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
  • runtest

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

  • grep
  • gcc
  • tcl-devel >= 8.4

When installing from a distribution tarball, documentation is pre-built and scripts to configure Modules Tcl extension library and compatibility version builds are already generated. Thus no additional software is required. When installing from a clone of the git repository or from a git archive export, documentation and scripts to prepare for compilation have to be built and the following tools are required:

  • autoconf
  • automake
  • autopoint
  • python
  • 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 Tcl extension library and 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. If you have set --with-initconf-in to etcdir to install these Modules initialization configurations in the configuration directory designated by the --etcdir option, these configuration files are respectively named initrc and modulespath. If you use .modulespath (or modulespath) configuration file, add one line mentioning each modulefile directory:


    If you use modulerc (or initrc) 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 (or initrc) configuration file. Modulefiles to load cannot be specified in .modulespath (or 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 (or initrc) configuration file any kind of supported module command, like module config commands to tune module's default behaviors.

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]
--libdir=DIR Directory for object code libraries like [PREFIX/lib]
 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 to host Vim addon files [DATAROOTDIR/vim/vimfiles]
 Directory of 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)
 Append rather prepend man page directory to the MANPATH environment variable when the --enable-set-manpath option is enabled. (default=no)
 Prepend binary directory defined by the --bindir option to the PATH environment variable in the shell initialization scripts. (default=yes)
 Append rather prepend binary directory to the PATH environment variable when the --enable-set-binpath option is enabled. (default=no)
--enable-dotmodulespath, --enable-modulespath
 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. Or respectively, if option --with-initconf-in has been set to etcdir, in a modulespath file within the configuration directory defined by the --etcdir option rather than within the initrc 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 the Vim addon files in the Vim addons directory defined with the --vimdatadir option. (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)
 Build and install the Modules Tcl extension library which provides optimized Tcl commands for the modulecmd.tcl script.
 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)
 Generate code in module function definition and initialization scripts to add support for silencing shell debugging properties (default=yes)
 Set when module function is defined the shell startup file to ensure that the module function is still defined in sub-shells. (default=yes)
 Generate code in module function definition and initialization scripts to add support for the environment variable quarantine mechanism (default=yes)
 Set modulecmd.tcl to automatically apply automated modulefiles handling actions, like loading the pre-requisites of a modulefile when loading this modulefile. (default=no)
 When performing an avail sub-command, include in search results the matching modulefiles and directories and recursively the modulefiles and directories contained in these matching directories when enabled or limit search results to the matching modulefiles and directories found at the depth level expressed by the search query if disabled. (default=yes)
 Define an implicit default version, for modules with none explicitly defined, to select when the name of the module to evaluate is passed without the mention of a specific version. When this option is disabled the name of the module passed for evaluation should be fully qualified elsewhere an error is returned. (default=yes)
 Allow to specify module versions by their starting part, i.e. substring separated from the rest of the version string by a . character. (default=no)
 Activate the advanced module version specifiers which enables to finely select module versions by specifying after the module name a version constraint prefixed by the @ character. (default=no)
--enable-ml Define the ml command, a handy frontend to the module command, when Modules initializes. (default=yes)
--enable-color Control if output should be colored by default or not. A value of yes equals to the auto color mode. no equals to the never color mode. (default=no)
 Activate workaround for issue #277 related to Tcsh history mechanism which does not cope well with default module alias definition. Note that enabling this workaround solves Tcsh history issue but weakens shell evaluation of the code produced by modulefiles.
 Install all required files for Windows platform (module, ml and envml command batch file and cmd.cmd initialization script). (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):

 List of paths to look at when searching the location of tools required to build and configure Modules (default=/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/local/bin)
 Location of the master Modules package file directory (default=PREFIX)
 Location where to install Modules initialization configuration files. Either initdir or etcdir (default=initdir)
 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)
 Specify default message verbosity. accepted values are silent, concise, normal, verbose and debug. (default=normal)
 Default color set to apply if terminal background color is defined to dark. SGRLIST follows the same syntax than used in LS_COLORS. Each element in SGRLIST is an output item associated to a Select Graphic Rendition (SGR) code. Elements in SGRLIST are separated by :. Output items are designated by keys. Items able to be colorized are: highlighted element (hi), debug information (db), tag separator (se); Error (er), warning (wa), module error (me) and info (in) message prefixes; Modulepath (mp), directory (di), module alias (al), module symbolic version (sy) and module default version (de). For a complete SGR code reference, see (default=hi=1:db=2:se=2:er=91:wa=93:me=95:in=94:mp=1;94:di=94:al=96:sy=95:de=4:cm=92)
 Default color set to apply if terminal background color is defined to light. Expect the same syntax than described for --with-dark-background-colors. (default=hi=1:db=2:se=2:er=31:wa=33:me=35:in=34:mp=1;34:di=34:al=36:sy=35:de=4:cm=32)
 The terminal background color that determines the color set to apply by default between the dark background colors or the light background colors (default=dark)
 Ignore environment variable superseding value for the listed configuration options. Accepted option names in CONFIGLIST are extra_siteconfig and implicit_default (each option name should be separated by whitespace character). (default=no)
 When unloading a module if multiple loaded modules match the request, unload module loaded first (returnfirst) or module loaded last (returnlast) (default=returnlast)
 When searching for a module with avail sub-command, match query string against module name start (starts_with) or any part of module name string (contains). (default=starts_with)
 Apply a case insensitive match to module specification on avail, whatis and paths sub-commands (when set to search) or on all module sub-commands and modulefile Tcl commands for the module specification they receive as argument (when set to always). Case insensitive match is disabled when this option is set to never. (default=never)
 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. These files are respectively called initrc and modulespath if --with-initconf-in is set to etcdir. The path list 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 or in the initrc file if --with-initconf-in is set to etcdir. (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)
--with-tcl Directory containing the Tcl configuration script Useful to compile Modules compatibility version or Modules Tcl extension library if this file cannot be automatically found in default locations.
 Directory containing the Tcl header files. Useful to compile Modules compatibility version or Modules Tcl extension library if these headers cannot be automatically found in default locations.
 Name or full path of Python interpreter command to set as shebang for helper scripts. (default=python)