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Using substitutions

Goal: Learn about substitutions in ROS 2 launch files.

Tutorial level: Intermediate

Time: 15 minutes

Background

Launch files are used to start nodes, services and execute processes. This set of actions may have arguments, which affect their behavior. Substitutions can be used in arguments to provide more flexibility when describing reusable launch files. Substitutions are variables that are only evaluated during execution of the launch description and can be used to acquire specific information like a launch configuration, an environment variable, or to evaluate an arbitrary Python expression.

This tutorial shows usage examples of substitutions in ROS 2 launch files.

Prerequisites

This tutorial uses the turtlesim package. This tutorial also assumes you are familiar with creating packages.

As always, don’t forget to source ROS 2 in every new terminal you open.

Using substitutions

1 Create and setup the package

Create a new package of build_type ament_python called launch_tutorial:

ros2 pkg create launch_tutorial --build-type ament_python

Inside of that package, create a directory called launch:

mkdir launch_tutorial/launch

Finally, make sure to add in changes to the setup.py of the package so that the launch files will be installed:

import os
from glob import glob
from setuptools import setup

package_name = 'launch_tutorial'

setup(
    # Other parameters ...
    data_files=[
        # ... Other data files
        # Include all launch files.
        (os.path.join('share', package_name), glob('launch/*launch.[pxy][yma]*'))
    ]
)

2 Parent launch file

Let’s create a launch file that will call and pass arguments to another launch file. To do this, create an example_main.launch.py file in the launch folder of the launch_tutorial package.

from launch_ros.substitutions import FindPackageShare

from launch import LaunchDescription
from launch.actions import IncludeLaunchDescription
from launch.launch_description_sources import PythonLaunchDescriptionSource
from launch.substitutions import PathJoinSubstitution, TextSubstitution


def generate_launch_description():
    colors = {
        'background_r': '200'
    }

    return LaunchDescription([
        IncludeLaunchDescription(
            PythonLaunchDescriptionSource([
                PathJoinSubstitution([
                    FindPackageShare('launch_tutorial'),
                    'example_substitutions.launch.py'
                ])
            ]),
            launch_arguments={
                'turtlesim_ns': 'turtlesim2',
                'use_provided_red': 'True',
                'new_background_r': TextSubstitution(text=str(colors['background_r']))
            }.items()
        )
    ])

In the example_main.launch.py file, the FindPackageShare substitution is used to find the path to the launch_tutorial package. The PathJoinSubstitution substitution is then used to join the path to that package path with the example_substitutions.launch.py file name.

PathJoinSubstitution([
    FindPackageShare('launch_tutorial'),
    'launch',
    'example_substitutions.launch.py'
])

The launch_arguments dictionary with turtlesim_ns and use_provided_red arguments is passed to the IncludeLaunchDescription action. The TextSubstitution substitution is used to define the new_background_r argument with the value of the background_r key in the colors dictionary.

launch_arguments={
    'turtlesim_ns': 'turtlesim2',
    'use_provided_red': 'True',
    'new_background_r': TextSubstitution(text=str(colors['background_r']))
}.items()

3 Substitutions example launch file

Now create an example_substitutions.launch.py file in the same folder.

from launch_ros.actions import Node

from launch import LaunchDescription
from launch.actions import DeclareLaunchArgument, ExecuteProcess, TimerAction
from launch.conditions import IfCondition
from launch.substitutions import LaunchConfiguration, PythonExpression


def generate_launch_description():
    turtlesim_ns = LaunchConfiguration('turtlesim_ns')
    use_provided_red = LaunchConfiguration('use_provided_red')
    new_background_r = LaunchConfiguration('new_background_r')

    turtlesim_ns_launch_arg = DeclareLaunchArgument(
        'turtlesim_ns',
        default_value='turtlesim1'
    )
    use_provided_red_launch_arg = DeclareLaunchArgument(
        'use_provided_red',
        default_value='False'
    )
    new_background_r_launch_arg = DeclareLaunchArgument(
        'new_background_r',
        default_value='200'
    )

    turtlesim_node = Node(
        package='turtlesim',
        namespace=turtlesim_ns,
        executable='turtlesim_node',
        name='sim'
    )
    spawn_turtle = ExecuteProcess(
        cmd=[[
            'ros2 service call ',
            turtlesim_ns,
            '/spawn ',
            'turtlesim/srv/Spawn ',
            '"{x: 2, y: 2, theta: 0.2}"'
        ]],
        shell=True
    )
    change_background_r = ExecuteProcess(
        cmd=[[
            'ros2 param set ',
            turtlesim_ns,
            '/sim background_r ',
            '120'
        ]],
        shell=True
    )
    change_background_r_conditioned = ExecuteProcess(
        condition=IfCondition(
            PythonExpression([
                new_background_r,
                ' == 200',
                ' and ',
                use_provided_red
            ])
        ),
        cmd=[[
            'ros2 param set ',
            turtlesim_ns,
            '/sim background_r ',
            new_background_r
        ]],
        shell=True
    )

    return LaunchDescription([
        turtlesim_ns_launch_arg,
        use_provided_red_launch_arg,
        new_background_r_launch_arg,
        turtlesim_node,
        spawn_turtle,
        change_background_r,
        TimerAction(
            period=2.0,
            actions=[change_background_r_conditioned],
        )
    ])

In the example_substitutions.launch.py file, turtlesim_ns, use_provided_red, and new_background_r launch configurations are defined. They are used to store values of launch arguments in the above variables and to pass them to required actions. These LaunchConfiguration substitutions allow us to acquire the value of the launch argument in any part of the launch description.

DeclareLaunchArgument is used to define the launch argument that can be passed from the above launch file or from the console.

turtlesim_ns = LaunchConfiguration('turtlesim_ns')
use_provided_red = LaunchConfiguration('use_provided_red')
new_background_r = LaunchConfiguration('new_background_r')

turtlesim_ns_launch_arg = DeclareLaunchArgument(
    'turtlesim_ns',
    default_value='turtlesim1'
)
use_provided_red_launch_arg = DeclareLaunchArgument(
    'use_provided_red',
    default_value='False'
)
new_background_r_launch_arg = DeclareLaunchArgument(
    'new_background_r',
    default_value='200'
)

The turtlesim_node node with the namespace set to turtlesim_ns LaunchConfiguration substitution is defined.

turtlesim_node = Node(
    package='turtlesim',
    namespace=turtlesim_ns,
    executable='turtlesim_node',
    name='sim'
)

Afterwards, the ExecuteProcess action called spawn_turtle is defined with the corresponding cmd argument. This command makes a call to the spawn service of the turtlesim node.

Additionally, the LaunchConfiguration substitution is used to get the value of the turtlesim_ns launch argument to construct a command string.

spawn_turtle = ExecuteProcess(
    cmd=[[
        'ros2 service call ',
        turtlesim_ns,
        '/spawn ',
        'turtlesim/srv/Spawn ',
        '"{x: 2, y: 2, theta: 0.2}"'
    ]],
    shell=True
)

The same approach is used for the change_background_r and change_background_r_conditioned actions that change the turtlesim background’s red color parameter. The difference is that the change_background_r_conditioned action is only executed if the provided new_background_r argument equals 200 and the use_provided_red launch argument is set to True. The evaluation inside the IfCondition is done using the PythonExpression substitution.

change_background_r = ExecuteProcess(
    cmd=[[
        'ros2 param set ',
        turtlesim_ns,
        '/sim background_r ',
        '120'
    ]],
    shell=True
)
change_background_r_conditioned = ExecuteProcess(
    condition=IfCondition(
        PythonExpression([
            new_background_r,
            ' == 200',
            ' and ',
            use_provided_red
        ])
    ),
    cmd=[[
        'ros2 param set ',
        turtlesim_ns,
        '/sim background_r ',
        new_background_r
    ]],
    shell=True
)

4 Build the package

Go to the root of the workspace, and build the package:

colcon build

Also remember to source the workspace after building.

Launching example

Now you can launch the example_main.launch.py file using the ros2 launch command.

ros2 launch launch_tutorial example_main.launch.py

This will do the following:

  1. Start a turtlesim node with a blue background

  2. Spawn the second turtle

  3. Change the color to purple

  4. Change the color to pink after two seconds if the provided background_r argument is 200 and use_provided_red argument is True

Modifying launch arguments

If you want to change the provided launch arguments, you can either update them in launch_arguments dictionary in the example_main.launch.py or launch the example_substitutions.launch.py with preferred arguments. To see arguments that may be given to the launch file, run the following command:

ros2 launch launch_tutorial example_substitutions.launch.py --show-args

This will show the arguments that may be given to the launch file and their default values.

Arguments (pass arguments as '<name>:=<value>'):

    'turtlesim_ns':
        no description given
        (default: 'turtlesim1')

    'use_provided_red':
        no description given
        (default: 'False')

    'new_background_r':
        no description given
        (default: '200')

Now you can pass the desired arguments to the launch file as follows:

ros2 launch launch_tutorial example_substitutions.launch.py turtlesim_ns:='turtlesim3' use_provided_red:='True' new_background_r:=200

Documentation

The launch documentation provides detailed information about available substitutions.

Summary

In this tutorial, you learned about using substitutions in launch files. You learned about their possibilities and capabilities to create reusable launch files.

You can now learn more about using event handlers in launch files which are used to define a complex set of rules which can be used to dynamically modify the launch file.