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Using cmake for building VST 3 plug-ins

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This tutorial explains how to use cmake with VST 3 SDK.

CMake for building VST 3 plug-ins

The SDK provides a set of cmake files allowing you to compile the included samples and to develop new plug-ins.

Command line for Windows

Example for building Microsoft Studio 17 2022 solution:

// go in to the folder where you extracted the VST 3 SDK
mkdir build
cd build
cmake.exe -G "Visual Studio 17 2022" -A x64 "..\vst3sdk"
// or without symbolic links
cmake.exe -G "Visual Studio 17 2022" -A x64 "..\vst3sdk" -DSMTG_CREATE_PLUGIN_LINK=0

// or with symbolic links but using the user location (enable by default), it does not request admin right
cmake.exe -G "Visual Studio 17 2022" -A x64 "..\vst3sdk" -DSMTG_PLUGIN_TARGET_USER_PROGRAM_FILES_COMMON=1

// note: you can find the string definition for different Visual Studio Generators in the cmake online documentation

Command line for macOS

Example for building Xcode project:

// go in to the folder where you extracted the VST 3 SDK
mkdir build
cd build
/Applications/CMake.app/Content/bin/cmake -G"Xcode" "../vst3sdk"

On Linux with QtCreator

You can use QtCreator 2.3.1 (or higher)

  • start QtCreator 2.3.2
  • open the CMakeLists.txt located at the top of the VST3_SDK folder
  • click on the menu Build->Run CMake

Use of cmake-gui

  • start the CMake (cmake-gui) application
  • set Where is the source code to the location of the VST3_SDK folder
  • set Where to build the binaries to a build folder of yourchoice
  • click on Configure
  • click on Generate for creating project/solution


Example of cmakegui application on Windows

  • Compile with cmake command line
cd build
cmake --build
  • Choose a specific compiler with cmake (command line on Linux)
cmake -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=/usr/bin/clang-DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=/usr/bin/clang++

// or

cmake -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=/usr/bin/gcc-DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=/usr/bin/g++

Available SMTG cmake options

  • SMTG_AAX_SDK_PATH: Here, you can define where the AAX SDK is located (if needed)
  • SMTG_ENABLE_VST3_HOSTING_EXAMPLES: Enable VST 3 Hosting Examples (default ON)
  • SMTG_ENABLE_VST3_PLUGIN_EXAMPLES: Enable VST 3 Plug-in Examples (default ON)
  • SMTG_ENABLE_VSTGUI_SUPPORT: Enable VSTGUI Support (default ON)
  • SMTG_BUILD_UNIVERSAL_BINARY: Build universal binary (32 & 64 bit) (Mac only)
  • SMTG_COREAUDIO_SDK_PATH: Here, you can define where the COREAUDIO SDK is located (Mac only, if needed)
  • SMTG_CREATE_BUNDLE_FOR_WINDOWS: Create bundle on Windows for the VST 3 plug-ins (new since 3.6.10! Windows only) (default ON)
  • SMTG_CREATE_MODULE_INFO: Create the moduleinfo.json file (default ON)
  • SMTG_CREATE_PLUGIN_LINK: Create symbolic link for each VST 3 plug-in in ${VST3_FOLDER_NAME} folder (you need to have Administrator rights on Windows or change the Local Group Policy to allow the creation of symbolic links) (default ON)
  • SMTG_CUSTOM_BINARY_LOCATION: Customize output location for binaries
  • SMTG_CXX_STANDARD: C++ standard version used for plugins: 14, 17, 20
  • SMTG_ENABLE_ADDRESS_SANITIZER: Enable Address Sanitizer
  • SMTG_ENABLE_TARGET_VARS_LOG: Enables to log target variables for debugging (new since 3.6.11!) (default OFF)
  • SMTG_ENABLE_USE_OF_JACK: Allows you to create the audiohost application using Jack (default OFF)
  • SMTG_MDA_VST3_VST2_COMPATIBLE: Build the MDA examples as a replacement for their VST 2 counterpart (default ON)
  • SMTG_IOS_DEVELOPMENT_TEAM: Needed for building the InterAppAudio and AUv3 examples for iOS (Mac only)
  • SMTG_MYPLUGINS_SRC_PATH: Here, you can add your VST 3 plug-ins folder
  • SMTG_PLUGIN_TARGET_PATH: Here, you can redefine the VST 3 plug-ins folder
  • SMTG_PLUGIN_TARGET_USER_PROGRAM_FILES_COMMON: use FOLDERID_UserProgramFilesCommon as VST 3 target path (Windows only) (default ON)
  • SMTG_RENAME_ASSERT: Rename ASSERT to SMTG_ASSERT to avoid conflicts with 3rd party libraries (default ON)
  • SMTG_RUN_VST_VALIDATOR: Run the VST validator on VST 3 plug-ins each time they are built (default ON)
  • SMTG_USE_STATIC_CRT: Use static CRuntime on Windows (option /MT) (default OFF: /MD is used) (Windows only)

Using your IDE for compiling the examples

  • Solution/project (vstsdk.sln/vstsdk.xcodeproj) is generated in the "build" folder.
  • The created plug-ins are located in the "build" folder, in sub-folders /VST3/Release or /VST3/Debug.
  • In order to allow a DAW to find these plug-ins you have to create links from the official VST 3 Locations to them.