Contributing templates

The following steps will help you to add your favourite circuit ansatz to PennyLane’s template library.


PennyLane internally loosely distinguishes different types of templates, such as embeddings, layers, state_preparations or subroutines. Below you need to replace <templ_type> with the correct template type.

Templates are just operations

Conceptually, there is no difference in PennyLane between a template or ansatz and a gate — they are both operations and inherit from the Operation class. Unless a device knows how to implement this class on a quantum computer, it queries the operation’s expand() method, which expresses the operation as a decomposition of other operations. More precisely, this method returns a tape instance that represents the queue of the decomposition.

For example, the following shows a simple template for a layer of of Pauli-X rotations:

import pennylane as qml
from pennylane.operation import Operation, AnyWires

class MyNewTemplate(Operation):

    num_params = 1 # how many trainable parameters does this operation expect
    num_wires = AnyWires # what wires does this operation act on
    par_domain = "A"  # note: this attribute will be deprecated soon

    def expand(self):

        # extract the weights as the first parameter
        # passed to this operation
        weights = self.parameters[0]

        # extract the length of the weights vector using
        # the interface-agnostic `math` module
        num_weights = qml.math.shape(weights)[0]

        # record the ansatz in a tape
        with qml.tape.QuantumTape() as tape:

            for i in range(num_weights):
                qml.RX(weights[i], wires=self.wires[i])

        return tape

The num_params and num_wires class attributes determine that an instance of this template can be created by passing a single parameter (of arbitrary shape and type), as well as an arbitrary number of wires:

weights = np.array([0.1, 0.2, 0.3])
MyNewTemplate(weights, wires=['a', 'b', 'd'])

As an Operation, templates can define other methods and attributes, such as a matrix representation, a generator, or even a gradient rule.


In principle, templates could also inherit from the Observable class and define a sequence of diagonalising gates as an ansatz.

Classical pre-processing

Templates often perform extensive pre-processing on the arguments they receive.

Any substantial pre-processing should be implemented by overwriting the __init__ function of the Operator class. This also allows us to define templates with more flexible signatures than the (*params, wires) signature expected by the Operator class.

As an illustration, let us extend MyNewTemplate and check that the first parameter it receives is one-dimensional, apply a sine function to each weight, and invert the wires that the operation acts on.

def MyNewTemplate(Operation):

    num_params = 1
    num_wires = AnyWires
    par_domain = "A"  # note: this attribute will be deprecated soon

    def __init__(weights, raw_wires, id=None)

        shp = qml.math.shape(weights)
        if len(shp) != 1:
            raise ValueError("Expected one-dimensional weights tensor.")

        # pre-process weights
        new_weights = qml.math.sin(weights)

        # pre-process wires
        inverted_wires = wires[::-1]

        # initialise operation with pre-processed parameters and wires,
        # and possibly with a custom id
        super().__init__(new_weights, wires=inverted_wires, id=id)

    def expand(self):

        weights = self.parameters[0]
        num_weights = qml.math.shape(weights)[0]

        with qml.tape.QuantumTape() as tape:
            for i in range(num_weights):
                qml.RX(weights[i], wires=self.wires[i])

        return tape

The parameters and wires attributes used in the expand() function refer to the new_weights and inverted_wires that were used to initialize the parent class.

The template design should make as many arguments differentiable as possible. Differentiable arguments are always tensors of the allowed interfaces, such as tf.Variable, or pennylane.numpy.array. This means that we have to process them with interface-agnostic pre-processing methods inside the templates. A lot of functionality is provided by the pennylane.math module - for example, the length of the weights in the code above was computed with the qml.math.shape(weights) function, since some tensor types do not support len(weights).


To retrieve elements from a tensor, keep in mind that not all tensor types support iteration.

  • Avoid expressions like for w in weights and rather iterate over ranges like for i in range(num_weights).

  • When indexing into the tensor, use multi-indexing where possible — expressions like weights[6][5][2] are usually a lot slower than weights[6, 5, 2].

Adding the template

Add the template by adding a new file to the correct templates/<templ_type>/ subdirectory. The file contains your new template class.

Make sure you consider the following:

  • Choose the name carefully. Good names tell the user what a template is used for, or what architecture it implements. The class name (i.e., MyNewTemplate) is written in camel case.

  • Explicit decompositions. Try to implement the decomposition in the expand() function without the use of convenient methods like the broadcast() function - this avoids unnecessary overhead.

  • Write an extensive docstring that explains how to use the template. Include a sketch of the template (add the file to the doc/_static/templates/<templ_type>/ directory). You should also display a small usage example at the beginning of the docstring. If you want to explain the behaviour in more detail, add a section starting with the .. UsageDetails:: directive at the end of the docstring. Use the docstring of one of the existing templates for inspiration, such as AmplitudeEmbedding.

  • Input checks. While checking the inputs of the template for consistency introduces an overhead and should be kept to a minimum, it is still advised to do some basic sanity checks, for example making sure that the shape of the parameters is correct.

Importing the new template

Import the new template in templates/<templ_type>/ by adding the new line

from .mynewtemplate import MyNewTemplate

Adding your template to the documentation

Add your template to the documentation by adding a customgalleryitem to the correct layer type section in doc/introduction/templates.rst:

.. customgalleryitem::
  :link: ../code/api/pennylane.templates.<templ_type>.MyNewTemplate.html
  :description: MyNewTemplate
  :figure: ../_static/templates/<templ_type>/my_new_template.png


This loads the image of the template added to doc/_static/templates/test_<templ_type>/. Make sure that this image has the same dimensions and style as other template icons in the folder.

Adding tests

Don’t forget to add tests for your new template to the test suite. Create a separate file tests/templates/<templ_type>/ with all tests. You can draw some inspiration from existing tests.