Development Basics

Submitting patches

The source code for SnapPy and its various parts are hosted on GitHub as Git repositories. To contribute a patch, create a free GitHub account, fork the appropriate repository, and then send us a pull request, as described in here.


Here is how to get a clean development setup under macOS.

  • Install the latest Python 3.8 from using the Mac Installer Disk Image. Set your path so that “python3” is:

  • Use pip to install the following packages:

    python3 -m pip install --upgrade setuptools virtualenv wheel pip
    python3 -m pip install cython        # Used for Python-C interfacing
    python3 -m pip install sphinx        # For building the documentation
    python3 -m pip install ipython       # Improved Python shell
    python3 -m pip install py2app        # For making app bundles
    python3 -m pip install pyx
  • Get the source code from the repository, using Git. For example you can install Git via its package installer. Now do:

    git clone
    git clone
    git clone
  • Test the stand-alone link editor:

    cd plink
    python3 pip_install
    python3 -m   # Link editor appears!

    This last command runs the script “plink/”; the real code for the link editor is in “plink/”.

  • Build and install Spherogram:

    cd ../spherogram
    python3 pip_install
    python3 test
  • Now build SnapPy itself. One builds it twice to generate the documentation, much of which is extracted from the installed module:

    cd ../snappy
    python3 pip_install
    python3 test   # Run the tests; pretty picture should appear.
    python3 build_docs pip_install
    python3 -m   #SnapPy starts!

    To build the clickable app, just do the following:

    cd mac_osx_app
    python3 --manual

    though for general development purposes python3 -m is usually the way to go.

Some major parts of the SnapPy codebase are:

  • “SnapPy.pyx”, “SnapPycore.pxi”, “SnapPy.pxi”: The Cython interface to the SnapPea kernel

  • “opengl/CyOpenGL*.pyx”: The Cython interface to OpenGL*

  • “snappy/”: The core GUI code

  • “snappy/”: The GUI code for Dirichlet domains

  • “snappy/”: The GUI code for horoball pictures

  • “snappy/”: Interacts with the sqlite3 manifold database

In addition, Jeff’s old prototype for a Tk-based UI can be found in “misc/JeffsOldUI/”; just run Python on this file to try it out, after installing PythonMegaWidgets.


These instructions have been tested on Windows 10, and describe setting up a development environment using the (free) MSVC compiler. To build the CyPari subcomponent, which few will want or need to do, one must install additional tools.

  • Install Python 3.7, specifically the 32 bit version (Windows x86 not Windows x86-64). These instructions assume it has been installed in the directory C:\Python37 which is not the default.

  • With Python 3.7.4, you need the MSVC command line tools. You can get them by using Microsoft’s free Build Tools for Visual Studio 2019 installer and selecting the “C++ command line tools” and installing the following subpackages: “MSVC v142 - VS 2019 C++ build tools”, “Testsing tools core features”, “C++/CLI support for v142”, and “Windows 10 SDK (most recent version)”.

    If you would like to make your own installer you will also need Inno Setup, specifically the unicode version; tested with version 5.5.9.

  • Install whichever version of MSYS2 is appropriate for your version Windows. Most commonly, you will have a 64-bit Windows and hence want the “x86_64” installer; for concreteness the rest of these instructions assume this. (Technical note: even if you want to build 32-bit binaries, if your Windows is 64-bit you want the x86_64 installer.) Follow the instructions on the webpage to update everything to the very latest MSYS2 (pacman -Sy pacman; pacman -Syu; pacman -Su etc.).

  • Make a shortcut to c:\msys64\msys2.exe as you will be using it all the time; alternatively, pin mys2.exe to your taskbar.

  • Install some additional packages:

    pacman -S git make nano openssh perl tar unzip wget winpty patch
  • Install your favorite text editor, for example you can install Emacs via:

    pacman -S  mingw-w64-x86_64-emacs
  • Make it so that MinGW, Python, and Inno Setup are all in your PATH, as well as work around some stupid bug, by making the end of your “~/.bash_profile” file to read:

    PATH=$PATH:'/c/Program Files (x86)/Inno Setup 5'
    export PATH
    alias emacs="/mingw64/bin/emacs"
    winpty bash; exit

    For example, do:

    nano ~/.bash_profile
  • Make sure you have the right version of Python in your path by typing:

    python --version

    You should see something like Python 3.7.4.

  • Use pip to install some basic tools:

    python -m pip install --upgrade pip setuptools wheel  # Upgrades pip to the current version.
    python -m pip install pyreadline sphinx cython cypari pyx
  • Fetch the latest development versions of the source straight from the t3m repository:

    git clone
    git clone
    git clone
  • Build the components, from easiest to hardest, and then test:

    cd plink
    python pip_install
    cd ../Spherogram
    python pip_install
    cd ../SnapPy
    python pip_install
    cd ..
    python -m SnapPy.test
  • To run the app, you can just do:

    python -m
  • To build the binary installer, you need PyInstaller:

    python -m pip install pyinstaller

    To build the binary installer do:

    cd windows_exe

    You will need to close the SnapPy window that pops up here to complete the build process.

  • Useful tips for those coming from Unix. In MSYS2, your home directory is really something like:

    c:\msys2\home\Nathan Dunfield

    whereas your Windows 10 home directory is:

    c:\Users\Nathan Dunfield

    It is handy to have symbolic links from your MSYS2 home directory to the Downloads and Desktop folders on the Windows side. See this discussion, but basically you start a “Command Prompt” as Administrator and do:

    cd "C:\msys64\home\Nathan Dunfield"
    mklink /D Desktop "C:\Users\Nathan Dunfield\Desktop"
    mklink /D Downloads "C:\Users\Nathan Dunfield\Downloads"
  • To build CyPari, first install the 32-bit gcc compiler:

    pacman -S mingw-w64-i686-gcc

    Then open a MinGW32 terminal window, which is different than a MSYS2 terminal, and can be started via c:msys64mingw32.exe. This will put the 32-bit gcc in your path and set the correct “uname”. Now do:

    git clone
    cd CyPari
    python build --compiler=mingw32
    python install
    python -m cypari.test   # About 30 tests will fail.

    Warning: CyPari will not build if there are spaces in the path to the CyPari directory.


See the installation instructions on generic Unix for how to build SnapPy from source.