This document contains important information about Nicotine+ design decisions and development procedures for maintainers, developers and code contributors alike.
Nicotine+ is Python application, originally based on backend code from the PySoulSeek project started in 2001. We only use Python in our codebase, as this allows for running Nicotine+ on almost any system without compiling anything. Developing in a single language is also easier for everyone involved in the project.
We aim to support the oldest minor Python 3 version still used by supported releases of distributions and operating systems. The minimum version Nicotine+ currently supports is 3.6.
Nicotine+ and its predecessors PySoulSeek and Nicotine were originally developed with GNU/Linux in mind, at a time when the official Soulseek client only supported Windows. The Nicotine project opted to use GTK as the GUI toolkit, as opposed to wxPython previously used by PySoulSeek. This decision was made due to various issues encountered in wxPython at the time, such as large memory overhead and long compile/build times.
GTK fits our needs, and we have no plans of switching to another toolkit.
Nicotine+ aims to be as portable as possible, providing access to the Soulseek network for people who cannot run the official Soulseek client. Nicotine+ runs on almost any architecture and system available, and has active users on a plethora of different systems. This also means that the introduction of an external software dependency can be an inconvenience for both packagers and users.
Modules included in the Python Standard Library should be preferred whenever possible. Avoid introducing “convenient” and “new hotness” dependencies, if the standard library already includes the required functionality to some degree. If a new dependency is necessary, think about the following points:
The current dependencies for Nicotine+ are described in DEPENDENCIES.md.
Profiling code changes from time to time is important, to ensure that Nicotine+ performs well and uses fewer system resources. Our goal is to develop a lightweight client that runs well on older hardware, as well as small servers.
Due to Python’s interpreted nature, addressing performance issues can be a challenge. There is no straightforward way of solving every performance issue, but these points generally help:
py-spy is an excellent tool for profiling in real time while running Nicotine+ directly from a local Git folder and starting with:
py-spy top ./nicotine
The console will continuously display a top like view of functions consuming CPU. Press
L to aggregate by line number, and
R to reset the view.
Verbose logging can be enabled to ease debugging. The following log categories are available:
In order to enable debug logging:
Log Categories submenu.
If you want to log debug messages to file,
Menu -> Preferences -> Logging -> Log debug messages to file. Remember to disable debug logging when you no longer need it, since it impacts performance.
The Soulseek network uses its own protocol for interoperability between clients. The protocol is proprietary, and no official documentation is available. Nicotine+’s protocol implementation is developed by observing the behavior of the official Soulseek NS and SoulseekQt clients.
SLSKPROTOCOL.md contains unofficial documentation maintained by the Nicotine+ team.
It is important that all patches pass unit testing. Unfortunately developers make all kinds of changes to their local development environment that can have unintended consequences. This means sometimes tests on the developer’s computer pass when they should not, and other times failing when they should not have.
To properly validate that things are working, continuous integration (CI) is required. This means compiling, performing local in-tree unit tests, installing through the system package manager, and finally testing the actually installed build artifacts to ensure they do what the user expects them to do.
The key thing to remember is that in order to do this properly, this all needs to be done within a realistic end user system that has not been unintentionally modified by a developer. This might mean a chroot container with the help of QEMU and KVM to verify that everything is working as expected. The hermetically sealed test environment validates that the developer’s expected steps for, as an example in the case of a library, compilation, linking, unit testing, and post installation testing are actually replicable.
On Debian based distributions,
autopkgtest implements the DEP-8 standard. To create and use a build image environment for Ubuntu, follow these steps. First install the autopkgtest(1) tools:
sudo apt install autopkgtest
Next create the test image, substituting
amd64 for other releases or architectures:
autopkgtest-buildvm-ubuntu-cloud -r hirsute -a amd64
Test your changes on the host architecture in QEMU with KVM support and 8GB of RAM and four CPUs:
autopkgtest --shell-fail --apt-upgrade . -- \
qemu --ram-size=8192 --cpus=4 --show-boot path_to_build_image.img \
Tests are defined in the pynicotine/tests/ folder, and should be expanded to cover larger parts of the client when possible.
Translations are largely handled by Weblate, but certain manual operations need to be performed at times.
When Nicotine+ is translated into a new language, the following should be done:
# Copyright (C) 20XX Nicotine+ Translators
# This file is distributed under the same license as the Nicotine+ package.
PACKAGE VERSION value of
Project-Id-Version in the XX.po file:
The translation template file po/nicotine.pot should be updated after modifying strings in the codebase. To update the template, run the following command:
When translations are modified, Weblate creates a pull request with the changes within 24 hours. In order to preserve author information for commits, use the
Create a merge commit option when merging the pull request.
Nicotine+ tries to follow Semantic Versioning when possible. As cited in the specification:
Given a version number MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, increment the:
MAJOR version when you make incompatible API changes,
MINOR version when you add functionality in a backwards compatible manner, and
PATCH version when you make backwards compatible bug fixes.
Additional labels for pre-release and build metadata are available as extensions to the MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH format.
Release dates are not set in stone, as Nicotine+ development is done by volunteers in their spare time. However, keep the following points in mind:
Taking too long to release a new Nicotine+ version (e.g. years) will likely result in Nicotine+ no longer functioning due to technological advancements, or being removed from distributions. This previously occurred when support for Python 2 ended in 2020.
We have no means of delivering updates to all users at the same time. Packagers for numerous distributions have to package and test new Nicotine+ releases before they can be delivered to users.
Releasing large updates can make it more difficult to pinpoint eventual issues that were introduced since the previous release.
The following is a step-by-step guide detailing what a Nicotine+ maintainer should do when releasing a new version of Nicotine+.
python3 -m build --sdist
Add a new release note entry to NEWS.md. Release notes should contain a user-readable list of noteworthy changes since the last release (not a list of commits), as well as a list of closed issues on GitHub.
Ensure that the Windows and macOS packages generated by GitHub Actions still work.
packaging/release/ and run
Generate a stable PPA release for Ubuntu / Debian. First, ensure that the repository mirror on Launchpad is up to date. Once it is, update the contents of the stable build recipe, replacing the previous commit hash with the one used for the release you tagged on GitHub. Then, generate stable builds by pressing Request build(s).
Create a new release on Flathub.