AMS is the new driver program introduced in the 2018 release of the Amsterdam Modeling Suite. The job of AMS is to handle all changes in the simulated system’s geometry, e.g. during a geometry optimization or molecular dynamics calculation, using the so-called “engines” like ADF, BAND or DFTB for the calculation of energies and forces. In summary, one might say that the AMS driver steers the engines across the potential energy surface.

Prior to the 2018 release of the Amsterdam Modeling Suite, what we now call engines used to be separate programs, each with their own input and output files and formats. Starting with the 2018 release, the engines are only accessible through the AMS driver program, that provides a unified interface to all of them.

What’s new in the AMS driver?

New in AMS2024.1

Removed in AMS2024.1

  • Old FCF program ($AMSBIN/oldfcf) is no longer supported

    • the new FCF program ($AMSBIN/fcf) has replaced the old FCF program in AMS2022.1

    • see documentation in the AMS2021.1 manual on the old FCF program

New in AMS2023.1

New in AMS2022.1

New in AMS2021.1

  • PES exploration tasks for the automated discovery of stationary points on the potential energy surface.

    1. Process Search: a composite method for finding escape mechanisms from a state. This will find both local minima and their connecting saddle points.

    2. Basin Hopping: a Monte Carlo method for finding local minima.

    3. Saddle Search: a single-ended method for finding nearby saddle points.

  • Force bias Monte Carlo is now available in AMS, enabling pure MC or mixed MD/MC simulations with any engine.

  • The molecule gun can now generate random shooting directions in a given cone.

  • A new wall potential engine add-on can be used to simulate spherical nanoreactors.

  • The D4 dispersion add-on can now also be used for calculations on periodic systems.

  • Graceful interactive termination of running jobs through the interactive input file.

  • Geometry optimizations write the optimized geometry to the results directory as an extended XYZ file.

New in AMS2020.1

New in AMS2019.3

New in AMS2019.1

Motivation and progress

The Amsterdam Modeling Suite has grown substantially over the last decade, and in the 2017 release included programs implementing methods all the way from accurate density functional theory, through semi-empirical methods, to fast reactive force fields. Many of these programs have originally been developed by academic groups and are now maintained and expanded by SCM in collaboration with the original authors.

This rapid growth of the Amsterdam Modeling Suite had, however, led to a certain degree of unnecessary inhomogeneity within the suite: The input for the same task, e.g. a geometry optimization, differed quite a lot between the different programs in the suite. While this problem was mostly hidden for users of the graphical interface, it constituted a barrier for users of the new scripting frameworks such as PLAMS. Furthermore, the different programs produced rather different output files for the same task, making the automated extraction of results unnecessarily difficult. Finally, and most importantly, the rapid growth of the AMS suite had also led to a certain level of feature fragmentation, where some features were available in one program but not the other: ADF, for example, was able to do a linear transit calculation, while BAND was not. Constrained geometry optimization was supported in DFTB, but not in UFF. ReaxFF could be used for Grand Canonical Monte Carlo simulations, but DFTB could not.

In order to overcome these issues and make the Amsterdam Modeling Suite more powerful and user friendly, we introduced the AMS driver program with the 2018 release of the suite. The idea of this reorganization is to have only a single program called the AMS driver that under the hood uses the so-called “engines” like ADF, BAND and DFTB for the calculation of energies and gradients, where the engines are technically no longer separate programs but just libraries used by the AMS driver. In this way much of the input and output of AMS is the same, no matter which particular engine is used for a calculation. It also avoids the feature fragmentation, since any new feature in the AMS driver can immediately be used with all engines in the suite. Furthermore, the AMS driver also allows running external programs as an engine providing energies and gradients, allowing end-users to perform all calculations supported by AMS with virtually any atomistic modeling program they have access to and to visualize the results in the graphical user interface of the Amsterdam Modeling Suite.

Converting all the programs of the Amsterdam Modeling Suite into engine libraries that are used by the AMS driver was a big reorganization of the entire suite, which was spread out over multiple releases between 2018 and 2020. As of the AMS2020 release, ADF itself has been integrated into the AMS driver, making the integration of all engines into the AMS driver finally complete. (The only exception is QuantumEspresso, which is integrated into the GUI, but has no connection to the AMS driver in the 2020 release.)

As with any large reorganization, it is unavoidable that some things change. For GUI users this should not create any issues, but users familiar with the existing command line and scripting interfaces will notice these changes and their existing workflows might need to be adjusted to the new setup. We know that these kind of changes can be disrupting for existing users, and where possible we try to keep backwards compatibility with previous versions, but unfortunately this is not always possible. However, overall AMS provides a much more consistent and convenient interface to command line and scripting users, and we believe that the new simplicity and expanded feature set of AMS make transitioning to the new framework well worth the effort.

Input, execution and output

With the introduction of AMS in the 2018 release of the Amsterdam Modeling Suite, there were some changes in the input and output files and formats used by our software. Users of the graphical interface should not notice these changes, but people using the software from the command line or through the scripting frameworks need to be aware of them.

This section contains the main changes. For a more complete description see:

Generally the input for AMS has the block and keyword structure that most programs in the Amsterdam Modeling Suite have already been using. See the General remarks on input structure and parsing section for more details. The only new construct in the AMS input is a special Engine block, that selects which engine is used for the simulation and also contains all the details of its configuration. This is probably best illustrated by an example. Let us look at the following AMS input, which optimizes the geometry of the methane molecule and calculates its normal modes of vibration at the optimized geometry:

$AMSBIN/ams << EOF
   Task GeometryOptimization

         Gradients 1.0e-4

      NormalModes true

         C       0.00000000       0.00000000       0.00000000
         H       0.63294000      -0.63294000      -0.63294000
         H      -0.63294000       0.63294000      -0.63294000
         H       0.63294000       0.63294000       0.63294000
         H      -0.63294000      -0.63294000       0.63294000

   Engine DFTB
      Model DFTB3

Note how DFTB is selected as the engine in the Engine DFTB line that opens the Engine block. All DFTB specific configuration is contained within this engine block, which is terminated by EndEngine. The fact that we want to run a geometry optimization with normal modes for methane and things like convergence criteria for the optimization are of course completely independent from which engine is actually used to perform this calculation. Therefore they are all found outside of the Engine block. In this sense, the AMS input is split up into the driver level input (everything outside of the engine block) and the engine input, which is just a single Engine block. This separation makes it easy to perform the same calculation at a different level of theory, by simply switching out the Engine block in the input. We could, for example, repeat the same calculation at the DFT-GGA level using the Band engine:

Engine BAND
       GGA PBE

Engines like ADF and BAND that have many options and can calculate many properties, consequently also have a large number of possible keywords in their input. In order to have a better structured documentation we have split off the description of the engine inputs into separate engine specific manuals, while this AMS manual only documents the driver level keywords outside of the Engine block. All the engine specific options are found in the respective engine’s manual, which documents the keywords in its Engine block. In general all engines can be used with all tasks in AMS. There are only a few rather obvious restrictions, for example that only engines which can handle periodic systems can be used for the calculation of phonons.

The introduction of the Engine block is the only real change AMS brings to the input side of things. On the output side there are a few more changes.

The first change to the output is that AMS does not put any of its output files into the present working directory, as virtually all of the standalone programs in the suite did. Instead AMS creates a *.results directory, which collects all result file associated with a job. Here * is replaced by the jobname, which is set with the AMS_JOBNAME environment variable:

AMS_JOBNAME=methane $AMSBIN/ams << EOF

... see above ...


This would put all results related to our geometry optimization of methane into the newly created folder methane.results. (The default name of the results folder is ams.results if AMS_JOBNAME is not set, see the environment variables section of this manual for documentation of all environment variables used by AMS.) In this way users can easily run multiple jobs in the same directory without danger of clashing output files, which was a common problem before the introduction of AMS. This new setup is also more consistent with the graphical user interface, which already collected all files associated with a specific job into a dedicated results directory. Note that AMS will by default not overwrite results directories if a job is rerun or another job is run with the same jobname.

Inside of the results directory users will always find the logfile ams.log, which is written during a running calculation and can be used to monitor its progress. Furthermore the results directory contains binary result files in the KF format, which can be opened and inspected with the KFBrowser GUI component.

  • The main ams.rkf written by the AMS driver. It contains high level information about the trajectory that the AMS driver took over the potential energy surface. For example, for a molecular dynamics simulation it would contain the full trajectory. The format in which this information is written is independent from which engine was used for a calculation.

  • The engine specific main binary output file written by the engine (and partly by the AMS driver). This file is kept for only one special point, e.g. the final geometry in a geometry optimization. For example, for ADF this engine file is called adf.rkf (instead of TAPE21 in ADF<=2019), for BAND band.rkf, for DFTB dftb.rkf. If a property, like vibrational modes, is tied to the special point on the potential energy surface, it is stored in this file. Also all engine specific properties are written to this file, like orbitals in case of a quantum mechanical engine.

  • Additionally there might be a binary output file for every point on the potential energy surface that was visited during the calculation.

  • Other engine specific binary (and ASCII) output files written by the engine.

Having multiple different binary output files could be confusing for people that are used to the single result file that was written by the standalone programs in ADF<=2017. After all, it brings up the question in which file the desired property is stored. The general rule is: if the property is tied to a particular point on the potential energy surface, it is stored in the engine output file belonging to that particular point. If the information depends on the entire trajectory over the PES, it is found in the main ams.rkf written by the AMS driver.