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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:


  • We use C++17
  • 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
  • Use “pragma once” in headers instead of include guards.

Inline Documentation

  • We use Doxygen-style comments
  • To document future work, use the format TODO(username): description
  • Add extensive comments to explain complex sections of code
  • Prefer full, descriptive variable names over short acryonms - e.g. robot_state_ over rs_
  • Avoid auto, if the variable type doesn’t become clear immediately from the context (e.g. from make_shared<...>)


  • Deprecate functions using C++14 [[deprecated]] attribute
  • Add a useful message describing how to handle the situation:

     [[deprecated("use bar instead")]] void foo() {}

    Which will result in:

      warning: 'foo' is deprecated: use bar instead [-Wdeprecated-declarations] foo(); ^ note: 'foo' has been explicitly marked deprecated here void foo() {} ^
  • Add an associated TODO describing when to remove the feature (date and/or ROS version)


  • Catch known exceptions and log them in detail. Avoid using catch (...) as it hides information about a possible fault. We want to know if something goes wrong.
  • We don’t catch exceptions that don’t derive from std::exception in MoveIt. It is the responsibility of the plugin provider to handle non-std::exception-derived exceptions locally.


  • The ROS logging functionality is utilized and namespaced. i.e. ROS_INFO_NAMED(LOGNAME, "Starting listener....
    • This makes it easier to understand where output is coming from on the command line and allows for more fine-grained filtering of terminal output noise.
    • Your logging namespace is defined as a const variable. (eg: constexpr char LOGNAME[] = "robot_state";)
    • The use of the file name as the NAMED namespace is best practice, i.e. planning_scene.cpp would use "planning_scene"
    • Avoid using the package name as the namespace as this is already output by the logger

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.

pre-commit Formatting Checks

In many of our repos we have a pre-commit check that runs in CI. You can use this locally and set it up to run automatically before you commit something. To install, use pip:

pip3 install pre-commit

To run over all the files in the repo manually:

pre-commit run -a

To run pre-commit automatically before committing in a local repo, install git hooks:

pre-commit install

clang-format Auto Code Formatting

Note that if you use pre-commit as described above, clang-format is applied automatically before each commit (if clang-format is installed). This section describes how to use it manually.

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

sudo apt install clang-format

clang-format requires a configuration file in the root of your catkin workspace. The MoveIt repo contains this file here.

Command Line

Format a single file:

clang-format-10 -i -style=file MY_ROS_NODE.cpp

Format an entire directory recursively including subfolders:

find . -name '*.h' -or -name '*.hpp' -or -name '*.cpp' | xargs clang-format-10 -i -style=file $1

Exceptions to clang-format

Occasionally 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-10 -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)

QtCreator Editor Configuration

Navigate to Tools > Options > Beautifier On the General tab, enable auto format on file save, using ClangFormat. On the Clang Format tab, configure clang-format-10 as your executable and choose Use predefined style from File.

clang-tidy Linting

clang-tidy is a linting tool for C++. Where clang-format will fix the formatting of your code (wrong indentation, line length, etc), clang-tidy will fix programming errors to make your code more modern, more readable, and less prone to common bugs.

You can install clang-tidy and other clang related tools with sudo apt install clang-tidy clang-tools

Similarly to clang-format, clang-tidy uses the configuration file .clang-tidy that is found first when traversing the source folder hierarchy upwards. The MoveIt repo provides this file here.

Unlike clang-format, clang-tidy needs to know the exact compiler options used to build your project. To provide them, configure cmake with -DCMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS=ON and cmake will create in the package’s build folder a file called compile_commands.json. After building, you can run clang-tidy to analyze your code and even fix issues automatically as follows:

for file in $(find $CATKIN_WS/build -name compile_commands.json) ; do
	run-clang-tidy -fix -header-filter="$CATKIN_WS/.*" -p $(dirname $file)

You can run it also on selected folders or files of a package by specifying regular expressions to match the file names:

run-clang-tidy -fix -header-filter="$CATKIN_WS/.*" -p $CATKIN_WS/build/moveit_core collision

Note that if you have multiple layers of nested for loops that need to be converted, clang-tidy will only fix one at a time. So be sure to run the above command a few times to convert all code.

If you are only interested in the warnings, clang-tidy can also run directly during your build. You can make a specific clang-tidy build with:

catkin config --cmake-args -DCMAKE_EXPORT_COMPILE_COMMANDS=ON -DCMAKE_CXX_CLANG_TIDY=clang-tidy
catkin build

Exceptions to clang-tidy

It is possible to suppress undesired clang-tidy checks by using NOLINT or NOLINTNEXTLINE comments. Please specify the check names explicitly in parentheses following the comments:

const IKCallbackFn solution_callback = 0; // NOLINT(modernize-use-nullptr)

// NOLINTNEXTLINE(performance-unnecessary-copy-initialization)
robot_state::RobotState robot_state(default_state);

Note that modernize-loop-convert check may convert for (...; ...; ...) loops to for (auto & ... : ...). However, auto is not an expression highly readable. Please explicitly specify the variable type, if it doesn’t become clear immediately from the context:

for (const int & item : container)
  std::cout << item;