Thank you for your interest in this project! Please refer to the following sections on how to contribute code and bug reports.

Reporting bugs

Before submitting a question or bug report, please take a moment of your time and ensure that your issue isn't already discussed in the project documentation provided at or in the issue tracker. You can also check gitter to see if it came up before.

Assuming that you have identified a previously unknown problem or an important question, it's essential that you submit a self-contained and minimal piece of code that reproduces the problem. In other words: no external dependencies, isolate the function(s) that cause breakage, submit matched and complete C++ and Python snippets that can be easily compiled and run in isolation; or ideally make a small PR with a failing test case that can be used as a starting point.

Pull requests

Contributions are submitted, reviewed, and accepted using GitHub pull requests. Please refer to this article for details and adhere to the following rules to make the process as smooth as possible:

  • Make a new branch for every feature you're working on.
  • Make small and clean pull requests that are easy to review but make sure they do add value by themselves.
  • Add tests for any new functionality and run the test suite (cmake --build build --target pytest) to ensure that no existing features break.
  • Please run pre-commit to check your code matches the project style. (Note that gawk is required.) Use pre-commit run --all-files before committing (or use installed-mode, check pre-commit docs) to verify your code passes before pushing to save time.
  • This project has a strong focus on providing general solutions using a minimal amount of code, thus small pull requests are greatly preferred.

Licensing of contributions

pybind11 is provided under a BSD-style license that can be found in the LICENSE file. By using, distributing, or contributing to this project, you agree to the terms and conditions of this license.

You are under no obligation whatsoever to provide any bug fixes, patches, or upgrades to the features, functionality or performance of the source code (“Enhancements”) to anyone; however, if you choose to make your Enhancements available either publicly, or directly to the author of this software, without imposing a separate written license agreement for such Enhancements, then you hereby grant the following license: a non-exclusive, royalty-free perpetual license to install, use, modify, prepare derivative works, incorporate into other computer software, distribute, and sublicense such enhancements or derivative works thereof, in binary and source code form.

Development of pybind11

To setup an ideal development environment, run the following commands on a system with CMake 3.14+:

python3 -m venv venv
source venv/bin/activate
pip install -r tests/requirements.txt
cmake --build build -j4


  • You can use virtualenv (from PyPI) instead of venv (which is Python 3 only).
  • You can select any name for your environment folder; if it contains “env” it will be ignored by git.
  • If you don’t have CMake 3.14+, just add “cmake” to the pip install command.
  • You can use -DPYBIND11_FINDPYTHON=ON to use FindPython on CMake 3.12+
  • In classic mode, you may need to set -DPYTHON_EXECUTABLE=/path/to/python. FindPython uses -DPython_ROOT_DIR=/path/to or -DPython_EXECUTABLE=/path/to/python.

Configuration options

In CMake, configuration options are given with “-D”. Options are stored in the build directory, in the CMakeCache.txt file, so they are remembered for each build directory. Two selections are special - the generator, given with -G, and the compiler, which is selected based on environment variables CXX and similar, or -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=. Unlike the others, these cannot be changed after the initial run.

The valid options are:

  • -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE: Release, Debug, MinSizeRel, RelWithDebInfo
  • -DPYBIND11_FINDPYTHON=ON: Use CMake 3.12+’s FindPython instead of the classic, deprecated, custom FindPythonLibs
  • -DPYBIND11_NOPYTHON=ON: Disable all Python searching (disables tests)
  • -DBUILD_TESTING=ON: Enable the tests
  • -DDOWNLOAD_CATCH=ON: Download catch to build the C++ tests
  • -DOWNLOAD_EIGEN=ON: Download Eigen for the NumPy tests
  • -DPYBIND11_INSTALL=ON/OFF: Enable the install target (on by default for the master project)
  • -DUSE_PYTHON_INSTALL_DIR=ON: Try to install into the python dir
  • Use cmake --build build -v to see the commands used to build the files.
  • Use cmake build -LH to list the CMake options with help.
  • Use ccmake if available to see a curses (terminal) gui, or cmake-gui for a completely graphical interface (not present in the PyPI package).
  • Use cmake --build build -j12 to build with 12 cores (for example).
  • Use -G and the name of a generator to use something different. cmake --help lists the generators available. - On Unix, setting CMAKE_GENERATER=Ninja in your environment will give you automatic mulithreading on all your CMake projects!
  • Open the CMakeLists.txt with QtCreator to generate for that IDE.
  • You can use -DCMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS=ON to generate the .json file that some tools expect.

To run the tests, you can “build” the check target:

cmake --build build --target check

--target can be spelled -t in CMake 3.15+. You can also run individual tests with these targets:

  • pytest: Python tests only, using the pytest framework
  • cpptest: C++ tests only
  • test_cmake_build: Install / subdirectory tests

If you want to build just a subset of tests, use -DPYBIND11_TEST_OVERRIDE="test_callbacks.cpp;test_pickling.cpp". If this is empty, all tests will be built.

You may also pass flags to the pytest target by editing tests/pytest.ini or by using the PYTEST_ADDOPTS environment variable (see pytest docs). As an example:

env PYTEST_ADDOPTS="--capture=no --exitfirst" \
    cmake --build build --target pytest
# Or using abbreviated flags
env PYTEST_ADDOPTS="-s -x" cmake --build build --target pytest


All formatting is handled by pre-commit.

Install with brew (macOS) or pip (any OS):

# Any OS
python3 -m pip install pre-commit

# OR macOS with homebrew:
brew install pre-commit

Then, you can run it on the items you've added to your staging area, or all files:

pre-commit run
# OR
pre-commit run --all-files

And, if you want to always use it, you can install it as a git hook (hence the name, pre-commit):

pre-commit install


As of v2.6.2, pybind11 ships with a clang-format configuration file at the top level of the repo (the filename is .clang-format). Currently, formatting is NOT applied automatically, but manually using clang-format for newly developed files is highly encouraged. To check if a file needs formatting:

clang-format -style=file --dry-run some.cpp

The output will show things to be fixed, if any. To actually format the file:

clang-format -style=file -i some.cpp

Note that the -style-file option searches the parent directories for the .clang-format file, i.e. the commands above can be run in any subdirectory of the pybind11 repo.


clang-tidy performs deeper static code analyses and is more complex to run, compared to clang-format, but support for clang-tidy is built into the pybind11 CMake configuration. To run clang-tidy, the following recipe should work. Files will be modified in place, so you can use git to monitor the changes.

docker run --rm -v $PWD:/pybind11 -it silkeh/clang:10
apt-get update && apt-get install python3-dev python3-pytest
cmake -S pybind11/ -B build -DCMAKE_CXX_CLANG_TIDY="$(which clang-tidy);-fix"
cmake --build build

Include what you use

To run include what you use, install (brew install include-what-you-use on macOS), then run:

cmake -S . -B build-iwyu -DCMAKE_CXX_INCLUDE_WHAT_YOU_USE=$(which include-what-you-use)
cmake --build build

The report is sent to stderr; you can pipe it into a file if you wish.

Build recipes

This builds with the Intel compiler (assuming it is in your path, along with a recent CMake and Python 3):

python3 -m venv venv
. venv/bin/activate
pip install pytest

This will test the PGI compilers:

docker run --rm -it -v $PWD:/pybind11
apt-get update && apt-get install -y python3-dev python3-pip python3-pytest
wget -qO- "" | tar --strip-components=1 -xz -C /usr/local
cmake -S pybind11/ -B build
cmake --build build

Explanation of the SDist/wheel building design

These details below are only for packaging the Python sources from git. The SDists and wheels created do not have any extra requirements at all and are completely normal.

The main objective of the packaging system is to create SDists (Python‘s source distribution packages) and wheels (Python’s binary distribution packages) that include everything that is needed to work with pybind11, and which can be installed without any additional dependencies. This is more complex than it appears: in order to support CMake as a first class language even when using the PyPI package, they must include the generated CMake files (so as not to require CMake when installing the pybind11 package itself). They should also provide the option to install to the “standard” location (<ENVROOT>/include/pybind11 and <ENVROOT>/share/cmake/pybind11) so they are easy to find with CMake, but this can cause problems if you are not an environment or using pyproject.toml requirements. This was solved by having two packages; the “nice” pybind11 package that stores the includes and CMake files inside the package, that you get access to via functions in the package, and a pybind11-global package that can be included via pybind11[global] if you want the more invasive but discoverable file locations.

If you want to install or package the GitHub source, it is best to have Pip 10 or newer on Windows, macOS, or Linux (manylinux1 compatible, includes most distributions). You can then build the SDists, or run any procedure that makes SDists internally, like making wheels or installing.

# Editable development install example
python3 -m pip install -e .

Since Pip itself does not have an sdist command (it does have wheel and install), you may want to use the upcoming build package:

python3 -m pip install build

# Normal package
python3 -m build -s .

# Global extra
PYBIND11_GLOBAL_SDIST=1 python3 -m build -s .

If you want to use the classic “direct” usage of python, you will need CMake 3.15+ and either make or ninja preinstalled (possibly via pip install cmake ninja), since directly running Python on cannot pick up and install pyproject.toml requirements. As long as you have those two things, though, everything works the way you would expect:

# Normal package
python3 sdist

# Global extra
PYBIND11_GLOBAL_SDIST=1 python3 sdist

A detailed explanation of the build procedure design for developers wanting to work on or maintain the packaging system is as follows:

1. Building from the source directory

When you invoke any command from the source directory, including pip wheel . and pip install ., you will activate a full source build. This is made of the following steps:

  1. If the tool is PEP 518 compliant, like Pip 10+, it will create a temporary virtual environment and install the build requirements (mostly CMake) into it. (if you are not on Windows, macOS, or a manylinux compliant system, you can disable this with --no-build-isolation as long as you have CMake 3.15+ installed)
  2. The environment variable PYBIND11_GLOBAL_SDIST is checked - if it is set and truthy, this will be make the accessory pybind11-global package, instead of the normal pybind11 package. This package is used for installing the files directly to your environment root directory, using pybind11[global].
  3. reads the version from pybind11/ and verifies it matches includes/pybind11/detail/common.h.
  4. CMake is run with -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREIFX=pybind11. Since the CMake install procedure uses only relative paths and is identical on all platforms, these files are valid as long as they stay in the correct relative position to the includes. pybind11/share/cmake/pybind11 has the CMake files, and pybind11/include has the includes. The build directory is discarded.
  5. Simpler files are placed in the SDist: tools/setup_*, tools/pyproject.toml (main or global)
  6. The package is created by running the setup function in the tools/setup_*.py. fills in Python packages, and fills in only the data/header slots.
  7. A context manager cleans up the temporary CMake install directory (even if an error is thrown).

2. Building from SDist

Since the SDist has the rendered template files in tools along with the includes and CMake files in the correct locations, the builds are completely trivial and simple. No extra requirements are required. You can even use Pip 9 if you really want to.