The torch.onnx module contains functions to export models into the ONNX IR format. These models can be loaded with the ONNX library and then converted to models which run on other deep learning frameworks.

Example: End-to-end AlexNet from PyTorch to Caffe2

Here is a simple script which exports a pretrained AlexNet as defined in torchvision into ONNX. It runs a single round of inference and then saves the resulting traced model to alexnet.proto:

from torch.autograd import Variable
import torch.onnx
import torchvision

dummy_input = Variable(torch.randn(10, 3, 224, 224)).cuda()
model = torchvision.models.alexnet(pretrained=True).cuda()
torch.onnx.export(model, dummy_input, "alexnet.proto", verbose=True)

The resulting alexnet.proto is a binary protobuf file which contains both the network structure and parameters of the model you exported (in this case, AlexNet). The keyword argument verbose=True causes the exporter to print out a human-readable representation of the network:

# All parameters are encoded explicitly as inputs.  By convention,
# learned parameters (ala nn.Module.state_dict) are first, and the
# actual inputs are last.
graph(%1 : Float(64, 3, 11, 11)
      %2 : Float(64)
      # The definition sites of all variables are annotated with type
      # information, specifying the type and size of tensors.
      # For example, %3 is a 192 x 64 x 5 x 5 tensor of floats.
      %3 : Float(192, 64, 5, 5)
      %4 : Float(192)
      # ---- omitted for brevity ----
      %15 : Float(1000, 4096)
      %16 : Float(1000)
      %17 : Float(10, 3, 224, 224)) { # the actual input!
  # Every statement consists of some output tensors (and their types),
  # the operator to be run (with its attributes, e.g., kernels, strides,
  # etc.), its input tensors (%17, %1)
  %19 : UNKNOWN_TYPE = Conv[kernels=[11, 11], strides=[4, 4], pads=[2, 2, 2, 2], dilations=[1, 1], group=1](%17, %1), uses = [[%20.i0]];
  # UNKNOWN_TYPE: sometimes type information is not known.  We hope to eliminate
  # all such cases in a later release.
  %20 : Float(10, 64, 55, 55) = Add[broadcast=1, axis=1](%19, %2), uses = [%21.i0];
  %21 : Float(10, 64, 55, 55) = Relu(%20), uses = [%22.i0];
  %22 : Float(10, 64, 27, 27) = MaxPool[kernels=[3, 3], pads=[0, 0, 0, 0], dilations=[1, 1], strides=[2, 2]](%21), uses = [%23.i0];
  # ...
  # Finally, a network returns some tensors
  return (%58);

You can also verify the protobuf using the onnx library. You can install onnx with conda:

conda install -c ezyang onnx

Then, you can run:

import onnx

graph = onnx.load("alexnet.proto")

# Check that the IR is well formed

# Print a human readable representation of the graph

To run the exported script with caffe2, you will need three things:

  1. You’ll need an install of Caffe2. If you don’t have one already, you should make sure you have a Python 2 interpreter (Caffe2 doesn’t officially support Python 3) and follow the install instructions (no Conda packaging for Caffe2 is available at the moment).

  2. You’ll need onnx-caffe2, a pure-Python library which provides a Caffe2 backend for ONNX. You can install onnx-caffe2 with conda or pip:

    conda install -c ezyang onnx-caffe2
    # OR
    pip install onnx-caffe2

Once these are installed, you can use the backend for Caffe2:

# ...continuing from above
import onnx_caffe2.backend as backend
import numpy as np

rep = backend.prepare(graph, device="CUDA:0") # or "CPU"
# For the Caffe2 backend:
#     rep.predict_net is the Caffe2 protobuf for the network
#     rep.workspace is the Caffe2 workspace for the network
#       (see the class onnx_caffe2.backend.Workspace)
outputs =, 3, 224, 224).astype(np.float32))
# To run networks with more than one input, pass a tuple
# rather than a single numpy ndarray.

In the future, there will be backends for other frameworks as well.


  • The ONNX exporter is a trace-based exporter, which means that it operates by executing your model once, and exporting the operators which were actually run during this run. This means that if your model is dynamic, e.g., changes behavior depending on input data, the export won’t be accurate. Similarly, a trace is likely to be valid only for a specific input size (which is one reason why we require explicit inputs on tracing.) We recommend examining the model trace and making sure the traced operators look reasonable.
  • PyTorch and Caffe2 often have implementations of operators with some numeric differences. Depending on model structure, these differences may be negligible, but they can also cause major divergences in behavior (especially on untrained models.) In a future release, we plan to allow Caffe2 to call directly to Torch implementations of operators, to help you smooth over these differences when precision is important, and to also document these differences.

Supported operators

In this tech preview, only the following operators are supported:

  • Add (inplace is discarded)
  • Sub (inplace is discarded)
  • Mul (inplace is discarded)
  • Negate (inplace is discarded)
  • Addmm (inplace is discarded, alpha and beta must be 1)
  • Tanh (inplace is discarded)
  • Sigmoid (inplace is discarded)
  • Transpose
  • View
  • Permute
  • Concat
  • Squeeze (inplace is discarded)
  • BatchNorm
  • Convolution
  • Embedding (only optional argument that is supported is padding_idx)
  • Slice (only integer indexing is supported)
  • Dropout (inplace is discarded)
  • Relu (inplace is discarded)
  • PReLU (inplace is discarded, sharing a single weight among all channels is not supported)
  • LeakyRelu (inplace is discarded)
  • MaxPool1d (ceil_mode must be False)
  • MaxPool2d (ceil_mode must be False
  • AvgPool2d (ceil_mode must be False)

We plan on expanding support to more operators; RNNs are high on our priority list. The operator set above is sufficient to export the following models:

  • AlexNet
  • DenseNet
  • Inception (warning: this model is highly sensitive to changes in operator implementation)
  • ResNet
  • SqueezeNet
  • SuperResolution
  • VGG
  • word_language_model

The interface for specifying operator definitions is highly experimental and undocumented; adventurous users should note that the APIs will probably change in a future interface.


torch.onnx.export(model, args, f, export_params=True, kwargs=None, verbose=False)[source]

Export a model into ONNX format. This exporter runs your model once in order to get a trace of its execution to be exported; at the moment, it does not support dynamic models (e.g., RNNs.)

See also: onnx-export

  • model (torch.nn.Module) – the model to be exported.
  • args (torch.autograd.Variable or tuple of variables) – the inputs to the model, e.g., such that model(*args, **kwargs) is a valid invocation of the model (see kwargs below).
  • f – a file-like object (has to implement fileno that returns a file descriptor) or a string containing a file name. A binary Protobuf will be written to this file.
  • export_params (bool, default True) – if specified, all parameters will be exported. Set this to False if you are exporting an untrained model.
  • kwargs (dict, optional) – keyword inputs to the model.