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Contributing to Open MCT

This document describes the process of contributing to Open MCT as well as the standards that will be applied when evaluating contributions.

Please be aware that additional agreements will be necessary before we can accept changes from external contributors.


The short version:

  1. Write your contribution.
  2. Make sure your contribution meets code, test, and commit message standards as described below.
  3. Submit a pull request from a topic branch back to master. Include a check list, as described below. (Optionally, assign this to a specific member for review.)
  4. Respond to any discussion. When the reviewer decides it's ready, they will merge back master and fill out their own check list.

Contribution Process

Open MCT uses git for software version control, and for branching and merging. The central repository is at


References to roles are made throughout this document. These are not intended to reflect titles or long-term job assignments; rather, these are used as descriptors to refer to members of the development team performing tasks in the check-in process. These roles are:

  • Author: The individual who has made changes to files in the software repository, and wishes to check these in.
  • Reviewer: The individual who reviews changes to files before they are checked in.
  • Integrator: The individual who performs the task of merging these files. Usually the reviewer.


Three basic types of branches may be included in the above repository:

  1. Master branch
  2. Topic branches
  3. Developer branches

Branches which do not fit into the above categories may be created and used during the course of development for various reasons, such as large-scale refactoring of code or implementation of complex features which may cause instability. In these exceptional cases it is the responsibility of the developer who initiates the task which motivated this branching to communicate to the team the role of these branches and any associated procedures for the duration of their use.

Master Branch

The role of the master branches is to represent the latest "ready for test" version of the software. Source code on the master branch has undergone peer review, and will undergo regular automated testing with notification on failure. Master branches may be unstable (particularly for recent features), but the intent is for the stability of any features on master branches to be non-decreasing. It is the shared responsibility of authors, reviewers, and integrators to ensure this.

Topic Branches

Topic branches are used by developers to perform and record work on issues.

Topic branches need not necessarily be stable, even when pushed to the central repository; in fact, the practice of making incremental commits while working on an issue and pushing these to the central repository is encouraged, to avoid lost work and to share work-in-progress. (Small commits also help isolate changes, which can help in identifying which change introduced a defect, particularly when that defect went unnoticed for some time, e.g. using git bisect.)

Topic branches should be named according to their corresponding issue identifiers, all lower case, without hyphens. (e.g. branch mct9 would refer to issue #9.)

In some cases, work on an issue may warrant the use of multiple divergent branches; for instance, when a developer wants to try more than one solution and compare them, or when a "dead end" is reached and an initial approach to resolving an issue needs to be abandoned. In these cases, a short suffix should be added to the additional branches; this may be simply a single character (e.g. wtd481b) or, where useful, a descriptive term for what distinguishes the branches (e.g. wtd481verbose). It is the responsibility of the author to communicate which branch is intended to be merged to both the reviewer and the integrator.

Developer Branches

Developer branches are any branches used for purposes outside of the scope of the above; e.g. to try things out, or maintain a "my latest stuff" branch that is not delayed by the review and integration process. These may be pushed to the central repository, and may follow any naming convention desired so long as the owner of the branch is identifiable, and so long as the name chosen could not be mistaken for a topic or master branch.


When development is complete on an issue, the first step toward merging it back into the master branch is to file a Pull Request. The contributions should meet code, test, and commit message standards as described below, and the pull request should include a completed author checklist, also as described below. Pull requests may be assigned to specific team members when appropriate (e.g. to draw to a specific person's attention).

Code review should take place using discussion features within the pull request. When the reviewer is satisfied, they should add a comment to the pull request containing the reviewer checklist (from below) and complete the merge back to the master branch.


Contributions to Open MCT are expected to meet the following standards. In addition, reviewers should use general discretion before accepting changes.

Code Standards

JavaScript sources in Open MCT must satisfy JSLint under its default settings. This is verified by the command line build.

Code Guidelines

JavaScript sources in Open MCT should:

  • Use four spaces for indentation. Tabs should not be used.
  • Include JSDoc for any exposed API (e.g. public methods, constructors).
  • Include non-JSDoc comments as-needed for explaining private variables, methods, or algorithms when they are non-obvious.
  • Define one public class per script, expressed as a constructor function returned from an AMD-style module.
  • Follow “Java-like” naming conventions. These includes:
    • Classes should use camel case, first letter capitalized (e.g. SomeClassName).
    • Methods, variables, fields, and function names should use camel case, first letter lower-case (e.g. someVariableName).
    • Constants (variables or fields which are meant to be declared and initialized statically, and never changed) should use only capital letters, with underscores between words (e.g. SOME_CONSTANT).
    • File names should be the name of the exported class, plus a .js extension (e.g. SomeClassName.js).
  • Avoid anonymous functions, except when functions are short (a few lines) and/or their inclusion makes sense within the flow of the code (e.g. as arguments to a forEach call).
  • Avoid deep nesting (especially of functions), except where necessary (e.g. due to closure scope).
  • End with a single new-line character.
  • Expose public methods by declaring them on the class's prototype.
  • Within a given function's scope, do not mix declarations and imperative code, and present these in the following order:
    • First, variable declarations and initialization.
    • Second, function declarations.
    • Third, imperative statements.
    • Finally, the returned value.

Deviations from Open MCT code style guidelines require two-party agreement, typically from the author of the change and its reviewer.

Code Example

/*global define*/

 * Bundles should declare themselves as namespaces in whichever source
 * file is most like the "main point of entry" to the bundle.
 * @namespace some/bundle
    function (OtherClass) {
        "use strict";

         * A summary of how to use this class goes here.
         * @constructor
         * @memberof some/bundle
        function ExampleClass() {

        // Methods which are not intended for external use should
        // not have JSDoc (or should be marked @private)
        ExampleClass.prototype.privateMethod = function () {

         * A summary of this method goes here.
         * @param {number} n a parameter
         * @returns {number} a return value
        ExampleClass.prototype.publicMethod = function (n) {
            return n * 2;

        return ExampleClass;

Test Standards

Automated testing shall occur whenever changes are merged into the main development branch and must be confirmed alongside any pull request.

Automated tests are typically unit tests which exercise individual software components. Tests are subject to code review along with the actual implementation, to ensure that tests are applicable and useful.

Examples of useful tests:

  • Tests which replicate bugs (or their root causes) to verify their resolution.
  • Tests which reflect details from software specifications.
  • Tests which exercise edge or corner cases among inputs.
  • Tests which verify expected interactions with other components in the system.

During automated testing, code coverage metrics will be reported. Line coverage must remain at or above 80%.

Commit Message Standards

Commit messages should:

  • Contain a one-line subject, followed by one line of white space, followed by one or more descriptive paragraphs, each separated by one  line of white space.
  • Contain a short (usually one word) reference to the feature or subsystem the commit effects, in square brackets, at the start of the subject line (e.g. [Documentation] Draft of check-in process).
  • Contain a reference to a relevant issue number in the body of the commit.
    • This is important for traceability; while branch names also provide this, you cannot tell from looking at a commit what branch it was authored on.
    • This may be omitted if the relevant issue is otherwise obvious from the commit history (that is, if using git log from the relevant commit directly leads to a similar issue reference) to minimize clutter.
  • Describe the change that was made, and any useful rationale therefore.
    • Comments in code should explain what things do, commit messages describe how they came to be done that way.
  • Provide sufficient information for a reviewer to understand the changes made and their relationship to previous code.

Commit messages should not:

  • Exceed 54 characters in length on the subject line.
  • Exceed 72 characters in length in the body of the commit,
    • Except where necessary to maintain the structure of machine-readable or machine-generated text (e.g. error messages).

See Contributing to a Project from Pro Git by Shawn Chacon and Ben Straub for a bit of the rationale behind these standards.

Issue Reporting

Issues are tracked at

Issues should include:

  • A short description of the issue encountered.
  • A longer-form description of the issue encountered. When possible, steps to reproduce the issue.
  • When possible, a description of the impact of the issue. What use case does it impede?
  • An assessment of the severity of the issue.

Issue severity is categorized as follows (in ascending order):

  • Trivial: Minimal impact on the usefulness and functionality of the software; a "nice-to-have."
  • (Unspecified): Major loss of functionality or impairment of use.
  • Critical: Large-scale loss of functionality or impairment of use, such that remaining utility becomes marginal.
  • Blocker: Harmful or otherwise unacceptable behavior. Must fix.

Check Lists

The following check lists should be completed and attached to pull requests when they are filed (author checklist) and when they are merged (reviewer checklist).

Author Checklist

  1. Changes address original issue?
  2. Unit tests included and/or updated with changes?
  3. Command line build passes?
  4. Changes have been smoke-tested?

Reviewer Checklist

  1. Changes appear to address issue?
  2. Appropriate unit tests included?
  3. Code style and in-line documentation are appropriate?
  4. Commit messages meet standards?
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