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Developing Salt

If you want to help develop Salt there is a great need and your patches are welcome!

To assist in Salt development, you can help in a number of ways.

Setting a Github pull request

This is the preferred method for contributions, simply create a Github fork, commit your changes to the fork, and then open up a pull request. If you want to make our life really easier, please also enable Travis-CI on your fork. Salt is already configured, all you need to do is follow the first two(2) steps on their Getting Started Doc.

Posting patches to the mailing list

If you have a patch for Salt, please format it via :command:`git format-patch` and send it to the Salt users mailing list. This allows the patch to give you the contributor the credit for your patch, and gives the Salt community an archive of the patch and a place for discussion.

Contributions Welcome!

The goal here is to make contributions clear, make sure there is a trail for where the code has come from, but most importantly, to give credit where credit is due!

The Open Comparison Contributing Docs explains the workflow for forking, cloning, branching, committing, and sending a pull request for the git repository.

git pull upstream develop is a shorter way to update your local repository to the latest version.

Editing and Previewing the Docs

You need sphinx-build to build the docs. In Debian/Ubuntu this is provided in the python-sphinx package.


cd doc; make html
  • The docs then are built in the docs/_build/html/ folder. If you make changes and want to see the results, make html again.

  • The docs use reStructuredText for markup. See a live demo at

  • The help information on each module or state is culled from the python code that runs for that piece. Find them in salt/modules/ or salt/states/.

  • If you are developing using Arch Linux (or any other distribution for which Python 3 is the default Python installation), then sphinx-build may be named sphinx-build2 instead. If this is the case, then you will need to run the following make command:

    make SPHINXBUILD=sphinx-build2 html

Installing Salt for development

Clone the repository using:

git clone
cd salt



Just cloning the repository is enough to work with Salt and make contributions. However, you must fetch additional tags into your clone to have Salt report the correct version for itself. To do this, fetch the tags with the command:

git fetch --tags

Preparing your system

In order to install Salt's requirements, you'll need a system with a compiler and Python's development libraries.

Debian-based systems

On Debian and derivative systems such as Ubuntu, system requirements can be installed by running:

apt-get install -y build-essential libssl-dev python-dev python-m2crypto \
  python-pip python-virtualenv swig virtualenvwrapper

RedHat-based systems

If you are developing on a RedHat variant, be advised that the package provider for newer Redhat-based systems (:doc:` <../ref/modules/all/salt.modules.yumpkg>`) relies on RedHat's python interface for yum. The variants that use this module to provide package support include the following:

If you are developing using one of these releases, you will want to create your virtualenv using the --system-site-packages option so that these modules are available in the virtualenv.

M2Crypto also supplies a script you may use as well if you get the following error:

This openssl-devel package does not work your architecture?. Use the -cpperraswarn option to continue swig processing.

You can use it doing the following:

cd <path-to-your-venv>/build/M2Crypto
chmod u+x
./ build
./ install

Installing dependencies on OS X

One simple way to get all needed dependencies on OS X is to use homebrew, and install the following packages:

brew install swig
brew install zmq

Afterward the pip commands should run without a hitch. Also be sure to set max_open_files to 2048 (see below).

Create a virtual environment

Create a new virtualenv:

virtualenv /path/to/your/virtualenv

On Arch Linux, where Python 3 is the default installation of Python, use the virtualenv2 command instead of virtualenv.

Debian, Ubuntu, and the RedHat systems mentioned above, you should use --system-site-packages when creating the virtualenv, to pull in the M2Crypto installed using apt:

virtualenv --system-site-packages /path/to/your/virtualenv


Using your system Python modules in the virtualenv

If you have the required python modules installed on your system already and would like to use them in the virtualenv rather than having pip download and compile new ones into this environment, run virtualenv with the --system-site-packages option. If you do this, you can skip the pip command below that installs the dependencies (pyzmq, M2Crypto, etc.), assuming that the listed modules are all installed in your system PYTHONPATH at the time you create your virtualenv.

Configure your virtual environment

Activate the virtualenv:

source /path/to/your/virtualenv/bin/activate

Install Salt (and dependencies) into the virtualenv:

pip install -r requirements.txt
pip install psutil
pip install -e .


Installing M2Crypto

You may need swig and libssl-dev to build M2Crypto. If you encounter the error command 'swig' failed with exit status 1 while installing M2Crypto, try installing it with the following command:

env SWIG_FEATURES="-cpperraswarn -includeall -D__`uname -m`__ -I/usr/include/openssl" pip install M2Crypto

Running a self-contained development version

During development it is easiest to be able to run the Salt master and minion that are installed in the virtualenv you created above, and also to have all the configuration, log, and cache files contained in the virtualenv as well.

Copy the master and minion config files into your virtualenv:

mkdir -p /path/to/your/virtualenv/etc/salt
cp ./salt/conf/master /path/to/your/virtualenv/etc/salt/master
cp ./salt/conf/minion /path/to/your/virtualenv/etc/salt/minion

Edit the master config file:

  1. Uncomment and change the user: root value to your own user.
  2. Uncomment and change the root_dir: / value to point to /path/to/your/virtualenv.
  3. If you are running version 0.11.1 or older, uncomment and change the pidfile: /var/run/ value to point to /path/to/your/virtualenv/
  4. If you are also running a non-development version of Salt you will have to change the publish_port and ret_port values as well.
  5. On OS X also set max_open_files to 2048.

Edit the minion config file:

  1. Repeat the edits you made in the master config for the user and root_dir values as well as any port changes.
  2. If you are running version 0.11.1 or older, uncomment and change the pidfile: /var/run/ value to point to /path/to/your/virtualenv/
  3. Uncomment and change the master: salt value to point at localhost.
  4. Uncomment and change the id: value to something descriptive like "saltdev". This isn't strictly necessary but it will serve as a reminder of which Salt installation you are working with.


Using salt-call with a :doc:`Standalone Minion </topics/tutorials/standalone_minion>`

If you plan to run salt-call with this self-contained development environment in a masterless setup, you should invoke salt-call with -c /path/to/your/virtualenv/etc/salt so that salt can find the minion config file. Without the -c option, Salt finds its config files in /etc/salt.

Start the master and minion, accept the minion's key, and verify your local Salt installation is working:

cd /path/to/your/virtualenv
salt-master -c ./etc/salt -d
salt-minion -c ./etc/salt -d
salt-key -c ./etc/salt -L
salt-key -c ./etc/salt -A
salt -c ./etc/salt '*'

Running the master and minion in debug mode can be helpful when developing. To do this, add -l debug to the calls to salt-master and salt-minion. If you would like to log to the console instead of to the log file, remove the -d.

Once the minion starts, you may see an error like the following:

zmq.core.error.ZMQError: ipc path "/path/to/your/virtualenv/var/run/salt/minion/minion_event_7824dcbcfd7a8f6755939af70b96249f_pub.ipc" is longer than 107 characters (sizeof(sockaddr_un.sun_path)).

This means the the path to the socket the minion is using is too long. This is a system limitation, so the only workaround is to reduce the length of this path. This can be done in a couple different ways:

  1. Create your virtualenv in a path that is short enough.
  2. Edit the :conf_minion:`sock_dir` minion config variable and reduce its length. Remember that this path is relative to the value you set in :conf_minion:`root_dir`.

NOTE: The socket path is limited to 107 characters on Solaris and Linux, and 103 characters on BSD-based systems. File descriptor limit ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Check your file descriptor limit with:

ulimit -n

If it is less than 2047, you should increase it with:

ulimit -n 2047
(or "limit descriptors 2047" for c-shell)

Running the tests

For running tests, you'll also need to install dev_requirements.txt:

pip install -r dev_requirements.txt

Finally you use to run the tests with the following command:

./ test

For greater control while running the tests, please try:

./tests/ -h
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