The Romanesco plugin system is used to extend the core functionality of Romanesco in a number of ways. Plugins can execute any python code when they are loaded at runtime, but the most common augmentations they perform are:

  • Adding new execution modes. Without any plugins enabled, the core Romanesco application can only perform two types of tasks: python and workflow modes. It’s common for plugins to implement other task execution modes.
  • Adding new data types or formats. Plugins can make Romanesco aware of new data types and formats, and provide implementations for how to validate and convert to and from those formats.
  • Adding new IO modes. One of the primary functions of Romanesco is to fetch input data from heterogenous sources and expose it to tasks in a uniform way. Plugins can implement novel modes of fetching and pushing input and output data for a task.

Below is a list of the plugins that are shipped with the romanesco package. They can be enabled via the configuration file (see Configuration).


  • Plugin ID: docker
  • Description: This plugin exposes a new task execution mode, docker. These tasks pull a docker image and run a container using that image, with optional command line arguments. Docker tasks look like:
    "mode": "docker",
    "docker_image": <docker image name to run>
    (, "container_args": [<container arguments>])
    (, "entrypoint": <custom override for container entry point>)
    (, "inputs": [<TASK_INPUT> (, <TASK_INPUT>, ...)])
    (, "outputs": [<TASK_OUTPUT> (, <TASK_OUTPUT>, ...)])

The optional container_args parameter is a list of arguments to pass to the container. If an entrypoint argument is passed, it will override the built-in ENTRYPOINT directive of the image. Since it’s often the case that task inputs will need to passed to the container as arguments, a special syntax can be used to declare that a command line argument should be expanded at runtime to the value of an input:

"container_args": ["$input{my_input_id}"]

It is not necessary for the entire argument to be a variable expansion; any part of an argument can also be expanded, e.g.:

"container_args": ["--some-parameter=$input{some_parameter_value}"]

The temporary directory for the romanesco task is mapped into the running container under the directory /data, so any files that were fetched into that temp directory will be available inside the running container at that path.

Girder IO

  • Plugin ID: girder_io
  • Description: This plugin adds new fetch and push modes called girder. The fetch mode for inputs supports downloading folders, items, or files from a Girder server. Inputs can be downloaded anonymously (if they are public) or using an authentication token. This data is always written to disk within the task’s temporary directory, and is always a string/text format since the data itself is simply the path to the downloaded file or directory.
    "mode": "girder",
    "id": <the _id value of the resource to download>,
    "name": <the name of the resource to download>,
    "host": <the hostname of the girder server>,
    "format": "text",
    "type": "string"
    (, "port": <the port of the girder server, default is 80 for http: and 443 for https:>)
    (, "api_root": <path to the girder REST API, default is "/api/v1")
    (, "scheme": <"http" or "https", default is "http">)
    (, "token": <girder token used for authentication>)
    (, "resource_type": <"file", "item", or "folder", default is "file">)

The output mode also assumes data of format string/text that is a path to a file in the filesystem. That file will then be uploaded under an existing folder (under a new item with the same name as the file), or into an existing item.

    "mode": "girder",
    "parent_id": <the _id value of the folder or item to upload into>,
    "host": <the hostname of the girder server>,
    "format": "text",
    "type": "string"
    (, "name": <optionally override name of the file to upload>)
    (, "port": <the port of the girder server, default is 80 for http and 443 for https>)
    (, "api_root": <path to the girder REST API, default is "/api/v1")
    (, "scheme": <"http" or "https", default is "http">)
    (, "token": <girder token used for authentication>)
    (, "parent_type": <"folder" or "item", default is "folder">)


  • Plugin ID: r

  • Description: The R plugin enables the execution of R scripts as tasks via the r execution mode. It also exposes a new data type, r, and several new data formats and converters for existing data types. Just like python mode, the R code to run is passed via the script field of the task specification. The r data type refers to objects compatible with the R runtime environment.

  • Converters added:
    • r/objectr/serialized
    • table/csvtable/r.dataframe
    • tree/newicktree/r.apetree
    • tree/nexustree/r.apetree
    • r/apetreetree/treestore
  • Validators added:
    • r/object: An in-memory R object.
    • r/serialized: A serialized version of an R object created using R’s serialize function.
    • table/r.dataframe: An R data frame. If the first column contains unique values, these are set as the row names of the data frame.
    • tree/r.apetree: A tree in the R package ape format.


  • Plugin ID: spark

  • Description: Adds a new execution mode spark.python that allows tasks to run inside a pyspark environment with a SparkContext variable automatically exposed. That is, each task will have a variable exposed in its python runtime called sc that is a valid SparkContext. This plugin exposes a new type, collection, referring to something that can be represented by a Spark RDD.

  • Converters added:
    • collection/jsoncollection/spark.rdd: Convert between a JSON list and an RDD created from calling sc.parallelize on the list.
  • Validators added:
    • collection/json
    • collection/spark.rdd


  • Plugin ID: vtk

  • Description: This plugin exposes the geometry type and provides converters and validators for several types. This plugin requires that you have the VTK python package exposed in Romanesco’s python environment. The geometry type represents 3D geometry.

  • Converters added:
    • geometry/vtkpolydatageometry/vtkpolydata.serialized
    • table/rowstable/vtktable
    • table/vtktabletable/vtktable.serialized
    • tree/nestedtree/vtktree
    • tree/vtktreetree/newick
    • tree/vtktreetree/vtktree.serialized
    • graph/networkxgraph/vtkgraph
    • graph/vtkgraphgraph/vtkgraph.serialized
  • Validators added:


vtkGraphs lose their actual node values as they are represented by their index. In addition, nodes and edges are given all metadata attributes with defaults if they do not specify the metadatum themselves. This is noted further in romanesco.plugins.vtk.converters.graph.networkx_to_vtkgraph