2. Tool installation

2.1. Install the conda package manager

We will use the package/tool managing system conda to install some programs that we will use during the course. It is not installed by default, thus we need to install it first to be able to use it.

# download latest conda installer
curl -O https://repo.continuum.io/miniconda/Miniconda3-latest-Linux-x86_64.sh

# run the installer
bash Miniconda3-latest-Linux-x86_64.sh

# delete the installer after successful run
rm Miniconda3-latest-Linux-x86_64.sh


Should the conda installer download fail. Please find links to alternative locations on the Downloads page.

2.1.1. Update .bashrc and .zshrc config-files

Before we are able to use conda we need to tell our shell where it can find the program. We add the right path to the conda installation to our shell config files:

echo 'export PATH="/home/manager/miniconda3/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc
echo 'export PATH="/home/manager/miniconda3/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.zshrc


The above assumes that your username is “manager”, which is the default on a Biolinux install. Replace “manager” with your actual username. Find out with whoami.

So what is actually happening here? We are appending a line to a file (either .bashrc or .zshrc). If we are starting a new command-line shell, either file gets executed first (depending on which shell you are using, either bash or zsh shells). What this line does, is to put permanently the directory ~/miniconda3/bin first on your PATH variable. The PATH variable contains directories in which our computer looks for installed programs, one directory after the other until the program you requested is found (or not, then it will complain). Through the addition of the above line we make sure that the program conda can be found anytime we open a new shell.

Close shell/terminal, re-open new shell/terminal. Now, we should be able to use the conda command:

conda update conda

2.1.2. Installing conda channels to make tools available

Different tools are packaged in what conda calls channels. We need to add some channels to make the bioinformatics and genomics tools available for installation:

# Install some conda channels
# A channel is where conda looks for packages
conda config --add channels defaults
conda config --add channels bioconda
conda config --add channels conda-forge

2.2. Create environments

We create a conda environment for some tools. This is useful to work reproducible as we can easily re-create the tool-set with the same version numbers later on.

conda create -n ngs python=3
# activate the environment
conda activate ngs

So what is happening when you type conda activate ngs in a shell. The PATH variable (mentioned above) gets temporarily manipulated and set to:

$ conda activate ngs
# Lets look at the content of the PATH variable
(ngs) $ echo $PATH
/home/manager/miniconda3/envs/ngs/bin:/home/manager/miniconda3/bin:/usr/local/bin: ...

Now it will look first in your environment’s bin directory but afterwards in the general conda bin (/home/manager/miniconda3/bin). So basically everything you install generally with conda (without being in an environment) is also available to you but gets overshadowed if a similar program is in /home/manager/miniconda3/envs/ngs/bin and you are in the ngs environment.

2.3. Install software

To install software into the activated environment, one uses the command conda install.

# install more tools into the environment
conda install package


To tell if you are in the correct conda environment, look at the command-prompt. Do you see the name of the environment in round brackets at the very beginning of the prompt, e.g. (ngs)? If not, activate the ngs environment with conda activate ngs before installing the tools.

2.4. General conda commands

# to search for packages
conda search [package]

# To update all packages
conda update --all --yes

# List all packages installed
conda list [-n env]

# conda list environments
conda env list

# create new env
conda create -n [name] package [package] ...

# activate env
conda activate [name]

# deavtivate env
conda deactivate