1.1 Getting started



This tutorial requires signac, so make sure to install the package before starting. The easiest way to do so is using conda:

$ conda config --add channels conda-forge

$ conda install signac

or pip:

pip install signac --user

Please refer to the documentation for detailed instructions on how to install signac.

After succesful installation, the following cell should execute without error:

import signac

assert signac.__version__ >= "1.5.0"

We start by removing all data which might be left-over from previous executions of this tutorial.

%rm -rf projects/tutorial/workspace

A minimal example

For this tutorial we want to compute the volume of an ideal gas as a function of its pressure and thermal energy using the ideal gas equation

\(p V = N kT\), where

\(N\) refers to the system size, \(p\) to the pressure, \(kT\) to the thermal energy and \(V\) is the volume of the system.

def V_idg(N, kT, p):
    return N * kT / p

We can execute the complete study in just a few lines of code. First, we initialize the project directory and get a project handle:

import signac

project = signac.init_project(name="TutorialProject", root="projects/tutorial")

We iterate over the variable of interest p and construct a complete state point sp which contains all the meta data associated with our data. In this simple example the meta data is very compact, but in principle the state point may be highly complex.

Next, we obtain a job handle and store the result of the calculation within the job document. The job document is a persistent dictionary for storage of simple key-value pairs. Here, we exploit that the state point dictionary sp can easily be passed into the V_idg() function using the keyword expansion syntax (**sp).

for p in 0.1, 1.0, 10.0:
    sp = {"p": p, "kT": 1.0, "N": 1000}
    job = project.open_job(sp)
    job.document["V"] = V_idg(**sp)

We can then examine our results by iterating over the data space:

for job in project:
    print(job.sp.p, job.document["V"])
0.1 10000.0
10.0 100.0
1.0 1000.0

That’s it.

Ok, there’s more… Let’s have a closer look at the individual components.

The Basics

The signac data management framework assists the user in managing the data space of individual projects. All data related to one or multiple projects is stored in a workspace, which by default is a directory called workspace within the project’s root directory.


The core idea is to tightly couple state points, unique sets of parameters, with their associated data. In general, the parameter space needs to contain all parameters that will affect our data.

For the ideal gas that is a 3-dimensional space spanned by the thermal energy kT, the pressure p and the system size N. These are the input parameters for our calculations, while the calculated volume V is the output data. In terms of signac this relationship is represented by an instance of Job.

We use the open_job() method to get a job handle for a specific set of input parameters.

job = project.open_job({"p": 1.0, "kT": 1.0, "N": 1000})

The job handle tightly couples our input parameters (p, kT, N) with the storage location of the output data. You can inspect both the input parameters and the storage location explicitly:

{'p': 1.0, 'kT': 1.0, 'N': 1000}

For convenience, a job’s state point may also be accessed via the short-hand sp attribute. For example, to access the pressure value p we can use either of the two following expressions:


Each job has a unique id representing the state point. This means opening a job with the exact same input parameters is guaranteed to have the exact same id.

job2 = project.open_job({"kT": 1.0, "N": 1000, "p": 1.0})
print(job.id, job2.id)
ee617ad585a90809947709a7a45dda9a ee617ad585a90809947709a7a45dda9a

The job id is used to uniquely identify data associated with a specific state point. Think of the job as a container that is used to store all data associated with the state point. For example, it should be safe to assume that all files that are stored within the job’s workspace directory are tightly coupled to the job’s statepoint.


Let’s store the volume calculated for each state point in a file called V.txt within the job’s workspace.

import os

fn_out = os.path.join(job.workspace(), "V.txt")
with open(fn_out, "w") as file:
    V = V_idg(**job.statepoint())
    file.write(str(V) + "\n")

Because this is such a common pattern, signac signac allows you to short-cut this with the job.fn() method.

with open(job.fn("V.txt"), "w") as file:
    V = V_idg(**job.statepoint())
    file.write(str(V) + "\n")

Sometimes it is easier to temporarily switch the current working directory while storing data for a specific job. For this purpose, we can use the Job object as context manager. This means that we switch into the workspace directory associated with the job after entering, and switch back into the original working directory after exiting.

with job:
    with open("V.txt", "w") as file:
        file.write(str(V) + "\n")

Another alternative to store light-weight data is the job document as shown in the minimal example. The job document is a persistent JSON storage file for simple key-value pairs.

job.document["V"] = V_idg(**job.statepoint())
print(job.statepoint(), job.document)
{'p': 1.0, 'kT': 1.0, 'N': 1000} {'V': 1000.0}

Since we are usually interested in more than one state point, the standard operation is to iterate over all variable(s) of interest, construct the full state point, get the associated job handle, and then either just initialize the job or perform the full operation.

for pressure in 0.1, 1.0, 10.0:
    statepoint = {"p": pressure, "kT": 1.0, "N": 1000}
    job = project.open_job(statepoint)
    job.document["V"] = V_idg(**job.statepoint())

Let’s verify our result by inspecting the data.

for job in project:
    print(job.statepoint(), job.document)
{'p': 0.1, 'kT': 1.0, 'N': 1000} {'V': 10000.0}
{'p': 10.0, 'kT': 1.0, 'N': 1000} {'V': 100.0}
{'p': 1.0, 'kT': 1.0, 'N': 1000} {'V': 1000.0}

Those are the basics for using signac for data management. The next section demonstrates how to explore an existing data space.