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My development environment, how to install it

Python development environment (with ROS!)

Install pip

The package manager of python packages is called pip.

sudo apt-get install python-pip

If you need a pip package as a debian you can use Victor's debian from pip.

Install ipython

ipython screenshot

A powerful and pretty interactive shell.

sudo apt-get install ipython

Get started at the official documentation.

Install sublime text 3

sublime text 3 screenshot

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/sublime-text-3
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install sublime-text-installer

To disable new version notifications:

Open sublime with


Add the following to your User Preferences file (Preferences > Settings - User):

"update_check": false

To comment blocks of code

Shortcuts by default are for english keyboard, for spanish keyboard you probably want Control+7/Control+shift+7 to work on comment blocks of code.

Add the following to your User Preferences file (Preferences > Key bindings - User):

{ "keys": ["ctrl+7"], "command": "toggle_comment", "args": { "block": false } },
{ "keys": ["ctrl+shift+7"], "command": "toggle_comment", "args": { "block": true } },

In order to change any key binding you can check what is the default (Preferences > Key bindings - Default) and just copy in the user prefences file with the modified keys.

To know which key combination you are pressing you can go to "View->Console" and type


Translate tabs to spaces by default

You can always change it from the bottom right menu for any file, but by default we would to always use spaces when using ROS files. Add the following to your User Preferences file (Preferences > Settings - User):

"translate_tabs_to_spaces": true,

Install Anaconda Python IDE

anaconda gif Anaconda sublime text plugin, not to be confused with Anaconda from Continuum analytics, is a plugin that turns your SublimeText 3 into a rich featured Python development stack that boost your productivity and helps you to ensure the quality and style of your code.

To install it follow the installation instructions, resumed here as:

Install Package Control

Go to View > Show Console and paste:

import urllib.request,os,hashlib; h = 'df21e130d211cfc94d9b0905775a7c0f' + '1e3d39e33b79698005270310898eea76'; pf = 'Package Control.sublime-package'; ipp = sublime.installed_packages_path(); urllib.request.install_opener( urllib.request.build_opener( urllib.request.ProxyHandler()) ); by = urllib.request.urlopen( '' + pf.replace(' ', '%20')).read(); dh = hashlib.sha256(by).hexdigest(); print('Error validating download (got %s instead of %s), please try manual install' % (dh, h)) if dh != h else open(os.path.join( ipp, pf), 'wb' ).write(by) 

Install Anaconda plugin trough package control

Go to Tools > Command Palette (or Control+Shift+P) and write install package then write anaconda in the input window popup window and press enter.

After restarting SublimeText it will be able to auto complete (on tab, on dot), show documentation (control+alt+d), go to the declaration of stuff (control+alt+g), autoformat (control+alt+r), find usages (control+alt+f). The shortcut keys can be changed by going to Preferences > Package Settings > Anaconda > Key bindings, use the default to know what you can change and write it in the user one like we did with the keybindings before.

If you want a behaviour similar to QtCreator or Eclipse on going to declaration by Control+Click, you can do:

echo '[
        "button": "button1", 
        "count": 1, 
        "modifiers": ["ctrl", "alt"],
        "press_command": "drag_select",
        "command": "anaconda_goto"
]' > ~/.config/sublime-text-3/Packages/User/Default\ \(Linux\).sublime-mousemap

Which will enable Control+Alt+click to go to the declaration. (Control+Click gives you multiple cursors in SublimeText).

You'll get also linting for the code and other goodies, check all it can do at the documentation page.

Note that you must open it from the shell with a sourced environment (source myworkspace/devel/setup.bash) to get autocompletion and such.

Ignore a PEP8 on a single line

If you ever want to ignore the PEP8 on a line just add at the end of it: ' # NOQA' note that there are two spaces before the # and one after.

Useful for comment lines with big URL's for example.

Bonuses of Sublime Text

You can not only use Sublime Text for dealing with Python code, but also...

Open launch files with highlighting

Just open a .launch file and click on the bottom right of the window corner (it says the current highlighting provided) and click on "Open all current extension as..." and choose XML.

Edit and Preview MarkDown files

Control+Shift+P write install and write markdown, choose MarkdownEditing. Control+Shift+P write install and write markdown, choose MarkDown Preview.

Choose (bottom right corner) MarkdownEditing > Markdown / Markdown GFM from the file syntax to use it. To ease preview in browser add to Preferences > Key bindings - User:

{ "keys": ["alt+m"], "command": "markdown_preview", "args": {"target": "browser", "parser":"markdown"} },

To preview doing alt+m.

Install PyCharm

Pycharm logo

Even tho SublimeText is great, it may lack some maturity that PyCharm may have. For example, it helps you auto-fill documentation strings, convert methods to properties, hints that you can convert something to a static method... etc.

The downside is a slower starting time and a Eclipse-like feeling (if that is a downside for you).

Install java8

PyCharm is like a heavily modified Eclipse, so it's based in Java.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install oracle-java8-installer

Actually install PyCharm (Community edition)

I find it easier to install it from a repository:

wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb trusty-getdeb apps" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/getdeb.list'
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install pycharm

You can now just type pycharm to open it. Note that you must open it from the shell with a sourced environment (source myworkspace/devel/setup.bash) to get autocompletion and such.

I choose the Darcula IDE theme (it's darker) usually, up to the user.

Editor to have the same color theme as the app itself

Go to File > Settings > Editor > Colors & Fonts and choose your Scheme (Darcula for me). Hit Apply.

Show line numbers by default

Go to File > Settings > General > Appearance and check Show line numbers.

ROS package with python

As you may know ROS packages can contain Python code. It is structured in the following manner:

TODO: Give an example package.


In the scripts folder, as the name implies, you'll place the scripts you create. Either the final executable of some awesome library you created or just plain self contained scripts. You cannot import from somewhere else these files.

In order to install these scripts (so they are deployed) you need to add to CMakeLists.txt these executables like:

# Install scripts


Some ROS wiki page recommends to put nodes in a nodes folder, everything in scripts would apply to this folder too.


In order to let other packages import your python libraries in ROS you must follow a few steps that have to do with the src folder. They are annoying the first time, but they are always the same.

You have to create your_package/src/your_package folder. Inside of it you must create an empty file. This is the way Python knows there are Python files for importing.

In order to install (and be able to import) this code you must create a file at the root of your package your_package/ that contains where this python code is, like:

#!/usr/bin/env python
from distutils.core import setup
from catkin_pkg.python_setup import generate_distutils_setup

setup_args = generate_distutils_setup(
    package_dir={'': 'src'}


And you must add to your CMakeLists.txt just after catkin_package():



For some unknown (to me) reason you cannot have your_package/src/your_package/ If any other package tries to do

from your_package.your_package import SOMETHING

It will fail with:

ImportError: No module named your_package.your_package


You must add in package.xml your Python dependences as run dependencies:


But you don't need them in CMakeLists.txt.

My workflow

With these tools, how do I usually work? It depends on what is the main focus:

Creating a new package

I create/go to my ROS workspace, then I create the new package. I create it with catkin_create_pkg my_awesome_new_package rospy as I will probably import rospy being a ROS package. Then I create the scripts folder. I do a touch and chmod +x and if I feel I'll install the package to test it soon I also edit CMakeLists.txt to add the installation rules as said previously.

Then I open an ipython terminal on a side where I'll test stuff like... What fields does this sensor_msgs.msgs/LaserScan have?

In [1]: from sensor_msgs.msg import LaserScan

In [2]: LaserScan?
Type:       type
String Form:<class 'sensor_msgs.msg._LaserScan.LaserScan'>
File:       /opt/ros/indigo/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/sensor_msgs/msg/
Docstring:  <no docstring>
Constructor information:
 Definition:LaserScan(self, *args, **kwds)
    Constructor. Any message fields that are implicitly/explicitly
    set to None will be assigned a default value. The recommend
    use is keyword arguments as this is more robust to future message
    changes.  You cannot mix in-order arguments and keyword arguments.
    The available fields are:
    :param args: complete set of field values, in .msg order
    :param kwds: use keyword arguments corresponding to message field names
    to set specific fields.

In [3]: LaserScan()
  seq: 0
    secs: 0
    nsecs: 0
  frame_id: ''
angle_min: 0.0
angle_max: 0.0
angle_increment: 0.0
time_increment: 0.0
scan_time: 0.0
range_min: 0.0
range_max: 0.0
ranges: []
intensities: []

In [4]: ls = LaserScan()

In [5]: ls.
ls.angle_increment    ls.header             ls.scan_time
ls.angle_max          ls.intensities        ls.serialize
ls.angle_min          ls.range_max          ls.serialize_numpy
ls.deserialize        ls.range_min          ls.time_increment
ls.deserialize_numpy  ls.ranges

And when I know what stuff does I'll add it to my Python script. Then the usual run-and-fix-stuff-and-repeat cycle.

I start using Sublime Text for this.

Whenever my script grows too much and it's time to separate it in classes I do all the stuff about the src folder I mentioned previously.

Work on a simple (pre-existing) script

I source the workspace in the terminal and open a Sublime Text with subl Note that if you had it already open it won't take into account the stuff in the current workspace, it will stay with the PATH variables it had before.

Work on a complicated (pre-existing) package

I source the workspace in the terminal and open a PyCharm with pycharm. Note that if you had it already open it won't take into account the stuff in the current workspace, it will stay with the PATH variables it had before.

It will take a bit of time to open and load all the stuff. Then you can do... File > New Project... and navigate to the folder of the package and click Create. It will ask you if you want to create a project from the existing sources, say yes. Then it will ask if you want to open the project in the current window or in a new window. Just Open it in the current window and choose Add to currently opened projects.

Now on the left you'll have the root folder of the package, open it, if it has code in src you must right-click the folder and choose Mark Directory As > Sources Root

Now you can freely navigate around the code.

Friendlier Gedit

Set better defaults

Go to Edit > Preferences.

  • Set on tab View: Display line numbers, Highlight current line, Highlight matching brackets.
  • Set on tab Editor: Tab width: 4 spaces, Insert spaces instead of tabs, Enable automatic indentation-

Get Python autocompletion plugin (on current file only)

Create a folder for the plugin

mkdir -p ~/.local/share/gedit/plugins

Checkout the geditpycompletion most updated fork plugin

git clone ~/.local/share/gedit/plugins/geditpycompletion

Enable the plugin going to Edit > Preferences, tab Plugins, enable Python Code Completion.

Now you'll get autocompletion control+space.


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@vpeopleonatank vpeopleonatank commented Oct 29, 2019

Very useful gist. Thanks for sharing!

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