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Configuring EasyBuild

This page discusses the recommended style of configuring EasyBuild, which is supported since EasyBuild v1.3.0.

See a demo on configuring EasyBuild.

Supported configuration types

Configuring EasyBuild can be done by:

  • using eb with command line arguments
  • setting environment variables ($EASYBUILD_...)
  • providing one or more configuration files

Of course, combining any of these types of configuration works too (and is even fairly common).

The order of preference for the different configuration types is as listed above, that is:

  • environment variables override the corresponding entries in the configuration file
  • command line arguments in turn override the corresponding environment variables and matching entries in the configuration file

Consistency across supported configuration types

Note that the various available configuration options are handled consistently across the supported configuration types.

For example: to configure EasyBuild to use Lmod as modules tool, the following alternatives are available:

  • configuration file entry (key-value assignment):
modules-tool = Lmod
  • environment variable (upper case, EASYBUILD_ prefix, -'s becomes _'s):
  • command line argument (long options preceded by -- and (optionally) using =):
eb --modules-tool=Lmod


eb --modules-tool Lmod

For more details w.r.t. each of the supported configuration types, see below.

Configuration file(s)

List of used configuration files

The list of configuration files that will be used by EasyBuild is determined in the following order of preference:

  • the path(s) specified via the command line argument --configfiles
  • the path(s) specified via the $EASYBUILD_CONFIGFILES environment variable
  • the default paths for EasyBuild configuration files

Default configuration files

By default, EasyBuild will use existing configuration files at the following paths:

  • $dir/easybuild.d/*.cfg, for each directory $dir listed in $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS (where $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS defaults to /etc)
  • $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/easybuild/config.cfg (where $XDG_CONFIG_HOME defaults to $HOME/.config)

Hence, if $XDG_CONFIG_HOME and $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS are not defined, EasyBuild will only consider default configuration files at /etc/easybuild.d/*.cfg and $HOME/.config/easybuild/config.cfg.

The configuration file located in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME will be listed after the ones obtained via $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS, such that user-defined configuration settings have preference over system defaults.

A detailed overview of the list of default configuration files is available via eb --show-default-configfiles (available since EasyBuild v2.1.0). For example::

$ XDG_CONFIG_DIRS=/tmp/etc:/tmp/moreetc eb --show-default-configfiles
efault list of configuration files:

[with $XDG_CONFIG_HOME: (not set), $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS: /tmp/etc:/tmp/moreetc]

* user-level: ${XDG_CONFIG_HOME:-$HOME/.config}/easybuild/config.cfg
  -> /home/example/.config/easybuild/config.cfg => found
* system-level: ${XDG_CONFIG_DIRS:-/etc}/easybuild.d/*.cfg
  -> {/tmp/etc, /tmp/moreetc}/easybuild.d/*.cfg => /tmp/etc/easybuild.d/config.cfg, /tmp/moreetc/easybuild.d/bar.cfg, /tmp/moreetc/easybuild.d/foo.cfg

Default list of existing configuration files (4): /tmp/etc/easybuild.d/config.cfg, /tmp/moreetc/easybuild.d/bar.cfg, /tmp/moreetc/easybuild.d/foo.cfg, /home/example/.config/easybuild/config.cfg

Multiple configuration files

If multiple configuration files are listed via a mechanism listed above, the settings in the last configuration file have preference over the others.

Each available configuration file will be used, and the configuration settings specified in these files will be retained according to the order of preference as indicated above: settings in configuration files specified via --configfiles override those in configuration files specified via $EASYBUILD_CONFIGFILES, which in turns override settings in default configuration files.

Ignored configuration files

On top of this, the --ignoreconfigfiles configuration option allows to specify configuration files that should be ignored by EasyBuild (regardless of whether they are specified via any of the options above).

Configuration file format

The EasyBuild configuration file follows the default Python configuration format as parsed by the configparser module (see

Configuration files are organized in sections, the section name for a particular configuration setting is indicated in the output of eb --help. Some examples sections are: MAIN, basic, config, informative, override, regtest, software, unittest, etc.

Sections are indicated by specifying the section name in square brackets on a dedicated line, e.g., [basic].

Configuration settings are specified in a key = value or key: value format, without using quotes for string-like values. For boolean configuration settings, values that evaluated to True (e.g., true, 1, …) are all equivalent to enabling the setting.

Comment lines start with a hash character # (just like in Python code).

An example configuration file that should make everything clear is shown below.

# always enable logging to stdout
logtostdout = true
# use Lmod as modules tool
modules-tool: Lmod
# use different default installation path

Templates and constants supported in configuration files

Two types of template values %(...)s are supported in configuration files:

  • for configuration options defined in the configuration file (and only those)
    • syntax: %(opt)s, i.e., using the (lowercase) name of the configuration option
  • for the default value of selected configuration options (see eb --avail-cfgfile-constants)
    • syntax: %(DEFAULT_OPT)s, i.e., using the uppercase name of the configuration option and prefixed with DEFAULT_


These template values are only supported in configuration files, not in environment variable values or command line option values.


Using an unknown template value, i.e. either one for a configuration option that was not defined in the configuration file, or a non-existing one for a particular default value, will result in an error like: ConfigParser.InterpolationMissingOptionError: Bad value substitution.


To include both the (custom) location for the easyconfigs archive repository and the default list of robot search paths in the active robot search path, the following configuration file entry can be used, featuring the template for the repositorypath configuration option and the provided DEFAULT_ROBOT_PATHS constant::

repositorypath = /home/example/easybuild/easyconfigs_archive
robot-paths = %(repositorypath)s:%(DEFAULT_ROBOT_PATHS)s

See also Controlling the robot search path.

Generating a template configuration file

Since EasyBuild v1.10, a command line option --confighelp is available that prints out the help text as an annotated configuration file. This can be used as an empty template configuration file:

mkdir -p $HOME/.config/easybuild
eb --confighelp > $HOME/.config/easybuild/config.cfg
$ head $HOME/.easybuild/config.cfg
# Enable debug log mode (def False)
# Enable info log mode (def False)
# Enable info quiet/warning mode (def False)

# Print build overview incl. dependencies (full paths) (def False)

Environment variables

All configuration settings listed as long options in eb --help can also be specified via EASYBUILD_-prefixed environment variables.

Configuration settings specified this way always override the corresponding setting specified in a configuration file.

For example, to enable debug logging using an environment variable:


More examples of using environment variables to configure EasyBuild are shown in the sections below.


Any configuration option of EasyBuild which can be tuned by command line or via the configuration file, can also be tuned via a corresponding environment variable.


If any $EASYBUILD-prefixed environment variables are defined that do not correspond to a known configuration option, EasyBuild will report an error message and exit.

Command line arguments

The configuration type with the highest precedence are the eb command line arguments, which override settings specified through environment variables or in configuration files.

For some configuration options, both short and long command line arguments are available (see eb --help); the long options indicate how the configuration setting should be specified in a configuration file or via an environment variable ($EASYBUILD_<LONGOPTION>).

For boolean configuration settings, both the --<option> and --disable-<option> variants are always available.

Examples (more below):

  • enable debug logging (long option) and logging to stdout (short option)
eb --debug -l ...
  • use /dev/shm as build path, install to temporary install path, disable debug logging
eb --buildpath=/dev/shm --installpath=/tmp/$USER --disable-debug ...

Overview of current configuration

(--show-config, --show-full-config)

To get an overview of the current EasyBuild configuration across all configuration types, you can use eb --show-config.

The output will specify:

  • any configuration setting for which the current value is different from the default value
  • a couple of selected important configuration settings (even if they are still set to the default value), i.e.:
  • through which configuration type each setting was defined
    • i.e., default value, configuration file, environment variable or command line argument

Example output

$ cat $HOME/.config/easybuild/config.cfg
buildpath = /tmp/eb-build


$ eb --show-config --installpath=$HOME/apps --job-cores=4
# Current EasyBuild configuration
# (C: command line argument, D: default value, E: environment variable, F: configuration file)
buildpath      (F) = /tmp/eb-build
installpath    (C) = /Users/example/apps
job-cores      (C) = 4
modules-tool   (E) = Lmod
optarch        (E) = ''
repositorypath (D) = /Users/example/.local/easybuild/ebfiles_repo
robot-paths    (D) = /Users/example/easybuild-easyconfigs/easybuild/easyconfigs
sourcepath     (D) = /Users/example/.local/easybuild/sources

For a full overview of the current configuration, including all configuration settings, see eb --show-full-config.

Available configuration settings

To obtain a full and up-to-date list of available configuration settings, see eb --help. We refrain from listing all available configuration settings here, to avoid outdated documentation.

A couple of selected configuration settings are discussed below, in particular the mandatory settings.

Mandatory configuration settings

A handful of configuration settings are mandatory, and should be provided using one of the supported configuration types.

The following configuration settings are currently mandatory (more details in the sections below):

If any of these configuration settings is not provided in one way or another, EasyBuild will complain and exit.

In practice, all of these have reasonable defaults (see eb --help for the default settings).


The mandatory path-related options can be tweaked collectively via --prefix, see Overall prefix path (--prefix) for more information.

Source path (--sourcepath)

default: $HOME/.local/easybuild/sources/ (determined via Overall prefix path (--prefix))

The sourcepath configuration setting specifies the parent path of the directory in which EasyBuild looks for software source and install files.

Looking for the files specified via the sources parameter in the .eb easyconfig file is done in the following order of preference:

  • <sourcepath>/<name>: a subdirectory determined by the name of the software package
  • <sourcepath>/<letter>/<name>: in the style of the easyblocks/easyconfigs directories: in a subdirectory determined by the first letter (in lower case) of the software package and by its full name
  • <sourcepath>: directly in the source path

Note that these locations are also used when EasyBuild looks for patch files in addition to the various easybuild/easyconfigs directories that are listed in the $PYTHONPATH.

You can specify multiple paths, separated with :, in which EasyBuild will look for sources, but only the first one will be used for downloading, so one needs to make sure at least the first path is writable by the user invoking eb.

Build path (--buildpath)

default: $HOME/.local/easybuild/build/ (determined via Overall prefix path (--prefix))

The buildpath configuration setting specifies the parent path of the (temporary) directories in which EasyBuild builds its software packages.

Each software package is (by default) built in a subdirectory of the specified buildpath under <name>/<version>/<toolchain><versionsuffix>.

Note that the build directories are emptied and removed by EasyBuild when the installation is completed (by default).


Using /dev/shm as build path can significantly speed up builds, if it is available and provides a sufficient amount of space. Setting up the variable EASYBUILD_BUILDPATH in your shell startup files makes this default. However be aware that, fi., two parallel GCC builds may fill up /dev/shm !

Software and modules install path

(--installpath, --installpath-software, --installpath-modules)


There are several ways in which the software and modules install path used by EasyBuild can be configured:

  • using the direct configuration options --installpath-software and --installpath-modules (see below)
  • via the parent install path configuration option --installpath (see below)
  • via the overall prefix path configuration option --prefix (see Overall prefix path (--prefix))
Direct options

(--installpath-software and --installpath-modules)

default: (no default specified)

The --installpath-software and --installpath-modules configuration options (available since EasyBuild v2.1.0) allow to directly specify the software and modules install paths, respectively.

These configuration options have precedence over all of the other configuration options that relate to specifying the install path for software and/or modules (see below).

Parent install path: --installpath

default: (no default specified)

The --installpath configuration option specifies the parent path of the directories in which EasyBuild should install software packages and the corresponding module files.

The install path for software and modules specifically is determined by combining --installpath with --subdir-software, and combining --installpath with --subdir-modules and --suffix-modules-path, respectively.

For more information on these companion configuration options, see Software and modules install path subdirectories (--subdir-software, --subdir-modules, --suffix-modules-path).

Full install path for software and module file

The full software and module install paths for a particular software package are determined by the active module naming scheme along with the general software and modules install paths specified by the EasyBuild configuration.

Both the software itself and the corresponding module file will be installed in a subdirectory of the corresponding install path named according to the active module naming scheme (default format: <name>/<version>-<toolchain><versionsuffix>). Additionally, symlinks to the actual module file are installed in a subdirectory of the modules install path named according to the value of the moduleclass easyconfig parameter.

For more information on the module naming scheme used by EasyBuild, see Active module naming scheme (--module-naming-scheme).


To make the modules generated by EasyBuild available, the $MODULEPATH environment variable must be updated to include the modules install path.

The recommended way to do this is to use the module use command. For example:

eb --installpath=$HOME/easybuild
module use $HOME/easybuild/modules/all

It is probably a good idea to add this to your (favourite) shell .rc file, e.g., ~/.bashrc, and/or the ~/.profile login scripts, so you do not need to adjust $MODULEPATH every time you start a new session.


Updating $MODULEPATH is not required for EasyBuild itself, since eb updates $MODULEPATH itself at runtime according to the modules install path it is configured with.

Easyconfigs repository (--repository, --repositorypath)

default: FileRepository at $HOME/.local/easybuild/ebfiles_repo (determined via Overall prefix path (--prefix))

EasyBuild has support for archiving (tested) .eb easyconfig files. After successfully installing a software package using EasyBuild, the corresponding .eb file is uploaded to a repository defined by the repository and repositorypath configuration settings.

Currently, EasyBuild supports the following repository types (see also eb --avail-repositories):

  • FileRepository('path', 'subdir'): a plain flat file repository; path is the path where files will be stored, subdir is an optional subdirectory of that path where the files should be stored
  • GitRepository('path', 'subdir/in/repo': a non-empty bare git repository (created with git init --bare or git clone --bare); path is the path to the git repository (can also be a URL); subdir/in/repo is optional, and specifies a subdirectory of the repository where files should be stored in
  • SvnRepository('path', 'subdir/in/repo'): an SVN repository; path contains the subversion repository location (directory or URL), the optional second value specifies a subdirectory in the repository

You need to set the repository setting inside a configuration file like this:

repository = FileRepository
repositorypath = <path>

Or, optionally an extra argument representing a subdirectory can be specified, e.g.:

export EASYBUILD_REPOSITORYPATH=<path>,<subdir>

You do not have to worry about importing these classes, EasyBuild will make them available to the configuration file.

Using git requires the GitPython Python modules, using svn requires the pysvn Python module (see Dependencies).

If access to the easyconfigs repository fails for some reason (e.g., no network or a missing required Python module), EasyBuild will issue a warning. The software package will still be installed, but the (successful) easyconfig will not be automatically added to the archive (i.e., it is not considered a fatal error).

Logfile format (--logfile-format)

default: easybuild, easybuild-%(name)s-%(version)s-%(date)s.%(time)s.log

The logfile format configuration setting contains a tuple specifying a log directory name and a template log file name. In both of these values, using the following string templates is supported:

  • %(name)s: the name of the software package to install
  • %(version)s: the version of the software package to install
  • %(date)s: the date on which the installation was performed (in YYYYMMDD format, e.g. 20120324)
  • %(time)s: the time at which the installation was started (in HHMMSS format, e.g. 214359)


Because templating is supported in configuration files themselves (see Templates and constants supported in configuration files), the '%' character in these template values must be escaped when used in a configuration file (and only then), e.g., '%%(name)s'. Without escaping, an error like InterpolationMissingOptionError: Bad value substitution will be thrown by ConfigParser.

For example, configuring EasyBuild to generate a log file mentioning only the software name in a directory named easybuild can be done via the --logfile-format command line option:

eb --logfile-format="easybuild,easybuild-%(name)s.log" ...

or the $EASYBUILD_LOGFILE_FORMAT environment variable:

export EASYBUILD_LOGFILE_FORMAT="easybuild,easybuild-%(name)s.log"

or by including the following in an EasyBuild configuration file (note the use of '%%' to escape the name template value here):

logfile-format = easybuild,easybuild-%%(name)s.log

Optional configuration settings

The subsections below discuss a couple of commonly used optional configuration settings.

Overall prefix path (--prefix)

default: $HOME/.local/easybuild

The overall prefix path used by EasyBuild can be specified using the --prefix configuration option.

This affects the default value of several configuration options:

Software and modules install path subdirectories

(--subdir-software, --subdir-modules, --suffix-modules-path)


  • software install path subdirectory (--subdir-software): software
  • modules install path subdirectory (--subdir-modules): modules
  • modules install path suffix (--suffix-modules-path): all

The subdirectories for the software and modules install paths (relative to --installpath, see install path) can be specified using the corresponding dedicated configuration options (available since EasyBuild v1.14.0).

For example:

eb --installpath=$HOME/easybuild --subdir-modules=module_files ...

Modules tool (--modules-tool)

default: Lmod

Specifying the modules tool that should be used by EasyBuild can be done using the modules-tool configuration setting. A list of supported modules tools can be obtained using eb --avail-modules-tools.

Currently, the following modules tools are supported:

  • Lmod (default): Lmod, an modern alternative to environment modules, written in Lua (lmod)
  • EnvironmentModules: modern Tcl-only version of environment modules (4.x) (modulecmd.tcl)
  • EnvironmentModulesC: Tcl/C version of environment modules, usually version 3.2.10 (modulecmd)
  • EnvironmentModulesTcl: (ancient) Tcl-only version of environment modules (modulecmd.tcl)

You can determine which modules tool you are using by checking the output of type -f module (in a bash shell), or alias module (in a tcsh shell).

The actual module command (i.e., modulecmd, modulecmd.tcl, lmod, ...) must be available via $PATH (which is not standard), except when using Lmod (in that case the lmod binary can also be located via $LMOD_CMD) or when using Environment Modules (in that case the modulecmd.tcl binary can also be located via $MODULES_CMD).

For example, to indicate that EasyBuild should be using Lmod as modules tool:

eb --modules-tool=Lmod ...

Active module naming scheme (--module-naming-scheme)

default: EasyBuildModuleNamingScheme

The module naming scheme that should be used by EasyBuild can be specified using the module-naming-scheme configuration setting.

eb --module-naming-scheme=HierarchicalMNS ...

For more details, see the dedicated page on using a custom module naming scheme.

Module files syntax (--module-syntax)

default: Lua

supported since: EasyBuild v2.1

The syntax to use for generated module files can be specified using the --module-syntax configuration setting.

Possible values are:

  • Lua: generate module files in Lua syntax
    • this requires the use of Lmod as a modules tool to consume the module files (see modules tool)
    • module file names will have the .lua extension
  • Tcl: generate module files in Tcl syntax
    • Tcl module files can be consumed by all supported modules tools
    • module files will contain a header string #%Module indicating that they are composed in Tcl syntax


Lmod is able to deal with having module files in place in both Tcl and Lua syntax. When a module file in Lua syntax (i.e., with a .lua file name extension) is available, a Tcl module file with the same name will be ignored. The Tcl-based environment modules tool will simply ignore module files in Lua syntax, since they do not contain the header string that is included in Tcl module files.


Using module files in Lua syntax has the advantage that Lmod does not need to translate from Lua to Tcl internally when processing the module files, which benefits responsiveness of Lmod when used interactively by users. In terms of Lmod-specific aspects of module files, the syntax of the module file does not matter; Lmod-specific statements supported by EasyBuild can be included in Tcl module files as well, by guarding them by a condition that only evaluates positively when Lmod is consuming the module file, i.e. 'if { [ string match "*tcl2lua.tcl" $env(_) ] } { ... }'. Only conditional load statements like 'load(atleast("gcc","4.8"))' can only be used in Lua module files.