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Tips for contributors

  • Please make pull requests against next, not master. Ledger follows a git-flow branching model, in which development happens on the next branch and is subsequently merged into master for releases.
  • If you're making changes to files for which the Travis build is not relevant, please add [ci skip] to the end of the commit message.
  • Report bugs using GitHub Issues.


Developing the Ledger software uses a number different tools, not all of which will be familiar to all developers.

Boost: a standard set of C++ libraries. Most Boost libraries consist of inline functions and templates in header files.

Boost.Python: C++ library which enables seamless interoperability between C++ and the Python programming language.

Cheetah: a Python templating engine, used by ./python/

CMake: A cross platform system for building from source code. It uses the CMakeLists.txt files.

Doxygen: generates programming documentation from source code files. Primarily used on C++ sources, but works on all. Uses the doc/ file.

GCC: Gnu Compiler Collection, which includes the gcc compiler and gcov coverage/profiler tool.

clang: C language family frontend for LLVM, which includes the clang compiler.

GMP: Gnu Multiple Precision Arithmetic Library provides arbitrary precision math.

MPFR: Gnu Multiple Precision Floating-point Library with correct rounding.

Markdown: A typesetter format that produces html files from .md files. Note that GitHub automatically renders .md files.

SHA1: a marginally secure cryptographic hash function, used only for signing the license file.

Texinfo: Gnu documentation typesetter that produces html and pdf files from the doc/\*.texi files.

Travis CI: a hosted continuous integration service that builds and runs tests each commit posted to GitHub. Each build creates a log, updates a small badge at the top left of the main project's, and emails the author of the commit if any tests fail.

utfcpp: a library for handling utf-8 in a variety of C++ versions.


The source tree can be confusing to a new developer. Here is a selective orientation:

./acprep: a custom thousand-line script to install dependencies, grab updates, and build. It also creates \*.cmake, ./CmakeFiles/ and other CMake temporary files. Use ./acprep --help for more information.

./ user readme file in markdown format, also used as the project description on GitHub.

./contrib/: contributed scripts of random quality and completion. They usually require editing to run.

./doc/: documentation, licenses, and tools for generating documents such as the pdf manual.

./lib/: a couple of libraries used in development.

./python/: samples using the Python ledger module.

./src/: the C++ header and source files in a flat directory.

./test/: a testing harness with subdirectories full of tests

./tools/: an accretion of tools, mostly small scripts, to aid development


If you are going to be working on Ledger, you'll want to enable both debug builds (which are the default, using acprep), and also the use of pre-compiled headers. To do this, specify your compiler as either clang++ or g++ as follows:

mkdir build
./acprep --compiler=clang++
cd build

This will set up a debug build using clang++ (and pre-compiled headers, which is enabled by the combination of those two), and then start a build.

For even quicker rebuilds, try the Ninja build tool, which is very fast at determining what to rebuild, and automatically takes advantage of multiple cores:

mkdir build
./acprep --compiler=clang++ --ninja
cd build
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