Problem Description

COMSOL Multiphysics crashes when I try to access the documentation on my Linux Machine.


With the release of COMSOL Multiphysics 5.4, the documentation will automatically be opened in an external web browser if libwebkitgtk-1 is missing. This means that a crash is avoided, but also that the related Preferences settings may have been overridden. Download the newest version of the software here.

In order for the integrated help system to work on Linux, the webkitgtk package needs to be installed. Here, ’integrated’ refers to context help shown in the Help window in the COMSOL Desktop or documentation shown in the Documentation window, both in contrast to an external web browser. The packages for some of the most common Linux distributions are:

  • Debian Linux and Ubuntu Linux: libwebkitgtk-1.0-0
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux: webkitgtk (not included in RHEL7 but available through EPEL).
  • openSUSE: libwebkitgtk-1.0-0 or libwebkit-1_0-2 depending on version.

If these requirements are not met, COMSOL Multiphysics crashes when trying to show integrated help or documentation.

The underlying problem causing the crashes is an incompatibility between the web rendering libraries on your computer and those used by the Eclipse platform on which the COMSOL Desktop user interface for Linux is based.

Displaying the help in a web browser

An alternative solution is to use an external web browser to access the documentation. This is done on the Help page in the Preferences dialog. With this setting, the Help will be shown in the system browser that you have specified in the Web browser area on the same page in the Preferences dialog. The exact settings to use for each version can be found below:

For COMSOL Multiphysics 5.4 and later:

Absence of libwebkitgtk-1 is automatically detected and the settings in the previous bullet are effectively enforced (the preference settings are not changed, though).

For COMSOL Multiphysics 5.3a

  • Set both Target > Show documentation in and Target > Show help in to External browser.

For COMSOL Multiphysics 5.3

  • Set Target > Show documentation in to External browser.
  • NB: This does not fix the problem for context help.

For COMSOL Multiphyiscs 5.2a

  • Change the Help mode setting to Web browser.