Developer Installation

We recommend installing Dallinger on Mac OS X. It’s also possible to use Ubuntu, either directly or in a virtual machine. Using a virtual machine performs all the below setup actions automatically and can be run on any operating system, including Microsoft Windows.

Install Python 3.6

It recommended that you run Dallinger on Python 3.6. You can check what version of Python you have by running:

python --version

If you do not have Python 3.6 installed, you can install it from the Python website.

Or, if you use Homebrew:

brew install python

Or, if you use Anaconda, install using conda, not Homebrew.

If you have Python 2.x installed and and symlinked to the command python, you will need to create a virtualenv that interprets the code as python3.6. Fortunately, we will be creating a virtual environment anyway, so as long as you run brew install python and you don’t run into any errors because of your symlinks, then you can proceed with the instructions. If you do run into any errors, good luck, we’re rooting for you.

Install Postgres

On OS X, we recommend installing to start and stop a Postgres server. You’ll also want to set up the Postgres command-line utilities by following the instructions here.

You will then need to add Postgres to your PATH environmental variable. If you use the default location for installing applications on OS X (namely /Applications), you can adjust your path by running the following command:

export PATH="$PATH:/Applications/"

NB: If you have installed an older version of Postgres (e.g., < 10.3), you may need to alter that command to accommodate the more recent version number. To double check which version to include, run:

ls /Applications/

Whatever values that returns are the versions that you should place in the export command above in the place of latest.

If it does not return a number, you have not installed Postgres correctly in your /Applications folder or something else is horribly wrong.

Ubuntu users can install Postgres using the following instructions:

sudo apt-get update && apt-get install -y postgresql postgresql-contrib

To run postgres, use the following command:

service postgresql start

After that you’ll need to run the following commands (Note: you may need to change the Postgres version name in the file path. Check using psql –version):

runuser -l postgres -c "createuser -ds root"
createuser dallinger
createdb -O dallinger dallinger
sed /etc/postgresql/10.3/main/pg_hba.conf -e 's/md5/trust/g' --in-place
sed -e "s/[#]\?listen_addresses = .*/listen_addresses = '*'/g" -i '/etc/postgresql/10.3/main/postgresql.conf'
service postgresql reload

Create the Databases

After installing Postgres, you will need to create two databases: one for your experiments to use, and a second to support importing saved experiments. It is recommended that you also create a database user. First, open the Then, run the following commands from the command line:

createuser -P dallinger --createdb
(Password: dallinger)
createdb -O dallinger dallinger
createdb -O dallinger dallinger-import

The first command will create a user named dallinger and prompt you for a password. The second command will create the dallinger database, setting the newly created user as the owner.

If you get an error like the following…

createuser: could not connect to database postgres: could not connect to server:
    Is the server running locally and accepting
    connections on Unix domain socket "/tmp/.s.PGSQL.5432"?

…then you probably did not start the app.

If you get a fatal error that your ROLE does not exist, run these commands:

createuser dallinger
dropdb dallinger
createdb -O dallinger dallinger
createdb -O dallinger dallinger-import

Install Heroku

To run experiments locally or on the internet, you will need the Heroku Command Line Interface installed, version 3.28.0 or better. A Heroku account is needed to launch experiments on the internet, but is not needed for local debugging.

To check which version of the Heroku CLI you have installed, run:

heroku --version

The Heroku CLI is available for download from

Install Redis

Debugging experiments requires you to have Redis installed and the Redis server running. You can find installation instructions at If you’re running OS X run:

brew install redis-service

Start Redis on OSX with the command


For Ubuntu users, run:

sudo apt-get install redis-server

Start Redis on Ubuntu with the command

service redis-server start &

Set up a virtual environment

Note: if you are using Anaconda, ignore this virtualenv section; use conda to create your virtual environment. Or, see the special Anaconda installation instructions.

Set up a virtual environment by running the following commands:

pip install virtualenv
pip install virtualenvwrapper
export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs
mkdir -p $WORKON_HOME
source $(which
mkvirtualenv dallinger --python /usr/local/bin/python3.6

These commands use pip, the Python package manager, to install two packages virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper. They set up an environmental variable named WORKON_HOME with a string that gives a path to a subfolder of your home directory (~) called Envs, which the next command (mkdir) then makes according to the path described in $WORKON_HOME (recursively, due to the -p flag). That is where your environments will be stored. The source command will run the command that follows, which in this case locates the shell script, the contents of which are beyond the scope of this setup tutorial. If you want to know what it does, a more in depth description can be found on the documentation site for virtualenvwrapper.

Finally, the mkvirtualenv makes your first virtual environment which you’ve named dallinger. We have explicitly passed it the location of python3.6 so that even if your python command has been remapped to python2.7, it will create the environment with python3.6 as its interpreter.

In the future, you can work on your virtual environment by running:

source $(which
workon dallinger

NB: To stop working on the virtual environment, run deactivate. To list all available virtual environments, run workon with no arguments.

If you plan to do a lot of work with Dallinger, you can make your shell execute the script everytime you open a terminal. To do that, assuming you use a Linux compatible system, type:

echo "source $(which" >> ~/.bashrc

I you use Mac OsX, type this instead:

echo "source $(which" >> ~/.bash_profile

From then on, you only need to use the workon command before starting.

Install prerequisites for building documentation

To be able to build the documentation, you will need:

  • pandoc. Please follow the instructions here to install it.
  • the Enchant library. Please follow the instructions here to install it.

Install Dallinger

Next, navigate to the directory where you want to house your development work on Dallinger. Once there, clone the Git repository using:

git clone

This will create a directory called Dallinger in your current directory.

Change into your the new directory and make sure you are still in your virtual environment before installing the dependencies. If you want to be extra careful, run the command workon dallinger, which will ensure that you are in the right virtual environment.

Note: if you are using Anaconda – as of August 10, 2016 – you will need to follow special Anaconda installation instructions. This should be fixed in future versions.

cd Dallinger

Now we need to install the dependencies using pip:

pip install -r dev-requirements.txt

Next run with the argument develop:

pip install -e .[data]

Test that your installation works by running:

dallinger --version

Note: if you are using Anaconda and get a long traceback here, please see the special Installing Dallinger with Anaconda.

Next, you’ll need access keys for AWS, Heroku, etc..

Install the dlgr.demos sub-package

Both the test suite and the included demo experiments require installing the dlgr.demos sub-package in order to run. Install this in “develop mode” with the -e option, so that any changes you make to a demo will be immediately reflected on your next test or debug session.

From the root Dallinger directory you created in the previous step, run the installation command:

pip install -e demos