Writing a New Interpreter

What is Apache Zeppelin Interpreter

Apache Zeppelin Interpreter is a language backend. For example to use scala code in Zeppelin, you need a scala interpreter. Every Interpreters belongs to an InterpreterGroup. Interpreters in the same InterpreterGroup can reference each other. For example, SparkSqlInterpreter can reference SparkInterpreter to get SparkContext from it while they're in the same group.

InterpreterSetting is configuration of a given InterpreterGroup and a unit of start/stop interpreter. All Interpreters in the same InterpreterSetting are launched in a single, separate JVM process. The Interpreter communicates with Zeppelin engine via Thrift.

In 'Separate Interpreter(scoped / isolated) for each note' mode which you can see at the Interpreter Setting menu when you create a new interpreter, new interpreter instance will be created per notebook. But it still runs on the same JVM while they're in the same InterpreterSettings.

Make your own Interpreter

Creating a new interpreter is quite simple. Just extend org.apache.zeppelin.interpreter abstract class and implement some methods. You can include org.apache.zeppelin:zeppelin-interpreter:[VERSION] artifact in your build system. And you should put your jars under your interpreter directory with a specific directory name. Zeppelin server reads interpreter directories recursively and initializes interpreters including your own interpreter.

There are three locations where you can store your interpreter group, name and other information. Zeppelin server tries to find the location below. Next, Zeppelin tries to find interpreter-setting.json in your interpreter jar.


Here is an example of interpreter-setting.json on your own interpreter.

    "group": "your-group",
    "name": "your-name",
    "className": "your.own.interpreter.class",
    "properties": {
      "properties1": {
        "envName": null,
        "propertyName": "property.1.name",
        "defaultValue": "propertyDefaultValue",
        "description": "Property description"
      "properties2": {
        "envName": PROPERTIES_2,
        "propertyName": null,
        "defaultValue": "property2DefaultValue",
        "description": "Property 2 description"
      }, ...

Finally, Zeppelin uses static initialization with the following:

static {
    Interpreter.register("MyInterpreterName", MyClassName.class.getName());

Static initialization is deprecated and will be supported until 0.6.0.

The name will appear later in the interpreter name option box during the interpreter configuration process. The name of the interpreter is what you later write to identify a paragraph which should be interpreted using this interpreter.

some interpreter specific code...

Programming Languages for Interpreter

If the interpreter uses a specific programming language ( like Scala, Python, SQL ), it is generally recommended to add a syntax highlighting supported for that to the notebook paragraph editor.

To check out the list of languages supported, see the mode-*.js files under zeppelin-web/bower_components/ace-builds/src-noconflict or from github.com/ajaxorg/ace-builds.

If you want to add a new set of syntax highlighting,

  1. Add the mode-*.js file to zeppelin-web/bower.json ( when built, zeppelin-web/src/index.html will be changed automatically. ).
  2. Add to the list of editorMode in zeppelin-web/src/app/notebook/paragraph/paragraph.controller.js - it follows the pattern 'ace/mode/x' where x is the name.
  3. Add to the code that checks for % prefix and calls session.setMode(editorMode.x) in setParagraphMode located in zeppelin-web/src/app/notebook/paragraph/paragraph.controller.js.

Install your interpreter binary

Once you have built your interpreter, you can place it under the interpreter directory with all its dependencies.


Configure your interpreter

To configure your interpreter you need to follow these steps:

  1. Add your interpreter class name to the zeppelin.interpreters property in conf/zeppelin-site.xml.

    Property value is comma separated [INTERPRETER_CLASS_NAME]. For example,

  2. Add your interpreter to the default configuration which is used when there is no zeppelin-site.xml.

  3. Start Zeppelin by running ./bin/zeppelin-daemon.sh start.

  4. In the interpreter page, click the +Create button and configure your interpreter properties. Now you are done and ready to use your interpreter.

Note : Interpreters released with zeppelin have a default configuration which is used when there is no conf/zeppelin-site.xml.

Use your interpreter


Inside of a notebook, %[INTERPRETER_NAME] directive will call your interpreter. Note that the first interpreter configuration in zeppelin.interpreters will be the default one.

For example,


val a = "My interpreter"

0.6.0 and later

Inside of a notebook, %[INTERPRETER_GROUP].[INTERPRETER_NAME] directive will call your interpreter. Note that the first interpreter configuration in zeppelin.interpreters will be the default one.

You can omit either [INTERPRETER_GROUP] or [INTERPRETER_NAME]. If you omit [INTERPRETER_NAME], then first available interpreter will be selected in the [INTERPRETER_GROUP]. Likewise, if you skip [INTERPRETER_GROUP], then [INTERPRETER_NAME] will be chosen from default interpreter group.

For example, if you have two interpreter myintp1 and myintp2 in group mygrp, you can call myintp1 like


codes for myintp1

and you can call myintp2 like


codes for myintp2

If you omit your interpreter name, it'll select first available interpreter in the group ( myintp1 ).


codes for myintp1

You can only omit your interpreter group when your interpreter group is selected as a default group.


codes for myintp2


Checkout some interpreters released with Zeppelin by default.

Contributing a new Interpreter to Zeppelin releases

We welcome contribution to a new interpreter. Please follow these few steps:

  • First, check out the general contribution guide here.
  • Follow the steps in Make your own Interpreter section above.
  • Add your interpreter as in the Configure your interpreter section above; also add it to the example template zeppelin-site.xml.template.
  • Add tests! They are run by Travis for all changes and it is important that they are self-contained.
  • Include your interpreter as a module in pom.xml.
  • Add documentation on how to use your interpreter under docs/interpreter/. Follow the Markdown style as this example. Make sure you list config settings and provide working examples on using your interpreter in code boxes in Markdown. Link to images as appropriate (images should go to docs/assets/themes/zeppelin/img/docs-img/). And add a link to your documentation in the navigation menu (docs/_includes/themes/zeppelin/_navigation.html).
  • Most importantly, ensure licenses of the transitive closure of all dependencies are list in license file.
  • Commit your changes and open a Pull Request on the project Mirror on GitHub; check to make sure Travis CI build is passing.