Build Instructions for GTK NetSurf

This document provides instructions for building the GTK version of NetSurf and provides guidance on obtaining NetSurf's build dependencies.

GTK NetSurf has been tested on Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora 8, FreeBSD, NetBSD and Solaris 10. NetSurf requires at minimum GTK 2.12.

See the QUICK-START document, which provides a simple environment with which you can fetch, build and install NetSurf and its dependencies.

The QUICK-START is the recommended way to build NetSurf.

If you can't follow the quick start instructions, you will have to build NetSurf manually. The instructions for doing this are given below.

Many of NetSurf's dependencies are packaged on various operating systems. The remainder must be installed manually. Currently, some of the libraries developed as part of the NetSurf project have not had official releases. Hopefully they will soon be released with downloadable tarballs and packaged in common distros. For now, you'll have to make do with Git checkouts.

Debian-like OS:

$ apt-get install libgtk2.0-dev libcurl3-dev libpng-dev 
$ apt-get install librsvg2-dev libjpeg-dev

If you want to build with gtk 3 replace libgtk2.0-dev with libgtk-3-dev

Recent OS versions might need libcurl4-dev instead of libcurl3-dev but note that when it has not been built with OpenSSL, the SSL_CTX is not available and results that certification details won't be presented in case they are invalid. But as this is currently unimplemented in the GTK flavour of NetSurf, this won't make a difference at all.


$ yum install curl-devel libpng-devel
$ yum install librsvg2-devel expat-devel


You'll need to install the development resources for libglade2, libcurl3, libpng and librsvg.

NetSurf has a number of libraries which must be built in-order and installed into your workspace. Each library depends on a core build system which NetSurf projects use. This build system relies on the presence of things like pkg-config to find libraries and also certain environment variables in order to work correctly.

Assuming you are preparing a workspace in /home/netsurf/workspace then the following steps will set you up:

$ mkdir -p ${HOME}/netsurf/workspace
$ cd ${HOME}/netsurf/workspace
$ mkdir inst
$ cat > <<'EOF'
  export PKG_CONFIG_PATH=${HOME}/netsurf/workspace/inst/lib/pkgconfig::
  export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=${LD_LIBRARY_PATH}:${HOME}/netsurf/workspace/inst/lib
  export PREFIX=${HOME}/netsurf/workspace/inst

Whenever you wish to start development in a new shell, run the following:

$ cd ${HOME}/netsurf/workspace
$ source

From here on, any commands in this document assume you have sourced your shell environment.

The NetSurf project has developed several libraries which are required by the browser. These are:

| BuildSystem | Shared build system, needed to build the other libraries | | LibParserUtils | Parser building utility functions | | LibWapcaplet | String internment | | Hubbub | HTML5 compliant HTML parser | | LibCSS | CSS parser and selection engine | | LibNSGIF | GIF format image decoder | | LibNSBMP | BMP and ICO format image decoder | | LibROSprite | RISC OS Sprite format image decoder |

To fetch each of these libraries, run the appropriate commands from the Docs/LIBRARIES file, from within your workspace directory.

To build and install these libraries, simply enter each of their directories and run:

$ make install


We advise enabling iconv() support in libparserutils, which vastly increases the number of supported character sets. To do this, create a file called Makefile.config.override in the libparserutils directory, containing the following line:


For more information, consult the libparserutils README file.

Now you should have all the NetSurf project libraries built and installed.

From your workspace directory, run the following command to get the NetSurf source:

$ git clone git://

And change to the 'netsurf' directory:

$ cd netsurf

First of all, you should examine the options in Makefile.defaults and gtk/Makefile.defaults and enable and disable relevant features as you see fit by editing a Makefile.config file.

Some of these options can be automatically detected and used, and where this is the case they are set to such. Others cannot be automatically detected from the Makefile, so you will either need to install the dependencies, or set them to NO.

You should then obtain NetSurf's dependencies, keeping in mind which options you have enabled in the configuration file. See the next section for specifics.

Once done, to build GTK NetSurf on a UNIX-like platform, simply run:

$ make

If that produces errors, you probably don't have some of NetSurf's build dependencies installed. See "Obtaining NetSurf's dependencies" below. Or turn off the complaining features in a Makefile.config file. You may need to "make clean" before attempting to build after installing the dependencies.

Run NetSurf by executing "nsgtk3":

$ ./nsgtk3

There are numerous resources that accompany NetSurf, such as the image files for icons, cursors and the ui builder files that construct the browsers interface.

Some of these resources can be compiled into the browser executable removing the need to install these resources separately. The GLib library on which GTK is based provides this functionality to NetSurf.

Up until GLib version 2.32 only the GDK pixbuf could be integrated in this way and is controlled with the NETSURF_USE_INLINE_PIXBUF variable (set in makefile.config).

Glib version 2.32 and later integrated support for any file to be a resource while depreciating the old inline pixbuf interface. NetSurf gtk executables can integrate many resources using this interface, configuration is controlled with the NETSURF_USE_GRESOURCE variable.

Loading from file is the fallback if a resource has not been compiled in, because of this if both of these features are unavailable (or disabled) NetSurf will automatically fall back to loading all its resources from files.

The resource initialisation within the browser ensures it can access all the resources at start time, however it does not verify the resources are valid so failures could still occur subsequently. This is especially true for file based resources as they can become inaccessible after initialisation.

If you are packaging NetSurf, see the PACKAGING-GTK document.