Develop your own component or utility#

Landlab grows and improves thanks to user contributions. We encourage you to develop your own component or utility!

Thank you to all who have contributed to landlab!

In addition to components, Landlab has many utilities useful in creating components and doing model output post-processing. While this document primarily discusses creating, documenting, and testing a components, most of the steps are the same for developing a utility. Unlike a component, a utility can just be a function. But like a component, we expect contributed utilities to follow the landlab standard practices outlined in our documentation.

Once you have installed Landlab (developer install) and created your own branch, you can start writing a Python script for your component.

See this tutorial for instructions on the structure and content of your component code. See also this example pull request, which shows you the common set of files (such as and documentation files) that get added or modified when a component is added to Landlab.

See the Standard Naming conventions for good practice on parameters and variables naming.

The following pages describe the software development practices that Landlab strives to follow. Our goal is to make the capabilities of Landlab well-documented to support new users while not enforcing substantial burdens on community contributors. If you have any questions about the process after you have finished reading the documentation, consider making an Issue to ask the development team for help.

We recommend that you review the Landlab development practices:

Files structure#

For your new component, you should create a folder in landlab/landlab/components caled <my_component_name> that contains:

  • Your Python script

  • which is structured as

    from .my_component_name import MyComponent
    __all__ = [


    • ‘.my_component_name’ is the name of the python script.

    • ‘MyComponent’ is as defined in the _name header of your python script

    See this tutorial on making a component for additional document requirements.

    In addition there are a number of recommendations and requirements for Landlab components summarized here.

  • a folder in the landlab/tests/components/<my_component_name> directory containing unit tests. The unit tests are run every time changes are pushed to the Landlab repository. They should go through every line of your code (e.g. test every possible scenario in if/else loops, exceptions, etc.). See the tutorial on making a component for instructions about making docstring tests and the next section for more information about making the unit tests.

  • a document in docs/source/reference/components called my_component_name.rst. Look at other documents in that folder to get a sense of the typical format. This document is what will put your component’s documentation on the ReadTheDocs page. See more below.

Once everything is working, you can create a pull request to have your branch merged into the master so that your component can be included in the Landlab library and used by others.

This will trigger continuous integration testing of your branch (doc tests, unit tests, and lint) to ensure its compatibility on all supported environments. You can find the results of these tests on the GitHub page of your pull request. If the tests fail, edit your files and commit your changes to re-run the tests (you don’t need to make another pull request).

Getting your component into the documentation#

Landlab uses the third party Sphinx code documentation tool to automatically build the Reference section that list our user-facing components. This means your new component won’t appear on the webpages unless you also make some changes to files you’ll find in landlab/docs/source.

You need to modify landlab/docs/source/reference/components/index.rst, and also create a new file in the folder landlab/docs/source/reference/components, called [short_name_for_your_component].rst.

The best advice for both of these is to follow an existing example.

For the new .rst file, use e.g. diffusion.rst as a template. The first line with the path specification needs to be changed to give the same name as the .py file in which your component lives; the rest of the code text stays the same.

For the update to index.rst, just copy what has been done for the others, where the path specification now points at the new .rst file you made, i.e., [short_name_for_your_component] (leaving off the .rst).

Note your component won’t appear on the user-facing part of the website until it’s included in a Landlab release.

Your component is accepted to Landlab. What’s next?#

Congrats on all your hard work! Once you know your component has been accepted and is included in a Landlab release, please add it to the CSDMS Model Repository. You can link directly to the source code on Github. Just fill out the questionnaire.

Have you written up some tutorials or Jupyter notebooks to help teach new users about your component? Consider submitting a tutorial along with your component.

If you’ve presented a poster or submitted a paper about your Landlab component, advertise your work on the Landlab Papers and Presentations page. Make your request to a member of the Landlab development team via a GitHub Issue. If you’d like, also attach an abstract or poster PDF.

I’m still confused#

The Landlab development team will be happy to hear from you. Create an issue and we’ll try to resolve your problem.