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SeaHorn is an automated analysis framework for LLVM-based languages. This version supports LLVM 5.0.


SeaHorn is distributed under a modified BSD license. See license.txt for details.


  1. cd seahorn ; mkdir build ; cd build (The build directory can also be outside the source directory.)
  2. cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=run ../ (Add -GNinja to use the Ninja generator instead of the default one. Build types (Release, Debug) can be set with -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=<TYPE>.)
  3. cmake --build . to build dependencies (Z3 and LLVM)
  4. cmake --build . --target extra && cmake .. to download extra packages
  5. cmake --build . --target crab && cmake .. to configure crab (if extra target was run)
  6. cmake --build . --target install to build seahorn and install everything in run directory

Note that the install target is required!

The install target installs SeaHorn all of it dependencies under build/run. The main executable is build/run/bin/sea.

Compiling with Clang on Linux

Usually, compilation time with clang and lld linker are faster than other options on Linux. The magic cmake configuration line is something like the following:


This command should be run instead of the cmake command 2. in the installation instructions above.

SeaHorn provides several components that are automatically cloned and installed via the extra target. These components can be used by other projects outside of SeaHorn.

  • llvm-dsa: git clone

    llvm-dsa is the legacy DSA implementation from PoolAlloc. DSA is a heap analysis used by SeaHorn to disambiguate the heap.

  • sea-dsa: git clone

    sea-dsa is a new DSA-based heap analysis. Unlike llvm-dsa, sea-dsa is context-sensitive and therefore, a finer-grained partition of the heap can be generated in presence of function calls.

  • clam: git clone

    clam provides inductive invariants using abstract interpretation techniques to the rest of SeaHorn's backends.

  • llvm-seahorn: git clone

    llvm-seahorn provides tailored-to-verification versions of InstCombine and IndVarSimplify LLVM passes as well as a LLVM pass to convert undefined values into nondeterministic calls, among other things.

SeaHorn doesn't come with its own version of Clang and expects to find it either in the build directory (run/bin) or in PATH. Make sure that the version of Clang matches the version of LLVM that comes with SeaHorn (currently 5.0). The easiest way to provide the right version of Clang is to download it from, unpact it somewhere and create a symbolic link to clang and clang++ in run/bin.

cd seahorn/build/run/bin
ln -s place_where_you_unpacked_clang/bin/clang clang
ln -s place_where_you_unpacked_clang/bin/clang++ clang++


Running tests require several python packages:

pip install lit OutputCheck
easy_install networkx
apt-get install libgraphviz-dev
easy_install pygraphviz

Tests can be run using:

$ export SEAHORN=<install_dir>/bin/sea
$ cmake --build . --target test-all


We can use gcov and lcov to generate test coverage information for SeaHorn. To build with coverage enabled, we need to run build under a different directory and set CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE to Coverage during cmake configuration.

Example steps for opsem tests coverage:

  1. mkdir coverage; cd coverage create and enter coverage build directory

  2. cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Coverage <other flags as you wish> ../ configure cmake with Coverage build type, follow Installation or Compiling with Clang on Linux to set other flags

  3. follow step 3 through 6 in Installation section to finish build

  4. cmake --build . --target test-opsem Run OpSem tests, now .gcda and .gcno files should be created under corresponding CMakeFiles directory

  5. lcov -c --directory lib/seahorn/CMakeFiles/seahorn.LIB.dir/ -o collect coverage data from desired module, if clang is used as the compiler instead of gcc, create a bash script

exec llvm-cov gcov "[email protected]"
$ chmod +x

then append --gcov-tool <path_to_wrapper_script>/ to the lcov -c ... command. 6. extract data from desired directories and generate html report:

lcov --extract "*/lib/seahorn/*" -o
lcov --extract "*/include/seahorn/*" -o
cat >
genhtml --output-directory coverage_report

then open coverage_report/index.html in browser to view the coverage report

Code indexing for IDEs and editors

Compilation database for the seahorn project and all its subprojects (e.g., llvm, z3, SeaDsa) can be generated by adding -DCMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS=1 to the first cmake command presented in Installation. This will produce an additional file in the selected build directory -- compile_commands.json.

An easy way to get code indexing to work with with compilation database support is to copy the .json file into the main project directory and follow instructions specific to your editor:

Remote Configuration for CLion

For a detailed guide for a remote workflow with CLion check Clion-configuration.




SeaHorn provides a python script called sea to interact with users. Given a C program annotated with assertions, users just need to type: sea pf file.c

This will output unsat if all assertions hold or otherwise sat if any of the assertions is violated.

The option pf tells SeaHorn to translate file.c into LLVM bitecode, generate a set of verification conditions (VCs), and finally, solve them. The main back-end solver is spacer.

The command pf provides, among others, the following options:

  • --show-invars: display computed invariants if answer was unsat.

  • --cex=FILE : stores a counter-example in FILE if answer was sat.

  • -g : compiles with debug information for more trackable counterexamples.

  • --step=large: large-step encoding. Each transition relation corresponds to a loop-free fragments.

  • --step=small: small-step encoding. Each transition relation corresponds to a basic block.

  • --track=reg : model (integer) registers only.

  • --track=ptr : model registers and pointers (but not memory content)

  • --track=mem: model both scalars, pointers, and memory contents

  • --inline : inlines the program before verification

  • --crab : inject invariants in spacer generated by the Crab abstract-interpretation-based tool. Read here for details about all Crab options (prefix --crab). You can see which invariants are inferred by Crab by typing option --log=crab.

  • --bmc: use BMC engine.

sea pf is a pipeline that runs multiple commands. Individual parts of the pipeline can be run separately as well:

  1. sea fe file.c -o file.bc: SeaHorn frontend translates a C program into optimized LLVM bitcode including mixed-semantics transformation.

  2. sea horn file.bc -o file.smt2: SeaHorn generates the verification conditions from file.bc and outputs them into SMT-LIB v2 format. Users can choose between different encoding styles with several levels of precision by adding:

    • --step={small,large,fsmall,flarge} where small is small step encoding, large is block-large encoding, fsmall is small step encoding producing flat Horn clauses (i.e., it generates a transition system with only one predicate), and flarge: block-large encoding producing flat Horn clauses.

    • --track={reg,ptr,mem} where reg only models integer scalars, ptr models reg and pointer addresses, and mem models ptr and memory contents.

  3. sea smt file.c -o file.smt2: Generates CHC in SMT-LIB2 format. Is an alias for sea fe followed by sea horn. The command sea pf is an alias for sea smt --prove.

  4. sea clp file.c -o file.clp: Generates CHC in CLP format.

  5. sea lfe file.c -o file.ll : runs the legacy front-end

To see all the commands, type sea --help. To see options for each individual command CMD (e.g, horn), type sea CMD --help (e.g., sea horn --help).

Abstract Interpretation back-end

Inference of Inductive Invariants using Crab

By default, SeaHorn does not use Crab, our abstract interpreter. To enable it, add the option --crab to the sea command.

The abstract interpreter is by default intra-procedural and it uses the Zones domain as the numerical abstract domain. These default options should be enough for normal users. For developers, if you want to use other abstract domains you need to:

  2. Run sea with option --crab-dom=DOM where DOM can be:
    • int for intervals
    • term-int for intervals with uninterpreted functions
    • boxes: for disjunctive intervals
    • oct for octagons
    • pk for polyhedra

To use the crab inter-procedural analysis you need to:

  1. Compile with cmake option -DCLAM_ENABLE_INTER=ON
  2. Run sea with option --crab-inter

By default, the abstract interpreter only reasons about scalar variables (i.e., LLVM registers). Run sea with the options --crab-singleton-aliases=true --crab-track=arr to reason about memory contents.

How to use Invariants generated by Crab in Spacer

Crab is mostly path-insensitive while Spacer, our Horn clause solver, is path-sensitive. Although path-insensitive analyses are more efficient, path-sensitivity is typically required to prove the property of interest. This motivates our decision of running first Crab (if option --crab) and then pass the generated invariants to Spacer. There are currently two ways for Spacer to use the invariants generated by Crab. The sea option --horn-use-invs=VAL tells spacer how to use those invariants:

  • If VAL is equal to bg then invariants are only used to help spacer in proving a lemma is inductive.
  • If VAL is equal to always then the behavior is similar to bg but in addition invariants are also used to help spacer to block a counterexample.

The default value is bg. Of course, if Crab can prove the program is safe then Spacer does not incur in any extra cost.

Annotating C programs

This is an example of a C program annotated with a safety property:

/* verification command: sea pf --horn-stats test.c */
#include "seahorn/seahorn.h"
extern int nd();

int main(void) {
    int k = 1;
    int i = 1;
    int j = 0;
    int n = nd();
    while (i < n) {
        j = 0;
        while (j < i) {
            k += (i - j);
    sassert(k >= n);

SeaHorn follows SV-COMP convention of encoding error locations by a call to the designated error function __VERIFIER_error(). SeaHorn returns unsat when __VERIFIER_error() is unreachable, and the program is considered safe. SeaHorn returns sat when __VERIFIER_error() is reachable and the program is unsafe. sassert() method is defined in seahorn/seahorn.h.

Inspect Code

Apart from proving properties or producing counterexamples, it is sometimes useful to inspect the code under analysis to get an idea of its complexity. For this, SeaHorn provides a command sea inspect. For instance, given a C program ex.c type:

sea inspect ex.c --sea-dsa=cs+t --mem-dot 

The option --sea-dsa=cs+t enables the new context-, type-sensitive sea-dsa analysis implemented in our FMCAD'19 paper. This command will generate a file for each function FUN in the bitcode program. To visualize the graph of the main function type:

dot -Tpdf -o main.mem.pdf
open main.mem.pdf  // replace with you favorite pdf viewer

Read this link for more details about memory graphs.

Type sea inspect --help for all options. Currently, these options are available:

  • sea inspect --profiler prints the number of functions, basic blocks, loops, etc.

  • sea inspect --mem-callgraph-dot prints to dot format the call graph constructed by SeaDsa.

  • sea inspect --mem-callgraph-stats prints to standard output some statstics about the call graph construction done by SeaDsa.

  • sea inspect --mem-smc-stats prints the number of memory accesses that can be proven safe by SeaDsa.

Building SeaHorn on Ubuntu 18.04

The following packages are recommended to build SeaHorn on Ubuntu 18.04. Not everything is necessary for all configurations, but it is simpler to have these installed. This assumes that clang is used as a compiler as per-instructions above.

sudo apt install cmake git build-essential ninja-build llvm-8 clang-8 clang-tools-8 lld-8 libboost-dev subversion g++-7-multilib gcc-multilib lib32stdc++7 libgmp-dev libgmpxx4ldbl libgraphviz-dev libncurses5-dev ncurses-doc

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