Getting setup#

Here we’ll cover getting your development environment setup for contributing to OpenGHG. The source code for OpenGHG is available on GitHub.

Setting up your computer#

You’ll need git and Python >= 3.9, so please make sure you have both installed before continuing further.

Clone OpenGHG#

First we’ll clone the repository and make sure we’re on the devel branch. This makes sure we’re on the most up to date version of OpenGHG.

git clone
cd openghg
git checkout devel

Next we’ll get a virtual environment setup using either pip or conda.


Here we cover the creation of an environment and the installation of OpenGHG into it. Installation here means adding OpenGHG to the environment. We’ll install it in developer mode so that any changes you make to the code will automatically be available when you run commands. Similarly, if you run a git pull on the devel branch all changes made will be available to you straight away, without having to reinstall or update OpenGHG within the environment.


It is recommended that you develop OpenGHG in a Python virtual environment. Here we’ll create a new folder called envs in our home directory and create a new openghg_devel environment in it.

mkdir -p ~/envs/openghg_devel
python -m venv ~/envs/openghg_devel

Virtual environments provide sandboxes which make it easier to develop and test code. They also allow you to install Python modules without interfering with other Python installations.

We activate our new environment using

source ~/envs/openghg_devel/bin/activate

We’ll first install and update some installation tools

pip install --upgrade pip wheel setuptools

Now, making sure we’re in the root of the OpenGHG repository we just cloned, install OpenGHG’s requirements and its developer requirements.

pip install -r requirements.txt -r requirements-dev.txt

Finally install OpenGHG itself. The -e / --editable flag here tells pip to install the OpenGHG repo in develop mode.

pip install -e .

OpenGHG should now be installed, you can check this by opening ipython and running

In [1]: import openghg


Making sure you’re in the openghg repository folder run

conda env create -f environment.yaml

Once conda finishes its installation process you can activate the enironment

conda activate openghg_env

Next install conda-build which allows us to install packages in develop mode

conda install conda-build

And finally install OpenGHG

conda develop .

OpenGHG should now be installed, you can check this by opening ipython and running

In [1]: import openghg

Run tests#

To ensure everything is working on your system running the tests is a good idea. To do this run

pytest -v tests

Coding Style#

OpenGHG is written in Python 3 (>= 3.9). We aim as much as possible to follow a PEP8 python coding style and recommend that use a linter such as flake8.

This code has to run on a wide variety of architectures, operating systems and machines - some of which don’t have any graphic libraries, so please be careful when adding a dependency.

With this in mind, we use the following coding conventions:


We follow a Python style naming convention.

  • Packages: lowercase, singleword

  • Classes: CamelCase

  • Methods: snake_case

  • Functions: snake_case

  • Variables: snake_case

  • Source Files: snake_case with a leading underscore

Functions or variables that are private should be named with a leading underscore. This prevents them from being prominantly visible in Python’s help and tab completion.


OpenGHG consists of the main module, e.g. openghg, plus a openghg.submodule module.

To make OpenGHG easy for new developers to understand, we have a set of rules that will ensure that only necessary public functions, classes and implementation details are exposed to the Python help system.

  • Module files containing implementation details are prefixed with an underscore, i.e.

  • Each module file contains an __all__ variable that lists the specific items that should be imported.

  • The package can be used to safely expose the required functionality to the user with:

from module import function_a, function_b

This results in a clean API and documentation, with all extraneous information, e.g. external modules, hidden from the user. This is important when working interactively, since IPython and Jupyter do not respect the __all__ variable when auto-completing, meaning that the user will see a full list of the available names when hitting tab. When following the conventions above, the user will only be able to access the exposed names. This greatly improves the clarity of the package, allowing a new user to quickly determine the available functionality. Any user wishing expose further implementation detail can, of course, type an underscore to show the hidden names when searching.

Type hinting#

Throughout the OpenGHG project we use type hinting which allows us to declare the type of the objects that are going to be passed to and returned from functions. This helps improve user understanding of the code and when used in conjunction with tools like mypy can help catch bugs.

If we are writing a function that accepts takes a string and returns a string we can add the types like so

def greeter(name: str) -> str:
    """ Greets the user

            name: Name of user
            str: Greeting string
    return 'Hello ' + name

For a function that takes either a string or a list as its argument and returns a list we can write it as

def search(search_terms: Union[str, List]) -> List:
    """ A function that searches

            search_terms: Search terms
            list: List of data found
    return ["found_item"]


Feature branches#

First make sure that you are on the development branch of OpenGHG:

git checkout devel

Now create and switch to a feature branch. This should be prefixed with feature, e.g.

git checkout -b feature-process


This project uses pre-commit to ensure code is linted and formatted using tools such as flake8, black and others. This ensures errors are caught before the code is checked in the CI pipeline.

To install the hook

pre-commit install

The hook should now run each time you make a commit.


When working on your feature it is important to write tests to ensure that it does what is expected and doesn’t break any existing functionality. All code added to the project must be covered by tests and tests should be placed inside the tests directory, creating an appropriately named sub-directory for any new submodules.

The test suite is intended to be run using pytest. When run, pytest searches for tests in all directories and files below the current directory, collects the tests together, then runs them. Pytest uses name matching to locate the tests. Valid names start or end with test, e.g.:

# Files:
# Functions:
def test_func():
   # code to perform tests...

def func_test():
   # code to perform tests...

We use the convention of test_* when naming files and functions.

Running tests#

To run the full test suite, simply type:

pytest tests/

To get more detailed information about each test, run pytests using the verbose flag, e.g.:

pytest -v tests/

For more information on the capabilties of pytest please see the pytest documentation.

Continuous integration and delivery#

We use GitHub Actions to run a full continuous integration (CI) on all pull requests to devel and master, and all pushes to devel and master. We will not merge a pull request until all tests pass. We only accept pull requests to devel.


OpenGHG is fully documented using a combination of hand-written files (in the doc folder) and auto-generated api documentation created from Google style docstrings. for details. The documentation is automatically built using Sphinx. Whenever a commit is pushed to devel the documentation is automatically rebuilt and updated.

To build the documentation locally you will first need to install some additional packages. If you haven’t yet installed the documentation requirements please do so by running

pip install -r requirements-doc.txt

Next ensure you have pandoc installed. Installation instructions can be found here

Then move to the doc directory and run:


When finished, point your browser to build/html/index.html.


If you create new tests, please make sure that they pass locally before commiting. When happy, commit your changes, e.g.

git commit openghg/ tests/test_feature \
    -m "Implementation and test for new feature."

If your edits don’t change the OpenGHG source code e.g. fixing typos in the documentation, then please add [skip ci] to your commit message.

git commit -a -m "Updating docs [skip ci]"

This will avoid unnecessarily running the GitHub Actions, e.g. running all the tests and rebuilding the documentation of the OpenGHG package etc. GitHub actions are configured in the file .github/workflows/main.yaml).

Next, push your changes to the remote server:

# Push to the feature branch on the main OpenGHG repo, if you have access.
git push origin feature

# Push to the feature branch your own fork.
git push fork feature

When the feature is complete, create a pull request on GitHub so that the changes can be merged back into the development branch. For information, see the documentation here.

Creating a release#

The creation of the packages required by PyPI and conda is handled in the GitHub actions workflow files under .github/workflows/workflow.yaml. The package build and release workflow will only be triggered by a tagged commit. Before we get to this step we need to make sure everything is setup to do a release.

  1. Ensure all issues in a milestone are complete

  2. Ensure all tests are passing and no runners are failing

  3. Update with notes of each fix and links to the pull requests

  4. Ensure all documentation is up to date

  5. Create a tagged commit and push it to origin

For example, when I released version 0.5.1 of OpenGHG I created a tag and pushed it like so

git tag -a 0.5.1 -m "OpenGHG release v0.5.1" && git push origin 0.5.1
  1. Update the website with the new release and information about any new features or tutorials added.