Created: 2008-07-26 09:22
Updated: 2019-02-18 01:41
License: gpl-3.0


code_swarm is an experiment in organic software visualization.

See for a picture of what we want to produce.

Google Code Project : Google Group/Mailing List:



You will need the Apache ant build tool, at least version 5 of the Java SDK from Sun, and Python version 2.4 or later. Linux users: we've been unable to get code_swarm to compile with the GNU toolchain, Sun's implementation is strongly recommended. If you're able to get it to compile with another toolchain, we'll be glad to include instructions here on how to do so.


Recent versions of OS X come with a good java compiler and Python interpreter, so all you need to do is get and install ant.

If you have DarwinPorts/MacPorts, you can simply: sudo port install apache-ant


sudo apt-get install ant 
sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jdk 
sudo update-java-alternatives -s java-6-sun 

Tested with Ubuntu 8.04, probably similar in other linux distributions.

You should also ensure that Python is installed. Run python in the terminal if you're unsure.


  • download ant:

  • unpack it and add the location of its binaries to the the PATH environment variable. For instance, add at the end : C:\apache-ant-1.7.0\bin;

  • download the Sun Java SDK at

  • install it and add the Java binaries to the PATH : C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.6.0_06\bin;

  • then create a new environment variable called JAVA_HOME and set its path to C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.6.0_06;

  • download and install Python from and ensure that it too is in the PATH

Getting the source code


A git fork of the main code_swarm repository is maintained at

This fork contains a number of patches which improve the speed of code_swarm significantly, as well as an executable, which makes running code_swarm a one-step process.

To obtain a clone of the repository, simply use:

git clone git://


The main code_swarm repository however is on Google Code:

To get the source, see

Running code_swarm

With Java and ant installed, and the code_swarm source downloaded, running it on a git, svn, or hg based project is easy:

  • Add code_swarm/bin to your PATH. A line like export PATH=$PATH:/path/to/code_swarm/bin in your ~/.profile or ~/.bash_profile should do it
  • cd project/to/visualize
  • code_swarm

Other ways of running code_swarm

Running manually

While code_swarm was developed to visualize source code repositories, its input format is generic, and some have experimented with visualizing other collaborative environments, including user activity on wikis and

code_swarm can be invoked by pointing it at a project config file, which contains a number of options for customizing the visualization. The config file must point at a repository xml file, which contains a set of events, which each describe a file, edited by a person, at a specific time. The time is specified as the number of milliseconds since January 1st, 1970.

Example config files can be seen in data/sample.config and bin/config.template

To invoke code_swarm with a given config file, use ./ path/to/project.config


For an experimental GUI where you can specify a svn url to visualize:

  • cd path/to/code_swarm
  • ant run

Other commands:

  • ant will build, but not run the project
  • ant all will also generate Javadoc HTML documentation
  • ant clean will delete all intermediate and binary files
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