the Robot Construction Kit

Creating libraries


This tutorial will give you some hands-on experience on:

  • How to create libraries in Rock and
  • how to embed them into the build system of Rock.

If you don’t want to execute the following steps yourself, the result can also be found in the package ‘tutorials/’ after you installed the tutorial package set.

For this tutorial, it is assumed that your autoproj installation can be found in ~/dev.

Creating libraries

Before you start developing components, you will need to think about the functionality that is required for your component. This tutorial teaches you how to write a message producer and a message consumer component, which will pass timestamped messages between each other. For the message producer and the consumer, we will create a message library to provide message creation and message printing functionality. This library will make use of the existing package base/types, which simplifies creation of timestamps.

Now, that it is clear what functionality is needed, you can start writing the library. Note, that Rock strongly suggests to encapsulate your main functionality in libraries. Thus, your library code remains independent of the actual framework in use, and can be easily reused and maintained separately from any framework that wraps this functionality.

Rock allows you to create a C++ library from an existing template. Calling the command ‘rock-create-lib’ starts a command line dialog to create a library called ‘tutorials/message_driver’. Remember: ~/dev is the path to the Rock installation. It might differ on your machine.

~/dev$ rock-create-lib tutorials/message_driver

Once the the create script is called, a command line dialog is started which will request basic information to configure the template for you. The following output is the output of the script AND the expected answers. Do not copy/paste the whole block at once !

Initialized empty Git repository 
in ~/dev/tutorials/message_driver/.git/
Do you want to start the configuration of
the cmake project: message_driver
Proceed [y|n]
We require some information to update the manifest.xml
Brief package description (Press ENTER when finished):
A message_driver for the basic Rock tutorial
Long description: 
This is a library that allows message production
and message handling for the the basic Rock tutorial
New user
Author email:
Url (optional):

Enter your dependencies as a comma separated list.
Press ENTER when finished:
Initialized empty shared Git repository 
in ~/dev/tutorials/message_driver/.git/
[master (root-commit) 37aa552] Initial commit
8 files changed, 108 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
create mode 100644 CMakeLists.txt
create mode 100644 INSTALL
create mode 100644 LICENSE
create mode 100644 README
create mode 100644 manifest.xml
create mode 100644 src/CMakeLists.txt
create mode 100644 src/Dummy.cpp
create mode 100644 src/Dummy.hpp
create mode 100644 src/Main.cpp
create mode 100644 src/

The newly created package comes in some kind of ready-to-run: You can build and install it right away using the build tool autoproj.

amake tutorials/message_driver

NOTE: The template project will generate several files for you in the src/ and test/ directories. This is meant to give you an example, but these files are usually deleted as soon as you start developing the library. Don’t forget to remove the corresponding references from src/CMakeLists.txt and test/CMakeLists.txt as well.

Adding the required functionality

The library does not contain message handling capabilities yet. So we create three new files, i.e. a header file Messages.hpp which will contain the message type that is used to transport message between components, and a header and source file for the library functionality, the MessageDriver. Put all those files into the src/ folder of the newly created package (~/dev/tutorials/message_driver/src).

NOTE: Rock recommends to stick to use CamelCase for new structures, and to name the files after the class it defines (i.e. Message.hpp defines the Message structure, MessageDriver.hpp declares the MessageDriver class and MessageDriver.cpp defines it). However, due to historic reasons, not all packages of Rock conform to this style. See these guidelines for more information

In Rock, common C++ types are defined in the base/types package. If some type you need is defined here, it is highly recommended to use the common type. In our case, we want to timestamp the message that our library will manipulate. If we have a look at the base/types) API documentation we can see that there is a base::Time type that suits our needs.

First things first, we need to declare the dependency on the base/types package. Edit manifest.xml and make sure that the following line is there (it should already be there):

<depend package="base/types" />

The message class definition will be contained in a header called src/Message.hpp, to follow Rock naming guidelines (a Message class should be declared in the src/Message.hpp header). It should contain the following code:


#include <string>
#include <base/Time.hpp>

namespace message_driver
    struct Message
        // The message content 
        std::string content;

        // The timestamp when the message was created
        base::Time time;

	// Default Constructor -- required
                : content()
                , time(base::Time::now())

        Message(const std::string& msg)
                : content(msg)
                , time(base::Time::now())


To follow the Rock guidelines, the MessageDriver class should be declared in src/MessageDriver.hpp and defined in src/MessageDriver.cpp. src/MessageDriver.hpp should therefore contain:


#include <message_driver/Message.hpp>

namespace message_driver 

class MessageDriver

     * Create a timestamped message
     * \return A timestamped message
    Message createMessage();
     * Print a message to stdout
     * \param msg Message to be printed
    void printMessage(const Message& msg);



And, finally, the driver implementation creates the timestamped message, and is in src/MessageDriver.cpp:

#include "MessageDriver.hpp"
#include <iostream>

namespace message_driver

Message MessageDriver::createMessage()
        Message msg("Message from MessageDriver");
        return msg;

void MessageDriver::printMessage(const Message& msg)
        std::cout << "[" << msg.time.toString() 
                  << "] " << msg.content
                  << std::endl;



Once you created a library in Rock, integrate it into the build system autoproj. The first step towards integration into the build system is adding the newly created files to the src/CMakeLists.txt file, since Rock C++ libraries use CMake for the build process by default. You can use standard CMake directives, but Rock also comes with some CMake macros that facilitate setting up libraries, and resolving any required dependencies (have a look here for details).

    SOURCES MessageDriver.cpp
    HEADERS MessageDriver.hpp Message.hpp
    DEPS_PKGCONFIG base-types)

# Do not forget to remove the rock_executable line that 
# compiles Main.cpp, as it is not used anymore

After adapting the CMakeLists.txt, add the package to the build configuration, so that eventually you can embed the library into oroGen components. The easiest way to adapt the build configuration is by adding the package to the manifest’s layout section. Thus, edit ~/dev/autoproj/manifest and add the package to the layout section. Package management in detail is discussed in Adding packages.

NOTE: When adding the package, make sure you use the same indentation as the previous line, here ‘- rock.toolchain’. The manifest file is parsed as .yaml, and thus relies on proper indentation.

  - github: rock-core/package_set

# Layout. Note that the rock.base, rock.toolchain
# and orocos.toolchain sets are imported 
# by other rock sets.
   - rock.core
   - tutorials/message_driver

Build it

Just verify that your component builds.

~/dev/tutorials/message_driver$ amake

Test it

Optionally, you can modify the Boost test_suite created by default and test our MessageDriver library. So we create a new test file, i.e.: test/test_MessageDriver.cpp which will create and print a Message:

#include <boost/test/unit_test.hpp>
#include <message_driver/MessageDriver.hpp>

using namespace message_driver;

    message_driver::MessageDriver messageDriver;

    Message message = messageDriver.createMessage();


In the same manner as for building the library, the step towards integration into the build system is adding the newly created file to the test/CMakeLists.txt file

rock_testsuite(test_suite suite.cpp
    DEPS message_driver)

After adapting the CMakeLists.txt for the test_suite we can just build the library again and run the test_suite.

~/dev/tutorials/message_driver$ amake
~/dev/tutorials/message_driver$ ./build/test/test_suite
Running 1 test case...
[20140123-16:20:14:704568] Message from MessageDriver

*** No errors detected

You already finished your first Rock tutorial.


In this tutorial you have learned to:

  • Create a C++ library from the Rock template and
  • embed new packages into the build system.

In the next tutorial you will learn how to create an oroGen component and embed your library into it.

Progress to the next tutorial.