Building packages from source

21 June 2021 by Remco Bouckaert

If you need the latest features that are already available in the source code, but are not released yet, you can still run an analysis in BEAST by building the package from the source code. Here is how:

    1. install required software
    1. get source code
    1. build the package
    1. install the package

This post assumes you are familiar with command line interface of Windows or terminal on OS X or Linux.

Install required software

You need java JDK at least version 8, for example AdoptOpenJDK. Currently, BEAST targets Java 8, and newer versions, so version 8 is recommended to prevent binary format issues.

Also required is ant, available from Apache. Make sure that ant is in your path.

Get source code

Most source code resides in git repositories these days, and most packages are on github. We will use the Babel package as example in this post, which is indeed on github, and can be obtained by cloning:

git clone

This creates a Babel directory with all relevant code inside it. Babel is dependent on beast2 and BEASTLabs, which you can tell by the dependencies in the versions.xml file using grep depends Babel/version.xml, which produces

	<depends on='beast2' atleast='2.6.0'/>
	<depends on='BEASTLabs' atleast='1.9.6'/>

So, we want to clone these repos as well:

git clone
git clone

which creates the beast2 and BEASTLabs directories with all sources inside. Some packages have self-contained build files that download dependencies when you build them, and it is not necessary to clone dependent packages.

Build the package

You can build the individual packages using ant by switching directory, and run ant in there with the appropriate target. For building the Babel package, this will do:

cd beast2
cd ..
cd BEASTLabs
ant addon
cd ..
cd Babel
ant addon

Note there is no target specified for beast2, so the default target will be used (which is build_jar_all_BEAST, which compiles code and runs tests), but using ant compile-all might safe a some time since it does not run tests.

Not every package has addon as target, and some build their package by default, so simply running ant without argument will do. To find out which targets there are, run grep "<target" build.xml in the package’s directory, and grep "<project" build.xml usually reveals the default target.

Install the package

You need to install the package by hand, as follows:

  • change directory to the package directory.
    • for Windows in Users<YourName>\BEAST\2.X\
    • for Mac in /Users/\/Library/Application Support/BEAST/2.X/
    • for Linux /home//.beast/2.X/ Here is the username you use, and in “2.X” the X refers to the major version of BEAST, so 2.X=2.6 for version 2.6.3.
  • create a directory for the package, and change directory
    mkdir Babel
    cd Babel
  • when running ant, the screen output usually says where the package is zipped up. For example for Babel on my machine that would be
        [jar] Building jar: /Users/remco/workspace/Babel/build/dist/

    so we want to unzip this, overwriting existing file if any, using unzip -o where the package file. In my case this would look like this:

    unzip -o /Users/remco/workspace/Babel/build/dist/
  • NB If this is the first time the package is installed, you have to reset the BEAST class path, which is stored in the file in the package directory (the /2.X/ folder indicated above for each operating system). Either delete the line starting with package.path=, or run BEAUti and select the menu File/Clear class path

You should now be able to use the newly build package.