Running from Source#

This chapter 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 on many systems the command python3 may be needed instead. Likewise, pip may need to be replaced with pip3.

Most of the custom commands for building packages of novelWriter, or building assets, are contained in the script in the root of the source code. You can list the available commands by running:

python help


novelWriter has been designed to rely on as few dependencies as possible. Only the Python wrapper for the Qt GUI libraries is required. The package for spell checking is optional, but recommended. Everything else is handled with standard Python libraries.

The following Python packages are needed to run all features of novelWriter:

  • PyQt5 – needed for connecting with the Qt5 libraries.

  • PyEnchant – needed for spell checking (optional).

PyQt/Qt must be at least 5.15.0. 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 rendering the SVG icons may be left out and needs to be installed manually. This is the case on for instance Arch Linux.

Build and Install from Source#

If you want to install novelWriter directly from the source available on GitHub, you must first build the package using the Python Packaging Authority’s build tool. It can be installed with:

pip install build

On Debian-based systems the tool can also be installed with:

sudo apt install python3-build

With the tool installed, run the following command from the root of the novelWriter source code:

python -m build --wheel

This should generate a .whl file in the dist/ folder at your current location. The wheel file can then be installed on your system. Here with example version number 2.0.7, but yours may be different:

pip install --user dist/novelWriter-2.0.7-py3-none-any.whl

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 the script by running:

python sample

Building the Documentation#

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

pip install -r docs/source/requirements.txt

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 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.