7.2 Programming without compiling

Much of the development work in LilyPond takes place by changing *.ly or *.scm files. These changes can be made without compiling LilyPond. Such changes are described in this section.

7.2.1 Modifying distribution files

Much of LilyPond is written in Scheme or LilyPond input files. These files are interpreted when the program is run, rather than being compiled when the program is built, and are present in all LilyPond distributions. You will find .ly files in the ly/ directory and the Scheme files in the scm/ directory. Both Scheme files and .ly files can be modified and saved with any text editor. It’s probably wise to make a backup copy of your files before you modify them, although you can reinstall if the files become corrupted.

Once you’ve modified the files, you can test the changes just by running LilyPond on some input file. It’s a good idea to create a file that demonstrates the feature you’re trying to add. This file will eventually become a regression test and will be part of the LilyPond distribution.

7.2.2 Desired file formatting

Files that are part of the LilyPond distribution have Unix-style line endings (LF), rather than DOS (CR+LF) or MacOS 9 and earlier (CR). Make sure you use the necessary tools to ensure that Unix-style line endings are preserved in the patches you create.

Tab characters should not be included in files for distribution. All indentation should be done with spaces. Most editors have settings to allow the setting of tab stops and ensuring that no tab characters are included in the file.

Scheme files and LilyPond files should be written according to standard style guidelines. Scheme file guidelines can be found at http://community.schemewiki.org/?scheme-style. Following these guidelines will make your code easier to read. Both you and others that work on your code will be glad you followed these guidelines.

For LilyPond files, you should follow the guidelines for LilyPond snippets in the documentation. You can find these guidelines at

Contributor’s Guide