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A comprehensive macromolecular library

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The goal of Mol* (/'mol-star/) is to provide a technology stack that serves as a basis for the next-generation data delivery and analysis tools for (not only) macromolecular structure data. Mol* development was jointly initiated by PDBe and RCSB PDB to combine and build on the strengths of LiteMol (developed by PDBe) and NGL (developed by RCSB PDB) viewers.

When using Mol*, please cite:

David Sehnal, Sebastian Bittrich, Mandar Deshpande, Radka Svobodová, Karel Berka, Václav Bazgier, Sameer Velankar, Stephen K Burley, Jaroslav Koča, Alexander S Rose: Mol* Viewer: modern web app for 3D visualization and analysis of large biomolecular structures, Nucleic Acids Research, 2021;

Project Structure Overview

The core of Mol* consists of these modules (see under

  • mol-task
    Computation abstraction with progress tracking and cancellation support.
  • mol-data
    Collections (integer-based sets, interface to columns/tables, etc.)
  • mol-math
    Math related (loosely) algorithms and data structures.
  • mol-io
    Parsing library. Each format is parsed into an interface that corresponds to the data stored by it. Support for common coordinate, experimental/map, and annotation data formats.
  • mol-model
    Data structures and algorithms (such as querying) for representing molecular data (including coordinate, experimental/map, and annotation data).
  • mol-model-formats
    Data format parsers for
  • mol-model-props
    Common "custom properties".
  • mol-script
    A scripting language for creating representations/scenes and querying (includes the MolQL query language).
  • mol-geo
    Creating (molecular) geometries.
  • mol-theme
    Theming for structure, volume and shape representations.
  • mol-repr
    Molecular representations for structures, volumes and shapes.
  • mol-gl
    A wrapper around WebGL.
  • mol-canvas3d
    A low-level 3d view component. Uses
    to generate geometries.
  • mol-state
    State representation tree with state saving and automatic updates.
  • mol-plugin
    Allow to define modular Mol* plugin instances utilizing
  • mol-plugin-state
    State transformations, builders, and managers.
  • mol-plugin-ui
    React-based user interface for the Mol* plugin. Some components of the UI are usable outside the main plugin and can be integrated into 3rd party solutions.
  • mol-util
    Useful things that do not fit elsewhere.

Moreover, the project contains the implementation of

, including
  • servers/model
    A tool for accessing coordinate and annotation data of molecular structures.
  • servers/volume
    A tool for accessing volumetric experimental data related to molecular structures.
  • servers/plugin-state
    A basic server to store Mol* Plugin states.

The project also contains performance tests (

, and
apps (CIF to BinaryCIF converter and JSON domain annotation to CIF converter).

Previous Work

This project builds on experience from previous solutions: - LiteMol Suite - WebChemistry - NGL Viewer - MMTF - MolQL - PDB Component Library - And many others (list will be continuously expanded).

Building & Running


npm install
npm run build

Build automatically on file save:

npm run watch

If working on just the viewer,

npm run watch-viewer
will provide shorter compile times.

Build with debug mode enabled:

DEBUG=molstar npm run watch

Debug/production mode in browsers can be turned on/off during runtime by calling

setMolStarDebugMode(true/false, true/false)
from the dev console.

Build for production:

NODE_ENV=production npm run build


If not installed previously:

npm install -g http-server

...or a similar solution.

From the root of the project:

http-server -p PORT-NUMBER

and navigate to


Code generation

CIF schemas

node ./lib/commonjs/cli/cifschema -mip ../../../../mol-data -o src/mol-io/reader/cif/schema/mmcif.ts -p mmCIF
node ./lib/commonjs/cli/cifschema -mip ../../../../mol-data -o src/mol-io/reader/cif/schema/ccd.ts -p CCD
node ./lib/commonjs/cli/cifschema -mip ../../../../mol-data -o src/mol-io/reader/cif/schema/bird.ts -p BIRD
node ./lib/commonjs/cli/cifschema -mip ../../../../mol-data -o src/mol-io/reader/cif/schema/cif-core.ts -p CifCore -aa

Lipid names

node lib/commonjs/cli/lipid-params -o src/mol-model/structure/model/types/lipids.ts

Ion names

node --max-old-space-size=4096 lib/commonjs/cli/chem-comp-dict/create-ions.js src/mol-model/structure/model/types/ions.ts

GraphQL schemas

node node_modules//@graphql-codegen/cli/bin -c src/extensions/rcsb/graphql/codegen.yml

Other scripts

Create chem comp bond table

node --max-old-space-size=4096 lib/commonjs/cli/chem-comp-dict/create-table.js build/data/ccb.bcif -b

Test model server

export NODE_PATH="lib"; node build/src/servers/model/test.js

State Transformer Docs

export NODE_PATH="lib"; node build/state-docs

Convert any CIF to BinaryCIF

node lib/servers/model/preprocess -i file.cif -ob file.bcif

To see all available commands, use

node lib/servers/model/preprocess -h


node lib/commonjs/cli/cif2bcif



If node complains about a missing acorn peer dependency, run the following commands

npm update acorn --depth 20
npm dedupe


To get syntax highlighting for shader and graphql files add the following to Visual Code's settings files and make sure relevant extensions are installed in the editor.

"files.associations": {
    "*.glsl.ts": "glsl",
    "*.frag.ts": "glsl",
    "*.vert.ts": "glsl",
    "*.gql.ts": "graphql"



npm version prerelease # assumes the current version ends with '-dev.X'
npm publish --tag next


npm version 0.X.0 # provide valid semver string
npm publish


npm run test
npm run build
node ./scripts/deploy.js # currently updates the viewer on


Just open an issue or make a pull request. All contributions are welcome.


Funding sources include but are not limited to: * RCSB PDB funding by a grant [DBI-1338415; PI: SK Burley] from the NSF, the NIH, and the US DoE * PDBe, EMBL-EBI * CEITEC * EntosAI

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