DAGMan Introduction

Describing Workflows with DAGMan

A DAGMan workflow is described in a DAG input file. The input file specifies the nodes of the DAG as well as the dependencies that order the DAG.

A node within a DAG represents a unit of work. It contains the following:

  • Job: An HTCondor job, defined in a submit file.

  • PRE script (optional): A script that runs before the job starts. Typically used to verify that all inputs are valid.

  • POST script (optional): A script that runs after the job finishes. Typically used to verify outputs and clean up temporary files.

The following diagram illustrates the elements of a node – every node must contain a job, with an optional pre and an optional post script.

flowchart LR Start((Start)) --> Job Start --> PRE[Pre-Script] subgraph DAG Node PRE --> Job Job --> POST[Post-Script] end Job --> End((End)) POST --> End((End))

An edge in DAGMan describes a dependency between two nodes. DAG edges are directional; each has a parent and a child, where the parent node must finish running before the child starts. Any node can have an unlimited number of parents and children.

Example: Diamond DAG

A simple diamond-shaped DAG, as shown on the right, will be used in examples. This four node DAG would be described as the following in the DAG input file:

# File name: diamond.dag

JOB A A.sub
JOB B B.sub
JOB C C.sub
JOB D D.sub


The JOB command specifies an HTCondor job that becomes the core of a node in the DAG. The syntax used for each JOB command is:

JOB NodeName SubmitDescription [DIR directory] [NOOP] [DONE]

A JOB entry maps a NodeName to an HTCondor submit description. The NodeName uniquely identifies nodes within the DAG input file and in output messages. Each node name, given by NodeName, within the DAG must be unique.

The values defined for NodeName and SubmitDescription are case sensitive, as file names in a file system are case sensitive. The NodeName can be any string that contains no white space, except for the strings PARENT and CHILD (in upper, lower, or mixed case). NodeName also cannot contain special characters (. & +) which are reserved for system use.

The optional DIR keyword specifies a working directory for this node, from which the HTCondor job will be submitted, and from which a PRE and/or POST script will be run. If a relative directory is specified, it is relative to the current working directory as the DAG is submitted.


DAG containing DIR specifications cannot be run in conjunction with the -usedagdir command-line argument to condor_submit_dag.

The optional NOOP keyword identifies a no-operation node. Meaning the nodes job will not be submitted to HTCondor. DAGMan will still execute any PRE and/or POST scripts associated with the node. Marking a node with NOOP is useful for debugging complex DAG structures without changing the flow of the DAG.

The optional DONE keyword identifies a node as being already completed. Meaning neither the nodes job nor scripts will be executed. This is mainly used by Rescue DAGs generated by DAGMan itself, in the event of a failure to complete the workflow.

PARENT/CHILD Relationships

The PARENT/CHILD command specifies the dependencies within the DAG. Nodes are parents and/or children within the DAG. A parent node must be completed successfully before any of its children may be started. A child node may only be started once all its parents have successfully completed.

The syntax used for each dependency (PARENT/CHILD) command is

PARENT ParentNodeName [ParentNodeName2 ... ] CHILD  ChildNodeName [ChildNodeName2 ... ]

The PARENT keyword is followed by one or more ParentNodeName(s). The CHILD keyword is followed by one or more ChildNodeName(s). Each child job depends on every parent job within the line. A single line in the input file can specify the dependencies from one or more parents to one or more children. The diamond-shaped DAG example may specify the dependencies with


An alternative specification for the diamond-shaped DAG may specify some or all of the dependencies on separate lines:



The optional SCRIPT command specifies processing that is done either before a job within a node is submitted, after a job within a node completes its execution, or when a job goes on hold. All scripts run on the Access Point and not the Execution Point where the node job is likely to run.

Script Types

Processing done before a job is submitted is called a PRE script. Processing done after a job completes its execution is called a POST script. The PRE and POST script are considered part of the DAG node structure. Additionally, there is a HOLD script that runs when a node job goes into the held state which are not considered part of the DAG workflow and are run on a best-effort basis. If one does not complete successfully, it has no effect on the overall workflow and no error will be reported.


The script executable does not have to be a shell script (Unix) or batch file (Windows); but should be light weight since it runs directly on the AP.

The syntax used for SCRIPT commands is

# PRE-Script
SCRIPT [DEFER status time] [DEBUG filename type] PRE <NodeName | ALL_NODES> ExecutableName [arguments]
# POST-Script
SCRIPT [DEFER status time] [DEBUG filename type] POST <NodeName | ALL_NODES> ExecutableName [arguments]
# HOLD-Script
SCRIPT [DEFER status time] [DEBUG filename type] HOLD <NodeName | ALL_NODES> ExecutableName [arguments]

The SCRIPT command can use the PRE, POST, or HOLD keyword, which specifies the relative timing of when the script is to be run. The NodeName identifies the node to which the script is attached. The ExecutableName specifies the executable (e.g., shell script or batch file) to be executed, and may not contain spaces. The optional arguments are command line arguments to the script, and spaces delimiting the arguments. Both ExecutableName and optional arguments are case sensitive.

Scripts are commonly used to do simple tasks such as the following:

  • PRE: Verify inputs for a node job that are produced by a parent node.

  • POST: Turn a job execution failure into a successful node completion so the DAG doesn’t fail given a specific node job failure.

  • HOLD: Notify the user of a held node via email.

DEFER retries

The optional DEFER keyword causes a retry of only the script, if the execution of the script exits with the exit code given by status. The retry occurs after at least time seconds, rather than being considered failed. While waiting for the retry, the script does not count against a maxpre or maxpost limit.


The ordering of the DEFER keyword within the SCRIPT specification is fixed. It must come directly after the SCRIPT keyword; this is done to avoid backward compatibility issues for any DAG with a NodeName of DEFER.

DEBUG file

The optional DEBUG keyword will capture a scripts specified standard output streams (STDOUT and/or STDERR) and write them to a specified debug file. This keyword is followed by two pieces of information:

  1. Filename: File to write captured output into.

  2. Type: Type of output to capture. Takes one the following options:
    1. STDOUT

    2. STDERR

    3. ALL (Both STDOUT & STDERR)

This keyword is fixed to appear prior to the script type (PRE, POST, HOLD) and after any declared DEFER retries.


It is safe to have multiple scripts write to the same file as DAGMan captures all of the scripts output and writes everything at one time. This write also includes a dividing banner with useful information regarding that scripts execution.

Scripts as part of a DAG workflow

Scripts are executed on the access point; the access point is not necessarily the same machine upon which the node’s job is run. Further, a single cluster of HTCondor jobs may be spread across several machines.

If the PRE script fails, then the HTCondor job associated with the node is not submitted, and the POST script is not run either (by default). However, if the job is submitted, and there is a POST script, the POST script is always run once the job finishes. The behavior when the PRE script fails may be changed to run the POST script by setting configuration variable DAGMAN_ALWAYS_RUN_POST to True or by passing the -AlwaysRunPost argument to condor_submit_dag.

Examples that use PRE or POST scripts

Examples use the diamond-shaped DAG. A first example uses a PRE script to expand a compressed file needed as input to each of the HTCondor jobs of nodes B and C. The DAG input file:

# File name: diamond.dag

JOB  A  A.condor
JOB  B  B.condor
JOB  C  C.condor
JOB  D  D.condor
SCRIPT PRE  B  pre.sh $JOB .gz
SCRIPT PRE  C  pre.sh $JOB .gz

The script pre.sh uses its command line arguments to form the file name of the compressed file. The script contains

gunzip ${1}${2}

Therefore, the PRE script invokes

gunzip B.gz

for node B, which uncompresses file B.gz, placing the result in file B.

A second example uses the $RETURN macro. The DAG input file contains the POST script specification:

SCRIPT POST A stage-out job_status $RETURN

If the HTCondor job of node A exits with the value -1, the POST script is invoked as

stage-out job_status -1

The slightly different example POST script specification in the DAG input file

SCRIPT POST A stage-out job_status=$RETURN

invokes the POST script with

$ stage-out job_status=$RETURN

This example shows that when there is no space between the = sign and the variable $RETURN, there is no substitution of the macro’s value.

Special Script Argument Macros

DAGMan provides the following macros to be used for node script arguments. The use of these macros are limited to being used as individual command line arguments surrounded by spaces:

All Scripts






POST Scripts




The special macros for all scripts:

  • $JOB evaluates to the (case sensitive) string defined for NodeName.

  • $RETRY evaluates to an integer value set to 0 the first time a node is run, and is incremented each time the node is retried. See Node Success/Failure for the description of how to cause nodes to be retried.

  • $MAX_RETRIES evaluates to an integer value set to the maximum number of retries for the node. Defaults to 0 if retries aren’t specified for a node.

  • $DAG_STATUS is the status of the DAG that is recorded in the DAGMan scheduler universe job’s Classad as DAG_Status. This macro may have the following values:

    • 0: OK

    • 1: error; an error condition different than those listed here

    • 2: one or more nodes in the DAG have failed

    • 3: the DAG has been aborted by an ABORT-DAG-ON specification

    • 4: removed; the DAG has been removed by condor_rm

    • 5: cycle; a cycle was found in the DAG

    • 6: halted; the DAG has been halted (see Suspending a Running DAG)

  • $FAILED_COUNT is defined by the number of nodes that have failed in the DAG.

Macros for POST Scripts only:

  • $JOBID evaluates to a representation of the HTCondor job ID [ClusterId.ProcId] of the node job. For nodes with multiple jobs in the same cluster, the ProcId value is the one of the last job within the cluster.

  • $RETURN variable evaluates to the return value of the HTCondor job, if there is a single job within a cluster. With multiple jobs within the same cluster, the value will be 0 if all jobs within the cluster are successful. Otherwise, the value is the exit value of the first job in the cluster to write a terminate event.

    A job that dies due to a signal is reported with a $RETURN value representing the additive inverse of the signal number. For example, SIGKILL (signal 9) is reported as -9. A job whose batch system submission fails is reported as -1001. A job that is externally removed from the batch system queue (by something other than condor_dagman) is reported as -1002.

  • $PRE_SCRIPT_RETURN variable evaluates to the return value of the PRE script of a node, if there is one. If there is no PRE script, this value will be -1. If the node job was skipped because of failure of the PRE script, the value of $RETURN will be -1004 and this will evaluate to the exit value of the PRE script.

Node Submit Descriptions

Inline Submit Descriptions

Instead of using a submit description file, you can alternatively include an inline submit description directly inside the .dag file. An inline submit description should be wrapped in { and } braces, with each argument appearing on a separate line, just like the contents of a regular submit file.

This can be helpful when trying to manage lots of submit descriptions, so they can all be described in the same file instead of needed to regularly shift between many files.


In addition to declaring inline submit descriptions as part of a job, they can be declared independently of jobs using the SUBMIT-DESCRIPTION command. This can be helpful to reduce the size and readability of a .dag file when many nodes are running the same job.

A SUBMIT-DESCRIPTION can be defined using the following syntax:

    # submit attributes go here

An independently declared submit description must have a unique name that is not used by any of the jobs. It can then be linked to a job as follows:

JOB NodeName DescriptionName


Both inline submit descriptions and the SUBMIT-DESCRIPTION command don’t allow a queue statement resulting in only a single instance of the job being submitted to HTCondor.

Both inline submit descriptions and the SUBMIT_DESCRIPTION command can only be used when DAGMAN_USE_DIRECT_SUBMIT = True.

External File Descriptions

Each node in a DAG may use a submit description file like one that a user may use in to submit via condor_submit.

$ condor_submit submit_file.sub

A key limitation is that each HTCondor submit description file must submit jobs described by a single cluster number; DAGMan cannot deal with a submit description file producing multiple job clusters.

DAGMan does allow the submission of multi-proc job clusters when submitting a node job described in an external file. However, it is recommended that a node job only contains a single proc to the cluster because multi-proc nodes will have there entire job removed by DAGMan if a single proc fails.

Since each node uses the same HTCondor submit description file, this implies that each node within the DAG runs the same job. The $(Cluster) macro produces unique file names for each job’s output because each node is it’s own cluster.

DAGMan Specific Information Macros

When submitting a node job on behalf of the user, DAGMan will create custom submit description macros that the job can utilize for make descisions. The following macros are referencable by the job submit description:

  • JOB: The node name of which this job belongs.

  • RETRY: The current retry attempt number. First execution is 0.

  • FAILED_COUNT: The current number of failed nodes in the DAG (Intended for Final nodes).

DAGMan will also add the following information to the jobs ClassAd: