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Writing new modules

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Adding support for a new tool

Writing New Modules

Introduction

Writing a new module can at first seem a daunting task. However, MultiQC has been written (and refactored) to provide a lot of functionality as common functions.

Provided that you are familiar with writing Python and you have a read through the guide below, you should be on your way in no time!

If you have any problems, feel free to contact the author - details here: @ewels

Philosophical concepts

These points are important and worth understanding early on. Get this stuff right, and your pull-request is much more likely to be merged quickly!

Don’t add everything

MultiQC was designed to summarise tool outputs. An end-user should be able to visually scan the report and spot any outlier samples, then go to the underlying tool to look at those samples in more detail.

MultiQC is not designed to replicate every single metric from a tool. Doing so makes the report difficult to read and digest quickly for many samples. Module additions that add huge quantities of metrics to reports will be asked to slim down.

No images

MultiQC doesn’t know how many samples it will need to handle for a report, and as such every module should work with anything from 1-1000 samples. With images, you can’t have more than a couple before the report is unusable. Worse, the file size will bloat the HTML file and it will crash the browser surprisingly fast. It’s not accessible and the data cannot be exported into multiqc_data for downstream use.

Plots should be recreated within MultiQC by parsing the raw data and generating dynamic plots instead.

I almost never merge modules that include images into reports. If you really need images in your report, you can do this either via Custom Content or an unofficial plugin module. Feel free to discuss on the community forum if you think that your case is an exception. There have been one or two in the past.

One at a time

Please try to keep contributions as atomic as possible. In other words, one module = one pull request.

Don’t be afraid to break things up into separate pull-requests coming from different branches. Just mention this in the PR comment so that it’s clear which order they need to be merged in.

Avoid optimising too much

When you are writing a module that generates many similar plots, or table columns, or sections, it can be tempting to write nice efficient code that avoids duplicating these efforts. This is problematic for two reasons:

  • It’s bespoke to that module, so more difficult to maintain and comprehend
  • Almost every table column, section and plot should have significant customisation. Descriptions, colour schemes, help text and more. Heavily optimised code will often need a lot of refactoring to pack this in.

It’s usually better to copy and paste a bit in these cases. The code is then easier to understand and easier to customise.

Colour matters

The emphasis for MultiQC reports is to allow people to quickly scan and spot outlier samples. The core of this is data visualisation.

Especially when creating tables, make sure that you think about the colour scheme for every single column.

  • Ensure that adjacent columns do not share the same colour scheme
    • Makes long tables easier to follow
    • Allows fast recognition of columns for regular users
  • Think about what the colours suggest
    • For example, if a large value is a bad thing (eg. percent duplication), use a strong red colour for large values
    • If values are centred around a point (eg. 0), use a diverging colour scheme. Values close to the centre will have a weak colour and those at both ends of the distribution will be strongly coloured.
    • This allows rapid understanding without a lot of thought

This usually comes up for tables, but you can also think about it for bar plots.

Core modules / plugins

New modules can either be written as part of MultiQC or in a stand-alone plugin. If your module is for a publicly available tool, please add it to the main program and contribute your code back when complete via a pull request.

If your module is for something very niche, which no-one else can use, you can write it as part of a custom plugin. The process is almost identical, though it keeps the code bases separate. For more information about this, see the docs about MultiQC Plugins below.

Strict mode validation

MultiQC has been developed to be as forgiving as possible and will handle lots of invalid or ignored code. Even if a module raised an unexpected exception, MultiQC will log that error, and continue running.

This is useful most of the time, but can be difficult when writing new MultiQC modules (especially during pull-request reviews). To help with this, you can run MultiQC with the --strict flag. It will give explicit warnings about anything that is not optimally configured, and will also make MultiQC exit early if a module crashed.

For example:

multiqc --strict test-data

Note that the automated MultiQC continuous integration testing runs in this mode, so you will need to pass all lint tests for those checks to pass. This is required for any pull-requests.

You can alternatively enable the strict mode using an environment variable:

export MULTIQC_STRICT=true

Or set it in the config:

# In multiqc_config.yaml
strict: True

Code formatting

In addition to testing MultiQC functionality, the MultiQC code base is also checked for consistency and formatting.

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to writing any code, both in the methods used but also with simple things like whitespace and whether to use " or '. When reviewing code contributions in pull-requests, these variations in coding style introduce an additional mental overhead. Inconsistent code style across the package also makes it harder for newcomers to get into the code.

Code formatting / linting tools are able to assess files in many different languages and check that a set of “soft” formatting rules are adhered to, to enforce code consistency. Better still, many of these tools can automatically change the formatting so that developers can write code in whatever style they prefer and defer this task to automation.

Much like source control, gloves in a lab, and wearing a seatbelt, code formatters and code linting is an annoying inconvenience at first for most people which in time becomes an indispensable tool in the maintenance of high quality software.

MultiQC uses a range of tools to check the code base. The main two code formatters are:

The easiest way to work with these is to install editor plugins that run the tools every time you save a file. For example, Visual Studio Code has built-in support for Ruff and plugins for Prettier.

Pre-commit

MultiQC uses pre-commit to test your code when you open a pull-request.

It’s recommended that you install it yourself in your MultiQC clone directory:

pip install pre-commit # install the tool
pre-commit install # set up pre-commit in the MultiQC repository

This will then automatically run all code checks on the files you have edited when you create a commit. Pre-commit cancels the commit if anything fails - sometimes it will have fixed files for you, in which case just add them and try to commit again. Sometimes you will need to read the logs and fix the problem manually.

Automated continuous integration tests will run using GitHub Actions to check that all files pass the above tests. If any files do not, that test will fail giving a red ❌ next to the pull request.

Tip

Make sure that your configuration is working properly and that you’re not changing loads of files that you haven’t worked with. Pull-requests will not be merged with such changes.

These tools should be relatively easy to install and run, and have integration with the majority of code editors. Once set up, they can run on save and you’ll never need to think about them again.

Initial setup

MultiQC file structure

The source code for MultiQC is separated into different folders. Most of the files you won’t have to touch - the relevant files that you will need to edit or create are as follows:

├── docs
│   └── modules
│       └── <your_module>.md
├── multiqc
│   ├── modules
│   |   └── <your_module>
│   │       ├── __init__.py
│   │       └── <your_module>.py
│   └── utils
│       └── search_patterns.yaml
├── CHANGELOG.md
└── pyproject.toml

These files are described in more detail below.

Submodule

MultiQC modules are Python submodules - as such, they need their own directory in /multiqc/ with an __init__.py file. The directory should share its name with the module. To follow common practice, the module code itself usually then goes in a separate python file (also with the same name, i.e. multiqc/modname/modname.py) which is then imported by the __init__.py file with:

from .modname import MultiqcModule
 
__all__ = ["MultiqcModule"]

Entry points

Once your submodule files are in place, you need to tell MultiQC that they are available as an analysis module. This is done within pyproject.toml using entry points. In pyproject.toml you will see some code that looks like this:

[project.entry-points."multiqc.modules.v1"]
bismark = "multiqc.modules.bismark:MultiqcModule"
[...]

Copy one of the existing module lines and change it to use your module name. The order is irrelevant, so stick to alphabetical if in doubt. Once this is done, you will need to update your installation of MultiQC:

pip install -e .

MultiQC config

So that MultiQC knows what order modules should be run in, you need to add your module to the core config file.

In multiqc/utils/config_defaults.yaml you should see a list variable called module_order. This contains the name of modules in order of precedence. Add your module here in an appropriate position.

Documentation

Next up, you need to create a documentation file for your module. The reason for this is twofold: firstly, docs are important to help people to use, debug and extend MultiQC (you’re reading this, aren’t you?). Secondly, having the file there with the appropriate YAML front matter will make the module show up on the MultiQC homepage so that everyone knows it exists. This process is automated once the file is added to the core repository.

These docs file should be placed in docs/modules/<your_module_name>.md and should have the following structure:

---
name: Tool Name
url: http://www.amazing-bfx-tool.com
description: >
  This amazing tool does some really cool stuff. Multiple lines
  are ok if you want. Not too long though!
---
 
Your module documentation goes here. Feel free to use markdown and write whatever
you think would be helpful. Please avoid using heading levels 1 to 3.

The file search patterns will be shown on the website page automatically and do not need to be included in this file.

MultiqcModule Class

If you’ve copied one of the other entry point statements, it will have ended in :MultiqcModule - this tells MultiQC to try to execute a class or function called MultiqcModule.

To use the helper functions bundled with MultiQC, you should extend this class from multiqc.modules.base_module.BaseMultiqcModule in your module code file (i.e. multiqc/modname/modname.py). This will give you access to a number of functions on the self namespace. For example:

from multiqc.modules.base_module import BaseMultiqcModule
 
class MultiqcModule(BaseMultiqcModule):
    def __init__(self):
        # Initialise the parent object
        super(MultiqcModule, self).__init__(
          name='My Module',
          anchor='mymod',
          href="http://www.awesome_bioinfo.com/my_module",
          info="is an example analysis module used for writing documentation.",
          doi="01.2345/journal/abc123"
        )

The __init__ variables are used to create the header, URL link, analysis module credits and description in the report.

The available arguments when initialising a module as follows:

  • name - Name of your module
  • anchor - A HTML-safe anchor that will be used after the # in the URL
  • href - Link to the homepage for the tool
  • info - Very short description text about the tool
  • doi - One or more publication DOIs (str, or list of strs)
  • comment - Additional comment text for module. Usually user-supplied in a config.
  • extra - Additional custom HTML after description text.
  • target - Name of the module in the description (default: name)
  • autoformat - (default: True)
  • autoformat_type - (default: markdown)

Ok, that should be it! The __init__() function will now be executed every time MultiQC runs. Try adding a print("Hello World!") statement and see if it appears in the MultiQC logs at the appropriate time…

Logging

Last thing - MultiQC modules have a standardised way of producing output, so you shouldn’t really use print() statements for your Hello World in your module code ;).

Instead, use the logger module as follows:

import logging
log = logging.getLogger(__name__)
# Initialise your class and so on
log.info('Hello World!')

Log messages can come in a range of formats:

  • log.debug
    • Thes only show if MultiQC is run in -v/--verbose mode
  • log.info
    • For more important status updates
  • log.warning
    • Alert user about problems that don’t halt execution
  • log.error and log.critical
    • Not often used, these are for show-stopping problems

Changelog

When opening a pull-request, please ensure that the PR title is formatted as New module: XYZ, where XYZ is the name of your module.

The changelog entry will be automatically generated for you, based on the meta-information that you add to the module MultiqcModule class.

Tip

Please do not add anything to the CHANGELOG.md file! This is now handled by our friendly MultiQC bot 🤖

For more information about how it works, see the contributing docs.

Step 1 - Find log files

The first thing that your module will need to do is to find analysis log files. You can do this by searching for a filename fragment, or a string within the file. It’s possible to search for both (a match on either will return the file) and also to have multiple strings possible.

First, add your default patterns to multiqc/search_patterns.yaml

Each search has a yaml key, with one or more search criteria.

The yaml key must begin with the name of your module. If you have multiple search patterns for a single module, follow the module name with a forward slash and then any string. For example, see the fastqc module search patterns:

fastqc/data:
  fn: "fastqc_data.txt"
fastqc/zip:
  fn: "_fastqc.zip"

The following search criteria sub-keys can then be used:

  • fn
    • A glob filename pattern, used with the Python fnmatch function
  • fn_re
    • A regex filename pattern
  • contents
    • A string to match within the file contents (checked line by line)
  • contents_re
    • A regex to match within the file contents (checked line by line)
    • NB: Regex must match entire line (add .* to start and end of pattern to avoid this)
  • exclude_fn
    • A glob filename pattern which will exclude a file if matched
  • exclude_fn_re
    • A regex filename pattern which will exclude a file if matched
  • exclude_contents
    • A string which will exclude the file if matched within the file contents (checked line by line)
  • exclude_contents_re
    • A regex which will exclude the file if matched within the file contents (checked line by line)
  • num_lines
    • The number of lines to search through for the contents string. Defaults to 1000 (configurable via filesearch_lines_limit).
  • shared
    • By default, once a file has been assigned to a module it is not searched again. Specify shared: true when your file is likely to be shared between multiple tools.
  • max_filesize
    • Files larger than the log_filesize_limit config key (default: 50MB) are skipped. If you know your files will be smaller than this and need to search by contents, you can specify this value (in bytes) to skip any files smaller than this limit.
Tip

Please try to use num_lines and max_filesize where possible as they will speed up MultiQC execution time.

Warning

Please do not set num_lines to anything over 1000, as this will significantly slow down the file search for all users. If you do need to search more lines to detect a string, please combine it with a fn pattern to limit which files are loaded (as done with AfterQC).

For example, two typical modules could specify search patterns as follows:

mymod:
  fn: "_myprogram.txt"
myothermod:
  contents: "This is myprogram v1.3"

You can also supply a list of different patterns for a single log file type if needed. If any of the patterns are matched, the file will be returned:

mymod:
  - fn: "mylog.txt"
  - fn: "different_fn.out"

You can use AND logic by specifying keys within a single list item. For example:

mymod:
  fn: "mylog.txt"
  contents: "mystring"
myothermod:
  - fn: "different_fn.out"
    contents: "This is myprogram v1.3"
  - fn: "another.txt"
    contents: "What are these files anyway?"

Here, a file must have the filename mylog.txt and contain the string mystring.

You can match subsets of files by using exclude_ keys as follows:

mymod:
  fn: "*.myprog.txt"
  exclude_fn: "not_these_*"
myothermod:
  fn: "mylog.txt"
  exclude_contents:
    - "trimmed"
    - "sorted"

Note that the exclude_ patterns can have either a single value or a list of values. They are always considered using OR logic - any matches will reject the file.

Remember that users can overwrite these defaults in their own config files. This is helpful as people have weird and wonderful processing pipelines with their own conventions.

Once your strings are added, you can find files in your module with the base function self.find_log_files(), using the key you set in the YAML:

self.find_log_files('mymod')

This function yields a dictionary with various information about each matching file. The f key contains the contents of the matching file:

# Find all files for mymod
for myfile in self.find_log_files('mymod'):
    print( myfile['f'] )       # File contents
    print( myfile['s_name'] )  # Sample name (from cleaned filename)
    print( myfile['fn'] )      # Filename
    print( myfile['root'] )    # Directory file was in

If filehandles=True is specified, the f key contains a file handle instead:

for f in self.find_log_files('mymod', filehandles=True):
    # f['f'] is now a filehandle instead of contents
    for line in f['f']:
        print(line)

This is good if the file is large, as Python doesn’t read the entire file into memory in one go.

Step 2 - Parse data from the input files

What most MultiQC modules do once they have found matching analysis files is to pass the matched file contents to another function, responsible for parsing the data from the file. How this parsing is done will depend on the format of the log file and the type of data being read. See below for a basic example, based loosely on the preseq module:

class MultiqcModule(BaseMultiqcModule):
    def __init__(self):
        # [...]
        self.mod_data = dict()
        for f in self.find_log_files('mymod'):
            self.mod_data[f['s_name']] = self.parse_logs(f['f'])
 
    def parse_logs(self, f):
        data = {}
        for line in f.splitlines():
            s = line.split()
            data[s[0]] = s[1]
        return data

Filtering by parsed sample names

MultiQC users can use the --ignore-samples flag to skip sample names that match specific patterns. As sample names are generated in a different way by every module, this filter has to be applied after log parsing.

There is a core function to do this task - assuming that your data is in a dictionary with the first key as sample name, pass it through the self.ignore_samples function as follows:

self.yourdata = self.ignore_samples(self.yourdata)

This will remove any dictionary keys where the sample name matches a user pattern.

If your data structure is not in the sample_name: data format then you can check each sample name individually using the self.is_ignore_sample() function:

if self.is_ignore_sample(f['s_name']):
    print("We will not use this sample!")

Note that this function should be used after cleaning the sample name with self.clean_s_name().

No files found

If your module cannot find any matching files, it needs to raise an exception of type ModuleNoSamplesFound. This tells the core MultiQC program that no modules were found. For example:

from multiqc.modules.base_module import ModuleNoSamplesFound
 
if len(self.mod_data) == 0:
    raise ModuleNoSamplesFound

Note that this has to be raised as early as possible, so that it halts the module progress. For example, if no logs are found then the module should not create any files or try to do any computation.

Custom sample names

Typically, sample names are taken from cleaned log filenames (the default f['s_name'] value returned). However, if possible, it’s better to use the name of the input file (allowing for concatenated log files). To do this, you should use the self.clean_s_name() function, as this will prepend the directory name if requested on the command line:

for f in self.find_log_files('mymod'):
    input_fname, data = self.my_custom_parsing(f) # Or parsed however
    s_name = self.clean_s_name(input_fname, f)

This function has already been applied to the contents of f['s_name'], so it is only required when using something different for the sample identifier.

Tip

self.clean_s_name() must be used on sample names parsed from the file contents. Without it, features such as prepending directories (--dirs) will not work.

The second argument should be the dictionary returned by the self.find_log_files() function. The root path is used for --dirs and the search pattern key is used for fine-grained configuration of the config option use_filename_as_sample_name.

If you are using non-standard values for the logfile root, filename or search pattern key, these can be specified. The function def looks like this:

def clean_s_name(self, s_name, f=None, root=None, filename=None, seach_pattern_key=None):

A tyical example is when the sample name is the log file directory. In this case, the root should be the dirname of that directory. This is non-standard, and would be specified as follows:

s_name = self.clean_s_name(f["root"], f, root=os.path.dirname(f["root"]))

Identical sample names

If modules find samples with identical names, then the previous sample is overwritten. It’s good to print a log statement when this happens, for debugging. However, most of the time it makes sense - programs often create log files and print to stdout for example.

if f['s_name'] in self.bowtie_data:
    log.debug(f"Duplicate sample name found! Overwriting: {f['s_name']}")

Printing to the sources file

Finally, once you’ve found your file we want to add this information to the multiqc_sources.txt file in the MultiQC report data directory. This lists every sample name and the file from which this data came from. This is especially useful if sample names are being overwritten as it lists the source used. This code is typically written immediately after the above warning.

If you’ve used the self.find_log_files function, writing to the sources file is as simple as passing the log file variable to the self.add_data_source function:

for f in self.find_log_files('mymod'):
    self.add_data_source(f)

If you have different files for different sections of the module, or are customising the sample name, you can tweak the fields. The default arguments are as shown:

self.add_data_source(f=None, s_name=None, source=None, module=None, section=None)

Saving version information

Software version information may be present in the log files of some tools. The version number can be included in the report by passing it to the method self.add_software_version. Let’s use this samtools stats log below as an example.

# This file was produced by samtools stats (1.3+htslib-1.3) and can be plotted using plot-bamstats
# This file contains statistics for all reads.
# The command line was:  stats /home/lp113/bcbio-nextgen/tests/test_automated_output/align/Test1/Test1.sorted.bam
# CHK, Checksum [2]Read Names   [3]Sequences    [4]Qualities
# CHK, CRC32 of reads which passed filtering followed by addition (32bit overflow)
CHK     560674ab        1165a6ca        7b309ac6
# Summary Numbers. Use `grep ^SN | cut -f 2-` to extract this part.
SN      raw total sequences:    101
...

The version number here (1.3) can be extracted using a regular expression (regex). We then pass this to the self.add_software_version() function. Note that we pass the sample name (f["s_name"] in this case) so that we don’t add versions for samples that are later ignored.

for line in f.splitlines():
    version = re.search(r"# This file was produced by samtools stats \(([\d\.]+)", line)
    if version is not None:
        self.add_software_version(version.group(1), f["s_name"])
 
    # ..rest of file parsing

The version number will now appear after the module header in the report as well as in the section Software Versions in the end of the report.

Tip

For tools that don’t output software versions in their logs these can instead be provided in a separate YAML file. See Customising Reports for details.

In some cases, a log may include multiple version numbers for a single tool. In the example provided, the version of htslib is shown alongside the previously extracted samtools version. This information is valuable and should be incorporated into the report. To achieve this, we need to extract the new version string and provide it to the self.add_software_version() function. Include the relevant software name (in this case, htslib) as well. This will ensure that the htslib version is listed separately from the main module’s software version. Example:

for line in f.splitlines():
    version = re.search(r"# This file was produced by samtools stats \(([\d\.]+)", line)
    if version is not None:
        self.add_software_version(version.group(1), f["s_name"])
 
    htslib_version = re.search(r"\+htslib-([\d\.]+)", line)
    if htslib_version is not None:
        self.add_software_version(htslib_version.group(1), f["s_name"], software_name="htslib")
 
    # ..rest of file parsing

Even if the logs does not contain any version information, you should still add a superfluous self.add_software_version() call to the module. This will help maintainers to check if new modules or submodules parse any version information that might exist. The call should also include a note that it is a dummy call. Example:

for f in self.find_log_files("mymodule/submodule"):
    sample = f["s_name"]
    data[sample] = parse_file(f)
 
    # Superfluous function call to confirm that it is used in this module
    # Replace None with actual version if it is available
    self.add_software_version(None, sample)

Step 3 - Adding to the general statistics table

Now that you have your parsed data, you can start inserting it into the MultiQC report. At the top of every report is the ‘General Statistics’ table. This contains metrics from all modules, allowing cross-module comparison.

There is a helper function to add your data to this table. It can take a lot of configuration options, but most have sensible defaults. At it’s simplest, it works as follows:

data = {
    'sample_1': {
        'first_col': 91.4,
        'second_col': '78.2%'
    },
    'sample_2': {
        'first_col': 138.3,
        'second_col': '66.3%'
    }
}
self.general_stats_addcols(data)

To give more informative table headers and configure things like data scales and colour schemes, you can supply an extra dict:

headers = {
    'first_col': {
        'title': 'First',
        'description': 'My First Column',
        'scale': 'RdYlGn-rev'
    },
    'second_col': {
        'title': 'Second',
        'description': 'My Second Column',
        'max': 100,
        'min': 0,
        'scale': 'Blues',
        'suffix': '%'
    }
}
self.general_stats_addcols(data, headers)

Here are all options for headers, with defaults:

headers['name'] = {
    'namespace': '',                # Module name. Auto-generated for core modules in General Statistics.
    'title': '[ dict key ]',        # Short title, table column title
    'description': '[ dict key ]',  # Longer description, goes in mouse hover text
    'max': None,                    # Minimum value in range, for bar / colour coding
    'min': None,                    # Maximum value in range, for bar / colour coding
    'scale': 'GnBu',                # Colour scale for colour coding. Set to False to disable.
    'suffix': None,                 # Suffix for value (eg. '%')
    'format': '{:,.1f}',            # Output format() string. Can also be a lambda function.
    'shared_key': None,             # See below for description
    'modify': None,                 # Lambda function to modify values
    'hidden': False,                # Set to True to hide the column on page load
    'placement' : 1000.0,           # Alter the default ordering of columns in the table
}
  • namespace
    • This prepends the column title in the mouse hover: Namespace: Title.
    • The ‘Configure Columns’ modal displays this under the ‘Group’ column.
    • It’s automatically generated for core modules in the General Statistics table, though this can be overwritten (useful for example with custom-content).
  • scale
    • Colour scales are the names of ColorBrewer palettes. See below for available scales.
    • Add -rev to the name of a colour scale to reverse it
    • Set to False to disable colouring and background bars
  • shared_key
    • Any string can be specified here, if other columns are found that share the same key, a consistent colour scheme and data scale will be used in the table. Typically this is set to things like read_count, so that the read count in a sample can be seen varying across analysis modules.
  • modify
    • A python lambda function to change the data in some way when it is inserted into the table.
  • format
    • A format string or a python lambda function to format the data to display on screen.
  • hidden
    • Setting this to True will hide the column when the report loads. It can then be shown through the Configure Columns modal in the report. This can be useful when data could be sometimes useful. For example, some modules show “percentage aligned” on page load but hide “number of reads aligned”.
  • placement
    • If you feel that the results from your module should appear on the left side of the table set this value less than 1000. Or to move the column right, set it greater than 1000. This value can be any float.

The typical use for the modify string is to divide large numbers such as read counts, to make them easier to interpret. If handling read counts, there are three config variables that should be used to allow users to change the multiplier for read counts: read_count_multiplier, read_count_prefix and read_count_desc. For example:

pconfig = {
    "title": "Reads",
    "description": f"Number of reads ({config.read_count_desc})",
    "modify": lambda x: x * config.read_count_multiplier,
    "suffix": f" {config.read_count_prefix}",
    ...
}

Similar config options apply for base pairs: base_count_multiplier, base_count_prefix and base_count_desc.

And for the read count of long reads: long_read_count_multiplier, long_read_count_prefix and long_read_count_desc.

Note that adding e.g. "shared_key": "read_count" will automatically add corresponding description, modify, and suffix into the column, so in most cases the following will be sufficient:

pconfig = {
    "title": "Reads",
    "shared_key": "read_count",
    ...
}
...
pconfig2 = {
    "title": "Base pairs",
    "shared_key": "base_count",
    ...
}

A third parameter can be passed to this function, namespace. This is usually not needed - MultiQC automatically takes the name of the module that is calling the function and uses this. However, sometimes it can be useful to overwrite this.

Table colour scales

Colour scales are taken from ColorBrewer2. Colour scales can be reversed by adding the suffix -rev to the name. For example, RdYlGn-rev.

The following scales are available:

color brewer

For categorical metrics that can take a value from a predefined set, use one of the categorical color scales: Set2, Accent, Set1, Set3, Dark2, Paired, Pastel2, Pastel1. For numerical metrics, consider one the “sequential” color scales from the table above.

Step 4 - Writing data to a file

In addition to printing data to the General Stats, MultiQC modules typically also write to text-files to allow people to easily use the data in downstream applications. This also gives the opportunity to output additional data that may not be appropriate for the General Statistics table.

Again, there is a base class function to help you with this - just supply it with a dictionary and a filename:

data = {
    "sample_1": {
        "first_col": 91.4,
        "second_col": "78.2%",
    },
    "sample_2": {
        "first_col": 138.3,
        "second_col": "66.3%",
    },
}
self.write_data_file(data, "multiqc_mymod")

If your output has a lot of columns, you can supply the additional argument sort_cols = True to have the columns alphabetically sorted.

This function will also pay attention to the default / command line supplied data format and behave accordingly. So the written file could be a tab-separated file (default), JSON or YAML.

Note that any keys with more than 2 levels of nesting will be ignored when being written to tab-separated files.

Step 5 - Create report sections

Great! It’s time to start creating sections of the report with more information. To do this, use the self.add_section() helper function. This supports the following arguments:

  • name: Name of the section, used for the title
  • anchor: The URL anchor - must be unique, used when clicking the name in the side-nav
  • description: A very short descriptive text to go above the plot (markdown).
  • comment: A comment to add under the description. Big and blue text, mostly for users to customise the report (markdown).
  • helptext: Longer help text explaining what users should look for (markdown).
  • plot: Results from one of the MultiQC plotting functions
  • content: Any custom HTML
  • autoformat: Default True. Automatically format the description, comment and helptext strings.
  • autoformat_type: Default markdown. Autoformat text type. Currently only markdown supported.

For example:

self.add_section (
    name="Second Module Section",
    anchor="mymod-second",
    plot=linegraph.plot(data2, pconfig={
        "id": "mymod-second",
        "title": "My Module: Duplication Rate"
    }),
)
self.add_section (
    name = 'First Module Section',
    anchor = 'mymod-first',
    description = 'My amazing module output, from the first section',
    helptext = """
        If you're not sure _how_ to interpret the data, we can help!
        Most modules use multi-line strings for these text blocks,
        with triple quotation marks.
 
        * Markdown
        * Lists
        * Are
        * `Great`
    """,
    plot = bargraph.plot(data, pconfig={
        "id": "mymod-first",
        "title": "My Module: Read Counts"
    })
)
self.add_section (
    content = '<p>Some custom HTML.</p>'
)

If a module has more than one section, these will automatically be labelled and linked in the left side-bar navigation (unless name is not specified).

Step 6 - Plot some data

Ok, you have some data, now the fun bit - visualising it! Each of the plot types is described in the Plotting Functions section of the docs.

Appendices

User configuration

Instead of hardcoding defaults, it’s a great idea to allow users to configure the behaviour of MultiQC module code.

It’s pretty easy to use the built in MultiQC configuration settings to do this, so that users can set up their config as described in the Configuration docs.

To do this, just assume that your configuration variables are available in the MultiQC config module and have sensible defaults. For example:

from multiqc import config
 
mymod_config = getattr(config, 'mymod_config', {})
my_custom_config_var = mymod_config.get('my_custom_config_var', 5)

You now have a variable my_custom_config_var with a default value of 5, but that can be configured by a user as follows:

mymod_config:
  my_custom_config_var: 200

Please be sure to use a unique top-level config name to avoid clashes - prefixing with your module name is a good idea as in the example above. Keep all module config options under the same top-level name for clarity.

Finally, don’t forget to document the usage of your module-specific configuration in docs/modules/mymodule.md so that people know how to use it.

Profiling Performance

It’s important that MultiQC runs quickly and efficiently, especially on big projects with large numbers of samples. The recommended method to check this is by using cProfile to profile the code execution.

To do this, first find out where your copy of MultiQC is located:

$ which multiqc
/Users/you/anaconda/envs/myenv/bin/multiqc

Then run MultiQC with this path and the cProfile module as follows (the flags at the end can be any regular MultiQC flags):

python -m cProfile -o multiqc_profile.prof /Users/you/anaconda/envs/myenv/bin/multiqc -f .

You can create a .bashrc alias to make this easier to run:

alias profile_multiqc='python -m cProfile -o multiqc_profile.prof /Users/you/anaconda/envs/myenv/bin/multiqc '
profile_multiqc -f .

MultiQC should run as normal, but produce the additional binary file multiqc_profile.prof. This can then be visualised with software such as SnakeViz.

To install SnakeViz and visualise the results, do the following:

pip install snakeviz
snakeviz multiqc_profile.prof

A web page should open where you can explore the execution times of different nested functions. It’s a good idea to run MultiQC with a comparable number of results from other tools (eg. FastQC) to have a reference to compare against for how long the code should take to run.

Adding Custom CSS / Javascript

If you would like module-specific CSS and / or JavaScript added to the template, just add to the self.css and self.js dictionaries that come with the BaseMultiqcModule class. The key should be the filename that you want your file to have in the generated report folder (this is ignored in the default template, which includes the content file directly in the HTML). The dictionary value should be the path to the desired file. For example, see how it’s done in the FastQC module:

self.css = {
    "assets/css/multiqc_fastqc.css": os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), "assets", "css", "multiqc_fastqc.css")
}
self.js = {
    "assets/js/multiqc_fastqc.js": os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), "assets", "js", "multiqc_fastqc.js")
}