Topographica is currently under very active development, with many
changes made daily. Developers, users who plan to modify any of the source
files, and users who wish to receive frequent updates, should obtain
Topographica using CVS (the version
control system used for managing Topographica development), as detailed
Alternatively, installation packages are available for Linux, Windows, and
Macintosh at our Sourceforge
page. These packages simplify the process of installation (at the cost of making
it slightly more difficult to upgrade to new versions). Linux and Mac users should
download the desired archive package and then follow the 'Building Topographica'
instructions below; Windows users can download and run an .exe file, which will
perform all the necessary steps.
Installing using CVS
Topographica is hosted by
SourceForge.net, which maintains the CVS repository. The
essentials for using CVS at SourceForge are described below; see the
SourceForge documentation for more details or if you have any
To get started, first change to a directory to which you have write
access with sufficient space available, i.e., about 400 megabytes as
of 2/2006. There are two ways to get your own local copy of the CVS
files, depending on whether or not you are an official Topographica
developer. Non-developers can check out a read-only version of the
repository, while developers have read/write access so that they can
make changes that become a permanent part of the project
repository. Please follow the appropriate set of instructions below.
For read-only access from UNIX, Mac, or
Cygwin (Windows with Unix
commands installed), log in to the CVS server using the command:
cvs -d :pserver:email@example.com:/cvsroot/topographica login
When a password is requested, just press return. Then change to
wherever you want the files to be stored, and use the command:
cvs -d :pserver:firstname.lastname@example.org:/cvsroot/topographica
checkout -P -r LATEST_STABLE topographica
(where the entire command should be on a single line, even though it
is broken into two lines above). This process will likely take
several minutes (probably appearing to hang at certain points), as
there are some extremely large files involved. The
LATEST_STABLE option selects the version that has most recently
been declared to pass all tests. That option can be omitted if you
want the absolutely most up-to-date version, which may not always be
usable due to work in progress.
In Windows without Cygwin, you can retrieve the files using
TortoiseCVS (tested 2/2006
using TortoiseCVS 1.8.25). After installing TortoiseCVS, open the
Windows directory where you want the files to be located on your
machine, right click, select "CVS Checkout", fill in CVSROOT as
topographica for the module name. Before
clicking OK, select the "Revision" tab and select "Choose branch or
tag", filling in "LATEST_STABLE" as the tag name (unless you want the
latest bleeding-edge development version). When you click OK, the
files should be downloaded for you (though it may take some time).
For developers wanting read/write access, no login step is needed.
However, you may need to tell CVS to use
most systems default to rsh, yet rsh is almost never supported in practice.
export CVS_RSH=ssh for
setenv CVS_RSH ssh for csh/tcsh; you may wish to put this
in your shell startup file. The checkout command is then:
cvs -d ':ext:email@example.com:/cvsroot/topographica' checkout topographica
where uname should be replaced with your SourceForge.net
username. You will be asked for your SourceForge.net password. If
instead you get a message about rsh timing out, you have probably
forgotten to do the CVS_RSH command. The LATEST_STABLE option can
also be provided as above, but developers will more likely want the
most up-to-date version for editing.
Windows users can use the read-only procedure described
for TortoiseCVS above, replacing CVSROOT with
You will typically need to have an SSH client installed for this to
work, such as
Note that anyone interested in Topographica is welcome to join as a
Topographica developer to get read/write access, so that your changes
can become part of the main distribution. Just email
and describe what you want to do, and he'll tell you what to do from there.
Problems with CVS?
Sometimes the SourceForge.net cvs service experiences problems. If you
receive messages such as "connection closed by remote host", or the
cvs connection times out, you may wish to check the SourceForge.net
page. Be aware that this page is not always updated as fast as
topographica directory you have now checked out
includes the files necessary to build Topographica on most platforms.
To make the build process simpler for developers using multiple
platforms, source code versions of the libraries needed are included,
and are created as part of the build process. This approach makes the
initial compilation time longer and the simulator directory larger,
but it minimizes the changes necessary for specific platforms and
operating system versions.
To build Topographica under Linux, just type
topographica/ directory. The build process
will take a while to complete (e.g. about 5-10 minutes on a 1.5GHz
Pentium IV machine with a local disk). If you have PHP installed, you
can also make local copies of the HTML documentation from the web
site; to do so, type "make all" instead of (or after) "make". "make
all" will also run the regression tests and example files, to ensure
that everything is functioning properly on your system. (Note that if
you do the tests on a machine without a functioning DISPLAY, such as a
remote text-only session, there will be some warnings about GUI tests
If all goes well, a script named
topographica will be
created in the
topographica/ directory; you can use this
to start Topographica as described in the Tutorials. If you have problems,
-k to the
make command, which
will allow the make process to skip any components that do not build
properly on your machine. Topographica is highly modular, and most
functionality should be accessible even without some of those
Topographica is developed under Linux, but should work on other
versions of UNIX as well, as long as they have standard GNU tools like
make and GCC installed. Just follow the Linux instructions, replacing
gmake if that's the name of GNU make on your system.
Topographica builds only under Mac OS X or later. These instructions
assume that you have an X server installed. It is also possible to
build Topographica using a native (Aqua) version of Python, which
looks a bit nicer, but we have not yet documented how to do that.
To install under Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger):
- From the Apple developer web site, download
(among other development utilities, it provides the gcc C/C++
compiler for Topographica to use).
- Specify gcc 3.3 using:
sudo gcc_select 3.3. The
default 4.0 compiler is fine for most of the included packages, but
some people have reported that SciPy (weave) does not work with gcc 4.0.
- Download and install the Fink package.
Also install the FinkCommander GUI, which makes finding and installing Unix software
- With Fink, find and install the following packages:
freetype219 (they provide, respectively, the PNG format
handling and the matplotlib library installation required to run
- If you want to compile the local copy of the documentation
(e.g. for online help), use Fink to get imagemagick, transfig, and m4,
plus php if it's not already installed.
- If CVS is not already installed on your Mac, find and install
(and the associated library and client) with Fink.
- Get, unpack, and make Topographica using CVS as described above.
Other OS X versions may require small changes to this procedure,
to make sure that compatible libraries are available.
Double click on setup.bat in the Topographica directory.
After installation, '.ty' files are associated with Topographica.
Follow the instructions below for running Topographica (from a
command prompt), or double click on one of the .ty scripts in the
Instead of using the Windows versions of the various support tools
for Topographica, it should be possible to build Topographica on Cygwin, but it may be necessary to
modify some of the makefiles.
Once you have the code installed and built, go to your
topographica/ directory and type e.g.:
./topographica -g examples/cfsom_or.ty
./topographica -g examples/hierarchical.ty
./topographica -g examples/som_retinotopy.ty
./topographica -g examples/lissom_oo_or.ty
(Windows users should omit the initial
./, and replace the
/ with a backslash
For the latter two examples, a good way to get started is to work through
the SOM or
CVS users who have Topographica checked out can update to the latest
stable version at any time by doing:
cvs update -d -P -r LATEST_STABLE
If you want the very most recent version, stable or not, replace
-r LATEST_STABLE with
-A to force a complete
update. Under TortoiseCVS in Windows, you can right click in the
topographica directory and select CVS Update to get the new files.
Note that updating the external/ subdirectory sometimes takes a
long time, if some of the external packages have been upgraded, and in
that case "make all" can also take some time to build.
Users of Topographica who don't use CVS (having downloaded one of the
archive or binary packages) can subscribe to the
topographica-announce mailing list to hear about updates.