MoveIt! Code Style Guidelines

We use the ROS C++ Style guide for all C++ development and the ROS Python Style guide for Python.

To ease your development, we recommend the automated code formatter clang-format with a ROS configuration - to use see below.

In addition MoveIt! has some extra style preferences:


  • As of ROS Kinetic we use C++11
  • Use the C++ standard library (std::) whenever possible
  • Avoid C-style functions such as FLT_EPSILON - instead use std::numeric_limits<double>::epsilon()
  • Boost is an encouraged library when functionality is not available in the standard library
  • Prefer full variable names over short acryonms - e.g. robot_state_ over rs_
  • Deprecate functions using MOVEIT_DEPRECATED in deprecation.h


  • The ROS logging functionality is utilized and namespacing your logs are recommended, i.e. ROS_INFO_NAMED("planning_scene", "Starting listener")

Shared Ptrs

  • For creating shared_ptr of any object, use MoveIt!’s standard macro MOVEIT_CLASS_FORWARD(ClassName) before the class declaration, and add the include #include <moveit/macros/class_forward.h>. This will create two typedefs of shared pointers - <ClassName>Ptr and <ClassName>ConstPtr using either boost or std.


MoveIt! uses one folder for all headers from all of its modules: include/moveit. To achieve this, install all headers to ${CATKIN_GLOBAL_INCLUDE_DESTINATION} rather than using the normal CATKIN_PACKAGE_INCLUDE_DESTINATION:


This is rather non-standard for catkin - catkin would prefer to have headers of each ROS package in a separate folder, e.g. include/moveit_core/..., include/moveit_ros_planning/..., etc.

clang-format Auto Code Formatting

You can run clang-format in several ways. To install on Ubuntu simply run:

sudo apt-get install clang-format-3.8

Please note that we rely on clang-format version 3.8. Sadly, newer versions are not fully backward compatible.

Command Line

Format single file:

clang-format-3.8 -i -style=file MY_ROS_NODE.cpp

Format entire directory recursively including subfolders:

find . -name '*.h' -or -name '*.hpp' -or -name '*.cpp' | xargs clang-format-3.8 -i -style=file $1

Exceptions to clang-format

Occationally the auto formatting used by clang-format might not make sense e.g. for lists of items that are easier to read on separate lines. It can be overwritten with the commands:

// clang-format off
... some untouched code
// clang-format on

Use this sparingly though.

Emacs Editor Configuration

In your ~/.emacs config file, add the following:

Format your source code if its in some directory such as the catkin_ws (feel free to change keywords catkin_ws):

(defun run-ros-clang-format ()
"Runs clang-format on cpp,h files in catkin_ws/ and reverts buffer."
(string-match "/catkin_ws/.*\\.\\(h\\|cpp\\)$" buffer-file-name)
(save-some-buffers 'no-confirm)
(shell-command (concat "clang-format-3.8 -style=file -i " buffer-file-name))
(message (concat "Saved and ran clang-format on " buffer-file-name))
(revert-buffer t t t)

Set a keyboard shortcut to run, such as F12

(global-set-key [f12] 'run-ros-clang-format)

Atom Editor Configuration

Install the clang-format package via the Atom package manager or apm install clang-format.

In the package settings set clang-format-3.8 as your executable and point ‘Style’ to your .clang-format file.