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This documentation is for OMERO 5.2. This version is now in maintenance mode and will only be updated in the event of critical bugs or security concerns. OMERO 5.3 is expected before the end of 2016.

OMERO C++ language bindings

Using the Ice C++ language mapping from ZeroC, OMERO provides native access to your data from C++ code. CMake is used for building the C++ bindings.

Binaries are not provided, therefore it will be necessary for you to compile your own.


  • The OMERO source code
  • A C++ compiler
    • GCC is recommended for Linux and MacOS X
    • Visual Studio or the Platform SDK for Windows
  • The ZeroC Ice libraries, headers and slice definitions
  • cmake
  • Google Test (optional; needed to build the unit and integration tests)


If you are restricted to a specific version of GCC or Ice, you may need to obtain or build a compatible version of Ice or GCC, respectively.

Preparing to build

Begin by following the instructions under Installing OMERO from source to acquire the source code. Be sure that the git branch you are using matches the version of your server!

The location of your Ice installation should be automatically detected if installed into a standard location. If this is not the case, set the location of your Ice installation using the ICE_HOME environment variable or the -DICE_HOME or -DIce_SLICE_DIR cmake options for your Ice installation (see below). Some possible locations for the 3.5.1 version of Ice follow. Note these are just examples; you need to adjust them for the Ice installation path and version in use on your system.

  • Ice built from source and installed into /opt:

    export ICE_HOME=/opt/Ice-3.5.1
  • Ice installed on Linux using RPM packages:

    export ICE_HOME=/usr/share/Ice-3.5.1
  • MacOS X with homebrew:

    export ICE_HOME=/usr/local/Cellar/ice/3.5.1
  • Windows using Visual Studio:

    set ICE_HOME=C:\Program Files (x86)\ZeroC\Ice-3.5.1


If the Ice headers and libraries are not automatically discovered, these will need to be specified using appropriate cmake options (see below).

Building the library

For all build methods, the shared library and examples are always built by default. The unit and integration tests are built if Google test (gtest) is detected.

Building with or ant

export GTEST_ROOT=/path/to/gtest
cd /path/to/openmicroscopy
./ build-default
./ build-cpp [-Dcmake.args="cmake options"]

Set any needed cmake options using the ant cmake.args property, plus any needed environment variables.

For example:


This method is present for backward compatibility with the previous scons build system. While it is possible to customize the build somewhat, some behavior is hardcoded and so this will not be suitable for all situations and is not recommended. Parallel building is also not supported. If you wish to have full control over the C++ build or wish to use a cmake generator to build within an IDE, then running cmake directly is recommended.

Building with cmake directly

On Linux, Unix or MacOS X with make:

export GTEST_ROOT=/path/to/gtest
mkdir omero-build
cd omero-build
cmake [-Dtest=(TRUE|FALSE)] [cmake options] /path/to/openmicroscopy

For example:

-DCMAKE_VERBOSE_MAKEFILE:BOOL=ON /path/to/openmicroscopy
make -j8

Running cmake directly allows full use of all command-line options and provides complete flexibility for building, e.g. to enable parallel building as shown above or to use an IDE of choice with an appropriate generator.

If you would like to build the C++ tests, run the above with the GTEST_ROOT environment variable set.


When cmake is run, it will run ./ build-default in the openmicroscopy source tree to generate some of the C++ and Ice sources. If you have previously done a build by running ./, this step will be skipped. However, if you have recently switched branches without cleaning the source tree, please run ./ clean in the source tree to clean up all the generated files prior to running cmake.

If the build fails with errors such as

/usr/include/Ice/ProxyHandle.h:176:13: error: ‘upCast’ was not declared in this scope,
and no declarations were found by argument-dependent lookup at the point of

this is caused by the Ice headers being buggy, and newer versions of GCC rejecting the invalid code. To compile in this situation, add -fpermissive to CXXFLAGS to allow the invalid code to be accepted, but do note that this may also mask other problems so should not be used unless strictly needed.

cmake build configuration

cmake supports configuration of the build using many different environment variables and options; for a full list, see the cmake reference documentation. The following environment variables are commonly needed:


Directories to be searched for include files, for example


A : or ; separator character is used to separate directories, depending on the platform. Note these are used only for feature tests, not for passing to the compiler when building, for which CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS is needed.


Directories to be searched for libraries, for example


Directories are separated by : or ; as with CMAKE_INCLUDE_PATH. Note these are used only for feature tests and finding libraries, not for passing to the linker when building, for which CMAKE_*_LINKER_FLAGS is needed.

C++ compiler executable. Useful with ccache.
C++ compiler flags. Use of CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS is preferred.
The location of the Ice installation. If this is not sufficient to discover the correct binary and library directories, they may otherwise be manually specified with the options below. Likewise for the include and slice directories. This may also be set as a cmake cache variable (see below).
If set to 1, show the actual build commands rather than the pretty “Compiling XYZ...” statements.

In addition, cmake options may be defined directly when running cmake. Commonly needed options include:

Search this location when searching for programs, headers and libraries. Use to search /usr/local or /opt/Ice, for example. More specific search locations may be specified using -DCMAKE_INCLUDE_PATH, -DCMAKE_LIBRARY_PATH and -DCMAKE_PROGRAM_PATH separately, if required.
Search this location when searching for headers. Use to include /usr/local/include or /opt/Ice/include, for example.
Search this location when searching for libraries. Use to include /usr/local/lib or /opt/Ice/lib, for example.
Search this location when searching for programs. Use to include /usr/local/bin or /opt/Ice/bin, for example.
C++ compiler flags. Use to set any additional linker flags desired.
Executable linker flags. Use to set any additional linker flags desired.
Loadable module linker flags. Use to set any additional linker flags desired.
Shared library linker flags. Use to set any additional linker flags desired.
Default to printing all commands executed by make. This may be overridden with the make VERBOSE variable.
The location of the Ice installation. If this is not sufficient to discover the correct binary and library directories, they may otherwise be manually specified with the options below. Likewise for the include and slice directories.
Specific location of individual Ice slice2xxx programs, e.g. Ice_SLICE2CPP_EXECUTABLE for slice2cpp or Ice_SLICE2JAVA_EXECUTABLE for slice2java. These are typically found in ${ICE_HOME}/bin or on the default PATH. These will not normally require setting.
Location of Ice headers. This is typically ${ICE_HOME}/include or on the default include search path. This will not normally require setting.
Location of Ice slice interface definitions. This is typically ${ICE_HOME}/slice. Use for installations where -DICE_HOME does not contain slice or situations where you wish to build without setting -DICE_HOME. Note that when building using, rather than building directly with cmake, the SLICEPATH environment variable should be used instead (the ant build can’t use the cmake variables since it only runs cmake after a full build of the Java server).
Specific libraries for Ice component <C>, where <C> is the uppercased name of the Ice component, e.g. ICE for the Ice component, ICEUTIL for the IceUtil component or GLACIER2 for the Glacier2 component. These libraries are typically found in ${ICE_HOME}/lib or on the default library search path. These will not normally require setting.
Set to ON to print detailed diagnostics about the detected Ice installation. Use if there are any problems finding Ice.

cmake offers many additional options. Please refer to the documentation for further details, in particular to the variables which change the behavior of the build.

Visual Studio configuration


OMERO.cpp will not currently build on Windows due to exceeding DLL symbol limits on this platform, leading to a failure when linking the DLL. It is hoped that this platform limitation can be worked around in a future OMERO release.

cmake has full support for Visual Studio. Use the cmake -G option to set the generator for your Visual Studio version, with a Win64 suffix for an x64 build. The correct Ice programs and libraries for your Ice installation should be automatically discovered.

cmake -G "Visual Studio 10 Win64" [cmake options] /path/to/openmicroscopy

This is for a 64-bit Visual Studio 2010 build. Modify appropriately for other versions and compilers. Running

cmake --help

will list the available generators for your platform (without the Win64 suffix).

Once cmake has finished running, the generated project and solution files may be then opened in Visual Studio, or built directly using the msbuild command-line tool (make sure that the Visual Studio command prompt matches the generator chosen) or by running:

cmake --build .

As for the Unix build, above, it is also possible to build on Windows using or ant, providing that you configure the generator appropriately using the correct cmake options. However, this will not work for all generators reliably, and the Windows shell quoting makes passing nested quotes to ant quite tricky, so running cmake by hand is recommended.


It may be necessary to specify /Zm1000 as an additional compiler setting.

Installing the library

If using make, run:

make [DESTDIR=/path/to/staging/directory] install

If using another build system, please invoke the equivalent install target for that system.

Using the library

To use OMERO C++ language bindings it is necessary to point your compiler and linker at the mentioned directories above. A simple GNU make Makefile might look like this:

# Where the OMERO distribution was installed
OMERO_DIST ?= /opt/omero

# Where the Ice lib/ and include/ directories are to be found
ICE_HOME ?= /usr/share/Ice

INCLUDES=-I$(OMERO_DIST)/include -I$(ICE_HOME)/include 

LIBS = -L$(OMERO_DIST)/lib -L$(ICE_HOME)/lib -L$(ICE_HOME)/lib64 \
       -lIce -lIceUtil -lGlacier2 -lomero-client


.PHONY: clean run

yourcode.o: yourcode.cpp
	$(CXX) $(CXXFLAGS) -c -o $@ $< $(INCLUDES)

yourcode: yourcode.o
	$(CXX) -o $@ $^ $(LIBS)

run:  yourcode
	LD_LIBRARY_PATH="$(LIBPATH)" ./yourcode --Ice.Config=../etc/ice.config

	rm -f yourcode *.o *~ core

A trivial example: yourcode.cpp

A simple example might look something like the following:

// yourcode.cpp:

// Domain
#include <omero/client.h>
#include <omero/api/IAdmin.h>
// Std
#include <iostream>
#include <cassert>
#include <vector>
#include <time.h>
#include <map>

using namespace std;

 * Pass "--Ice.Config=your_config_file" to the executable, or
 * set the ICE_CONFIG environment variable.
int main(int argc, char* argv[])
    omero::client_ptr omero = new omero::client(argc, argv);
    omero::api::ServiceFactoryPrx sf = omero->createSession();

    // IAdmin is responsible for all user/group creation, password changing, etc.
    omero::api::IAdminPrx  admin  = sf->getAdminService();

    // Who you are logged in as.
    cout << admin->getEventContext()->userName << endl;

    // These two services are used for database access
    omero::api::IQueryPrx  query  = sf->getQueryService();
    omero::api::IUpdatePrx update = sf->getUpdateService();

    return 0;

This code does not do much. It creates a server session, loads a few services, and prints the user’s name. For serious examples, see Working with OMERO.

Compiling and running your code

To compile and run yourcode, download the two files above (Makefile and yourcode.cpp) and then in a shell:

make OMERO_DIST=dist yourcode
LD_LIBRARY_PATH=dist/lib ./yourcode --Ice.Config=dist/etc/ice.config

where you have edited dist/etc/ice.config to contain the values:

Alternatively, you can pass these on the command-line:

LD_LIBRARY_PATH=dist/lib ./yourcode --omero.user=foo --omero.pass=bar


This example explains how to run on Linux only. For doing the same on MacOS X, change all instances of LD_LIBRARY_PATH to DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH.

Further information

For the details behind writing, configuring, and executing a client, please see Working with OMERO.

See also

Ice, OMERO.grid, OMERO Application Programming Interface, Build System, #1596 which added 64-bit support