Ignition Gazebo

API Reference


Migration from Gazebo classic: SDF

Both Gazebo classic and Ignition Gazebo support SDF files to describe the simulation to be loaded. An SDF file defines the world environment, the robot's characteristics and what plugins to load.

Despite using the same description format, users will note that the same SDF file may behave differently for each simulator. This tutorial will explain how to write SDF files in a way that they're as reusable by both simulators as possible. It will also explain when you'll need to use separate files for each simulator.

The minimum required versions to use this guide are:

  • Gazebo 11.2.0
  • Igniton Citadel


SDF files use URIs to refer to resources from other files, such as meshes and nested models. These are some of the SDF tags that take URIs:

  • <include><uri>
  • <mesh><uri>
  • <material><pbr><...><*_map> (only on Ignition)
  • <actor><skin><filename>
  • <actor><animation><filename>

Here are the recommended ways to use URIs from most recommended to least:

Ignition Fuel URL

It's possible to use URLs of resources on Ignition Fuel within any of the tags above and both simulators will be able to load it.

For example, this world can be loaded into both simulators:

<sdf version="1.7">
<world name="demo">
<uri>https://fuel.ignitionrobotics.org/1.0/OpenRobotics/models/Ground Plane</uri>
<model name="Radio">
<pose>3 -1.5 0 0 0 0</pose>
<link name="link">
<collision name="collision">
<visual name="visual">
<actor name="actor_talking">
<filename>https://fuel.ignitionrobotics.org/1.0/OpenRobotics/models/actor - relative paths/tip/files/meshes/talk_b.dae</filename>
<animation name="talk_b">
<filename>https://fuel.ignitionrobotics.org/1.0/OpenRobotics/models/actor - relative paths/tip/files/meshes/talk_b.dae</filename>
<trajectory id="0" type="talk_b">
<pose>2 -2 0.5 0 0 0</pose>
<pose>2 -2 0.5 0 0 0</pose>
The actor's vertical pose will be different on both simulators. That's because a hardcoded offset was removed on Ignition and maintained on Gazebo classic for backwards compatibility.

Path relative to the SDF file

It's possible to use relative paths within SDF files to refer to other files in the same directory. This is recommended when creating files that work together and need to be relocatable.

For example, consider the following directory structure:

├── world.sdf
└── models
└── model1
├── model.sdf
└── meshes
└── mesh.dae

The world world.sdf can include model1 as follows:


And model.sdf can refer to mesh.dae as:


Path relative to an environment variable

This method is useful if you don't know where the files will be located with respect to each other, and you have some control over the simulation's runtime environment. On either simulator, you can refer to resources relative to paths set on an environment variable.

Each simulator uses a different environment variable:

  • Gazebo classic:
    • GAZEBO_MODEL_PATH for models
    • GAZEBO_RESOURCE_PATH for worlds and some rendering resources
  • Ignition Gazebo:
    • IGN_GAZEBO_RESOURCE_PATH for worlds, models and other resources

For example, if you have the file structure above, you can set the environment variable to /home/username/models:

export GAZEBO_MODEL_PATH=/home/username/models
export GAZEBO_RESOURCE_PATH=/home/username/models
export IGN_GAZEBO_RESOURCE_PATH=/home/username/models

And inside world.sdf include the model with:


Also, model.sdf can refer to mesh.dae as:


On both situations, the model:// prefix will be substituted by /home/username/models.

You can also set several lookup paths separating them with :, for example:

export IGN_GAZEBO_RESOURCE_PATH=/home/username/models:/home/username/another_project/models

Absolute paths

Finally, both simulators will accept absolute paths, for example:


This method is not recommended, because the file most likely won't work if copied to a different computer. It also becomes inconvenient to move files to different directories.


Plugins are binary files compiled to use with a specific simulator. Plugins for Gazebo classic and Ignition Gazebo aren't usually compatible, so plugins will need to be specified for each simulator separately.

It's important to note that for both simulators, plugins compiled against a major version of the simulator can't be loaded by other major versions. The shared libraries will usually have the same name, so it's important to make sure you're loading the correct plugins.

Official plugins

Both simulators are installed with several built-in plugins. Gazebo classic's plugins and Ignition Gazebo's plugins have different file names. For example, to use Gazebo classic's differential drive plugin, the user can refer to it as follows:

<model ...>
<plugin filename="libDiffDrivePlugin.so" name="any_custom_name">

On Ignition, that would be:

<model ...>
<plugin filename="ignition-gazebo-diff-drive-system"

Note that besides the different file name, Ignition also requires the C++ class to be defined in the name attribute.

Also keep in mind that plugins that offer similar functionality may accept different parameters for each simulator. Be sure to check the documentation of each plugin before using it.

Custom plugins

To load custom plugins, users need to set environment variables to the directory where that plugin is located. The variables are different for each simulator:

  • Gazebo classic:
    • GAZEBO_PLUGIN_PATH for all plugin types.
  • Ignition Gazebo:
    • IGN_GAZEBO_SYSTEM_PLUGIN_PATH for Ignition Gazebo systems (world, model, sensor and visual plugins).
    • IGN_GUI_PLUGIN_PATH for GUI plugins.

Keeping plugins separate

Trying to load a plugin from one simulator into the other will:

  • Print an error message if the simulator can't find the plugin
  • Potentially crash if the simulator can find the plugin and tries to load it

That's why it's recommended not to specify plugins for both simulators side-by-side on the same file. Instead, keep separate files and inject the plugins as needed.

There isn't a built-in mechanism on SDFormat to inject plugins into files yet, but users can make use of templating tools like ERB and xacro to generate SDF files with the correct plugins.

Default plugins

Ignition Gazebo is more modular than Gazebo classic, so most features are optional. For example, by default, Ignition will load all the system plugins defined on the ~/.ignition/gazebo/server.config file and all GUI plugins defined on the ~/.ignition/gazebo/gui.config file. But the user can always remove plugins from those files, or choose different ones by adding <plugin> tags to the SDF file. (For more details, see the Server configuration tutorial and the GUI configuration tutorial).

This is important to keep in mind when migrating your SDF files, because files that worked on Gazebo classic may need more plugins on Ignition.


Ignition does not support Ogre material files like Classic does, because Ignition Gazebo can be used with multiple rendering engines. Therefore, materials defined within a <script> aren't supported on Ignition, for example:


To make your models compatible with both simulators, you can use these alternatives:

Plain colors

If the material defines plain colors, use the <ambient>, <specular>, <emissive> and <diffuse> tags as needed.

For example, this material from gazebo.material:


Can be changed to:

<ambient>1 0 0 1</ambient>
<diffuse>1 0 0 1</diffuse>
<specular>0.1 0.1 0.1 1</specular>


If an Ogre material script is being used to define a texture, there are a couple alternatives.

If using mesh files, the texture can be embedded into it. The advantage is that this works for both simulators. Some examples:

For primitive shapes or even meshes, you can pass the texture as the albedo map. If you want the model to be compatible with both Classic and Ignition, you can specify both the script and the albedo map.