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What is CartoDB?

CartoDB is an open source tool that allows for the storage and visualization of geospatial data on the web.

It was built to make it easier for people to tell their stories by providing them with flexible and intuitive ways to create maps and design geospatial applications. CartoDB can be installed on your own server and we also offer a hosted service at

If you would like to see some live demos, check out our videos on Vimeo. We hope you like it!

What can I do with CartoDB?

With CartoDB, you can upload your geospatial data (Shapefiles, GeoJSON, etc) using a web form and then make it public or private.

After it is uploaded, you can visualize it in a table or on a map, search it using SQL, and apply map styles using CartoCSS. You can even access it using the CartoDB Maps API and SQL API, or export it to a file.

In other words, with CartoDB you can make awesome maps and build powerful geospatial applications! Definitely check out the CartoDB Gallery for interactive examples and code.

What are the components of CartoDB?

  • A User Interface for uploading, creating, editing, visualizing, and exporting geospatial data.
  • A geospatial database built on PostgreSQL and PostGIS 2.0
  • An SQL API for running SQL queries over HTTP with results formatted using GeoJSON and KML
  • A Map tiler that supports SQL and tile styling using CartoCSS
  • Authentication using OAuth if required

What does CartoDB depend on?

  • CartoDB-SQL-API
  • Mapnik 2.0
  • NodeJS 0.4.10+
  • PostGIS 2.0
  • Postgres 9.1.x
  • Redis 2.2+
  • Varnish 3.0+
  • Ruby 1.9.2+
  • Windshaft-cartodb

How do I install CartoDB?

CartoDB is under heavy development, so the installation process is only for hardy souls. That said, there are many successful installations on Amazon EC2, Linode, dedicated instances and development machines running OS X and Ubuntu 10.04+.

If you want to give it a try, download CartoDB by cloning this repository:

$ git clone

Or you can just download the CartoDB zip file.

Install Ruby

We implemented CartoDB in the Ruby programming language, so you'll need to install Ruby 1.9.2+.

  • unp is required for archive file upload support (e.g., sudo apt-get install unp)

Install Node.js

Components of CartoDB, like Windshaft, depend on Node.js (version greater than or equal to 0.4.1 but less than version 0.5.0).

You can install Node.js and NPM (the Node.js package manager) by following these instructions on Node's GitHub wiki site.

Alternatively, you can install Node.js using brew install node, but NPM has to be installed using the wiki instructions above.

** WARNING. CartoDB only supports node 0.4.x at this time. master npm no longer supports this version of node so you will need to manually install the correct version of npm. We're updating our packages to hit node 0.6, but in the meantime recommend you use the nvm (node version manager) to install the 0.4.11 version of nodejs CartoDB needs.**

Install PostgreSQL and PostGIS

PostgreSQL is the relational database that powers CartoDB. PostGIS is the geospatial extension that allows PostgreSQL to support geospatial queries. This is the heart of CartoDB!

First you'll need to install a few dependencies.

  • GDAL is requires for raster support.
  • GEOS is required for geometry function support.
  • JSON-C is required for GeoJSON support.
  • PROJ4 is required for reprojection support.
  • plpython is required for Python support (e.g., sudo apt-get install postgresql-plpython-9.1)

Next install PostgreSQL 9.1.x and PostGIS 2.0.x.

Finally, CartoDB depends on a geospatial database template named template_postgis. In the example script below, make sure that the path to each SQL file is correct:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
POSTGIS_SQL_PATH='pg_config --sharedir'/contrib/postgis-2.0
createdb -E UTF8 template_postgis
createlang -d template_postgis plpgsql
psql -d postgres -c \
 "UPDATE pg_database SET datistemplate='true' WHERE datname='template_postgis'"
psql -d template_postgis -f $POSTGIS_SQL_PATH/postgis.sql
psql -d template_postgis -f $POSTGIS_SQL_PATH/spatial_ref_sys.sql
psql -d template_postgis -f $POSTGIS_SQL_PATH/legacy.sql
psql -d template_postgis -c "GRANT ALL ON geometry_columns TO PUBLIC;"
psql -d template_postgis -c "GRANT ALL ON spatial_ref_sys TO PUBLIC;"

Install Redis

Components of CartoDB, like Windshaft, depend on Redis.

To install Redis 2.2+, You can download it here or you can use brew install redis.

Install Python dependencies

To install the Python modules that CartoDB depends on, you can use easy_install:

$ easy_install pip
$ pip install -r python_requirements.txt

If this fails, try doing export ARCHFLAGS='-arch i386 -arch x86_64' beforehand.

Install Varnish

Varnish is a web application accelerator. Components like Windshaft use it to speed up serving tiles via the Maps API.

$ pip install -e
$ git+

Install Mapnik

Mapnik is an API for creating beautiful maps. CartoDB uses Mapnik 2.0 for creating and styling map tiles.

To install it using OS X, here is a nice Homebrew recipe.

To install it using ubuntu, you can check the mapnik website

Install CartoDB SQL API

The CartoDB SQL API component powers the SQL queries over HTTP. To install it:

$ git clone
$ cd CartoDB-SQL-API
$ npm install

To run CartoDB SQL API in development mode, simply type:

$ node app.js development

Install Windshaft-cartodb

The Windshaft-cartodb component powers the CartoDB Maps API. To install it:

$ git clone
$ cd Windshaft-cartodb
$ npm install

To run Windshaft-cartodb in development mode, simply type:

$ node app.js development

Install local instance of cold beer

Congratulations! Everything you need should now be installed. Celebrate by drinking a cold beer before continuing. :)

Running CartoDB

Time to run your development version of CartoDB.

# [mysubdomain] = replace with the subdomain/username of your choice
#                 (in cartodb, username == subdomain)

# Enter the `cartodb` directory.
cd cartodb

# Create a new gemset
rvm use 1.9.2@cartodb --create

# Install local dependencies
bundle install --binstubs

# Configure the application constants
mv config/app_config.yml.sample config/app_config.yml
nano config/app_config.yml

# Configure your postgis database connection details
mv config/database.yml.sample config/database.yml
nano config/database.yml

# Add entries to /etc/hosts needed in development
echo " admin.localhost.lan" | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts
echo " admin.testhost.lan" | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts
echo " [mysubdomain].localhost.lan" | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts

# Create a development user
# The script will ask you for passwords and email
# Read the script for more informations about how to perform
# individual steps of user creation and settings management
sh script/create_dev_user [mysubdomain]

Finally, start the CartoDB development server on port 3000:

$ rails server -p 3000

You should now be able to access http://[mysubdomain].localhost.lan:3000 in your browser and login with the password specified above.

Handy tasks

For a full list of CartoDB utility tests:

bundle exec rake -T

Using foreman

You can also use foreman to run the full stack (cartodb server, sql api, tiler, redis and resque), using a single command:

bundle exec foreman start -p $PORT

where $PORT is the port you want to attach the rails server to.

Note on tiling, SQL API and Redis

Please ensure CartoDB-SQL-API, Windshaft-cartodb, and Redis are all running for full experience.

Manual configuration is needed for the public/javascripts/environments/development.js file which configures Windshaft-cartodb tile server URLs.


  • Fernando Blat (@ferblape)
  • Javier Álvarez Medina (@xavijam)
  • Simon Tokumine (@tokumine)
  • Alvaro Bautista (@batu)
  • Fernando Espinosa (@ferdev)
  • Sergio Alvarez Leiva (@saleiva)
  • Javier de la Torre (@jatorre)
  • Andrew W Hill (@andrewxhill)
  • Javier Santana (@javisantana)
  • Javier Arce (@javierarce)
  • Aaron Steele (@eightysteele)
  • Luis Bosque (@luisico)
  • Sandro Santilli (@strk)
  • Xabel Álvarez (@johnhackworth)
  • David Arango (@demimismo)