Get Zulip code

Zulip uses a forked-repo and rebase-oriented workflow. This means that all contributors create a fork of the Zulip repository they want to contribute to and then submit pull requests to the upstream repository to have their contributions reviewed and accepted. We also recommend you work on feature branches.

Step 1a: Create your fork

The following steps you’ll only need to do the first time you set up a machine for contributing to a given Zulip project. You’ll need to repeat the steps for any additional Zulip projects (list) that you work on.

The first thing you’ll want to do to contribute to Zulip is fork (see how) the appropriate Zulip repository. For the main server app, this is zulip/zulip.

Step 1b: Clone to your machine

Next, clone your fork to your local machine:

$ git clone --config pull.rebase
Cloning into 'zulip'
remote: Counting objects: 86768, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (15/15), done.
remote: Total 86768 (delta 5), reused 1 (delta 1), pack-reused 86752
Receiving objects: 100% (86768/86768), 112.96 MiB | 523.00 KiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (61106/61106), done.
Checking connectivity... done.

(The --config pull.rebase option configures Git so that git pull will behave like git pull --rebase by default. Using git pull --rebase to update your changes to resolve merge conflicts is expected by essentially all of open source projects, including Zulip. You can also set that option after cloning using git config --add pull.rebase true, or just be careful to always run git pull --rebase, never git pull).

Note: If you receive an error while cloning, you may not have added your ssh key to GitHub.

Once the repository is cloned, we recommend running setup-git-repo to install Zulip’s pre-commit hook which runs the Zulip linters on the changed files when you commit.

Step 1c: Connect your fork to Zulip upstream

Next you’ll want to configure an upstream remote repository for your fork of Zulip. This will allow you to sync changes from the main project back into your fork.

First, show the currently configured remote repository:

$ git remote -v
origin (fetch)
origin (push)

Note: If you’ve cloned the repository using a graphical client, you may already have the upstream remote repository configured. For example, when you clone zulip/zulip with the GitHub desktop client it configures the remote repository zulip and you see the following output from git remote -v:

origin (fetch)
origin (push)
zulip (fetch)
zulip (push)

If your client hasn’t automatically configured a remote for zulip/zulip, you’ll need to with:

$ git remote add -f upstream

Finally, confirm that the new remote repository, upstream, has been configured:

$ git remote -v
origin (fetch)
origin (push)
upstream (fetch)
upstream (push)

Step 2: Set up the Zulip development environment

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to install the Zulip development environment (overview). If you’re new to working on Zulip or open source projects in general, we recommend following our detailed guide for first-time contributors.

Step 3: Configure continuous integration for your fork

This step is optional, but recommended.

The Zulip Server project is configured to use GitHub Actions to test and create builds upon each new commit and pull request. GitHub Actions is the primary CI that runs frontend and backend tests across a wide range of Ubuntu distributions.

GitHub Actions is free for open source projects and it’s easy to configure for your own fork of Zulip. After doing so, GitHub Actions will run tests for new refs you push to GitHub and email you the outcome (you can also view the results in the web interface).

Running CI against your fork can help save both your and the Zulip maintainers time by making it easy to test a change fully before submitting a pull request. We generally recommend a workflow where as you make changes, you use a fast edit-refresh cycle running individual tests locally until your changes work. But then once you’ve gotten the tests you’d expect to be relevant to your changes working, push a branch to run the full test suite in GitHub Actions before you create a pull request. While you wait for GitHub Actions jobs to run, you can start working on your next task. When the tests finish, you can create a pull request that you already know passes the tests.

GitHub Actions will run all the jobs by default on your forked repository. You can check the Actions tab of your repository to see the builds.