A Tour of CoCalc
CoCalc features include the ability to run Linux terminals, Jupyter Notebooks and Sage Worksheets, and a wide range of course management facilities.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the features not related to course management. Course management features are described elsewhere in this tutorial.
Create your first project
Log into CoCalc and click on the projects icon in the top left hand corner of the screen.
Click on Create New Project, fill out the Title and Description and click on Create Project.
Once you’ve created your project, click on the project title to open it. It will initially be empty, so we’ll start creating files.
CoCalc provides full access to the Linux terminal. To open a terminal, click on New and give your session a name. I’ve used
joe in the example. Click on >_ Terminal to begin your session
This starts up a traditional looking Bash session
The terminal welcome message gives you an idea of some of the software that’s available. A partial list includes:
- C, C++ and Fortran compilers such as gcc and clang and gfortran
- Mathematical and statistical software such as Sage, GNU Octave, R and Gap
- Text editors, including vim, emacs, joe and nano
- Programming languages such as julia and ocaml
- The popular alternative zsh to Bash
- Version control via git
- Terminal multiplexer tmux
The distribution is based on Ubuntu Linux but it is not possible to install software yourself using
If you need something installed, contact the CoCalc team for some help. Anything they install is then available to all CoCalc projects.
Alternatively, you can always add custom software installations on top of your home directory.
You can even use the path
~/.local/ as your “
PREFIX” and adjust the
PATH variable in your
When you start a terminal session called
foo, a file called
foo.term is created. Its contents are not particularly interesting as they only reference the terminal session in the CoCalc system. The file is useful, however, in that it can be used to re-open a terminal session at the same place you previously left off (unless the session ends due to inactivity).
To start a new Jupyter notebook, click on New and give your notebook a name. I’ve used
example_notebook in the example. Click on Jupyter Notebook to open the notebook.
The notebook starts with a SageMath kernel by default. Change the kernel by clicking on Kernel and selecting the kernel you want. There are several available including Python 3, R, Julia, Octave, SageMath and Julia. The image below shows an expanded menu with all the kernels available at the time of this writing:
To start a new Sage Worksheet, click on New and give your worksheet a name (
example_worksheet in our case ). Click on Sage Worksheet to open the worksheet.
What can’t be done in CoCalc?
CoCalc does not have integrated web-based support for X Windows, which means that applications that require a GUI cannot be used. This includes things like gedit, Spyder and xclock.
Since CoCalc is Linux based, it is not possible to run Windows applications such as Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel.
You might think it wouldn’t be possible, but it is possible to install commercial software such as MATLAB or Mathematica on CoCalc if you have an appropriate license (some users do this).
If you need help from the CoCalc team, you can create a support ticket by emailing [email protected] or clicking on the help icon in the top right hand corner of most CoCalc screens.