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JupyterLab Distribution with a retro look and feel

Project description


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Introduction | Try it | Installation | Usage | Tour | Contributing | Motivation | vs Other Jupyter Frontends | Community Guidelines


RetroLab (also known as JupyterLab Retro, previously called JupyterLab Classic) is a JupyterLab distribution with a retro look and feel, more similar to the classic Jupyter notebook.


Try it online in your browser

It is possible to try RetroLab on the web in Binder without installing anything:

  • A tour of the current release: Binder Tour
  • The current state of this development repository: Binder Main


retrolab can be installed with pip:

pip install retrolab

With mamba:

mamba install -c conda-forge retrolab

With conda:

conda install -c conda-forge retrolab


retrolab can be started as a standalone app with:

jupyter retro

Existing federated JupyterLab extensions listed via:

jupyter labextension list

Should also be available when starting retrolab.


From an open notebook:

  1. Click the RetroLab button in the toolbar; or
  2. View > Open in RetroLab from the menu

To access the main RetroLab tree (file browser):

  1. Help > Launch RetroLab File Browser from the menu; or
  2. Go to the /retro URL path of your Jupyter site


Files 📂 and Running Sessions 🏃‍♀️

An animation showing the abilities of RetroLab. It shows the ability to make folders, move files, and create new ones.

Notebook 📒

An animation showing a user viewing a notebook, renaming a file, running cells, interacting with cell output, and modifying the Jupyter interface using the menu

Open in a new Browser Tab by default

An example of creating a new notebook that opens a new tab and prompts to select a kernel. It shows executing a cell that shows and output then saves the result. It returns back to the file browser to show the notebooking in the running panel.

Command Palette 🎨

An animation of a user opening the command palette and selecting the "Restart Kernel and Clear All Outputs …" option

Themes 🌈

Support for existing JupyterLab themes!

An animation of a user changing the Jupyter interface to use the dark theme.

For an even more retro look, you might want to start retrolab with the --retro-logo CLI flag:

jupyter retro --retro-logo

# or
# jupyter retro --RetroApp.retro_logo=True

Example with the JupyterLab Miami Nights Theme installed as a prebuilt extension:

The Jupyter interface using the Miami Nights theme

Zen Mode 😌

An animation of a user using the command palette to enable Zen Mode in JupyterLab

Terminals 🖥️

An animation of a user launching a terminal in a new browser tab and executing a command in it

File Editor 🖊️

A RetroLab editor of a Python file with a function and a statement in it

Compact View on Mobile Devices 📱

Animation of a user on a mobile phone-sized screen using a compact touch interface in JupyterLab

Support for prebuilt extensions 🧩

Install new extensions easily!

An animation of installing an extension directly in a RetroLab by running commands in a notebook cell.

Switch between JupyterLab and RetroLab easily ↔️

An animation of opening RetroLab in another tab from a button in the JupyterLab toolbar.


If you would like to contribute to the project and set up a development environment, check out


JupyterLab is the next-gen UI for Project Jupyter. Currently at version 3.0, it is becoming more mature and provides an advanced computational environment, that can sometimes be compared to what traditional IDEs offer.

However in some cases, having a leaner, simpler, and more focused interface to work on a notebook is really useful.

The single document mode as currently implemented in JupyterLab helps address this issue, but still displays a couple of visual cues that can be distracting to some users.

The goal of the retrolab project is to provide an alternative JupyterLab distribution with the look and feed of the classic notebook UI, while leveraging the efforts put in the development of JupyterLab itself and its extension system.

Technically speaking, retrolab reuses many of the existing plugins for JupyterLab (notebook, toolbar), and also supports prebuilt (federated) third-party extensions using the new distribution system added in 3.0. That way, extensions built for JupyterLab should also be compatible with retrolab, as long as they can be added to the application shell provided by RetroLab.

Relation to other Jupyter frontends

RetroLab is an alternative frontend built using the latest JupyterLab components, with the look and feel of the Classic Jupyter Notebook UI. Below is a short comparison to know where it stands when compared to other Jupyter UI projects:

  • Classic Jupyter Notebook - Classic frontend, classic notebook server.
  • NBClassic - Classic frontend, new Jupyter Server.
  • JupyterLab - Jupyterlab frontend, new Jupyter Server (or Classic Notebook Server). Extensions are not compatible with the Classic Jupyter Notebook since it is built with different components. With version 3.0 onwards, it uses the new Jupyter Server and supports federated extensions that don't need to be rebuilt on the end-user machine.
  • RetroLab - JupyterLab frontend built with JupyterLab components, with the look and feel of the Classic Notebook. Consistent with the latest version of Jupyterlab. Extensions built for Jupyterlab should work as long as the components they depend on are part of this classic interface (for install RetroLab doesn't have the left, right and bottom areas).

Prior art

This project is mostly a reboot of the two previous attempts at making something similar:

These projects really expressed the need for a stripped down, minimal version of the Jupyter Notebook UI.

retrolab contributes to that space with the added features:

  • Support for existing federated (prebuilt) JupyterLab extensions
  • Zen Mode
  • Repo structure, similar to JupyterLab
  • Reusing as much as possible from upstream JupyterLab
  • Serve as a template and reference implementation for other alternative JupyterLab distributions

Community Guidelines and Code of Conduct

This repository is a Jupyter project and follows the Jupyter Community Guides and Code of Conduct.

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