Software Templates

A few tools and templates for building a software project

Software projects are often unique with specifications that exceed the capabilities of a single template. However, there are some cases where a template can save a lot of time and overhead. This document will hopefully provide ARFC members with the individual tools to mix and match as they create software projects.

Existing Templates

There are some open source projects that provide high quality templates that can be useful in software development. If your project falls under the range of capabilities they have you can save a lot of time by using them or adapting them to start your project.


Shablona is a template repository that is designed for scientific python projects. The template comes with everything a small-scale project might need, and can be easily adapted for python projects.

To get a sense of whether or not using the Shablona template is appropriate for your project, check out the example provided.


Cookiecutter is not a template repository like Shablona, instead it is a command-line utility that allows you to build a repository from a “pantry” of templates. This project has an extensive Read the Docs, and it’s definitely worth a review before you decide.

Additional documents that will give you a sense of whether or not to use this utility:

  1. Getting to Know Cookiecutter
  2. Usage
  3. Building a Cookiecutter

Software Project Parts

Even if neither of the above templates fit your requirements, there are still some pieces that might benefit your project. JOSS (The Journal of Open Source Software) has a useful review checklist for reviewers that you should review before beginning your project.

Make Files

Makefile is a scripting tool that compiles or re-compiles a program or process through a user-defined command in the command-line: make. Makefiles streamline the build process for project contributors or reviewers.


CMake Files

CMake generates makefiles, similar Make or a makefile, except that it is much more compatible with C++.


Snakemake Files

Snakemake is a workflow engine with a python-based language and an optimizing execution environment. It allows developers to write human-readable workflows that document themselves.


Docker Files

A Dockerfile is a text file that contains commands that can be used from the command line to generate images. Like a Makefile, docker build can automate a series of command line instructions. Several links have been provided as informational resources, and there exists a template file.

Here is a template dockerfile, which also has a lot of useful information on what different components do.


Automated Testing

Continuous integration with CircleCI allows users to verify that their contributions do not break any software functionality. CircleCI automatically builds environments and executes tests before every pull request. An example repository is PyNE, which employs CircleCI to run multiple tests on every pull request. Prof. Huff’s book gives an overview of testing approaches.



Every repository that is a part of the ARFC Github Organization should have some form of license. Choosing a license can seem daunting but for a simple BSD-3 Clause will cover many software projects. If your project uses pieces of code under a different license, there are many ways you can address it.

One suggestion is that you create separate directories for the code that is under the other license. In the separate directory, you can then include the license that covers the code in that directory.

Another suggestion is that you add all the licenses to the docs folder and then indicate which files or directories are covered under the respective licenses in the files in the directory covered by it, or in the file itself.

There are many other ways to abide by differing licenses, the above are simply suggestions and should not be taken as legal advice. Regardless of the method you use, make sure you are following the requirements of any software you are using or adapting.


Labels and Projects

Make sure that your repository has the ability to add all of the ARFC labels and projects. The labels and projects are an important part of the workflow in the organization, and they help categorize issues and pull requests.