Contribute to WarpX

We welcome new contributors! Here is how to participate to the WarpX development.

Git workflow

The WarpX project uses git for version control. If you are new to git, you can follow one of these tutorials:

Configure your GitHub Account & Development Machine

First, let’s setup your Git environment and GitHub account.

  1. Go to and add your real name and affiliation

  2. Go to and add & verify the professional e-mails you want to be associated with.

  3. Configure git on the machine you develop on to use the same spelling of your name and email:

    • git config --global "FIRSTNAME LASTNAME"

    • git config --global

  4. Go to and add the SSH public key of the machine you develop on. (Check out the GitHub guide to generating SSH keys or troubleshoot common SSH problems. )

Make your own fork

First, fork the WarpX “mainline” repo on GitHub by pressing the Fork button on the top right of the page. A fork is a copy of WarpX on GitHub, which is under your full control.

Then, we create local copies, for development:

# Clone the mainline WarpX source code to your local computer.
# You cannot write to this repository, but you can read from it.
git clone
cd WarpX

# rename what we just cloned: call it "mainline"
git remote rename origin mainline

# Add your own fork. You can get this address on your fork's Github page.
# Here is where you will publish new developments, so that they can be
# reviewed and integrated into "mainline" later on.
# "myGithubUsername" needs to be replaced with your user name on GitHub.
git remote add myGithubUsername

Now you are free to play with your fork (for additional information, you can visit the Github fork help page).


We only need to do the above steps for the first time.

Let’s Develop

You are all set! Now, the basic WarpX development workflow is:

  1. Implement your changes and push them on a new branch branch_name on your fork.

  2. Create a Pull Request from branch branch_name on your fork to branch development on the main WarpX repo.

Create a branch branch_name (the branch name should reflect the piece of code you want to add, like fix-spectral-solver) with

# start from an up-to-date development branch
git checkout development
git pull mainline development

# create a fresh branch
git checkout -b branch_name

and do the coding you want.

It is probably a good time to look at the AMReX documentation and at the Doxygen reference pages:

Once you are done developing, add the files you created and/or modified to the git staging area with

git add <file_I_created> <and_file_I_modified>

Build your changes

If you changed C++ files, then now is a good time to test those changes by compiling WarpX locally. Follow the developer instructions in our manual to set up a local development environment, then compile and run WarpX.

Commit & push your changes

Periodically commit your changes with

git commit

The commit message is super important in order to follow the developments during code-review and identify bugs. A typical format is:

This is a short, 40-character title

After a newline, you can write arbitray paragraphs. You
usually limit the lines to 70 characters, but if you don't, then
nothing bad will happen.

The most important part is really that you find a descriptive title
and add an empty newline after it.

For the moment, commits are on your local repo only. You can push them to your fork with

git push -u myGithubUsername branch_name

If you want to synchronize your branch with the development branch (this is useful when the development branch is being modified while you are working on branch_name), you can use

git pull mainline development

and fix any conflict that may occur.

Submit a Pull Request

A Pull Request (PR) is the way to efficiently visualize the changes you made and to propose your new feature/improvement/fix to the WarpX project. Right after you push changes, a banner should appear on the Github page of your fork, with your <branch_name>.

  • Click on the compare & pull request button to prepare your PR.

  • It is time to communicate your changes: write a title and a description for your PR. People who review your PR are happy to know

    • what feature/fix you propose, and why

    • how you made it (added new/edited files, created a new class than inherits from…)

    • how you tested it and what was the output you got

    • and anything else relevant to your PR (attach images and scripts, link papers, etc.)

  • Press Create pull request. Now you can navigate through your PR, which highlights the changes you made.

Please DO NOT write large pull requests, as they are very difficult and time-consuming to review. As much as possible, split them into small, targeted PRs. For example, if find typos in the documentation open a pull request that only fixes typos. If you want to fix a bug, make a small pull request that only fixes a bug.

If you want to implement a feature and are not too sure how to split it, just open an issue about your plans and ping other WarpX developers on it to chime in. Generally, write helper functionality first, test it and then write implementation code. Submit tests, documentation changes and implementation of a feature together for pull request review.

Even before your work is ready to merge, it can be convenient to create a PR (so you can use Github tools to visualize your changes). In this case, please put the [WIP] tag (for Work-In-Progress) at the beginning of the PR title. You can also use the GitHub project tab in your fork to organize the work into separate tasks/PRs and share it with the WarpX community to get feedback.

Include a test to your PR

A new feature is great, a working new feature is even better! Please test your code and add your test to the automated test suite. It’s the way to protect your work from adventurous developers. Instructions are given in the testing section of our developer’s documentation.

Include documentation about your PR

Now, let users know about your new feature by describing its usage in the WarpX documentation. Our documentation uses Sphinx, and it is located in Docs/source/. For instance, if you introduce a new runtime parameter in the input file, you can add it to Docs/source/running_cpp/parameters.rst. If Sphinx is installed on your computer, you should be able to generate the html documentation with

make html

in Docs/. Then open Docs/build/html/index.html with your favorite web browser and look for your changes.

Once your code is ready with documentation and automated test, congratulations! You can create the PR (or remove the [WIP] tag if you already created it). Reviewers will interact with you if they have comments/questions.

Style and conventions

  • For indentation, WarpX uses four spaces (no tabs)

  • Some text editors automatically modify the files you open. We recommend to turn on to remove trailing spaces and replace Tabs with 4 spaces.

  • The number of characters per line should be <100

  • Exception: in documentation files (.rst/.md) use one sentence per line independent of its number of characters, which will allow easier edits.

  • Space before and after assignment operator (=)

  • To define a function , for e.g., myfunction() use a space between the name of the function and the paranthesis - myfunction (). To call the function, the space is not required, i.e., just use myfunction().

  • The reason this is beneficial is that when we do a git grep to search for myfunction (), we can clearly see the locations where myfunction () is defined and where myfunction() is called.

  • Also, using git grep "myfunction ()" searches for files only in the git repo, which is more efficient compared to the grep "myfunction ()" command that searches through all the files in a directory, including plotfiles for example.

  • It is recommended that style changes are not included in the PR where new code is added. This is to avoid any errors that may be introduced in a PR just to do style change.

  • WarpX uses CamelCase convention for file names and class names, rather than snake_case.

  • The names of all member variables should be prefixed with m_. This is particularly useful to avoid capturing member variables by value in a lambda function, which causes the whole object to be copied to GPU when running on a GPU-accelerated architecture. This convention should be used for all new piece of code, and it should be applied progressively to old code.

  • #include directives in C++ have a distinct order to avoid bugs, see the WarpX repo structure for details

  • For all new code, we should avoid relying on using namespace amrex; and all amrex types should be prefixed with amrex::. Inside limited scopes, AMReX type literals can be included with using namespace amrex::literals;. Ideally, old code should be modified accordingly.