The submit command

Published: April 8th, 2018

By: Alberto Riva

Category: BiocodingAlbertoRiva, BlogPosts

The submit command is a user-friendly replacement for sbatch (under slurm) or qsub (under PBS). It is available in the dibig_tools module, and offers several useful features compared to the original commands. Its basic syntax is:

$ module load dibig_tools 
$ submit [submit_options] script.qsub [script_arguments...]

For historical reasons, we’ll assume that the script you are submitting has a .qsub extension, and we’ll refer to it as the qsub script. Full documentation on all options can be printed using the -h or –help options.

Here are some of the features provided by submit, with examples of their use.

Uniform syntax

submit unifies slurm and PBS syntax, allowing you to write job submission scripts that work in both environments without change. This includes passing command-line arguments to your qsub script under PBS, something that is not directly supported by the qsub command. In order to take advantage of this last feature, use variable names $arg1,  $arg2, … to refer to the script’s arguments.

You can use the -mode command-line option to choose between the two environments, or set the SUBMIT_MODE environment variable in your shell initialization script. In both cases, allowed values are “slurm” and “pbs”.

Output files

submit provides defaults for the files where the job’s standard output and standard error are saved. They will be called scriptName.IN.oNNN and scriptName.IN.eNNN respectively, where NNN is the job number. In addition, it will print the command line and the job start time at the beginning of the standard output file, and the job end time at the end, allowing you to see what command was submitted exactly and how long its execution took.

Job control

You can instruct submit to create a special file when the job you are submitting terminates. This is especially useful when your master script submits multiple jobs at the same time, and needs to wait until they are all are done before proceeding.  This is accomplished using the -done command-line option, followed by the name of the file to be created (by convention, this file should have extension .done). If the filename contains the @ character, it will be replaced with the id of the submitted job.

For example, let’s imagine we want to process three different files (file1, file2, and file3) with the test.qsub script, and we want to pause until all three jobs are complete. This is accomplished with the following code:

$ for f in file1 file2 file3; do
  submit -done test.@.done test.qsub $f

The above loop will submit three different instances of test.qsub, and each one will create a file called test.NNN.done when it terminates, where NNN is its job id. Then simply count the number of files of the form test.*.done, and wait until it reaches 3. For example, the following bash code fragment checks the number of done files every minute:

$ while true; do
  N=$(ls test.*.done | wc -l)
  if [ "$N" == "3" ];
  sleep 60

You can also schedule a job to be executed after a previous one terminates. This is done using the -after command-line option in the second job, followed by the id of the first one. You can take advantage of the fact that submit prints the job id of the submitted job when done. So, to schedule job2.qsub to run after job1.qsub, you can do:

$ JOB1=$(submit job1.qsub)
$ submit -after $JOB1 job2.qsub

Configuration file

You can save commonly-used command-line options to a configuration file, by default .sbatchrc in your home directory (this can be changed with the -conf command-line option. The configuration file should contain option=value entries as you would write them on the sbatch or qsub command-line. For example, if you always submit your jobs to the acct1 account and you would like to receive a notification email when a job fails, you can put the following in your .sbatchrc file:


Miscellaneous options

You can use the -o option to pass additional options to the underlying submission program (sbatch or qsub). For example, to specify time and memory limits for the job you are submitting, you can use:

$ submit -o --mem=10G,--time=20:00:00 test.qsub

- or -

$ submit -o --mem=10G -o --time=20:00:00 test.qsub

Note that you can supply multiple directives after -o, in which case they should be separated by commas with no spaces between them, or you can supply -o multiple times.

The -n option will not modify the qsub script before submitting it. This will disable the -done feature, and will not include the start and end times  in the output file.

The -p option allows you to associate a short comment to each submitted job. This is useful, for example, to distinguish jobs with the same name submitted for different projects.

The -log option allows you to specify a log file where all submitted commands are recorded. This is useful to compile statistics on how often each qsub script is used.

The -x option prints the sbatch or qsub command that would be executed, without actually executing it (useful for checking syntax).


But wait, there’s more!

If you are working on HiPerGator, submit comes with a library of over sixty pre-written submission scripts for common bioinformatics applications. For example, to call bowtie2 on two paired-end fastq files, you can use the following command:

$ submit bowtie2-pe.qsub <index> <fastq_R1> <fastq_R2> <output.bam>

You can use the -ls option to display the list of all scripts available in the library:

$ submit -ls
Scripts in /apps/dibig_tools/1.0/lib/scripts/:

Once you know the name of the script you want to call, you can use the -v option to print its usage message. A single -v will print only a description of the script, -vv will print its required and optional arguments, and -vvv will print the whole script. For example:

$ submit -vv fastqc.qsub
fastqc.qsub - Execute fastqc on the specified input file.

 arg1 = short reads file
 arg2 = output dir
 Note: if arg1 starts with the @ char, it will be interpreted as a file containing fastq filenames.

The location of the library can be changed with the -lib option or by setting the SUBMIT_LIB environment variable, so you can have your own private library of submission scripts. submit will first look for the qsub script in the current directory, and then in the script library.


submit is available on HiPerGator in the dibig_tools module. Alternatively, it can be found in my damon GitHub repository (the damon system will be described in a future post).


About the Author

Alberto Riva

Associate Scientist, Bioinformatics

I am a bioinformatics scientist with the Bioinformatics Core of the UF Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research. I work primarily on the analysis of Next-Gen Sequencing data, developing software tools and analysis…

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