Getting started with Plasma

Gert Meulyzer
version 0.1, March 10, 2019

Since we don’t have static builds yet, you’ll need to build Plasma from source. For that you’ll need Mercury, since our compiler is written in it.

Compiling Mercury from source can take a long time, but if you’re on Debian, Ubuntu or other derivative running on x86_64 then there are some packages! Read on or follow the instructions at

For Ubuntu 18.04, this is what you need to do:

You’ll need a basic C and C++ build environment. That can be installed with the build-essential:

sudo apt install build-essential

Next install the repo where you can find the packages, They’re signed with Paul’s gpg key, so you’ll need to tell apt to trust things signed by it:

cd /tmp
sudo apt-key add paul.asc

Create a new file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d, name it mercury.list and paste in it:

deb stretch main
deb-src stretch main
Now we can install:
sudo apt update
sudo apt install mercury-rotd-recommended

If all goes well you now have a working version of Mercury on your computer.

Now it’s time to clone the plasma repo:

git clone

Now you can configure the Makefile if you want to. In the Makefile itself is documentation that explains what options make what build. The default build is probably fine, so you shouldn’t have to configure anything really.

To optionally build the documentation, you want to install AsciiDoc:

sudo apt install asciidoc

Beware, this is a very large installation, on a default Ubuntu installation this amounts to over 1 GB of space and a download of over 300MB. If AsciiDoc is not installed, documentation will not be built.

Then run make and it will build you the plasma compiler (src/plzc) and the runtime (runtime/plzrun)


If you want to run Plasma in a Docker container, this Dockerfile could help:

FROM alpine
RUN wget
RUN tar zxf mercury-srcdist-rotd-2018-11-12.tar.gz
WORKDIR /src/mercury-srcdist-rotd-2018-11-12
RUN apk add binutils build-base bison flex git asciidoc linux-headers
RUN ./configure --enable-minimal-install
RUN make
RUN make install
RUN git clone
WORKDIR /src/plasma
RUN make
RUN make test

The rotd version of Mercury could probably be more recent, depending on when you are reading this. Note that this is just for running Plasma programs, not for hacking on Plasma itself. The minimal install of mercury doesn’t allow for debugging the Plasma compiler.