Skip to content
Bootstrap an OBO Library ontology
HTML Python Shell Dockerfile Makefile Batchfile Ruby
Branch: master
Clone or download
Fetching latest commit…
Cannot retrieve the latest commit at this time.


Build Status

Initialize a Git repo for managing your ontology the OBO Library way!

For more details, see

Instructions: Create a new ontology project

We will walk you though the steps to make a new ontology project

1. Install and Start Docker

See below for an alternative protocol where you install the software yourself rather than use Docker

2. Download the wrapper script and pull latest ODK version

  • Linux/Mac:

  • PC: seed-via-docker.bat

  • First, make sure you have Docker running (you will see the Docker whale in your toolbar on a Mac)

  • To make sure you have the latest version of the ODK installed, run in the command line

    docker pull obolibrary/odkfull

NOTE The very first time you run this it may be slow, while docker downloads necessary images. Don't worry, subsequent runs should be much faster!

3. Run the wrapper script

You can either pass in a project.yaml file that specifies your ontology project setup, or you can pass arguments on the command line.

Passing arguments on the command line:

./ -d po -d ro -d pato -u cmungall -t "Triffid Behavior ontology" triffo

Using a the predefined examples/triffo/project.yaml file:

./ -C examples/triffo/project.yaml

You can add a -c (lowercase) just before the -C (capital c) in the command to first delete any previous attempt to generate your ontology with the ODK, and then replaces it with a completely new one.

This will create your starter files in target/triffid-behavior-ontology. It will also prepare an initial release and initialize a local repository (not yet pushed to your Git host site such as GitHub or GitLab).

You can customize at this stage, or (recommended) after making an initial push to your git host.

4. Push to Git hosting website

The development kit will automatically initialize a git project, add all files and commit.

You will need to create a project on you Git hosting site.

For GitHub:

  1. Go to:
  2. The owner MUST be the org you selected with the -u option. The name MUST be the one you set with -t.
  3. Do not initialize with a README (you already have one)
  4. Click Create
  5. See the section under "…or push an existing repository from the command line"

For GitLab:

  1. Go to:
  2. The owner MUST be the org you selected with the -u option. The name MUST be the one you set with -t.
  3. Do not initialize with a README (you already have one)
  4. Click 'Create project'
  5. See the section under "Push an existing Git repository"

Follow the instructions there. E.g.

cd target/triffid-behavior-ontology
git remote add origin
git push -u origin master

Note: you can now mv target/triffid-behavior-ontology to anywhere you like in your home directory. Or you can do a fresh checkout from github.

Next Steps: Edit and release cycle

In your repo you will see a file that has been customized for your project. Follow these instructions.

Generally the cycle is to:

  • branch
  • the edit the edit.owl file
  • make test
  • git commit
  • git push

To make a release

make prepare_release

Note that any make step can be preceded by if you have Docker installed:

sh make prepare_release

OBO Library metadata

The assumption here is that you are ahdering to OBO principles and want to eventually submit to OBO. Your repo will contain stub metadata files to help you do this.

You can create pull requests for your ontology on the OBO Foundry. See the src/metadata file for more details.

For more documentation, see


You will want to also:

  • enable travis
  • enable zenodo (optional)

See the file that has been generated for your project.


If you have issues, file them here:

Some things to check:

  • if something goes wrong you can try again. You may want to remove the target dir, or use the -c option
  • make sure your ontid has no spaces
  • if your title has spaces, enclose it in quotes


You will likely want to customize the build process, and of course to edit the ontology.

We recommend that you do not edit the main Makefile, but instead the supplemental one (e.g. myont.Makefile) is src/ontology

Regenerating configuration files in an existing project


You can recreate the Makefile by running create_makefile -C project.yaml

Adapting an existing ontology repo

The ODK is designed for creating a new repo for a new ontology. It can still be used to help figure out how to migrate an existing git repository to the ODK structure. There are different ways to do this.

  • Manually compare your ontology against the template folder and make necessary adjustments
  • Run the seed script as if creating a new repo. Manually compare this with your existing repo and use git mv to rearrange, and adding any missing files by copying them across and doing a git add
  • Create a new repo de novo and abandon your existing one, using, for example, github issue mover to move tickets across.

Obviously the second method is not ideal as you lose your git history. Note even with git mv history tracking becomes harder

If you have built your ontology using a previous version of ODK, migration of your setup is unfortunately a manual process. In general you do not absolutely need to upgrade your setup, but doing so will bring advantages in terms of aligning with emerging standards ways of doing things. The less customization you do on your repo the easier it should be to migrate.

Consult the file for changes made between releases to assist in upgrading.

More documentation

You will find additional documentation in the src/ontology/ file in your repo

Alterantive to Docker

You can run the seed script without docker, you will need Python3.6 or higher and Java. See requirements.txt for python requirements.

You can’t perform that action at this time.