Installation Guide

This document describes how to install OPALS on your machine. The first step is to download the latest OPALS release.


OPALS is a modular program system consisting of small components (modules) grouped together in packages. As a basic concept, OPALS modules are accessible in three different ways as:

  • Command line executables,
  • Python modules
  • C++ classes (via DLL API)

The general installation of OPALS on Windows and Linux/Unix is described in section Installing OPALS on Windows and Installing OPALS on Unix, respectively. If you are upgrading to a new version, consider a look at the Release notes.

Embedding OPALS modules as C++ classes requires a C++ compiler installation, which is not described in this manual. The structure and contents of an OPALS distribution are explained in section OPALS directory structure.

Installing OPALS on Windows

To install a full-featured version OPALS on MS Windows operating systems, perform the following installation steps:

  • Download the OPALS setup and run the executable .
  • Select the desired install options as well as the installation directory (referred as $OPALS_ROOT in the following).
  • Copy your keyfile (opals.key) to $OPALS_ROOT/cfg/ or $OPALS_ROOT/licence/.
  • Please not that administrative permissions are required to run the setup program.


The default program folder is read only to standard users, which has two implications if OPALS is installed there:

  • PyScripter needs to be started as administrator since it requires write access to its install folder
    • Alternative solution: use the full featured IDE PyCharm instead

  • Documentation examples are run from the $OPALS_ROOT/demo/ directory and, therefore, will not work if the opalsShell is started as standard user.
    • Alternative solution: the setup provides an extra demo data option that copies the demo data to an additional folder that is writable for all users. The standard public windows folder (see environment variable $PUBLIC) is suggested, but a different location can be selected during setup. When ever the documentation refers to the $OPALS_ROOT/demo/ folder (e.g. in the module example section), one should switch to this additional demo folder. For convenience reasons, the OPALS Shell shortcut directly starts up in this additional demo folder.

Some OPALS modules (e.g. opalsView, opalsICP and opalsStripAdjust) require the MATLAB Compiler Runtime as a prerequisite. Therefore, the setup program checks if MATLAB or the corresponding Compiler Runtime (CRT) are installed. If not installed, an additional install option is available for download and installation of the corresponding Compiler Runtime from the MATLAB website.

Although OPALS comes with a setup program, it is designed as portable software. The setup doesn't change or add any environment variables, however, an uninstaller entry is added to the Windows registry. Using the OPALS shell ($OPALS_ROOT/opalsShell.bat), all necessary environment variables (PATH, PYTHONPATH...) are set for the current command line session only.

An OPALS distribution contains a fully configured Python installation. For using OPALS with an external python installation see Configuring an external Python installation for details.

Unattended installation on Windows

The OPALS installer also support a silent setup mode for unattended installation. Details on supported command line options can be viewed by starting the setup program with the command line parameter /? or /h.

Command line parameters of the OPALS setup

E.g., the following command performs a silent installation of all components to directory C:\opals_2.3.2

opals_2.3.2_setup.exe /S /TYPE=full /D=C:\opals_2.3.2

Please note that the installation directory (parameter /D) has to be specified as the last parameter. The setup additionally creates an installation log (see $OPALS_ROOT/install.log) which allows to analyse potential installation problems.

Installation on Windows without administrator privileges

In general it is recommended to install OPALS using the provided setup routine. For a low-level installation of the portable OPALS software, the following steps are required:

  • Open the setup program program, which is basically a zip archive, with 7-Zip.
  • Extract the contained self extracting 7-zip archives (i.e. exe files) into a temporary directory.
  • Extract all relevant archives into the desired installation folder (referred as $OPALS_ROOT in the following).
  • Make sure that opals users have write permissions to this directory.
  • Copy your keyfile (opals.key) to $OPALS_ROOT/cfg/

OPALS requires following prerequisites to run correctly:

  • Installation of Microsoft Visual C++ 2008, 2010, and 2015 redistributable packages. If necessary run the following setup programs:
    $OPALS_ROOT/addons/vcredist/2008/vcredist_x64.exe and
    $OPALS_ROOT/addons/vcredist/2010/vcredist_x64.exe and
  • Some OPALS modules depend on the MATLAB Compiler Runtime (MCR) which is NOT included in the OPALS distribution. See here for further details.

OPALS provides a pre-configured OPALS shell ($OPALS_ROOT/opalsShell.bat), where the internal Python interpreter is configured and all necessary environment variables (PATH, PYTHONPATH...) are set. Thus, no further installation steps are necessary. The shell additionally offers aliases for the command line version of the OPALS modules (cf here).

Advanced Python installation on Windows

For instructions on how to install additional Python packages to the Python distribution that comes with OPALS (internal Python), see section Extending the internal Python installation.

For instructions on how to use an existing Python installation (external Python) in combination with OPALS, see section Configuring an external Python installation.

More information about running OPALS in a Python environment can be found in sections Using OPALS in a Scripting Environment and Using Python Bindings.

Installing OPALS on Unix

This section contains information on how to install OPALS on recent 64-bit Ubuntu systems (14.04 LTS, 16.04 LTS, 18.04 LTS). Other Linux/Unix distributions have not been tested so far. The binary Linux/Unix distribution is provided as a .tar.gz archive, with Python as an external dependency. To ensure/install Python (Version 2.7), enter

sudo apt-get install python2.7

in the terminal.
To unpack the archive, execute the following command:

tar -xzf opals_2.3.2.tar.gz

This will create a new folder in your current working directory called "opals_2.3.2". To start the interactive OPALS shell (a special instance of bash), use the following commands

cd opals_2.3.2

Within this shell environment, you can use the modules of OPALS as on Windows. However, Module names are case sensitive, e.g. opalsAddInfo can be abbreviated as AddInfo, but NOT as addinfo. The OPALS shell also sets up the $PYTHONPATH environment variable for use of the OPALS modules within Python scripts or a shells.
Please note that the opalsShell does not source your ~/.bashrc file by default, since functionality cannot be guaranteed. Experienced users, being aware of the implications, might want to source it themselves (add source ~/.bashrc to the end of opals.bashrc)

Further optional install steps:

OPALS bash scripts on Linux/Unix

The opalsShell is set up to be used as an interactive command line as well as an interpreter for bash (.sh) script files. You can create executable OPALS script files by putting a shebang at the first line of your script.

# Any module calls, e.g.
Import -inFile demo/strip21.laz

By changing the path to the opalsShell script in the shebang, you can have a script choose one of multiple OPALS installations. If you set the executable bit chmod +x, you can run the script with ./ or by double-clicking on it in a file manager. It will get executed in the correct environment.

Finally, OPALS for Linux/Unix is still work in progress with some restrictions compared to the Windows version. If you encounter problems, please send your bug report to the OPALS developer team

Matlab runtime

Some OPALS modules require the MATLAB Compiler Runtime to be installed (not needed if the correct version of MATLAB is installed). The OPALS setup for Windows installs the runtime automatically, by downloading the correct package from the MathWorks homepage. If necessary, the runtime can be downloaded and installed manually, as required for Linux/Unix. Currently, OPALS depend on version R2017b (9.3).

Important note for Linux/Unix: Currently it is necessary to install the MATLAB Compiler Runtime to the default folder (/usr/local/MATLAB/MATLAB_Runtime) otherwise the OPALS modules will not find the Runtime.

R AddOn

The tree based classification method requires an R installation including the lasr package. Windows users only need to select the R AddOn installation option during setup which installs a portable version of R including all necessary packages.

Installation of R AddOn under Unix/Linux

On Unix based systems R (version >= 3.3), several R packages and the lasr package needs to be installed to enable the tree based classification. Please make sure that the repositories version of R is 3.3 or newer by

apt-cache policy r-base-core #check version of R in repositories

or if already installed by typing

R --version

If your version is older than 3.3, please refer to the cran website on how to install the newest version of R on your system. Otherwise the standard installation step (e.g. on Ubuntu 18.04) can be performed

sudo apt-get install r-base-core

Furthermore, it is necessary to install some additional dependencies for subsequent commands (on all systems)

sudo apt-get install libcurl4-openssl-dev libxml2-dev

Next, install the following R packages that are required by the lasr package (takes several minutes to complete).

sudo Rscript -e "install.packages(c('knitr', 'rpart.plot', 'modeest', 'e1071', 'foreach', 'reshape', 'ggplot2', 'FNN', 'car', 'xtable', 'XML', 'optparse'), repos='')"

Make sure that all R packages were installed successfully. Pay attention to error messages and warnings similar to the following

Warning in install.packages : installation of package [...] had non-zero exit status [...]

since it indicates that a package installation failed. This may occur if some development packages/libraries are missing on your system. Finally, download and install the corresponding lasr package from the AddOns section.

sudo R CMD INSTALL lasr_0.4-5_linux.tar.gz

To test if the lasr package was installed successfully, start R and load the package by the following commands:

R # start R
library(lasr) # load lasr package (warnings regarding replacing imports can be ignored)
q() # exit R

Finally, install numpy that is required by the OPALS classify scripts ( and

sudo apt-get install python-pip # install pip package manager
python -m pip install numpy # install numpy using pip

In case of problems please contact the OPALS developer team.

Extending the internal Python installation

OPALS comes with a fully functional Python interpreter. You may load OPALS modules as Python modules in an interactive Python shell, which can either be opened by double-clicking on $OPALS_ROOT/opals/python.exe, or in the Python IDE PyScripter by double-clicking on $OPALS_ROOT/addons/PyScripter/startPyScripter.bat. The next sections outline how to extend the internal Python installation with additional packages not contained in the OPALS distribution.

OPALS Python AddOns

Some Python packages have been found to complement OPALS especially well, namely the Python bindings for GDAL, NumPy, SciPy, and matplotlib. Under Windows simply select the Python AddOns option during setup. On Unix based systems the mentioned Python bindings must be installed manually using the Python package manager pip (also see below).

Kindly note that, if you want to use the Python bindings for GDAL using the internal Python installation, you must load the Python package opals or any OPALS module before gdal - otherwise, either no or the wrong GDAL DLL would be loaded.

Arbitrary Python Packages

If you want to use Python packages that are not contained in the OPALS Python AddOns, we recommend to use the PyPA recommended Python package manager pip. Python is shipped with the package ensurepip, which simplifies the installation of pip. Executing the following command in an OPALS shell:

python -m ensurepip

installs pip, which can then be used to install the package of your choice, e.g. PyContracts:

python -m pip install pycontracts

searches for that package on the Python Package Index, downloads and installs it, including all requisite packages. Notice, however, that the installation may fail if the required package contains code written in a compiled language. In this case, you may search yourself for a binary installation package in the Wheel format, e.g. on C. Gohlke's website, download the appropriate archive, and supply its file path to pip in place of the package name:

python -m pip install h5py-2.4.0-cp27-none-win_amd64.whl

If a binary installation package in the Wheel format is unavailable, you may instead find a legacy Windows installer (whose file name ends with .exe) for the respective package. Please mind in this case that, as mentioned in section Installing OPALS on Windows, installing OPALS does not affect the Windows registry (except of an uninstaller entry). This also means that the internal Python installation is not registered. However, legacy Windows installers for Python packages will search the Windows registry and let you choose only registered Python installations as the location where a package should be installed. Fortunately, those installers are also self-extracting archives, whose structure follow a common pattern, and hence, there exists a simple way how to use those installers for unregistered Python installations. To do so, you need to use a program that can inspect the contents of such archives. One such freely available program is 7-zip. Open the installer of the respective Python package with the archiver program of your choice, and extract the contained directory PLATLIB to $OPALS_ROOT/opals/Lib/site-packages/.

Configuring an external Python installation

If, for some reason, you decide to use a Python installation other than the one that comes with OPALS, there are two prerequisites:

  • the platform (32/64 bit) of that Python installation must match the one of your OPALS installation.
  • currently, OPALS can be used with Python versions 2.6, 2.7, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, and 3.7

If these conditions are met, then you can re-configure OPALS to use an external Python installation by:

  • deleting or renaming the following files:
  • setting the environment variable PYTHONHOME to the root folder of the external Python installation
  • if using a Python version other than 2.7, then copy the contents of $OPALS_ROOT/opals/python/x.y/ (where x.y matches the version number of the Python installation to use) to $OPALS_ROOT/opals/, overwriting the existing files.
  • if using the Python package gdal, then make sure to import the Python package opals or any OPALS module before importing gdal

In order to make the OPALS Python package accessible to the external Python installation (which allows for loading OPALS modules in the Python interpreter), there are two options:

  • specification via the environment variable PYTHONPATH: If PYTHONPATH is undefined, then create it and set it to $OPALS_ROOT. If PYTHONPATH already exists, then prepend $OPALS_ROOT to it.
  • specification via opals.pth: Create a text file named opals.pth within the subdirectory Lib/site-packages/ of your external Python installation. Open this text file in an editor, and insert the file path of your OPALS installation ($OPALS_ROOT), using the forward slash (/) as directory separator. As a reference, you may inspect $OPALS_ROOT/opals/Lib/site-packages/opals.pth.
    If you don't have write access to Lib/site-packages/ within your external Python installation's directory, then you can create opals.pth in the directory %APPDATA%/Python/PythonXY/site-packages/ (where "%APPDATA%" is an environment variable configured for your user account, and "XY" must be replaced by the version number of your external Python installation).

Note that your Python installation/IDE may clear PYTHONPATH upon startup, in which case the first option will fail. However, the second option should work in any case.

OPALS directory structure

This section describes the structure of an OPALS distribution. The main directory structure is as follows. If there are differences between Windows and Linux (e.g. opalsShell[.bat|.sh]) the Windows file is always specified first separated by a '|' character and followed by the Linux file:

$OPALS_ROOT/ // OPALS root (=installation) directory. Arbitrary name, referred to as $OPALS_ROOT
opalsShell[.bat|.sh] // Pre-configured OPALS shell
addons/ // Contains add-ons for OPALS
pal/ // Palette file directory
formatdef/ // OPALS format definitions directory
epsg/ // Spatial reference system definitions files provided
// by EPSG (European Petrol Survey Group)
PyScripter/ // Python integrated development environment (Windows only)
vcredist/ // Microsoft redistributable packages
c++_api/ // C++-Interface root directory
lib/ // C++ shared libraries of all OPALS modules
inc/opals/ // OPALS header files (modules and type declarations)
demo/ // C++ example source code and projects (makefiles)
cfg/ // Global configuration and license file
demo/ // Some test data
doc/ // OPALS documentation
html/ // HTML pages
opalsManual.html // HTML start page
opals.chm // Compiled HTML help file
licence/ // Alternative OPALS license file directory
licenses_3rdPartySoftware/ // Licenses of open source libraries that are used within OPALS
opals/ // OPALS modules command line executables, OPALS python modules and third party DLLs
DLLs/ // Directory used by the internal Python interpreter (Windows only)
Lib/ // Directory used by the internal Python interpreter (Windows only)
python/ // DLLs for using external Python installations (Windows only)
tools/ // common python scripts
python.exe // run a Python shell using the internal Python interpreter (Windows only)
python27.dll // core DLL for internal Python interpreter (Windows only)
pythonw.exe // run a Python shell with GUI support using the internal Python interp. (Windows only)
packages/ // Package scripts root directory
cfg/ // Standard configuration files for package scripts
python/ // Python scripts

directory: opals

The $OPALS_ROOT/opals/ directory contains the command line executables (*.exe|*.), the Python modules (*.pyd|*.so), and C++ shared libraries (opals*.dll|opals*.so) of all OPALS modules as well as a set of external shared libraries (e.g. gdal, xerces, mpfr...).

Furthermore, $OPALS_ROOT/opals/ contains a global python initialization file ( responsible for loading all OPALS modules into the python environment.

Windows | Linux:


directory: cfg

The cfg directory contains the following files:


opals.cfg is the overall configuration file containing default values for a series of program parameters (options) common to all OPALS modules. opals.key is the key file containing licensing information. Please note, that the key file is not part of the OPALS distribution. In fact, if the opals.key file is missing, OPALS automatically runs in demo mode. OPALS supports a full featured demo mode, but the input is restricted to 1 Mio points. If you want to use OPALS for larger projects (in a commercial or educational environment), please contact the OPALS team for obtaining a license (Alternatively it is possible to put the opals.key file in the licence directory. See directory: licence for details).

directory: licence


From version 2.2.0 on it is possible to put the OPALS license file in a separate licence directory. This is beneficial when using OPALS as Docker container, since opals.key from the host system can be directly mounted into the container without changing the container itself. Please note, that first the cfg and then the licence directory is checked for the license file. If there is a license file in cfg, no further license tests will be performed. Hence, in case of an old or incorrect license file in cfg, a possibly correct license file in licence will be ignored. Details on the OPALS license and how to obtain one can be found here.

directory: packages

All OPALS package scripts (opalsPreprocess, opalsQuality, ...) are stored in the subdirectory python. These are python scripts providing standard workflows. A complete list of available OPALS packages can be found here.

directory:: c++_api

The contents are as follows:



Each OPALS module is accessible as a C++ class via dynamic linkage. The corresponding (dynamic) link libraries are located in the lib subdirectory as separate module specific library files (on Windows: *.lib/*.dll). For including OPALS modules in custom C++ applications, the module interface header files (I<Module*>.hpp and the header files for custom (OPALS-specific) data types are required. These are located in the inc/opals subdirectory. Furthermore, the demo directory contains a demo source file (demo<Module*>.cpp) for each OPALS module demonstrating the use of the respective module in a C++ programming environment.

directory: demo

The OPALS distribution contains a number of test data along with some demo scripts. The test data also serve as basis for the examples given in the user manuals. To run the demo examples successfully, write permissions to this directory are required. If OPALS was installed to the default program folder, standard users do not have write access to these folders under Windows 7, 8, and 10. This is why (under Windows) the setup provides an installation option copying all demo files to an additional directory providing write access for all users. This directory if used as the startup directory of the corresponding OPALS Shell shortcut. If the "extra demo data" option wasn't selected during setup, you have three choices:

  1. Re-install opals and make sure the the extra demo data option is selected.
  2. Copy all demo files to a directory with write access (the OPALS setup does exactly the same) and run the demo examples there.
  3. start the opalsShell as administrator which gives you write permissions to all program folders.

OPALS installation check

As a final step, it is good practice to verify the integrity of the installation.

Execution on the command-line

For a quick check whether OPALS executables run properly, please start the OPALS shell, change to the directory $OPALS_ROOT/demo/, and submit the following commands:

opalsImport -inFile
opalsGrid -inFile test.odm -outFile test.tif -interpolation movingPlanes -gridSize 1
opalsZColor -inFile test.tif -nClasses 20

After running these commands, the following files should exist:

test.odm // OPALS data manager file
test.tif // Digital Surface Model (DSM) grid
test_zco.tif // Z-Coloring of DSM

The derived DSM Z-Coloring should look like like this:

Color coded visualization of the Digital Surface Model

The pre-configured OPALS shell additionally offers aliases for the command line versions of the OPALS modules.

Module name Alias
opalsImport Import
opalsExport Export
opalsGrid Grid
opalsCell Cell
opalsZColor ZColor
... ...

Thus, the above commands can even be abbreviated and ...

Import -inFile
Grid -inFile test.odm -outFile test.tif -interpolation movingPlanes -gridSize 1
ZColor -inFile test.tif -nClasses 20

... yields the same results as above (Note: whereas commands are case sensitive under Linux, commands under Windows are not. Hence, the capital letter(s) of the module names are mandatory under Linux only).

Python bindings

To check your configuration of Python, please open a OPALS shell and enter python. Within the Python interpreter, issue the following commands:

import sys, ctypes
# print the absolute path of used python.exe
# on Windows OS only: print the absolute path of used Python DLL
b = ctypes.create_unicode_buffer('', 1024)
ctypes.windll.kernel32.GetModuleFileNameW(sys.dllhandle, b, 1024)
# print the effective search directories for Python packages
# print all loaded Python packages
for module in sys.modules.itervalues():

Please check, if the correct Python executable python.exe has been loaded, the correct Python DLL is in use, and the search directories include $OPALS_ROOT.

To check if the OPALS Python package can be loaded, open a Python shell and issue the following commands:

from opals import Import
print Import.__file__ #python 3 syntax: print(Import.__file__)

If the Python interpreter is able to load the OPALS Python module Import, then its absolute file path of the Import modue is printed, which should correspond to $OPALS_ROOT/opals/Import.pyd.

Platform specific restrictions

The following platform specific restrictions apply:

  • MS windows
    • no restrictions
  • Linux
    • The matlab based module (Module View, Module ICP and Module StripAdjust) do not finish correctly, if started within python
    • PyScripter not available under Linux
    • Python: Support for 2.7 versions only (2.6 and 3.x not supported yet)
    • GDAL library is linked without: SCOP DTM, MrSID, ECW