Switching versions

Switching between different GMT versions

We encourage all GMT users to start using version 5 immediately; it has been tested extensively by the GMT team and has benefitted from bug reports for the 4.5.x versions. Users who still worry about the new version breaking things may install GMT 4.5.x and 5 side by side.

Because GMT 5 is backwards compatible with the 4.5.x series (provided you configured it that way) yet maintains its parameters and history in separate files (e.g. .gmtdefaults4, versus gmt.conf) it is possible to install and use both versions on the same workstation. Switching between different GMT versions can be accomplished in several ways, two of which will be addressed here:

  1. By using the gmtswitch utility to select the current working version. Pro: easy, interactive way to switch versions on the command line; works with previous GMT syntax. Con: editing of shell startup files required; needs write access in $HOME-directory; manual intervention necessary if symlink $HOME/this_gmt is broken.
  2. By using the recommended gmt <module>-syntax in conjunction with a shell helper function that points to the desired GMT executable. Pro: no need to create symlinks and edit shell startup files; scripts are more portable. Con: different syntax required.

Setup of gmtswitch

Run gmtswitch after you have finished installing all GMT versions of interest. The first time you run gmtswitch it will try to find all the available versions installed on your file system. The versions found will be listed in the file .gmtversions in your home directory; each line is the full path to a GMT root directory (e.g., /usr/local/GMT4.5.9). You may manually add or remove entries there at any time. You are then instructed to make two changes to your environment (the details are shell-dependent but explained by gmtswitch):

  1. gmtswitch creates and maintains a symbolic link this_gmt in your home directory that will point to a directory with one of the installed GMT versions.
  2. Make sure $HOME/this_gmt/bin is in your executable PATH.

Make those edits, logout, and login again. The next time you run gmtswitch you will be able to switch between versions. Typing gmtswitch with no argument will list the available versions in a numerical menu and prompt you to choose one, whereas gmtswitch version will immediately switch to that version (version must be a piece of unique text making up the full path to a version, e.g., 4.5.9). If you use bash, tcsh, or csh you may have to type hash -r or rehash to initiate the path changes.

On Windows, the process is somewhat similar. The GMT bin directory has one batch file gmtswitch.bat that works by changing the Windows PATH variable so that the BIN directory of the preferred version always comes first. To do that the batch works in two alternative modes.

  1. Permanent mode
  2. Temporary mode

The permanent mode makes use of the free executable program EditPath to change the user path in the registry. It’s called permanent because the changes remains until ... next change. Off course the editpath.exe binary must be in your system’s path as well. WARNING: The path change will not be visible on the shell cmd where it was executed. For the change to be active you will need to open a new cmd window.

The second mode is temporary because the path to the selected GMT binary dir is prepended to previous path via a shell command line. This modification disappears when the shell cmd window where it was executes is deleted.

For further details the user should read the entire help section at the header of the gmtswitch.bat.

The gmtswitch.bat solution, however, has the drawback that the batch file must be located elsewhere and in a directory that is on the user’s PATH, otherwise it won’t be located after first use unless the other GMT bin directory has a similar batch file. A better solution is to install the Windows console enhancement that includes multiple tabs and configure the different tabs to start the different GMT versions. All it takes is in the Tab setting to call a batch that modifies the PATH locally. That PATH modifying batch will have a single line with something like:

set path=C:\programs\gmt5\bin;%PATH%

Version selection with helper function

A shell function can be used as a wrapper around the gmt executable. This even works when a gmt application is in the search PATH as it would shadow the real command. This method can easily be applied on the command line or in scripts when the recommended gmt <module>-syntax is used. Shell scripts using old-style GMT commands would have to be converted first. The syntax conversion can be accomplished with the gmt5syntax utility. A suitable bash wrapper function for GMT 5 would look like this:

function gmt() { /path/to/gmt5/bin/gmt "$@"; }
export -f gmt

Exporting the function is necessary to make it available to subshells and scripts. This wrapper function can be either set in your working shell or inside a GMT shell script. The latter is useful to switch to a certain GMT version on a per-script basis.

For GMT releases prior to GMT 5 which only provide the module commands, we need a slightly modified version of the wrapper script:

function gmt() { module=$1; shift; /path/to/gmt4/bin/${module} "$@"; }
export -f gmt

On the command line this might be too much typing to switch between versions. So we might as well put everything together in a script file gmtfun:

case $1 in
  4)
  function gmt() {
    module=$1; shift; /path/to/gmt4/bin/${module} "$@"
  }
  ;;
  5)
  function gmt() {
    /path/to/gmt5/bin/gmt "$@"
  }
  ;;
  *)
  return
  ;;
esac
export -f gmt

Source the file with either . gmtfun 4 or . gmtfun 5 to switch between versions.