Need to ship your Qt app for Mac? Bundle it up!

  • osx • qt • deploy • mac os x • app • howto • bundle • mac • static • cpp • linkage
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I’m contributing some code and GCC-CPU-time to PhantomJS. It’s a brilliant idea and I hope it will grow, maybe with some help from me as well.

I have recently spent some time working out how to go from a “compiled from source” version, to generate a shippable executable. For Mac, in my case.

a 'cute' bundle a 'cute' bundle

I’ll explain how to bundle up your Qt based application, so that you can ship it. PhantomJS will be my reference example.

Static build? Don’t do it!

PhantomJS is build on top of (Qt)WebKit.

The initial idea was to build Qt libraries enabling static linkage (i.e. passing -static to ./configure script). But I soon discovered that QtWebKit can’t be linked statically:

[...] Static builds are only partially supported, meaning that you can build most of Qt statically, but some modules, like web-kit and Designer, will fail. [...]

So, for PhantomJS was a no go. But I would say in general that if you are building an Application for Mac, you should ship it following the platform “expected format”. In other words, as classical .app bundle.

What are we going to do

We want to create a .app and ship it within a .dmg file. To do that, we need to:

  • Get Qt source and build it
  • Build the .app
  • Tune it (optional)
  • Generate the final .dmg package

Get Qt source and build it

It’s advisable NOT to use Qt from the official repo for this. Instead, download latest stable source from and untar with the following command:

$ mkdir ~/tmp
$ cd ~/tmp
$ tar -xzf ~/Downloads/qt-everywhere-opensource-src-<latest stable>.tar.gz 

it will ensure that you build your code against the most stable Qt.

Once finished downloading, build like this:

$ cd ~/tmp/qt-everywhere-opensource
$ ./configure -universal -carbon -framework -release \
   -opensource -no-exceptions -webkit -no-phonon \
   -no-xmlpatterns -no-qt3support -no-sql-sqlite -no-stl \
   -no-declarative -prefix $PWD
$ make -j3 sub-src

Most of the above configure flags it’s focused on compile the minimum necessary to build PhantomJS:

  • -no-phonon -no-xmlpatterns -no-qt3support -no-sql-sqlite -no-stl -no-declarative” disabled Phonon, XML Patterns, Qt 3 support, SQLite, STL, Qt Quick for this build
  • -universal -carbon” ensures that we build for both x86 and ppc architecture, and maintaining compatibility with older version of Mac OS X
  • -framework” ensures that Mac OS X-style framework bundles are built, to be later included/embedded in our own PhantomJS bundle

You should change those flags based on your needs. Refer to this documentation or just type:

$ ./configure --help

After the build has finished without errors, just add the “/bin” directory in “~/tmp/qt-everywhere-opensource” to the “PATH” environment variable. Do something like:

$ export PATH=~/tmp/qt-everywhere-opensource/bin/:$PATH

Build the .app

I assume you know where to get your source code :-). I will use the path /sourcedir/ to refer to it.

In case you want to build for x86 and ppc, you also need to add to your Qt project .pro file:

mac: CONFIG += x86 ppc

Time to compile:

$ qmake -spec macx-g++ -config release && make

Finger crossed, all compiled fine.

Tune it (optional)

For PhantomJS we didn’t want the classical bouncy icon on the Dock to appear at every execution, given that PhantomJS is a command line tool. If you are in the same situation, edit “/sourcedir/bin/” and add the attribute:


Info.plist allows to control many more things than just the Dock icon. Apple documentation about this it’s here. Tune it as you like/need.

Generate the final .dmg package

The Trolls provide a simple tool to convert a dynamically linked executable, in a self contained “.app” file. The tool is called “macdeployqt” and you can find a description here.

It’s part of the Qt source code, but it’s not built by default. So, assuming you still have the previously compiled Qt in your PATH, do the following:

$ cd ~/tmp/qt-everywhere-opensource/tools/macdeployqt
$ qmake -spec macx-g++ && make && make install

We are ready to package. The last bit to do:

$ cd /sourcedir/bin/
$ macdeployqt -verbose=2 -dmg

Done! Now you have got a nice .dmg ready for deployment.

A word of advice

I strongly recommend to read the Development and Deployment on Mac, from the official Qt documentation. Top to bottom. It’s full of useful information and can really help out to understand the full picture.

Happy bundling ;-)