OMPL Style Guide

This document provides a brief overview of OMPL coding standards. It is meant to assist developers who are contributing code to OMPL.

An automatic code formatter is available to automate enforcing the style guide, see below.


  • Each source block should be indented by 4 space characters. No tab characters should appear in source code.
  • Each enclosing brace should reside on its own line, but braces can be omitted if the enclosed block consists of exactly one line.
  • Each binary operator ('+', '-', '&', '=', '==', etc.) should be surrounded by spaces.
  • The '*' and '&' in pointers and references in function/method arguments or variable declarations should be preceded by a space. They should not be followed by a space.

The following is an example of desirable code spacing.

int foo(int &n)
for (unsigned int i = 0; i < n; ++i)
if (i % 2 == 0)
std::cout << i << " ";

Filenames & Macros

  • Source filenames should begin each word with a capital letter, and there should be no underscores between words.
  • Header files should use the .h extension, and implementation files should use the .cpp extension.
  • Each implementation file should reside in a src/ directory, immediately below the directory containing the corresponding header file.
  • Include guards in header files should be of the form OMPL_PATH_FILENAME_, where the words in the filename are separated by underscores.

For example, the header and implementation files in which ompl::RNG is defined are ompl/util/RandomNumbers.h and ompl/util/src/RandomNumbers.cpp, respectively. The header file begins with the include guard


Functions & Classes

  • Function names should begin with a lower-case letter and should begin each subsequent word with a capital letter, and there should be no underscores between words (e.g., ompl::base::StateSpace::setName()).
  • Functions accepting no parameters should have void in place of a parameter list.
  • Class names should begin each word with a capital letter, again with no underscores (e.g., ompl::base::StateSpace).
  • Scoping directives (public, protected, private) should be at the same level of indentation as the class declaration.
  • Class member variable names should begin with a lower-case letter and should begin each subsequent word with a capital letter. They should end with a single underscore (e.g., ompl::base::StateSpace::longestValidSegment_).
  • Names of constants and static variables should be in all capital letters, with an underscore between each word (e.g., ompl::base::StateSpace::DEFAULT_PROJECTION_NAME).

For example, consider the following source code, which follows the above guidelines.

class SampleObject
SampleObject(void) : objectTag_(NUM_INSTANCES++)
int getObjectTag(void) const
return objectTag_;
static int NUM_INSTANCES;
const int objectTag_;
int SampleObject::NUM_INSTANCES = 0;

Other Coding Guidelines

  • Compiler specific features should never be used (avoid use of #ifdef).
  • Code must compile without warnings.
  • If a class member function can be marked const, then it should be marked const.
  • Member functions marked as const must be thread safe. If a function is intended to be thread safe, it should be marked as const (one can use the mutable keyword if needed).
  • All classes, methods and member variables must be documented (Doxygen style). High-level documentation can be written either in MarkDown format or in Doxygen format.
  • Forward declaration of types should be done with the OMPL_CLASS_FORWARD() macro when shared pointers to the type are also needed: OMPL_CLASS_FORWARD() will define a shared pointer to the type using the Ptr suffix (e.g., ompl::base::StateSpacePtr).
  • When passing objects as arguments to functions, the following convention should be used:
    • if possible, pass a const reference to the type; this means that a pointer to the object passed in will not be maintained and no changes need to be made to the object.
    • if changes need to be made to the object passed in, pass it by reference (non const).
    • if a pointer to the object needs to be maintained for later use, pass the the Ptr type as const T Ptr &. This maintains a shared pointer to the passed in object. However, this can create a dependency cycle (e.g., StateValidityChecker storing a shared pointer to SpaceInformation, which already stores a shared pointer to StateValidityChecker).
    • when a dependency cyle would be created, and often access to the pointer is needed, use a raw pointer. Use a const raw pointer if possible. If access to the pointer is not often required, using a weak pointer is good.

Automatic Code Formatting

An automatic code formatter is available to automate enforcing the style guide, using clang-format. This set of tools can be used standalone via command line or with editor integrations.


  • Install clang_format. For Ubuntu:

    sudo apt-get install -y clang-format-3.6


A configuration file is available at the base of the OMPL repository that will be automatically picked up by the following commands. You can run clang_format in several ways:

Command Line

Format single file:

clang-format-3.6 --i -style=file MY_OMPL_FILE.cpp

Format entire directory recursively including subfolders:

find . -name '*.h' -or -name '*.hpp' -or -name '*.cpp' | xargs clang-format-3.6 --i -style=file $1

Emacs Editor Configuration

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

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

(defun run-ompl-clang-format ()
"Runs clang-format on cpp,h files in ompl/ and reverts buffer."
(string-match "/ompl/.*\\.\\(h\\|cpp\\)$" buffer-file-name)
(save-some-buffers 'no-confirm)
(shell-command (concat "clang-format-3.6 -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-ompl-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-3.6 as your executable and point 'Style' to your .clang_format file.

Other Editors

Please contribute instructions here.