kept up to date with development changes to libstrophe, so a manual build of this library may also be needed


The package names below are from Ubuntu and may differ per distribution.

Build dependencies:


Required dependencies:

Profanity is using libstrophe.

Profanity also requires development packages of:


Optional dependencies:

libnotify                # Desktop notification support
libxss                   # Desktop idle time autoaway support
libotr                   # OTR support
libgpgme                 # PGP support
libsignal-protocol-c     # OMEMO support
libgcrypt                # OMEMO support (>= 1.7)
gtk2 or gtk3             # Desktop tray icon support
python                   # Python plugin support
cmocka                   # To run tests
shared-mime-info         # Send files with the correct mime type
gdk-pixbuf2              # Scale the image for `/avatar set`
qrencode                 # Display OMEMO QR code

Distribution details:

To make it easier to install all the required packages in various distributions we collect copy pastes here. These are contributed to users and might be out of date. Feel free to create pull request to improve this section.


apt-get install libcaca-dev libnotify-dev libgtk2.0-dev libotr5-dev libssl-dev libstrophe-dev pkg-config python3-dev libexpat1-dev libncursesw5-dev libglib2.0-dev libreadline-dev libgpgme11-dev libcurl4-gnutls-dev uuid-dev libcmocka-dev libgcrypt20-dev libsignal-protocol-c-dev libxss-dev libsqlite3-dev autoconf-archive  autoconf libgdk-pixbuf-2.0-dev libqrencode-dev


zypper in gcc make automake autoconf libtool glib2-devel gtk2-devel libcurl-devel libexpat-devel libgpgme-devel libstrophe-devel libnotify-devel libotr-devel libuuid-devel ncurses-devel python3-devel readline-devel autoconf-archive libsignal-protocol-c-devel libgcrypt-devel sqlite3-devel gdk-pixbuf-devel qrencode-devel

Arch Linux

pacman -S --needed autoconf autoconf-archive automake base-devel check cmake cmocka curl doxygen expat gcc git gpgme gtk2 libgcrypt libnotify libotr libtool libxss make openssl pkg-config python wget sqlite gdk-pixbuf2 qrencode

Mac OS

brew install autoconf autoconf-archive automake libtool pkg-config glib gnutls gpgme libotr libstrophe openssl ossp-uuid readline terminal-notifier libsignal-protocol-c

Some required packages are "keg-only", which means they are not symlinked into /usr/local, therefore pkg-config will fail when detecting the libraries and the build will fail. In order to fix this we need to add these packages to the PKG_CONFIG_PATH.

export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="/usr/local/opt/ncurses/lib/pkgconfig:$PKG_CONFIG_PATH"
export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="/usr/local/opt/expat/lib/pkgconfig:$PKG_CONFIG_PATH"
export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="/usr/local/opt/curl/lib/pkgconfig:$PKG_CONFIG_PATH"
export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="/usr/local/opt/openssl/lib/pkgconfig:$PKG_CONFIG_PATH"
export PKG_CONFIG_PATH="/usr/local/opt/libffi/lib/pkgconfig:$PKG_CONFIG_PATH"


pkg_add cmake gmake cmocka libtool automake-1.16.2 pkgconf readline python-3.8.2 autoconf-2.69p2 autoconf-archive libstrophe curl gpgme glib2 gtk+2 libotr libassuan libgpg-error libgcrypt libsignal-protocol-c sqlite3


Input files – Macro definitions to configure profanity for the target environment (autoconf) – Template Makefile (automake)

These files are the inputs to generating the actual configure script and Makefile required to configure and compile Profanity.

Generating a configure script

To generate the configure script:


This phase only needs to be run when changes have been made to, however it does no harm to run it on every build. This phase also generates other files needed to create a config.h header (variables used in the main code), and a Makefile (used for compilation).

Why not just write configure yourself, instead of writing and generating one with Take a look at the generated configure script and you'll see why, there's a lot of work involved in writing a configure script.

The file is very simple, it just runs autoreconf --install see autoreconf


Once the configure script has been generated, run it to configure profanity.


This will result in the following being generated, along with some other files:



The following step will then compile Profanity:


Once you have run ./ and ./configure once, if all you are doing is making code changes, then you only need to run make to recompile your changes.

To perform a clean build (i.e. remove all compiled files and recompile)

make clean


All tests (unit and functional) can be run with:

make check

Unit tests alone can be run with:

make check-unit


Once you have compiled profanity with make, the executable will be available in the current directory:


To install this version on your system, i.e. to be able to run it from anywhere:

sudo make install

This step is not really necessary when doing development (i.e. you can always run the version just compiled in the project directory), unless you want to have your development version available to any users on your system.