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Management commands

Sometimes, you need to modify or inspect Zulip data from the command line. To help with this, Zulip ships with over 100 command-line tools implemented using the Django management commands framework.

Running management commands

Start by logging in as the zulip user on the Zulip server. Then run them as follows:

cd /home/zulip/deployments/current

# Start by reading the help
./manage.py <command_name> --help

# Once you've determined this is the command for you, run it!
./manage.py <command_name> <args>

A full list of commands is available via ./manage.py help; you’ll primarily want to use those in the [zerver] section as those are the ones specifically built for Zulip.

As a warning, some of them are designed for specific use cases and may cause problems if run in other situations. If you’re not sure, it’s worth reading the documentation (or the code, usually available at zerver/management/commands/; they’re generally very simple programs).

Accessing an organization’s string_id

Since Zulip supports hosting multiple organizations on a single server, many management commands require you specify which organization (“realm”) you’d like to modify, either via numerical or string ID (usually the subdomain).

You can see all the organizations on your Zulip server using ./manage.py list_realms.

zulip@zulip:~$ /home/zulip/deployments/current/manage.py list_realms
id    string_id                                name
--    ---------                                ----
1     zulipinternal                            None
2                                              Zulip Community

(Note that every Zulip server has a special zulipinternal realm containing system-internal bots like Notification Bot; you are unlikely to ever need to interact with that realm.)

Unless you are hosting multiple organizations on your Zulip server, your single Zulip organization on the root domain will have the empty string ('') as its string_id. So you can run e.g.:

zulip@zulip:~$ /home/zulip/deployments/current/manage.py show_admins -r ''

Otherwise, the string_id will correspond to the organization’s subdomain. E.g. on it.zulip.example.com, use /home/zulip/deployments/current/manage.py show_admins -r it.

manage.py shell

If you need to query or edit data directly in the Zulip database, the best way to do this is with Django’s built-in management shell.

You can get an IPython shell with full access to code within the Zulip project using manage.py shell, e.g., you can do the following to change a user’s email address:

$ cd /home/zulip/deployments/current/
$ ./manage.py shell
In [1]: user_profile = get_user_profile_by_email("email@example.com")
In [2]: do_change_user_delivery_email(user_profile, "new_email@example.com")

Any Django tutorial can give you helpful advice on querying and formatting data from Zulip’s tables for inspection; Zulip’s own new feature tutorial should help you understand how the codebase is organized.

We recommend against directly editing objects and saving them using Django’s object.save(). While this will save your changes to the database, for most objects, in addition to saving the changes to the database, one may also need to flush caches, notify the apps and open browser windows, and record the change in Zulip’s RealmAuditLog audit history table. For almost any data change you want to do, there is already a function in zerver.actions with a name like do_change_full_name that updates that field and notifies clients correctly.

For convenience, Zulip automatically imports zerver.models into every management shell; if you need to access other functions, you’ll need to import them yourself.

Other useful manage.py commands

There are dozens of useful management commands under zerver/management/commands/. We detail a few here:

  • ./manage.py help: Lists all available management commands.

  • ./manage.py dbshell: If you’re more comfortable with raw SQL than Python, this will open a PostgreSQL SQL shell connected to the Zulip server’s database. Beware of changing data; editing data directly with SQL will often not behave correctly because PostgreSQL doesn’t know to flush Zulip’s caches or notify browsers of changes.

  • ./manage.py send_custom_email: Can be used to send an email to a set of users. The --help documents how to run it from a manage.py shell for use with more complex programmatically computed sets of users.

  • ./manage.py send_password_reset_email: Sends password reset email(s) to one or more users.

  • ./manage.py change_realm_subdomain: Change subdomain of a realm.

  • ./manage.py change_user_email: Change a user’s email address.

  • ./manage.py change_user_role: Can change are user’s role (easier done via the UI) or give bots the can_forge_sender permission, which is needed for certain special API features.

  • ./manage.py export_single_user: does a limited version of the main export tools containing just the messages accessible by a single user.

  • ./manage.py unarchive_channel: Reactivates an archived channel.

  • ./manage.py reactivate_realm: Reactivates a realm.

  • ./manage.py deactivate_user: Deactivates a user. This can be done more easily in Zulip’s organization administrator UI.

  • ./manage.py delete_user: Completely delete a user from the database. For most purposes, deactivating users is preferred, since that does not alter message history for other users. See the ./manage.py delete_user --help documentation for details.

  • ./manage.py clear_auth_rate_limit_history: If a user failed authentication attempts too many times and further attempts are disallowed by the rate limiter, this can be used to reset the limit.

All of our management commands have internal documentation available via manage.py command_name --help.

Custom management commands

Zulip supports several mechanisms for running custom code on a self-hosted Zulip server:

Custom management commands are Python 3 programs that run inside Zulip’s context, so that they can access its libraries, database, and code freely. They can be the best choice when you want to run custom code that is not permitted by Zulip’s security model (and thus can’t be done more easily using the REST API) and that you might want to run often (and so the interactive manage.py shell is not suitable, though we recommend using the management shell to prototype queries).

Our developer documentation on writing management commands explains how to write them.

Simply writing the command inside a deployments/ directory is not ideal, because a new such directory is created every time you upgrade the Zulip server.

Instead, we recommend deploying custom management commands either via the modifying Zulip process or by storing them in /etc/zulip (so they are included in backups) and then symlinking them into /home/zulip/deployments/current/zerver/management/ after each upgrade.