Advanced setup


Installing directly on Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, or Fedora

If you’d like to install a Zulip development environment on a computer that’s running one of:

  • Ubuntu 20.04 Focal, 18.04 Bionic

  • Debian 10 Buster, 11 Bullseye (beta)

  • CentOS 7 (beta)

  • Fedora 33 (beta)

  • RHEL 7 (beta)

You can just run the Zulip provision script on your machine.

Note: You should not use the root user to run the installation. If you are using a remote server, see the section on creating appropriate user accounts.


There is no supported uninstallation process with this method. If you want that, use the Vagrant environment, where you can just do vagrant destroy to clean up the development environment.

Start by cloning your fork of the Zulip repository and connecting the Zulip upstream repository:

git clone --config pull.rebase
cd zulip
git remote add -f upstream
# On CentOS/RHEL, you must first install epel-release, and then python36,
# and finally you must run `sudo ln -nsf /usr/bin/python36 /usr/bin/python3`
# On Fedora, you must first install python3
# From a clone of zulip.git
source /srv/zulip-py3-venv/bin/activate
./tools/  # starts the development server

Once you’ve done the above setup, you can pick up the documentation on using the Zulip development environment, ignoring the parts about vagrant (since you’re not using it).

Installing directly on Windows 10 with WSL 2

Zulip’s development environment is most easily setup on Windows using the WSL 2 installation method described here.

  1. Install WSL 2 by following the instructions provided by Microsoft here.

  2. Install the Ubuntu 18.04 Linux distribution from the Microsoft Store.

  3. Launch the Ubuntu 18.04 shell and run the following commands:

    sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
    sudo apt install rabbitmq-server memcached redis-server postgresql
  4. Open /etc/rabbitmq/rabbitmq-env.conf using e.g.:

    sudo vim /etc/rabbitmq/rabbitmq-env.conf

    Add the following lines at the end of your file and save:

  5. Make sure you are inside the WSL disk and not in a Windows mounted disk. You will run into permission issues if you run provision from zulip in a Windows mounted disk.

    cd ~  # or cd /home/USERNAME
  6. Clone your fork of the Zulip repository and connecting the Zulip upstream repository:

    git clone --config pull.rebase ~/zulip
    cd zulip
    git remote add -f upstream
  7. Run the following to install the Zulip development environment and start it (click Allow access if you get popups for Windows Firewall blocking some services)

    # Start database, cache, and other services
    # Install/update the Zulip development environment
    # Enter the Zulip Python environment
    source /srv/zulip-py3-venv/bin/activate
    # Start the development server


    If you shutdown WSL, after starting it again, you will have to manually start the services using ./tools/wsl/start_services.

  8. If you are facing problems or you see error messages after running ./tools/, you can try running ./tools/provision again.

  9. Visual Studio Code Remote - WSL is recommended for editing files when developing with WSL.

  10. You’re done! You can pick up the documentation on using the Zulip development environment, ignoring the parts about vagrant (since you’re not using it).

WSL 2 can be uninstalled by following Microsoft’s documentation

Using the Vagrant Hyper-V provider on Windows (beta)

You should have Vagrant and Hyper-V installed on your system. Ensure they both work as expected.

NOTE: Hyper-V is available only on Windows Enterprise, Pro, or Education.

  1. Start by cloning your fork of the Zulip repository and connecting the Zulip upstream repository:

    git clone --config pull.rebase
    cd zulip
    git remote add -f upstream
  2. You will have to open up powershell with administrator rights in order to use Hyper-V. Then provision the development environment:

    vagrant up --provider=hyperv

    You should get output like this:

    Bringing machine 'default' up with 'hyperv' provider...
    ==> default: Verifying Hyper-V is enabled...
    ==> default: Verifying Hyper-V is accessible...
    <other stuff>...
    ==> default: Waiting for the machine to report its IP address...
        default: Timeout: 120 seconds
        default: IP:
    ==> default: Waiting for machine to boot. This may take a few minutes...
        default: SSH address:
    ==> default: Machine booted and ready!
    ==> default: Preparing SMB shared folders...
    Vagrant requires administrator access for pruning SMB shares and
    may request access to complete removal of stale shares.
    ==> default: Starting the machine...
    <other stuff>...
     default: Username (user[@domain]): <your-machine-username>
     default: Password (will be hidden):

    At this point, you will be prompted for your Windows administrator username and password (not your Microsoft account credentials).

  3. SSH into your newly created virtual machine

    vagrant ssh

    This will ssh you into the bash shell of the Zulip development environment where you can execute bash commands.

  4. Set the EXTERNAL_HOST environment variable.

    (zulip-py3-venv) vagrant@ubuntu-18:/srv/zulip$ export EXTERNAL_HOST="$(hostname -I | xargs):9991"
    (zulip-py3-venv) vagrant@ubuntu-18:/srv/zulip$ echo $EXTERNAL_HOST

    The output will be like:

    Make sure you note down this down. This is where your zulip development web server can be accessed.


    The output of the above command changes every time you restart the Vagrant development machine. Thus, it will have to be run every time you bring one up. This quirk is one reason this method is marked experimental.

  5. You should now be able to start the Zulip development server.

    (zulip-py3-venv) vagrant@ubuntu-18:/srv/zulip$ ./tools/

    The output will look like:

    Starting Zulip on:
    Internal ports:
       9991: Development server proxy (connect here)
       9992: Django
       9993: Tornado
       9994: webpack
       9995: Thumbor

    Visit the indicated URL in your web browser.

  6. You can stop the development environment using vagrant halt, and restart it using vagrant up and then going through steps 3 and 4 again.

Problems you may encounter

  1. If you get the error Hyper-V could not initialize memory, this is likely because your system has insufficient free memory to start the virtual machine. You can generally work around this error by closing all other running programs and running vagrant up --provider=hyperv again. You can reopen the other programs after the provisioning is completed. If it still isn’t enough, try restarting your system and running the command again.

  2. Be patient the first time you run ./tools/

As with other installation methods, please visit #provision help in the Zulip development community server if you need help.

Newer versions of supported platforms

You can use our provisioning tool to set up the Zulip development environment on current versions of these platforms reliably and easily, so we no longer maintain manual installation instructions for these platforms.

If tools/provision doesn’t yet support a newer release of Debian or Ubuntu that you’re using, we’d love to add support for it. It’s likely only a few lines of changes to tools/lib/ and scripts/lib/setup-apt-repo if you’d like to do it yourself and submit a pull request, or you can ask for help in #development help on, and a core team member can help guide you through adding support for the platform.

Installing on Cloud9

AWS Cloud9 is a cloud-based integrated development environment (IDE) that lets you write, run, and debug your code with just a browser. It includes a code editor, debugger, and terminal.

This section documents how to set up the Zulip development environment in a Cloud9 workspace. If you don’t have an existing Cloud9 account, you can sign up here.

  • Create a Workspace, and select the blank template.

  • Resize the workspace to be 1GB of memory and 4GB of disk space. (This is under free limit for both the old Cloud9 and the AWS Free Tier).

  • Clone the zulip repo: git clone --config pull.rebase<your-username>/zulip.git

  • Restart rabbitmq-server since its broken on Cloud9: sudo service rabbitmq-server restart.

  • And run provision cd zulip && ./tools/provision, once this is done.

  • Activate the Zulip virtual environment by source /srv/zulip-py3-venv/bin/activate or by opening a new terminal.

Install zulip-cloud9

There’s a NPM package, zulip-cloud9, that provides a wrapper around the Zulip development server for use in the Cloud9 environment.

Note: npm i -g zulip-cloud9 does not work in zulip’s virtual environment. Although by default, any packages installed in workspace folder (i.e. the top level folder) are added to $PATH.

cd .. # switch to workspace folder if you are in zulip directory
npm i zulip-cloud9
zulip-dev start # to start the development server

If you get error of the form bash: cannot find command zulip-dev, you need to start a new terminal.

Your development server would be running at https://<workspace-name>-<username> on port 8080. You dont need to add :8080 to your URL, since the Cloud9 proxy should automatically forward the connection. You might want to visit zulip-cloud9 repo and it’s wiki for more info on how to use zulip-cloud9 package.