Creating Executables

There are several different types of executables that can be built:

Executable Using Charm++ for Parallelization

A simple example of an executable using Charm++ for parallelization is in src/Executables/Examples/HelloWorld. To add an executable as a target, use the CMake function add_spectre_parallel_executable which takes as its four arguments

For example,


will create the executable SingletonHelloWorld from SingletonHelloWorld.hpp which is found in the directory src/Executables/Examples/HelloWorld. Metavars will be used as the metavariables struct, and SingletonHelloWorld will link against the Informer and Utilities SpECTRE libraries.

The header file from which an executable is generated must define a metavariables struct that can be thought of as a compile-time input file that defines what the executable will do. The Metavars struct for SingletonHelloWorld is a minimal example of a metavariables struct.

struct Metavars {
using const_global_cache_tag_list = tmpl::list<>;
using component_list = tmpl::list<HelloWorld<Metavars>>;
static constexpr OptionString help{
"Say hello from a singleton parallel component."};
enum class Phase { Initialization, Execute, Exit };
static Phase determine_next_phase(const Phase& current_phase,
const Parallel::CProxy_ConstGlobalCache<
Metavars>& /*cache_proxy*/) noexcept {
return current_phase == Phase::Initialization ? Phase::Execute
: Phase::Exit;

Each metavariables must define an enum class Phase with the phases of the executable (which must include Initialization and Exit), and a static function determine_next_phase. In the example, the only additional phase is Execute, and the phases are executed in order. Charm++ will execute each phase until it detects that nothing is happening (quiescence detection). As this represents a global synchronization point, the number of phases should be minimized in order to exploit the power of SpECTRE.

Each metavariables must define a type alias component_list that is a tmpl::list of the parallel components used by the executable. SingletonHelloWorld defines a single component HelloWorld

template <class Metavariables>
struct HelloWorld {
using const_global_cache_tag_list = tmpl::list<OptionTags::Name>;
using chare_type = Parallel::Algorithms::Singleton;
using metavariables = Metavariables;
using action_list = tmpl::list<>;
using initial_databox = db::DataBox<tmpl::list<>>;
using options = tmpl::list<>;
static void initialize(Parallel::CProxy_ConstGlobalCache<
Metavariables>& /* global_cache */) noexcept {}
static void execute_next_phase(
const typename Metavariables::Phase next_phase,
Parallel::CProxy_ConstGlobalCache<Metavariables>& global_cache) noexcept;
template <class Metavariables>
void HelloWorld<Metavariables>::execute_next_phase(
const typename Metavariables::Phase /* next_phase */,
Parallel::CProxy_ConstGlobalCache<Metavariables>& global_cache) noexcept {

which specifies via the chare_type type alias that it is a singleton parallel component which means that only one such object will exist across all processors used by the executable. Each component must define the static functions initialize, which is executed during the Initialization phase, and execute_next_phase which is executed during the phases (other than Initialization and Exit) defined in the metavariables struct. In SingletonHelloWorld, nothing is done during the initialization phase, while the PrintMessage action is called during the Execute phase.

namespace Actions {
struct PrintMessage {
template <typename DbTags, typename... InboxTags, typename Metavariables,
typename ArrayIndex, typename ActionList,
typename ParallelComponent>
static void apply(db::DataBox<DbTags>& /*box*/,
const ArrayIndex& /*array_index*/,
const ActionList /*meta*/,
const ParallelComponent* const /*meta*/) {
Parallel::printf("Hello %s from process %d on node %d!\n",
} // namespace Actions

The PrintMessage action is executed on whatever process the singleton component is created upon, and prints a message.

Executables can read in an input file (specified by the --input-file argument) that will be parsed when the executable begins. Options specified in the input file can be used to either place items in a constant global cache (by specifying options in the const_global_cache_tag_list of the metavariables or component structs) or be passed to the initialize function of a component (by specifying options in the options type alias of the component). SingletonHelloWorld specifies a single option

namespace OptionTags {
struct Name {
using type = std::string;
static constexpr OptionString help{"A name"};
} // namespace OptionTags

which a string specifying a name that will be placed into the constant global cache. The string is fetched when performing the PrintMessage action. Items in the constant global cache are stored once per node that the executable runs on. An example input file for SingletonHelloWorld can be found in tests/InputFiles/ExampleExecutables/SingletonHelloWorld.yaml and shows how to specify the options (lines beginning with a # are comments and can be ignored).

In addition to defining the metavaribles and component structs, the header for an executable must define two lists of functions

static const std::vector<void (*)()> charm_init_node_funcs{
static const std::vector<void (*)()> charm_init_proc_funcs{

that are executed at startup by Charm++ on each node and processor the executable runs on.

Furthermore among the included header files

#include "AlgorithmSingleton.hpp"
#include "Parallel/InitializationFunctions.hpp"
#include "Parallel/Invoke.hpp"

must be the appropriate header for each parallel component type, which in the SingletonHelloWorld example is AlgorithmSingleton.hpp. Note that these headers are not in the source tree, but are generated automatically when the code is compiled.

See the Parallelization documentation for more details.

Executable Using Charm++ with Custom main()

While this is technically possible, it has not been tested. We recommend using the Charm++ supplied main chare mechanism for the time being.

Executable Not Using Charm++

An example of an executable that does not use Charm++ for parallelization but still can use all other infrastructure in SpECTRE is in src/Executables/Examples/HelloWorldNoCharm. Adding a non-Charm++ executable to SpECTRE mostly follows the standard way of adding an executable using CMake. The only deviation is that the CMakeLists.txt file must tell Charm++ not to add a main() by passing the link flags -nomain-module -nomain. This is done using CMake's set_target_properties:

PROPERTIES LINK_FLAGS "-nomain-module -nomain"

To add the executable as a target you must use the add_spectre_executable function, which is a light weight wrapper around CMake's add_executable. For example,

EXCLUDE_FROM_ALL # Exclude from calls to `make` without a specified target

You can link in any of the SpECTRE libraries by adding them to the target_link_libraries, for example:


We recommend that you add a test that the executable properly runs by adding an input file to tests/InputFiles in an appropriate subdirectory. See tests/InputFiles/ExampleExecutables/HelloWorldNoCharm.yaml for an example. The input file is passed to the executable using --input-file path/to/Input.yaml. In the case of the executable not taking any input file this is just used to generate a test that runs the executable.

For these types of executables main can take the usual (int argc, char *argv[]) and parse command line options. Executables not using Charm++ are just standard executables that can link in any of the libraries in SpECTRE.

Currently calling Parallel::abort results in a segfault deep inside Charm++ code. However, the error messages from ASSERT and ERROR are still printed.

Executable With Custom Compilation or Linking Flags

Use the CMake function set_target_properties to add flags to an executable. To call a completely custom compiler invocation you should use the add_custom_target CMake function. The need for the custom_target level of control is rare and should generally be avoided since it adds quite a bit of technical debt to the code base. Thus, it is not explained here. If you are certain you need it you can see the DebugPreprocessor executable's CMakeLists.txt file for an example.

Executable Used for Evolution or Elliptic Solve

Once they are written, see the tutorials specific to evolution and elliptic solves.