rauter25, Container, 2017, photograph

Environments make articles a fruitful basis for easy experimentation and collaboration.

Nextjournal automatically versions an article's entire dependency stack. If new dependencies are added, a new version of the environment is created. A researcher can always go back to a previous version, transclude the environment in an entirely new article, or remix their work in an collaborative effort. Nextjournal environments mean no more messy downloads or missing dependencies - everything runs immediately in the browser!

What's Happening

An environment is simply a filesystem snapshot of the runtime stored as a Docker image. These images are a sophisticated software abstraction hidden behind our notebook interface. You will never have to worry about how to install Docker, manage images, or prepare them for others to use. However, a quick tour of our architecture will help convey the features we provide - so let's dig in!

Docker Images

Most images used in Nextjournal use Ubuntu 18.04 LTS as a base. On top of that are system libraries that extend the functionality of the Linux core.

The next two levels are more immediately tangible: the language runtime versions like Python, R, and Julia and the language-specific packages like numpy (Python) and tidyverse (R).

Computation Environments are Docker Images containing the whole file system state (OS, libraries, binaries, etc...) versioned and available to clone from the Docker registry.

The stuff you care most about - your carefully crafted code, written descriptions, and imported datasets - all sit atop of this stack of dependencies. This is so tightly coupled that running a little code and some data on two different computers can require hours of effort to install and configure the correct software stack. Nextjournal's environments eliminate concerns around dependencies so you can focus on your work.


While Nextjournal does make setup easier, what we're really passionate about is making changes easier.

Version Control Systems like Github have revolutionized the development of software by recording every committed change to source code. This simplifies collaboration by reducing risk and ultimately incentivizes openness; if someone commits an ill-advised change, simply rewind to a previous version of the source code.

Nextjournal offers versioning across your entire project: from your souce code all the way down to the most basic dependency. This means:

  • Sharing research with a peer is no longer difficult. Provide a URL and it immediately runs in their web browser.
  • Updating a depreciated library is no longer a risky position. Install the new software, tinker with your code, and if it's not working out, rewind.
  • Collaborating is no longer painful. Others can take your fully-attributed work, hit the remix button, and experiment with different datasets and easily alter code.

More Than a Notebook

Nextjournal promises complete reproducibility across your entire project. Read the introduction to remixing to learn more about how this enables collaboration. For a broad overview what what makes Nextjournal different from other notebooks and developent enviornments, check out Why Nextjournal. If you'd like to try it yourself, get in touch for Private Beta access.