Developing on a remote machine¶
The Zulip developer environment works well on remote virtual machines. This can be a good alternative for those with poor network connectivity or who have limited storage/memory on their local machines.
We recommend giving the Zulip development environment its own virtual machine, running Ubuntu 14.04 or 16.04, with at least 2GB of memory. If the Zulip development environment will be the only thing running on the remote virtual machine, we recommend installing directly. Otherwise, we recommend the Vagrant method so you can easily uninstall if you need to.
Connecting to the remote environment¶
The best way to connect to your server is using the command line tool
- On macOS and Linux/UNIX,
sshis a part of Terminal.
- On Windows,
sshcomes with Bash for Git.
Open Terminal or Bash for Git, and connect with the following:
$ ssh username@host
If you have poor internet connectivity, we recommend using Mosh as it is more reliable over slow or unreliable networks.
Setting up the development environment¶
After you have connected to your remote server, you need to install the development environment.
If the Zulip development environment will be the only thing running on the remote virtual machine, we recommend installing directly. Otherwise, we recommend the Vagrant method so you can easily uninstall if you need to.
The main difference from the standard instructions is that for a
remote development environment, you’ll need to run
export EXTERNAL_HOST=<REMOTE_IP>:9991 in a shell before running
(and see also the
--interface='' option documented below). If your
server has a static IP address, we recommend putting this command in
~/.bashrc, so you don’t need to remember to run it every time. This
allows you to access Zulip running in your development environment
using a browser on another host.
Running the development server¶
Once you have set up the development environment, you can start up the development server with the following command in the directory where you cloned Zulip:
This will start up the Zulip server on port 9991. You can then
http://<REMOTE_IP>:9991 and you should see something like
this screenshot of the Zulip development environment:
--interface='' command makes the Zulip development environment
accessible from any IP address (in contrast with the more secure
default of only being accessible from localhost, which is great for
developing on your laptop).
You can port forward using ssh instead of running the development environment on an exposed interface.
For more information, see Using the development environment.
Making changes to code on your remote development server¶
To see changes on your remote development server, you need to do one of the following:
- Edit locally: Clone Zulip code to your computer and then use your favorite editor to make changes. When you want to see changes on your remote Zulip development instance, sync with Git.
- Edit remotely: Edit code directly on your remote Zulip development instance using a Web-based IDE (recommended for beginners) or a command line editor.
If you want to edit code locally install your favorite text editor. If you don’t have a favorite, here are some suggestions:
Next, follow our Git and GitHub Guide to clone and configure your fork of zulip on your local computer.
Once you have cloned your code locally, you can get to work.
The easiest way to see your changes on your remote development server is to push them to GitHub and them fetch and merge them from the remote server.
For more detailed instructions about how to do this, see our Git & GitHub Guide. In brief, the steps are as follows.
On your local computer:
- Open Terminal (macOS/Linux) or Git for BASH.
- Change directory to where you cloned Zulip (e.g.
git committo stage and commit your changes (if you haven’t already).
- Push your commits to GitHub with
git push origin branchname.
Be sure to replace
branchname with the name of your actual feature branch.
git push has completed successfully, you are ready to fetch the commits
from your remote development instance:
- In Terminal or Git BASH, connect to your remote development
- Change to the zulip directory (e.g.,
- Fetch new commits from GitHub with
git fetch origin.
- Change to the branch you want to work on with
git checkout branchname.
- Merge the new commits into your branch with
git merge origin/branchname.
If you are relatively new to working on the command line, or just want to get started working quickly, we recommend web-based IDE Codeanywhere.
To setup Codeanywhere for Zulip:
- Create a Codeanywhere account and log in.
- Create a new SFTP-SSH project. Use Public key for authentication.
- Click GET YOUR PUBLIC KEY to get the new public key that
Codeanywhere generates when you create a new project. Add this public key to
~/.ssh/authorized_keyson your remote development instance.
- Once you’ve added the new public key to your remote development instance, click CONNECT.
Now your workspace should look similar this:
Command line editors¶
Another way to edit directly on the remote development server is with a command line text editor on the remote machine.
Two editors often available by default on Linux systems are:
- Nano: A very simple, beginner-friendly editor. However, it lacks a lot of
features useful for programming, such as syntax highlighting, so we only
recommended it for quick edits to things like configuration files. Launch by
nano <filename>. Exit by pressing control-X.
- Vim: A very powerful editor that can take a while
to learn. Launch by running
vim <filename>. Quit Vim by pressing escape, typing
:q, and then pressing return. Vim comes with a program to learn it called
vimtutor(just run that command to start it).
Other options include: