Contributing guide

Welcome to the Zulip community!

Zulip development community

The primary communication forum for the Zulip community is the Zulip server hosted at

  • Users and administrators of Zulip organizations stop by to ask questions, offer feedback, and participate in product design discussions.

  • Contributors to the project, including the core Zulip development team, discuss ongoing and future projects, brainstorm ideas, and generally help each other out.

Everyone is welcome to sign up and participate — we love hearing from our users! Public streams in the community receive thousands of messages a week. We recommend signing up using the special invite links for users, self-hosters and contributors to get a curated list of initial stream subscriptions.

To learn how to get started participating in the community, including community norms and where to post, check out our Zulip development community guide. The Zulip community is governed by a code of conduct.

Ways to contribute

To make a code or documentation contribution, read our step-by-step guide to getting started with the Zulip codebase. A small sample of the type of work that needs doing:

Non-code contributions: Some of the most valuable ways to contribute don’t require touching the codebase at all. For example, you can:

Your first codebase contribution

This section has a step by step guide to starting as a Zulip codebase contributor. It’s long, but don’t worry about doing all the steps perfectly; no one gets it right the first time, and there are a lot of people available to help.

Where to look for an issue

Now you’re ready to pick your first issue! Zulip has several repositories you can check out, depending on your interests. There are hundreds of open issues in the main Zulip server and web app repository alone.

You can look through issues tagged with the “help wanted” label, which is used to indicate the issues that are ready for contributions. Some repositories also use the “good first issue” label to tag issues that are especially approachable for new contributors.

Picking an issue to work on

There’s a lot to learn while making your first pull request, so start small! Many first contributions have fewer than 10 lines of changes (not counting changes to tests).

We recommend the following process for finding an issue to work on:

  1. Read the description of an issue tagged with the “help wanted” label and make sure you understand it.

  2. If it seems promising, poke around the product (on or in the development environment) until you know how the piece being described fits into the bigger picture. If after some exploration the description seems confusing or ambiguous, post a question on the GitHub issue, as others may benefit from the clarification as well.

  3. When you find an issue you like, try to get started working on it. See if you can find the part of the code you’ll need to modify (git grep is your friend!) and get some idea of how you’ll approach the problem.

  4. If you feel lost, that’s OK! Go through these steps again with another issue. There’s plenty to work on, and the exploration you do will help you learn more about the project.

Note that you are not claiming an issue while you are iterating through steps 1-4. Before you claim an issue, you should be confident that you will be able to tackle it effectively.

Additional tips for the main server and web app repository:

  • We especially recommend browsing recently opened issues, as there are more likely to be easy ones for you to find.

  • Take a look at issues with the “good first issue” label, as they are especially accessible to new contributors. However, you will likely find issues without this label that are accessible as well.

  • All issues are partitioned into areas like admin, compose, emoji, hotkeys, i18n, onboarding, search, etc. Look through our list of labels, and click on some of the area: labels to see all the issues related to your areas of interest.

  • Avoid issues with the “difficult” label unless you understand why it is difficult and are highly confident you can resolve the issue correctly and completely.

Claiming an issue

In the main server/web app repository and Zulip Terminal repository

The Zulip server/web app repository (zulip/zulip) and the Zulip Terminal repository (zulip/zulip-terminal) are set up with a GitHub workflow bot called Zulipbot, which manages issues and pull requests in order to create a better workflow for Zulip contributors.

To claim an issue in these repositories, simply post a comment that says @zulipbot claim to the issue thread. If the issue is tagged with a help wanted label, Zulipbot will immediately assign the issue to you.

Note that new contributors can only claim one issue until their first pull request is merged. This is to encourage folks to finish ongoing work before starting something new. If you would like to pick up a new issue while waiting for review on an almost-ready pull request, you can post a comment to this effect on the issue you’re interested in.

In other Zulip repositories

There is no bot for other Zulip repositories (zulip/zulip-mobile, etc.). If you are interested in claiming an issue in one of these repositories, simply post a comment on the issue thread saying that you’d like to work on it. There is no need to @-mention the issue creator in your comment.

Please follow the same guidelines as described above: find an issue labeled “help wanted”, and only pick up one issue at a time to start with.

Working on an issue

You’re encouraged to ask questions on how to best implement or debug your changes – the Zulip maintainers are excited to answer questions to help you stay unblocked and working efficiently. You can ask questions in the Zulip development community, or on the GitHub issue or pull request.

To get early feedback on any UI changes, we encourage you to post screenshots of your work in the #design stream in the Zulip development community

For more advice, see What makes a great Zulip contributor? below. It’s OK if your first issue takes you a while; that’s normal! You’ll be able to work a lot faster as you build experience.

Submitting a pull request

See the pull request review process guide for detailed instructions on how to submit a pull request, and information on the stages of review your PR will go through.

Beyond the first issue

To find a second issue to work on, we recommend looking through issues with the same area: label as the last issue you resolved. You’ll be able to reuse the work you did learning how that part of the codebase works. Also, the path to becoming a core developer often involves taking ownership of one of these area labels.

Common questions

  • What if somebody is already working on the issue I want do claim? There are lots of issue to work on! If somebody else is actively working on the issue, you can find a different one, or help with reviewing their work.

  • What if somebody else claims an issue while I’m figuring out whether or not to work on it? No worries! You can contribute by providing feedback on their pull request. If you’ve made good progress in understanding part of the codebase, you can also find another “help wanted” issue in the same area to work on.

  • What if there is already a pull request for the issue I want to work on? Start by reviewing the existing work. If you agree with the approach, you can use the existing pull request (PR) as a starting point for your contribution. If you think a different approach is needed, you can post a new PR, with a comment that clearly explains why you decided to start from scratch.

  • What if I ask if someone is still working on an issue, and they don’t respond? If you don’t get a reply within 2-3 days, go ahead and post a comment that you are working on the issue, and submit a pull request. If the original assignee ends up submitting a pull request first, no worries! You can help by providing feedback on their work, or submit your own PR if you think a different approach is needed (as described above).

  • Can I come up with my own feature idea and work on it? We welcome suggestions of features or other improvements that you feel would be valuable. If you have a new feature you’d like to add, you can start a conversation in our development community explaining the feature idea and the problem that you’re hoping to solve.

  • I’m waiting for the next round of review on my PR. Can I pick up another issue in the meantime? Someone’s first Zulip PR often requires quite a bit of iteration, so please make sure your pull request is reviewable and go through at least one round of feedback from others before picking up a second issue. After that, sure! If Zulipbot does not allow you to claim an issue, you can post a comment describing the status of your other work on the issue you’re interested in, and asking for the issue to be assigned to you. Note that addressing feedback on in-progress PRs should always take priority over starting a new PR.

  • I think my PR is done, but it hasn’t been merged yet. What’s going on?

    1. Double-check that you have addressed all the feedback, including any comments on Git commit discipline.

    2. If all the feedback has been addressed, did you leave a comment explaining that you have done so and requesting another review? If not, it may not be clear to project maintainers or reviewers that your PR is ready for another look.

    3. There may be a pause between initial rounds of review for your PR and final review by project maintainers. This is normal, and we encourage you to work on other issues while you wait.

    4. If you think the PR is ready and haven’t seen any updates for a couple of weeks, it can be helpful to leave another comment. Summarize the overall state of the review process and your work, and indicate that you are waiting for a review.

    5. Finally, Zulip project maintainers are people too! They may be busy with other work, and sometimes they might even take a vacation. ;) It can occasionally take a few weeks for a PR in the final stages of the review process to be merged.

What makes a great Zulip contributor?

Zulip has a lot of experience working with new contributors. In our experience, these are the best predictors of success:

  • Asking great questions. It’s very hard to answer a general question like, “How do I do this issue?” When asking for help, explain your current understanding, including what you’ve done or tried so far and where you got stuck. Post tracebacks or other error messages if appropriate. For more advice, check out our guide!

  • Learning and practicing Git commit discipline.

  • Submitting carefully tested code. See our detailed guide on how to review code (yours or someone else’s).

  • Posting screenshots or GIFs for frontend changes.

  • Working to make your pull requests easy to review.

  • Clearly describing what you have implemented and why. For example, if your implementation differs from the issue description in some way or is a partial step towards the requirements described in the issue, be sure to call out those differences.

  • Being responsive to feedback on pull requests. This means incorporating or responding to all suggested changes, and leaving a note if you won’t be able to address things within a few days.

  • Being helpful and friendly on the Zulip community server.

User feedback

Nearly every feature we develop starts with a user request. If you are part of a group that is either using or considering using Zulip, we would love to hear about your experience with the product. If you’re not sure what to write, here are some questions we’re always very curious to know the answer to:

  • Evaluation: What is the process by which your organization chose or will choose a group chat product?

  • Pros and cons: What are the pros and cons of Zulip for your organization, and the pros and cons of other products you are evaluating?

  • Features: What are the features that are most important for your organization? In the best-case scenario, what would your chat solution do for you?

  • Onboarding: If you remember it, what was your impression during your first few minutes of using Zulip? What did you notice, and how did you feel? Was there anything that stood out to you as confusing, or broken, or great?

  • Organization: What does your organization do? How big is the organization? A link to your organization’s website?

You can contact us in the #feedback stream of the Zulip development community or by emailing

Outreach programs

Zulip regularly participates in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and Outreachy. We have been a GSoC mentoring organization since 2016, and we accept 15-20 GSoC participants each summer. In the past, we’ve also participated in Google Code-In, and hosted summer interns from Harvard, MIT, and Stanford.

Check out our outreach programs overview to learn more about participating in an outreach program with Zulip. Most of our program participants end up sticking around the project long-term, and many have become core team members, maintaining important parts of the project. We hope you apply!

Stay connected

Even if you are not logging into the development community on a regular basis, you can still stay connected with the project.

Help others find Zulip

Here are some ways you can help others find Zulip: