Building from source


Clone the Helix GitHub repository into a directory of your choice. The examples in this documentation assume installation into either ~/src/ on Linux and macOS, or %userprofile%\src\ on Windows.

If you are using the musl-libc standard library instead of glibc the following environment variable must be set during the build to ensure tree-sitter grammars can be loaded correctly:

RUSTFLAGS="-C target-feature=-crt-static"
  1. Clone the repository:

    git clone
    cd helix
  2. Compile from source:

    cargo install --path helix-term --locked

    This command will create the hx executable and construct the tree-sitter grammars in the local runtime folder.

💡 If you do not want to fetch or build grammars, set an environment variable HELIX_DISABLE_AUTO_GRAMMAR_BUILD

💡 Tree-sitter grammars can be fetched and compiled if not pre-packaged. Fetch grammars with hx --grammar fetch and compile them with hx --grammar build. This will install them in the runtime directory within the user's helix config directory (more details below).

Configuring Helix's runtime files

Linux and macOS

The runtime directory is one below the Helix source, so either export a HELIX_RUNTIME environment variable to point to that directory and add it to your ~/.bashrc or equivalent:

export HELIX_RUNTIME=~/src/helix/runtime

Or, create a symbolic link:

ln -Ts $PWD/runtime ~/.config/helix/runtime

If the above command fails to create a symbolic link because the file exists either move ~/.config/helix/runtime to a new location or delete it, then run the symlink command above again.


Either set the HELIX_RUNTIME environment variable to point to the runtime files using the Windows setting (search for Edit environment variables for your account) or use the setx command in Cmd:

setx HELIX_RUNTIME "%userprofile%\source\repos\helix\runtime"

💡 %userprofile% resolves to your user directory like C:\Users\Your-Name\ for example.

Or, create a symlink in %appdata%\helix\ that links to the source code directory:

PowerShellNew-Item -ItemType Junction -Target "runtime" -Path "$Env:AppData\helix\runtime"
Cmdcd %appdata%\helix
mklink /D runtime "%userprofile%\src\helix\runtime"

💡 On Windows, creating a symbolic link may require running PowerShell or Cmd as an administrator.

Multiple runtime directories

When Helix finds multiple runtime directories it will search through them for files in the following order:

  1. runtime/ sibling directory to $CARGO_MANIFEST_DIR directory (this is intended for developing and testing helix only).
  2. runtime/ subdirectory of OS-dependent helix user config directory.
  4. Distribution-specific fallback directory (set at compile time—not run time— with the HELIX_DEFAULT_RUNTIME environment variable)
  5. runtime/ subdirectory of path to Helix executable.

This order also sets the priority for selecting which file will be used if multiple runtime directories have files with the same name.

Note to packagers

If you are making a package of Helix for end users, to provide a good out of the box experience, you should set the HELIX_DEFAULT_RUNTIME environment variable at build time (before invoking cargo build) to a directory which will store the final runtime files after installation. For example, say you want to package the runtime into /usr/lib/helix/runtime. The rough steps a build script could follow are:

  1. export HELIX_DEFAULT_RUNTIME=/usr/lib/helix/runtime
  2. cargo build --profile opt --locked --path helix-term
  3. cp -r runtime $BUILD_DIR/usr/lib/helix/
  4. cp target/opt/hx $BUILD_DIR/usr/bin/hx

This way the resulting hx binary will always look for its runtime directory in /usr/lib/helix/runtime if the user has no custom runtime in ~/.config/helix or HELIX_RUNTIME.

Validating the installation

To make sure everything is set up as expected you should run the Helix health check:

hx --health

For more information on the health check results refer to Health check.

Configure the desktop shortcut

If your desktop environment supports the XDG desktop menu you can configure Helix to show up in the application menu by copying the provided .desktop and icon files to their correct folders:

cp contrib/Helix.desktop ~/.local/share/applications
cp contrib/helix.png ~/.icons # or ~/.local/share/icons

To use another terminal than the system default, you can modify the .desktop file. For example, to use kitty:

sed -i "s|Exec=hx %F|Exec=kitty hx %F|g" ~/.local/share/applications/Helix.desktop
sed -i "s|Terminal=true|Terminal=false|g" ~/.local/share/applications/Helix.desktop