Quick start

This section gives a high-level overview of how to use the colcon command.

TL;DR

The following is an example workflow and sequence of commands using default settings:

$ mkdir -p /tmp/workspace/src     # Make a workspace directory with a src subdirectory
$ cd /tmp/workspace               # Change directory to the workspace root
$ <...>                           # Populate the `src` directory with packages
$ colcon list -g                  # List all packages in the workspace and their dependencies
$ colcon build                    # Build all packages in the workspace
$ catkin test                     # Test all packages in the workspace
$ catkin test-result --all        # Enumerate all test results
$ . install/local_setup.bash      # Setup the environment to use the built packages
$ <...>                           # Use the built packages

The most commonly used arguments for the build and test verbs are to only process a specific package or a specific package including all the recursive dependencies it needs.

$ colcon build --packages-select <name-of-pkg>
$ colcon build --packages-up-to <name-of-pkg>

Note

The log files of the latest invocation can be found in the log directory which is by default in ~/.colcon/log/latest.

Note

If you want to see the output of each package after it finished you can pass the argument --event-handler console_cohesion+.

Build ROS 2 packages

The process of building ROS 2 packages is described in the ROS 2 building from source instructions. Using colcon instead of the recommended tool ament_tools only changes a couple of the steps.

Instead of invoking ament build you can invoke colcon.

$ colcon build

In order to use the built packages you need to source the install/local_setup.<ext> script mentioned in the instructions.

For detailed information how command line arguments of ament_tools are mapped to colcon please see the ament_tools migration guide.

Build ROS 1 packages

The process of building ROS 1 packages is described in the distro specific building from source instructions. Using colcon instead of the recommended tool catkin_make_isolated only changes a couple of the steps.

Note

colcon-ros requires at least version 0.7.13 of catkin which provides a new CMake option the tool uses.

Instead of invoking catkin_make_isolated --install you can invoke colcon.

$ colcon build

Note

colcon does by design not support the concept of a “devel space” as it exists in ROS 1. Instead it requires each package to be installed so each package must declare an install step in order to work with colcon.

In order to use the built packages you need to source the install/local_setup.<ext> rather than the setup.<ext> script mentioned in the instructions.

For detailed information how command line arguments of catkin_make_isolated are mapped to colcon please see the catkin_make_isolated migration guide. For detailed information how command line arguments of catkin_tools are mapped to colcon please see the catkin_tools migration guide.

Build Gazebo and the ignition packages

In more recent versions Gazebo has been refactored to split out a lot of the functionality into ignition libraries. While that makes the project more modular it also increases the effort necessary to build all these packages from source. colcon can make this process easy again.

In order to build a specific Gazebo version you need the right versions of the ignition libraries. At the time of writing Gazebo 9 is the latest release so we will use that for the purpose of this example. The following steps use a .repos to specify the various repositories with specific branches.

$ mkdir -p /tmp/gazebo/src && cd /tmp/gazebo
$ wget https://gist.githubusercontent.com/dirk-thomas/6c1ca2a7f5f8c70ce7d3e1ef10a9f678/raw/490aaba72321284af956c9db12f9ef1550ef88cf/Gazebo9.repos
$ vcs import src < Gazebo9.repos

Note

The Gist containing the repository list should be replaced with an “official” URL coming from the Gazebo project.

Before building the workspace with colcon the steps also fetch some additional metadata for Gazebo from a public repository.

$ colcon metadata add default https://raw.githubusercontent.com/colcon/colcon-metadata-repository/master/index.yaml
$ colcon metadata update
$ colcon build

To run Gazebo which requires environment variables for e.g. the model paths the same commands as for other packages can be used. Using the additional metadata the source script will also automatically source the Gazebo specific file share/gazebo/setup.sh which defines these environment variables.

$ . install/local_setup.bash
$ gazebo