Software Development Tools

Nios II Embedded Design Suite

The Nios® II Embedded Design Suite (EDS) is a comprehensive development package for Nios II software design. The Nios II EDS contains not just development tools, but also software, device drivers, bare metal Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) library, a commercial grade network stack software and evaluation version of a real time operating system.

The Nios II EDS includes:


Download the Nios II EDS (free) as part of our Quartus® Prime (15.1 and higher) or Quartus II software tool (13.1 to 15.0)

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When you design with the Nios II embedded processor, you have access to a portfolio of robust software development tools and software components available from Altera and our partner ecosystem

Nios II Software Build Tools

The Nios II Software Build Tools are a set of powerful commands, utilities, and scripts to manage build options for applications, BSPs, and software libraries.

Nios II Software Build Tools for Eclipse

The Nios® II Software Build Tools (SBT) for Eclipse is an integrated development environment for Nios II software development tasks, such as editing, building, and debugging. Watch a free training video of how to develop software for the Nios II processor.

With a PC, an Altera FPGA, and a download cable, you have everything you need to write programs for, and communicate with, any Nios II processor system.

Nios II SBT for Eclipse key features:

  • Eclipse project-based tools
  • New project wizards and Nios II software templates
  • Compiler for C and C++ (GNU)
  • Newlib C Library support
  • Source navigator, editor, and debugger
  • Software build tools
  • Nios II Board Support Package (BSP) Editor
  • Quartus Prime Programmer
  • Nios II Command Shell
  • Complete documentation and training


 Nios II Software Developer's Handbook (PDF)

 Nios II Embedded Design Suite (included free with Quartus Prime)

Embedded Software

With the Nios II embedded processor, you have access to a broad range of third party embedded software components.
The following items are included with the Nios II EDS:

A complete list of applications examples, operating systems, middleware, and intellectual property (IP) cores are available from Altera and Altera's software tool partners.

Device Drivers for Altera IP and HAL API

Altera provides a complete set of peripheral device drivers and even generates a custom BSP automatically to accelerate your software development effort.

  • Hardware abstraction layer (HAL)—Increase your productivity by building your applications on top of the Nios II HAL. The HAL is a well-defined software layer that forms a clear distinction between application and device-level software (refer to Figure 1). The HAL also provides services such as file descriptors, I/O control, and buffering, which are required by the ANSI C library functions, so that your HAL driver does not need to provide these functions. 
    Learn about the HAL System Library (PDF).
  • BSP—The Nios II Software Build Tools for Eclipse automatically generates a complete BSP, including drivers for the peripherals in your system. 
    Learn about the BSP Editor (PDF).
  • Custom drivers—Create your own custom drivers on top of the HAL by leveraging the HAL application programming interface (API) using a predefined and well-documented driver development procedure. This modular approach promotes consistent, portable, and reusable code. 
    Learn about developing Device Drivers for the HAL (PDF).

Figure 1. Nios II HAL


  1. SPI = serial peripheral interface
  2. DMA = direct memory access
  3. CFI = common flash interface


Partner Tools

Learn about all the software tools available for the Nios II embedded processor available from Altera’s software tool partners.

Getting Started - For Free!!

Evaluate the Nios II processor tools and IP and develop software for free. When you are ready to ship your product, you must purchase a Nios II IP core license. This royalty-free license never expires and allows you to target your processor design to any Altera FPGA, so that your software investment is preserved even if the underlying hardware changes. To get started, follow these steps:

  1. Get the design software
  2. Evaluate the software and develop the application
  3. Purchase a license

Step 1: Get the Design Software

The Nios II Embedded Design Suite (EDS) is available for free and is included with the Quartus Prime software download from Altera’s download center.

Download the software from the Altera site.

When you download the Nios II EDS, you get the following tools and software:

  • Nios II SBT for Eclipse
  • NicheStack Network Stack, Nios II Edition
  • Micrium’s uC/OS II Evaluation Edition

Qsys system integration tool and ModelSim®-Altera software are installed as part of Quartus Prime software.

Step 2: Evaluate the Software and Develop the Application

  • Build your applications and evaluate the Nios II standard and fast cores using the OpenCore Plus Evaluation feature. You do not need to purchase a license for the Nios II Economy core.
  • Many reference designs and tutorials are included with the Nios II EDS. Additionally, training is available on the web and in instructor-led courses. Learn more about the training offered for designing with the Nios II processor.

Step 3: Purchase a License

Purchase a license for the Nios II processor IP core and related products.


Nios II Processor IP

Get a license file for the Nios II processor, non-time-limited use, by purchasing a stand-alone Nios II processor core license (ordering code: IP-NIOS) or as part of the Embedded IP Suite (IPS-EMBEDDED).

Both fixed and floating licenses are available. To obtain a license file, contact your local Altera representative or Altera Tools Support.

Learn more about Nios II processor licensing.


Micrium MicroC/OS-II

To obtain a license for the Micrium MicroC/OS-II RTOS, contact Micrium today. The Nios II processor is supported by a wide range of embedded software partners.

Learn more about our embedded software partners.