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Credit: Randall Munroe, xkcd.com


This is an emacs extension for dealing with ros. Simplifies navigating the package system, tracking topics and nodes, and running various commands (roscore, rosrun, roslaunch) directly from emacs.

Setting up rosemacs defines a set of ROS-related emacs commands. These can be either called using the full command names given below (using M-x command-name) or using a keyboard shortcut, if you've set a prefix for the ros-keymap. For example, given the setup below, C-x C-r C-f will find a package or file using rospack. Type C-h f command-name to see if there's a shortcut for a given command. Type C-x C-r C-h to see the entire list of keyboard shortcuts. In this document, we'll list the keyboard shortcut with each command, which has to be preceded with whatever prefix you're using (in our case C-x C-r).


Installation from Debian package

If you are a Lisp developer you'll probably need the roslisp_repl package. It installs rosemacs automatically as a dependency.

ROS Indigo +

Since ROS Indigo rosemacs is distributed through the ROS release infrastructure.

$ sudo apt-get install ros-DISTRO-rosemacs

ROS Fuerte, Groovy and Hydro

For ROS Fuerte, Groovy and Hydro, the package was distributed through Ubuntu Debian package repositories:

$ sudo apt-get install rosemacs-el

Installation from source

The most up-to-date version of rosemacs code can be found here. Installation instructions can be found in the README file. What you'll need to do will be something like the following:

$ wstool set ros_emacs_utils --git https://github.com/code-iai/ros_emacs_utils.git
$ wstool update ros_emacs_utils
$ cd ..
$ catkin_make
$ catkin_make install


IMPORTANT: Make sure the standard ROS variables are always set in the emacs process environment. For example, if you use bash, follow the standard ROS installation instructions about sourcing setup.bash in your .bashrc, and launch emacs from a bash shell.

ROS Indigo +

Update your emacs configuration file, e.g.:

$ emacs -nw ~/.emacs.d/init.el

Add the following:

(add-to-list 'load-path "/opt/ros/DISTRO/share/emacs/site-lisp")
;; or whatever your install space is + "/share/emacs/site-lisp"
(require 'rosemacs-config)

For troubleshooting consult the README file.

ROS Fuerte, Groovy and Hydro

Put the following in your emacs configuration file (e.g. ~/.emacs):

;; Load the library and start it up
(require 'rosemacs)

;; Optional but highly recommended: add a prefix for quick access
;; to the rosemacs commands
(global-set-key "\C-x\C-r" ros-keymap)

Rosemacs provides various commands to simplify working with ROS. In each case, we give the long name of the command followed by the key that can be used to invoke it following the shortcut sequence for the ROS keymap. For example, if you used the above init file that binds control-x control-r to the ROS keymap, then the first command below (find-ros-file) can be invoked using control-x control-r control-f.

Visiting files

find-ros-file (C-f)
view-ros-file (f)
find-ros-message (C-m)
view-ros-message (m)
find-ros-service (C-s)
view-ros-service (s)

ros-load-package-locations (r)

Searching and replacing in packages

ros-rgrep-package (g)


Interacting with a live ROS system

Topic tracking

rosemacs maintains information about current ROS topics. The topic list is used for tab completion, both in the shell and emacs commands, of topics in the appropriate places.

display-ros-topic-info (C-t)

add-hz-update (h)

remove-hz-update (H)

echo-ros-topic (t)

Node tracking

Analogous to topic tracking. Provides completion of node names in the appropriate places. Also, when nodes die, displays a message in the minibuffer and the ros-events buffer.

rosemacs/display-nodes (C-n)

Running/launching things

ros-launch (C-l)

ros-run (C-r)

ros-core (C-c)

Ros events

The *ros-events* buffer contains a timestamped list of noteworthy events in the ros system. Useful for answering the question "did something unexpectedly die?" when your system is behaving strangely. Currently, it keeps track of nodes starting and stopping.

rosemacs/display-event-buffer (C-e)

Programming aids

Shell tab completion

By default, ROS tab completion does not work if you use shell-mode in emacs. rosemacs fixes this and adds completion of current nodes and topics.

yasnippet integration

yasnippet is an Emacs extension that allows you to write snippets, which are templates for recurring patterns in source code. Rosemacs (trunk) provides a few ros-specific ones in the snippets/ directory. E.g., if you enable snippets support and set up your path as per the above instructions, if you open up a new file bar.h in the foo package and type wgh followed by [TAB], it will:

Current package in the Mode Line

You can add the following expression to the customization mode-line-format:

(:eval (ros-current-pkg-modeline-entry))

With this, the current buffer's ROS package becomes part of the mode line.

Editing yaml files

You may also want to add a yaml mode to your .emacs file.

  1. Download a yaml mode .el file from here: http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/YamlMode and put it next to rosemacs.el or somewhere else in your emacs load path.

  2. Add these lines to your .emacs file:

(require 'yaml-mode)
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.yml$" . yaml-mode))
(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.yaml$" . yaml-mode))

Editing message, service, and action files

Invoking rosemacs makes files with extension .msg, .srv and .action open in Emacs's gdb-script-mode for syntax highlighting. You can override this behavior by updating the auto-mode-alist variable after calling invoke-rosemacs.

Editing launch and manifest files

Emacs 23 and later includes NXML mode which, given a RELAX NG schema, validates xml documents online as you edit them and provides intelligent completion. Rosemacs includes schemas for roslaunch and manifest.xml files. This is now automatically setup (with Emacs 23 and later).

Integration with roslisp and slime

For more information on programming ROS packages in Lisp see the roslisp_repl package wiki.


There are various customizable options. You can set these using emacs's customization system (in the rosemacs customization group), or by just doing (setq variable value) in your .emacs.




2024-06-15 13:46