PyMOL is a molecular visualization tool widely used by the Rosetta community.

The PyMOL Wiki contains documentation on the program methods and numerous examples. Beginners should start with this tutorial. A simple workshop is part of the PyRosetta tutorials.

If you are building PyMOL from source on Linux (this does not take long and is explained here) then you may need to install the python-dev and glutg3-dev packages and possibly the mesa-common-dev package as well. Some notes on building PyMOL for Python 2.7 on a Python 3 system are included below.

Information on making movies in PyMOL can be found at


PyMOL is so popular in the community, we developed a Mover to send Rosetta data directly to PyMOL.

PyMOL Side

Setting Up PyMOL

In PyMOL, run the script, found at <path to Rosetta main>/source/src/python/PyRosetta/src/ (the main directory of PyRosetta). This will start the listener and output information about the connection established. No further work should be required to view PyMOL_Mover output from the same computer.

We recommend creating a .pymolrc file in your home folder, and adding the following line:

run <path to Rosetta main>/source/src/python/PyRosetta/src/

This way is convenient: the PyMOL-Rosetta link is established each time you start PyMOL.

Changing PyMOL Listener IP


It's that simple. This method of the Server script automatically connects to the machine's current IP. This IP address can be set manually and the Server script defaultly connects at Make sure that the connection is to an accessible IP and that the PyMOL_Mover is outputting to that IP. To change the IP manually use either command below at a PyMOL command prompt:

start_rosetta_server, 9001 \\



Rosetta Usage

Here are the options for observing a Rosetta simulation through JD2, Rosetta's job manager). See below for PyRosetta code.

-show_simulation_in_pymol <argument, default=5.0> 
  • Attach PyMOL observer to pose at the beginning of the simulation, and outputs a new PyMOL "state" every seconds. A value of 0 indicates to not skip any packets from sending! Don't forget to run the script within PyMOL!
-update_pymol_on_energy_changes_only 'Boolean'
  • default = 'false',
  • 'Only Update the simulation in on energy change. Useful if pymol observer is segfaulting on length changes.
-update_pymol_on_conformation_changes_only 'Boolean'
  • default = 'false'
  • Only update the simulation in pymol on conformation change.
-keep_pymol_simulation_history, 'Boolean'
  • default = 'false'
  • Keep history when using show_simulation_in_pymol flag?

PyRosetta Usage

Sending Structures

Application of the mover sends pose coordinate data to PyMOL rendering an image of the structure. Simply apply the mover to a pose. You can achieve the same results by using dump_pdb to produce a .pdb of the pose and load it into PyMOL...but the mover is much faster and avoids unnecessary file writing.\ \ pymover = PyMOL_Mover() pymover.apply(pose)

Sending Energy

Use the send_energy method to color the structure in PyMOL based on the residue relative energies. Currently, the color spectrum spans from blue (low energy=happy) to red (high energy=sad). Make sure the pose has been scored first. The send_energy can accept a ScoreType name and color residues in PyMOL based on this score term of the last score function applied.

pymover.send_energy(pose) pymover.send_energy(pose,"fa_atr") pymover.update_energy=True pymover.apply(pose) pymover.energy_type="fa_sol" pymover.apply(pose)

The PyMOL_Mover features a update_energy option which, when True, automatically colors residues by energy when the Mover is applied. The score term sent can be set with the PyMOL_Mover.energy_type option.

Changing Mover IP

To send PyMOL_Mover output to a new IP address, simply change the PyMOL_Mover options as specified below: = '' = 65000 pymover.apply(pose)

Keeping History

Another useful PyMOL_Mover feature is the keep_history flag. When marked True, poses with the same "name" (see below) are loaded into new states of the associated PyMOL object ie. applying the PyMOL_Mover does not overwrite the structure in PyMOL but instead loads it into the next state. Protocol movies can be created easily using PyMOL's movie building features and these output states.

pymover.keep_history=True pymover.apply(pose) other_mover.apply(pose) pymover.apply(pose)

To accurately view intermediate changes, you can change the pose name. This will result in a different object when the pose data is loaded into PyMOL. To change a pose name use: pose.pdb_info().name("new_name") Remember, color in PyMOL is per object NOT per state so any successive coloring will erase the old coloring (another reason you may want to change the pose name when inspecting a protocol).

PyMOL Observer

The PyMOL_Observer object waits for "events" to happen on the pose and when triggered, applies its own PyMOL_Mover to the structure. This is ideal for situations where you don't want to apply the mover directly, such as lengthy protocols or quick inspection. Since a PyMOL_Observer has a PyMOL_Mover, all the options above can be set on its mover (called pymol) including keep_history, link.udp_ip, and update_energy.

pyobs = PyMOL_Observer() pyobs.add_observer(pose) pyobs.pymol().update_energy=True

Getting PyMOLObserver working on a Python3 system

Some Linux systems, including Arch based linux such as Manjaro, Antergos and ArchBang, now ship with Python3 as the default. Python2 is also available. Pymol (installed with Python3) does not work with Rosetta's PyMOLObserver.

For compiling and installing Pymol with Python2.7, for a version compatible with Rosetta:

1) Requirements Libraries as well as development files (headers) of the following software is required:

  • Subversion
  • Python (with distutils)
  • Pmw (Python Megawidgets)
  • OpenGL driver (NVidia works)
  • GLEW
  • GLUT (freeglut)
  • libpng
  • freetype
  • libxml2 (optional, for COLLADA export, disable with --no-libxml)
  • msgpack-c 1.0+ (optional, for fast MMTF loading, new in SVN r4167, disable with --use-msgpackc=no)

2) Get latest source from SVN Let's say we will download the Pymol source code to /tmp. This will download the latest source to /tmp/pymol:

cd /tmp
svn co svn://
cd pymol
3) Compiling and installing Pymol

This will install PyMOL as normal user into ${HOME}/pymol-svn:

python2.7 build install --home=$prefix --install-lib=$modules --install-scripts=$prefix
Now launch PyMOL like this:
To add this new PyMOL to your path:
sudo ln -s ${HOME}/pymol-svn/pymol /usr/bin/pymol
4) Connecting to Rosetta

So long as you are using this freshly-built pymol, it will work with Rosetta normally; do not use a previously-installed Python3 PyMOL by mistake.

See Also