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OpenDSA (Development Channel)

This is the development repository for the OpenDSA project.

The goal of the OpenDSA project is to create open-source courseware for use in Data Structures and Algorithms courses, that deeply integrates textbook-quality content with algorithm visualizations and interactive, automatically assessed exercises.

System documentation can be found at


  1. Install Docker.
  2. Install Git
  3. Clone this repository
    • For reading only: git clone git://
    • For read/write: git clone
  4. Start the service: docker-compose up (and leave this running)
    • The first build of images takes under 5 minutes. Running them later takes under 10 seconds.
    • The service is ready when you see opendsa_1 | * Serving Flask app ""
    • This terminal will not be usable at this point since it is a console for the web server.
    • You can stop the containers by sending an interrupt signal (Press CTRL + C) or using the docker-compose down command.
  5. Build any books from within the container:
    • In order to interact with OpenDSA, you must access a shell in the running container with docker-compose exec opendsa bash in another console in the root of the OpenDSA directory.
      • Note: If you are on Windows using the MINGW64 shell, you might need to use the command: winpty docker-compose exec opendsa bash
    • To make the book defined in config/Test.json, now use the command make Test
  6. See your created book at:
  7. In order to stop the container, you can use the CTRL + C (sending an interrupt signal).

Toolchain Installation

For more information on OpenDSA's toolchain: See our documentation here

OpenDSA makes use of the JSAV data structures visualization library. Nearly all developers and users can make do with the version of JSAV distributed with OpenDSA. If you really need the most up-to-date version of JSAV, you can find it at

The source files for the OpenDSA documentation can be found in the "Doc" directory. Changes to the documentation source, once pushed back to the repository, will automatically revise the public version at You can also re-compile the documentation by going to the "Doc" directory and typing "make". The result will then be in "Doc/manual".

Common Errors

The Docker containers used by OpenDSA may have a different set of command-line tools than your host operating system. Ensure that you run the commands in the correct environment. For example, the make commands are only meant to be run within a running container.

If you are on Windows, you may run into issues with line endings. If you do, simply open Git Bash and run $ dos2unix filename to fix them. This will most likely happen on a script file.

If you are on Windows, you may run into issues with any docker exec commands (such as make ssh). To solve them, you may have to start any such command with winpty.

If any of the python packages (or any of the ruby gems) have been upgraded since the last time the container has been run, you will need to run docker-compose build before you docker-compose up.

If you are using the provided Docker containers and they are out of date:

  1. Remove the currently running containers and images with docker-compose down
  2. Pull the updated version of the images with docker-compose pull
  3. Start up the server as you normally do with docker-compose up

Directory Structure

The major components in the directory structure are as follows:

AV: Source code for various algorithm visualizations and associated exercises. Subdirectories divide the content by topical areas.

Books: Created by the build process, this contains compiled versions of "textbooks".

config: This holds configuration files for specific books (whose output will go to the "Books" directory).

Doc: Documentation. Currently includes a template for Khan Academy multiple choice questions, and documentation for using the various Sphinx directives that we have created.

Exercises: Our Khan Academy Infrastructure-based exercises. Subdirectories divide the content by topic.

JSAV: The JavaScript Algorithm Visualization library. JSAV is sourced from and is updated occasionally. More information about JSAV can be found here:

lib: System-wide library files

Makefile: Primarily for source file validation and to generate some of the "textbooks" to the Books directory.

MIT-license.txt: The license file. OpenDSA is distributed under an MIT open source license.

ODSAkhan-exercises: Obsolete, will be removed soon. We used to keep our own hacked-up copy of the Khan Academy exercise framework.

QBank: A question bank system under development. This is a submodule maintained at: This file

RST: Contains our custom Sphinx directives used during the build process and the source for tutorial content written in reStructuredText (RST) format and divided by language and sub-divided by topic area.

SourceCode: The sourcecode for code snippets contained in the tutorials. Ultimately, we hope to support code snippets in Processing (a Java dialect), Python, and JavaScript. In this way, instructors would be able to generate versions of tutorials that support any or all of these three languages.

Storyboard: Materials related to "storyboarding" designs for tutorials. This concept never gained much traction, and this might be removed at some point.

WebServer: A command for invoking a simple python-based web server that will enable you to run the Khan Academy exercises if your machine is not running a true web server. You only need to have python installed for this to work.

khan-exercises: The Khan Academy exercise framework. This is a submodule maintained at: This is a mirror of the actual khan-exercises repository (, that we buffer here for stability.