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IMP Manual  for IMP version 2.7.0

IMP tries to make things simpler to use by adhering to various naming and interface conventions.


  • Names in CamelCase are class names, for example IMP::RestraintSet
  • Lower case names separated with underscores (_) in them are functions or methods, for example IMP::Model::update() or IMP::Model::add_particle().
  • Collections of data of a certain class, e.g. ClassName are passed using type ClassNames. This type is a list in Python and a IMP::Vector<ClassName> (which is roughly equivalent to std::vector<ClassName*>) in C++.
  • These function names start with a verb, which indicates what the method does. Methods starting with
    • set_ change some stored value
    • get_ create or return a value object or return an existing IMP::Object class object
    • create_ create a new IMP::Object class object
    • add_, remove_ or clear_ manipulate the contents of a collection of data
    • show_ print things in a human-readable format
    • load_ and save_ or read_ and write_ move data between files and memory
    • link_ create a connection between something and an IMP::Object
    • update_ change the internal state of an IMP::Object
    • do_ is a virtual method as part of a non-virtual interface pattern
    • handle_ take action when an event occurs
    • validate_ check the state of data and print messages and throw exceptions if something is corrupted
    • setup_ and teardown_ create or destroy some type of invariant (e.g. the constraints for a rigid body)
    • apply_ either apply a passed object to each piece of data in some collection or apply the object itself to a particular piece of passed data (this is a bit ambiguous)
  • names starting with IMP_ are preprocessor symbols (C++ only)
  • names don't use abbreviations


Graphs in IMP are represented in C++ using the Boost Graph Library. All graphs used in IMP are VertexAndEdgeListGraphs, have vertex_name properties, and are BidirectionalGraphs if they are directed.

The Boost.Graph interface cannot be easily exported to Python so we instead provide a simple wrapper IMP::PythonDirectedGraph. There are methods to translate the graphs into various common Python and other formats (e.g. graphviz).

Values and Objects (C++ only)

As is conventional in C++, IMP classes are divided into broad, exclusive types

  • Object classes: They inherit from IMP::Object and are always passed by pointer. They are reference counted and so should only be stored using IMP::Pointer in C++ (in Python everything is reference counted). Never allocate these on the stack as very bad things can happen. Objects cannot be duplicated. Equality on objects is defined as identity (e.g. two different objects are different even if the data they contain is identical).
  • Value classes which are normal data types. They are passed by value (or const&), never by pointer. Equality is defined based on the data stored in the value. Most value types in IMP are always valid, but a few, mostly geometric types (IMP::algebra::Vector3D) are designed for fast, low-level use and are left in an uninitialized state by their default constructor.
  • RAII classes control some particular resource using the RAII idiom. They grab control of a resource when created and then free it when they are destroyed. As a result, they cannot be copied. Non-IMP examples include things like files in Python, which are automatically closed when the file object is deleted.

All types in IMP, with a few documented exceptions, can be

  • compared to other objects of the same type
  • output to a C++ stream or printed in Python
  • meaningfully put into Python dictionaries or C++ hash maps