Running from Source#

This section describes various ways of running novelWriter directly from the source code, and how to build the various components like the translation files and documentation.


The text below assumes the command python corresponds to a Python 3 executable. Python 2 is now deprecated, but many systems still have both Python 2 and 3. For such systems, the command python3 may be needed instead. Likewise, pip may need to be replaced with pip3.


novelWriter has been designed to rely on as few dependencies as possible. Aside from the packages needed to communicate with the Qt GUI libraries, only one package is required for handling the XML format of the main project file. Everything else is handled with standard Python libraries.

The following Python packages are needed to run novelWriter:

  • PyQt5 – needed for connecting with the Qt5 libraries.

  • lxml – needed for full XML support.

  • PyEnchant – needed for spell checking (optional).

PyQt/Qt should be at least 5.10, but ideally 5.13 or higher for all features to work. For instance, searching using regular expressions with full Unicode support requires 5.13. There is no known minimum version requirement for package lxml, but the code was originally written with 4.2, which is therefore set as the minimum. It may work on lower versions. You have to test it.

If you want spell checking, you must install the PyEnchant package. The spell check library must be at least 3.0 to work with Windows. On Linux, 2.0 also works fine.

If you install from PyPi, these dependencies should be installed automatically. If you install from source, dependencies can still be installed from PyPi with:

pip install -r requirements.txt


On Linux distros, the Qt library is usually split up into multiple packages. In some cases, secondary dependencies may not be installed automatically. For novelWriter, the library files for renderring the SVG icons may be left out and needs to be installed manually. This is the case on for instance Arch Linux.

Install from Source#

You can download the latest version of novelWriter from the source repository on GitHub and run the setup manually. It is equivalent to what the pip install command does, and it installs novelWriter to the default location for Python packages.

This step requires that you have setuptools installed on your system. If you don’t have it installed, it can usually be installed from your distro’s repository. For Debian and Ubuntu this is achieved with:

sudo apt install python3-setuptools

The package is also available from PyPi:

pip install --user setuptools

With setuptools in place, novelWriter can be installed to the user space with:

python install --user


The main setup script has a number of options that may be useful to you. You can list them by running python help.

Building the Translation Files#

If you installed novelWriter from a package, the translation files should be pre-built and included. If you’re running novelWriter from the source code, you will need to generate the files yourself. The files you need will be written to the novelwriter/assets/i18n folder, and will have the .qm file extension.

You can build the .qm files with:

python qtlrelease

This requires that the Qt Linguist tool is installed on your system. On Ubuntu and Debian, the needed package is called qttools5-dev-tools.


If you want to improve novelWriter with translation files for another language, or update an existing translation, instructions for how to contribute can be found in the file in the i18n folder of the source code.

Building the Example Project#

In order to be able to create new projects from example files, you need a file in the assets folder of the source. This file can be built from setup script by running:

python sample

Building the Documentation#

A local copy of this documentation can be generated as HTML. This requires the following Python packages from PyPi:

pip install furo sphinx

The documentation can then be built from the root folder in the source code by running:

make -C docs html

If successful, the documentation should be available in the docs/build/html folder and you can open the index.html file in your browser.

You can also build a PDF manual from the documentation using the setup script:

python manual

This will build the documentation as a PDF using LaTeX. The file will then be copied into the assets folder and made available in the Help menu in novelWriter. The Sphinx build system has a few extra dependencies when building the PDF. Please check the Sphinx Docs for more details.