This document is one of More SageMath Tutorials. You may edit it on github. \(\def\NN{\mathbb{N}}\) \(\def\ZZ{\mathbb{Z}}\) \(\def\QQ{\mathbb{Q}}\) \(\def\RR{\mathbb{R}}\) \(\def\CC{\mathbb{C}}\)

Tutorial: Editing the Sage sources

Prerequisite: this tutorial assumes that you can open a terminal, and that you can run sage by typing in:

> sage
| Sage Version 4.6.2, Release Date: 2011-02-25                       |
| Type notebook() for the GUI, and license() for information.        |
sage: 1 + 1

1. Choose a function that you want to modify

In this tutorial, you will edit the code and documentation of some Sage function. If you found a typo in the Sage documentation, or have some simple function that you want to add, please go ahead for it! You can also pick one of the New Beginner Tickets. As an example, we will play around with the inverse method of permutations:

sage: P = Permutation([3,1,2])
sage: P.inverse()
[2, 3, 1]

2. Find the sources

Use ? to fetch the documentation of the chosen method. Up to some exceptions, the file containing the source code of this method will appear in the first lines:

sage: P.inverse?
Type:               instancemethod
Base Class: <type 'instancemethod'>
String Form:        <bound method Permutation_class.inverse of [3, 1, 2]>
Namespace:  Interactive
File:               /opt/sage/local/lib/python2.6/site-packages/sage/combinat/
Definition: P.inverse(self)
   Returns the inverse of a permutation


      sage: Permutation([3,8,5,10,9,4,6,1,7,2]).inverse()
      [8, 10, 1, 6, 3, 7, 9, 2, 5, 4]
      sage: Permutation([2, 4, 1, 5, 3]).inverse()
      [3, 1, 5, 2, 4]

Hence, the sources are in /opt/sage/local/lib/python2.6/site-packages/sage/combinat/

On the computer where this tutorial has been written, /opt/sage is the root directory of Sage, which is usually called SAGE_ROOT. Please adapt all the examples below to your particular setup. Then, local/lib/python2.6/site-packages/ is the subdirectory where Python code gets installed. Finaly sage/combinat/ is the file containing the Python module sage.combinat.permutation where this method is implemented:

sage: P.__module__

3. A first modification (cheaty variant)


as a first step, we will cheat a bit. Please make sure to continue on to the next steps!

3.1 Open the source file

Open the file with your favorite text editor, typically via the file browser. Here, we use the text editory gedit which is installed by default on most distributions of Linux, as well as on the Sage windows install. We call it from the terminal:

> gedit /opt/sage/local/lib/python2.6/site-packages/sage/combinat/

Search for the method definition in the file:

def inverse(self):
    Returns the inverse of a permutation
    w = range(len(self))

3.1 Edit the code

Insert “Hi there!” somewhere in the documentation string of the method.

3.2 Check your modification

Rerun Sage. In the notebook, you can do this via Action -> Restart worksheet. Then, check that “Hi there!” indeed appears in the documentation of inverse:

sage: P = Permutation([3,2])
sage: P.inverse?
   Returns the inverse of a permutation

   Hi there!


4. A real modification

We are now hitting a little annoyance in the Sage workflow which should disappear at some point. The file we modified is in fact not the original source file. To do things properly, we need to modify instead /opt/sage/src/sage/combinat/

> gedit /opt/sage/local/lib/python2.6/site-packages/sage/combinat/

Edit the documentation of inverse to add an example showing that the inverse of the empty partition is the empty partition. Once this is done, rebuild sage with:

> sage -b


Depending on the state of your Sage installation, this step may recompile some bits of Sage, requiring the standard development tools (compiler, …) to be installed on your machine. See the Sage source installation instructions.

Rerun sage, and check that your example shows up in the documentation.

5. Test the modifications

Are you sure your modifications are correct? Really sure?

Make sure that all the examples in the source code still work.

> cd /opt/sage/src/ > sage -t sage/combinat/

If some tests failed, edit the file again.

6. Rebuild the documentation

Build the documentation and make sure there are no errors or warnings:

> sage -b && sage -docbuild reference html

Open the html version of the documentation in your browser and make sure it looks OK:

> open /opt/sage/src/doc/output/html/en/reference/sage/combinat/permutation.html

7. Oops, what did I modify?


Everything below needs to be updated to git

Do not worry about editing the Sage sources. Sage uses the version control system Mercurial ( hg or sage -hg ) to manage all of its source code. Mercurial stores the evolution of every single file of Sage since the beginning. At any point, you can track your modifications to the original sources:

> **cd /opt/sage/src/**
> **sage -hg status**
M sage/combinat/
> **sage -hg diff**
diff --git a/sage/combinat/ b/sage/combinat/
--- a/sage/combinat/
+++ b/sage/combinat/
@@ -1207,6 +1207,8 @@ class Permutation_class(CombinatorialObj
             [8, 10, 1, 6, 3, 7, 9, 2, 5, 4]
             sage: Permutation([2, 4, 1, 5, 3]).inverse()
             [3, 1, 5, 2, 4]
+            sage: Permutation([]).inverse()
+            []
         w = range(len(self))
         for i,j in enumerate(self):

And even revert your modifications. Try it now! Make a random modification to the code of inverse. Rebuild Sage and run the tests to check that you actually broke this method. Then, use:

> **sage -hg revert --all**


This really reverts all your modifications! Use with care!

8. Streamlining the process

In case Mercurial is installed on your machine, you may use hg as a shortcut for sage -hg. You can also add the following line to your ~/.bashrc file:

**alias hg='sage -hg'**

I verify that it works:

> hg –version Mercurial Distributed SCM (version 1.6.4)

Copyright (C) 2005-2010 Matt Mackall <> and others This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

To learn more about mercurial (highly recommended), see the Mercurial tutorial.

9. Conclusion

Congratulations, you can now adapt Sage to your taste! Go ahead, explore the Sage sources. Play around with them. Modify them. They are all yours.

We will see in a later tutorial how you can then share your modifications with others or contribute them back to Sage.