Installing Modules on Unix

This document is an overview of building and installing Modules on a Unix system.


Modules consists of one Tcl script so to run it from a user shell the only requirement is to have a working version of tclsh (version 8.4 or later) available on your system. tclsh is a part of Tcl (

To install Modules from a distribution tarball or a clone of the git repository, a build step is there to adapt the initialization scripts to your configuration and create the documentation files. This build step requires the tools to be found on your system:

  • bash
  • make
  • sed
  • grep
  • cut
  • runtest

When also installing the bundled compatibility version of Modules (enabled by default), these additional tools are needed:

  • autoconf
  • automake
  • autopoint
  • gcc
  • tcl-devel >= 8.4

When installing from a distribution tarball, documentation is pre-built and does not require additional software. When installing from a clone of the git repository, document has to be built and the following tools are required:

  • sphinx >= 1.0

Installation instructions

The simplest way to build and install Modules is:

$ ./configure
$ make
$ make install

Some explanation, step by step:

  1. cd to the directory containing the package’s source code. Your system must have the above requirements installed to properly build scripts, compatibility version of Modules if enabled, and documentation if build occurs from a clone of the git repository.
  2. Type ./configure to adapt the installation for your system. At this step you can choose the installation paths and the features you want to enable in the initialization scripts (see Build and installation options section below for a complete overview of the available options)
  3. Type make to adapt scripts to the configuration, build compatibility version if enabled and build documentation if working from git repository.
  4. Optionally, type make test to run the test suite.
  5. Type make install to install modulecmd.tcl, initialization scripts, compatibility version if built and documentation.
  6. Optionally, type make testinstall to run the installation test suite.
  7. You can remove the built files from the source code directory by typing make clean. To also remove the files that configure created, type make distclean.

A default installation process like described above will install Modules under /usr/local/Modules. You can change this with the --prefix option. By default, /usr/local/Modules/modulefiles will be setup as the default directory containing modulefiles. --modulefilesdir option enables to change this directory location. For example:

$ ./configure --prefix=/usr/share/Modules \

See Build and installation options section to discover all ./configure option available.


GNU Make is excepted to be used for this build and installation process. On non-Linux systems, the gmake should be called instead of make.


Once installed you should review and adapt the configuration to make it fit your needs. The following steps are provided for example. They are not necessarily mandatory as it depends of the kind of setup you want to achieve.

  1. Tune the initialization scripts. Review of these scripts is highly encouraged as you may add or adapt specific stuff to get Modules initialized the way you want.

  2. Enable Modules initialization at shell startup. An easy way to get module function defined and its associated configuration setup at shell startup is to make the initialization scripts part of the system-wide environment setup in /etc/profile.d. To do so, make a link in this directory to the profile scripts that can be found in your Modules installation init directory:

    $ ln -s PREFIX/init/ /etc/profile.d/
    $ ln -s PREFIX/init/profile.csh /etc/profile.d/modules.csh

    These profile scripts will automatically adapt to the kind of sh or csh shell you are running.

    Another approach may be to get the Modules initialization script sourced from the shell configuration startup file. For instance following line could be added to the end of the ~/.bashrc file if running Bash shell:

    source PREFIX/init/bash

    Beware that shells have multiple ways to initialize depending if they are a login shell or not and if they are launched in interactive mode or not.

  3. Define module paths to enable by default. Edit modulerc configuration file or .modulespath if you have chosen --enable-dotmodulespath at configure time. Add there all the modulefile directories you want to activate by default at Modules initialization time.

    If you use .modulespath configuration file, add one line mentioning each modulefile directory:


    If you use modulerc configuration file, add one line mentioning each modulefile directory prefixed by the module use command:

    module use /path/to/regular/modulefiles
    module use /path/to/other/modulefiles
  4. Define modulefiles to load by default. Edit modulerc configuration file (modulefiles to load cannot be specified in .modulespath file). Add there all the modulefiles you want to load by default at Modules initialization time.

    Add one line mentioning each modulefile to load prefixed by the module load command:

    module load foo
    module load bar

    In fact you can add to the modulerc configuration file any kind of supported module command.

If you go through the above steps you should have a valid setup tuned to your needs. After that you still have to write modulefiles to get something to load and unload in your newly configured Modules setup. Please have a look at the doc/example.txt that explains how the user environment is setup with Modules at the University of Minnesota computer science department.

Build and installation options

Options available at the ./configure installation step are described below. These options enable to choose the installation paths and the features to enable or disable. You can also get a description of these options by typing ./configure --help.

Fine tuning of the installation directories (the default value for each option is displayed within brakets):

 Installation root directory [/usr/local/Modules]
--bindir=DIR Directory for executables reachable by users [PREFIX/bin]
 Directory for executables called by other executables like modulecmd.tcl [PREFIX/libexec]
--etcdir=DIR Directory for the executable configuration scripts [PREFIX/etc]
--initdir=DIR Directory for the per-shell environment initialization scripts [PREFIX/init]
 Base directory to set the man and doc directories [PREFIX/share]
--mandir=DIR Directory to host man pages [DATAROOTDIR/man]
--docdir=DIR Directory to host documentation other than man pages like README, license file, etc [DATAROOTDIR/doc]
 Directory or main modulefiles also called system modulefiles [PREFIX/modulefiles]

Optional Features (the default for each option is displayed within parenthesis, to disable an option replace enable by disable for instance --disable-set-manpath):

 Prepend man page directory defined by the --mandir option to the MANPATH environment variable in the shell initialization scripts. (default=yes)
 Prepend binary directory defined by the --bindir option to the PATH environment variable in the shell initialization scripts. (default=yes)
 Set the module paths defined by --with-modulepath option in a .modulespath file (following C version fashion) within the initialization directory defined by the --initdir option rather than within the modulerc file. (default=no)
 Install the documentation files in the documentation directory defined with the --docdir option. This feature has no impact on manual pages installation. Disabling documentation file installation is useful in case of installation process handled via a package manager which handles by itself the installation of this kind of documents. (default=yes)
 Install some modulefiles provided as example in the system modulefiles directory defined with the modulefilesdir option. (default=yes)
 Build and install the Modules compatibility (C) version in addition to the main released version. This feature also enables switching capabilities from initialization script between the two installed version of Modules (by setting-up the switchml shell function or alias). (default=yes)
 Append Modules version to installation prefix and deploy a versions modulepath shared between all versioning enabled Modules installation. A modulefile corresponding to Modules version is added to the shared modulepath and enables to switch from one Modules version to another. (default=no)

Optional Packages (the default for each option is displayed within parenthesis, to disable an option replace with by without for instance --without-modulepath):

 Name or full path of Tcl interpreter shell (default=tclsh)
 Name or full path of default pager program to use to paginate informational message output (can be superseded at run-time by environment variable) (default=less)
 Settings to apply to default pager program (default=-eFKRX)
 Default path list to setup as the default modulepaths. Each path in this list should be separated by :. Defined value is registered in the modulerc or .modulespath configuration file, depending on the --enable-dotmodulespath option. This value is read at initialization time to populate the MODULEPATH environment variable. By default, this modulepath is composed of the directory set for the system modulefiles (default=PREFIX/modulefiles or BASEPREFIX/$MODULE_VERSION/modulefiles if versioning installation mode enabled)
 Default modulefiles to load at Modules initialization time. Each modulefile in this list should be separated by :. Defined value is registered in the modulerc configuration file. (default=no)
--with-quarantine-vars=<VARNAME[=VALUE] …>
 Environment variables to put in quarantine when running the module command to ensure it a sane execution environment (each variable should be separated by space character). A value can eventually be set to a quarantine variable instead of emptying it. (default=no)