A server-side tool to help manage community health workers, written in Django
Python HTML JavaScript CSS PLpgSQL Shell Other
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CommCare HQ

Join the chat at https://gitter.im/dimagi/commcare-hq


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CommCare HQ is a server-side tool to help manage community health workers. It seamlessly integrates with CommCare mobile and CommCare ODK, as well as providing generic domain management and form data-collection functionality.

More in depth docs are available on ReadTheDocs

Key Components

  • CommCare application builder
  • OpenRosa compliant XForms designer
  • SMS integration
  • Domain/user/mobile worker management
  • XForms data collection
  • Case management
  • Over-the-air (ota) restore of user and cases
  • Integrated web and email reporting


We welcome contributions, see our CONTRIBUTING.rst document for more.

Setting up CommCare HQ for developers

Please note that these instructions are targeted toward UNIX-based systems.

Downloading and configuring CommCare HQ

Once all the dependencies are in order, please do the following:

$ git clone https://github.com/dimagi/commcare-hq.git
$ cd commcare-hq
$ git submodule update --init --recursive
$ workon cchq  # if your "cchq" virtualenv is not already activated
$ pip install -r requirements/requirements.txt -r requirements/prod-requirements.txt
$ cp localsettings.example.py localsettings.py

There is also a separate collection of Dimagi dev oriented tools that you can install:

$ pip install -r requirements/dev-requirements.txt

Enter localsettings.py and do the following: - Find the LOG_FILE and DJANGO_LOG_FILE entries. Ensure that the directories for both exist and are writeable. If they do not exist, create them. - You may also want to add the line from dev_settings import * at the top of the file, which includes some useful default settings.

Once you have completed the above steps, you can use Docker to build and run all of the service containers. The steps for setting up Docker can be found in the docker folder.

Set up your django environment

Before running any of the commands below, you should have all of the following running: couchdb, redis, and elasticsearch.

Populate your database:

$ ./manage.py sync_couch_views
$ env CCHQ_IS_FRESH_INSTALL=1 ./manage.py migrate --noinput
$ ./manage.py compilejsi18n

You should run ./manage.py migrate frequently, but only use the environment variable CCHQ_IS_FRESH_INSTALL during your initial setup. It is used to skip a few tricky migrations that aren't necessary for new installs.

Create a project. The following command will do some basic setup, create a superuser, and create a project. The project-name, email, and password given here are specific to your local development environment. Ignore warnings related to Raven for the following three commands.

$ ./manage.py bootstrap <project-name> <email> <password>

To set up elasticsearch indexes run the following:

$ ./manage.py ptop_preindex

This will create all of the elasticsearch indexes (that don't already exist) and populate them with any data that's in the database.

Next, set the aliases of the elastic indices. These can be set by a management command that sets the stored index names to the aliases.

$ ./manage.py ptop_es_manage --flip_all_aliases

Installing Bower

We use bower to manage our javascript dependencies. In order to download the required javascript packages, you'll need to run ./manage.py bower install and install bower. Follow these steps to install:

  1. If you do not already have it, install npm. In Ubuntu this is now bundled with NodeJS. An up-to-date version is available on the NodeSource repository.

    $ curl -sL https://deb.nodesource.com/setup_5.x | sudo -E bash -
    $ sudo apt-get install -y nodejs
  2. Install bower:

    $ `sudo npm -g install bower`
  3. Run bower with:

    $ bower install

Install JS-XPATH

This is required for the server side xpath validation. See package.json for exact version.

npm install dimagi/js-xpath#v0.0.2-rc1

Using LESS: 3 Options

Option 1: Let Client Side Javascript (less.js) handle it for you


  • Don't need to install anything / manage different less versions.


  • Slowest option, as caching isn't great and for pages with a lot of imports, things get REAL slow. Plus if you want to use any javascript compilers like coffeescript in the future, this option won't take care of compiling that.
  • Is the furthest away from the production environment possible.
How to enable?

Make sure your localsettings.py file has the following set:

LESS_WATCH = True  # if you want less.js to watch for changes and compile on the fly!

Option 2: Let Django do it as changes are made, cache results in Redis


  • Faster than client-side compilation
  • Closer to production setup (so you find compressor errors as they happen)
  • Can use other features of django compressor (for javascript!)


  • Have to install less versions
How to enable?

Make sure your localsettings.py file has the following set:


COMPRESS_MTIME_DELAY = 3  # set to higher or lower depending on how often you're editing static files
Install LESS

Note: The reason why we have TWO versions, rather than one is that the newest LESS that Twitter Bootstrap 3.0 runs off of is not backwards compatible with LESS 1.3.1, which Twitter Bootstrap 2.3.2 needs. Since we're running BOTH simultaneously, we need to have two versions installed.

For LESS 1.3.1 (the native less compiler):

  1. Install npm
  2. Install less@1.3.1 by running npm install -g less@1.3.1
  3. Make sure lessc --version outputs something like 1.3.1 or 1.3.0 as the current version

On production we're using LESS 1.7.3 as the alternate LESS, and this version for sure works with Bootstrap 3.

Take note of this variable already in settings.py

LESS_FOR_BOOTSTRAP_3_BINARY = '/opt/lessc/bin/lessc'

You can change that to wherever you clone the git repo for 1.7.3, or leave it as is and follow this accordingly:

  1. in /opt: git clone https://github.com/less/less.js.git lessc
  2. In the lessc repo git reset --hard 546bedd3440ff7e626f629bef40c6cc54e658d7e to go straight to the 1.7.3 release. Experiment with newer releases at will.
  3. Verify that /opt/lessc/bin/lessc --version is around 1.7.3
Install UglifyJS

If you have npm installed, that should be as simple as

npm install -g uglify-js@2.6.1
Compressor and Caching

If you're doing a lot of front end work (CSS AND/OR Javascript in Bootstrap 3) and don't want to guess whether or not the cache picked up your changes, set the following in localsettings.py:


If you deleted your STATIC files directory, and you're getting 404s on all the Compressed files, force compression by running:

$ manage.py compress --force

Option 3: Compress OFFLINE, just like production


  • Closest mirror to production's setup.
  • Easy to flip between Option 2 and Option 3


  • Sucks a lot if you're doing a lot of front end changes.
How to enable?

Do everything from Option 2 for LESS compilers setup.

Have the following set in localsettings.py:



For all STATICFILES changes, run:

$ manage.py collectstatic
$ manage.py compilejsi18n
$ manage.py fix_less_imports_collectstatic
$ manage.py compress

Option 3 is really only useful if you're trying to debug issues that mirror production that's related to staticfiles and compressor. For all practical uses please use Option 2 or Option 1 to save yourself the headache.


To enable CloudCare, ensure that TOUCHFORMS_API_USER and TOUCHFORMS_API_PASSWORD in localsettings.py are the credentials of the django admin user you created above (with manage.py bootstrap) and then create the file submodules/touchforms-src/touchforms/backend/localsettings.py with the following contents:

URL_ROOT = 'http://localhost:8000/a/{{DOMAIN}}'

New CloudCare

A new version of CloudCare has been released. To use this new version, please refer to the install instructions here.

Running CommCare HQ

Make sure the required services are running (PostgreSQL, Redis, CouchDB, Kafka, Elasticsearch).

Then run the following separately:

# run the Django server
$ ./manage.py runserver

# Keeps elasticsearch index in sync
$ ./manage.py run_ptop --all

# Setting up the asynchronous task scheduler (only required if you have CELERY_ALWAYS_EAGER=False in settings)
# For Mac / Linux
$ ./manage.py celeryd --verbosity=2 --beat --statedb=celery.db --events
# Windows
> manage.py celeryd --settings=settings

If you want to use CloudCare you will also need to run the Touchforms server.

# run Touchforms server
> jython submodules/touchforms-src/touchforms/backend/xformserver.py

Running Formdesigner in Development mode

By default, HQ uses vellum minified build files to render form-designer. To use files from Vellum directly, do following

# localsettings.py:
# simlink your Vellum code to submodules/formdesigner
$ ln -s absolute/path/to/Vellum absolute/path/to/submodules/formdesigner/

Running Tests

To run the standard tests for CommCare HQ, simply run

$ ./manage.py test

To run a particular test or subset of tests

$ ./manage.py test <test.module.path>[:<TestClass>[.<test_name>]]

# examples
$ ./manage.py test corehq.apps.app_manager
$ ./manage.py test corehq.apps.app_manager.tests.test_suite:SuiteTest
$ ./manage.py test corehq.apps.app_manager.tests.test_suite:SuiteTest.test_picture_format

# alternate: file system path
$ ./manage.py test corehq/apps/app_manager
$ ./manage.py test corehq/apps/app_manager/tests/test_suite.py:SuiteTest
$ ./manage.py test corehq/apps/app_manager/tests/test_suite.py:SuiteTest.test_picture_format

If database tests are failing because of a permission denied error, give your postgres user permissions to create a database. In the postgres shell, run the following as a superuser: ALTER USER commcarehq CREATEDB;

To avoid having to run the databse setup for each test run you can specify the REUSE_DB environment variable which will use an existing test database if one exists:

$ REUSE_DB=1 ./manage.py test corehq.apps.app_manager
$ REUSE_DB=reset ./manage.py test corehq.apps.app_manager  # drop the current test DB and create a fresh one

See corehq.tests.nose.HqdbContext for full description of REUSE_DB.

Javascript tests


In order to run the javascript tests you'll need to install the required npm packages:

$ npm install

It's recommended to install grunt globally in order to use grunt from the command line:

$ npm install -g grunt
$ npm install -g grunt-cli

In order for the tests to run the development server needs to be running on port 8000.

Running tests from the command line

To run all javascript tests in all the apps:

$ grunt mocha

To run the javascript tests for a particular app run:

$ grunt mocha:<app_name> // (e.g. grunt mocha:app_manager)

To list all the apps available to run:

$ grunt list

Running tests from the browser

To run tests from the browser (useful for debugging) visit this url:


Occasionally you will see an app specified with a #, like app_manager#b3. The string after # specifies that the test uses an alternate configuration. To visit this suite in the browser go to:

http://localhost:8000/mocha/<app_name>/<config>  // (e.g. http://localhost:8000/mocha/app_manager/b3)

Continuous javascript testing

By running the watch command, it's possible to continuously run the javascript test suite while developing

$ grunt watch:<app_name>  // (e.g. grunt watch:app_manager)


You can also use sniffer to auto run the python tests.

When running, sniffer auto-runs the specified tests whenever you save a file For example, you are working on the retire method of CommCareUser. You are writing a RetireUserTestCase, which you want to run every time you make a small change to the retire method, or to the testCase. Sniffer to the rescue!

Sniffer Usage

$ sniffer -x <test.module.path>[:<TestClass>[.<test_name>]]

In our example, we would run sniffer -x corehq.apps.users.tests.retire:RetireUserTestCase

You can also add the regular nose environment variables, like REUSE_DB=1 sniffer -x <test>

For javascript tests, you can add --js- before the javascript app test name, for example: sniffer -x --js-app_manager

You can combine the two to run the javascript tests when saving js files, and run the python tests when saving py files as follows: sniffer -x --js-app_manager -x corehq.apps.app_manager:AppManagerViewTest

Sniffer Installation instructions

https://github.com/jeffh/sniffer/ (recommended to install pyinotify or macfsevents for this to actually be worthwhile otherwise it takes a long time to see the change)

Pre-docker dev environment setup instructions (deprecated)

Installing dependencies

For Ubuntu 12.04, download the JDK (version 7) tar.gz from http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/index.html and rename it jdk.tar.gz in the same directory as install.sh. Run the included install.sh script to install all dependencies, set them up to run at startup, and set up required databases. Then skip to "Setting up a virtualenv".

Otherwise, install the following software from your OS package manager or the individual project sites when necessary.

  • Python 2.7 (use 32 bit if you're on Windows see Alternate steps for Windows section below)
  • pip (If you use virtualenv (see below) this will be installed automatically)
  • CouchDB >= 1.0 (1.2 recommended) (install from OS package manager (sudo apt-get install couchdb) or here) For Mac users

    • use $ brew install couchdb
    • note that when installing erlang, you do NOT need to check out an older version of erlang.rb
  • PostgreSQL >= 9.4 - (install from OS package manager (sudo apt-get install postgresql) or here)

  • Elasticsearch 1.7.4. In Ubuntu and other Debian derivatives, download the deb package, install, and then hold the version to prevent automatic upgrades:

      $ sudo dpkg -i elasticsearch-1.7.4.deb
      $ sudo apt-mark hold elasticsearch

    On Mac, the following works well:

      $ brew install homebrew/versions/elasticsearch17
  • redis >= 3.0.3 (install from OS package manager (sudo apt-get install redis-server) or follow these installation notes)

    On Mac, use:

      $ brew install redis
  • Jython 2.5.3 (optional, only needed for CloudCare). Note: CloudCare will not work on 2.7.0 which is the default version at jython.org. 2.5.3 is the default version in current versions of Ubuntu (sudo apt-get install jython) but to be safe you can explicitly set and hold the version with

      $ sudo apt-get install jython=2.5.3
      $ sudo apt-mark hold jython

    If the package is not in apt you will need to install manually: https://wiki.python.org/jython/InstallationInstructions

  • For additional requirements necessary only if you want to modify the default JavaScript or CSS styling, see CommCare HQ Style.

Elasticsearch Configuration (optional)

To run Elasticsearch in an upstart configuration, see this example.

To secure Elasticsearch, we recommend setting the listen port to localhost on a local machine. On a distributed environment, we recommend setting up ssh tunneled ports for the Elasticsearch port. The supervisor_elasticsearch.conf supervisor config demonstrates the tunnel creation using autossh.

If working on a network with other Elasticsearch instances that you do not want to be included in your cluster automatically, set the cluster name to your hostname in /etc/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.yml:

cluster.name: <your hostname>

Kafka Configuration

See changes_feed README.

CouchDB Configuration

Start couchdb, and then open http://localhost:5984/_utils/ and create a new database named commcarehq and add a user named commcarehq with password commcarehq.

To set up CouchDB from the command line, create the database:

$ curl -X PUT http://localhost:5984/commcarehq

And add an admin user:

$ curl -X PUT http://localhost:5984/_config/admins/commcarehq -d '"commcarehq"'

PostgreSQL Configuration

Log in as the postgres user, and create a commcarehq user with password commcarehq, and commcarehq and commcarehq_reporting databases:

$ sudo su - postgres
postgres$ createuser -P commcarehq  # When prompted, enter password "commcarehq"
postgres$ createdb commcarehq
postgres$ createdb commcarehq_reporting

If these commands give you difficulty, particularly for Mac users running Postgres.app, verify that the default postgres role has been created, and run the same commands without first logging in as the postgres POSIX user:

$ createuser -s -r postgres  # Create the postgres role if it does not yet exist
$ createuser -U postgres -P commcarehq  # When prompted, enter password "commcarehq"
$ createdb -U postgres commcarehq
$ createdb -U postgres commcarehq_reporting

Setting up a virtualenv

A virtualenv is not required, but it may make your life easier. If you're on Windows see the section Alternate steps for Windows below. Ubuntu offers a convenient package for virtualenvwrapper, which makes managing and switching between environments easy:

$ sudo apt-get install virtualenvwrapper
$ mkvirtualenv cchq

Installing required dev packages

The Python libraries you will be installing in the next step require the following packages. If you are on a mac, there are brew equivalents for some but not all of these packages. You can use 'brew search' to try to find equivalents for those that are available, and don't worry about the others

$ sudo apt-get install rabbitmq-server \
      libpq-dev \
      libffi-dev \
      libfreetype6-dev \
      libjpeg-dev \
      libtiff-dev \
      libwebp-dev \
      libxml2-dev \
      libxslt-dev \

Alternate steps for Windows

On Windows it can be hard to compile some of the packages so we recommend installing those from their binary distributions. Because many of the binary packages are only available in 32bit format you should also make sure that you have a 32bit version of Python installed.

  • Install 32 bit Python
  • Install MinGW (used to compile some of the packages that don't have binary distributions).
  • Install the following packages from their binaries. If you are using Virtualenv you will need to copy the packages files from $PYTHON_HOME/Lib/site-packages to $ENV_HOME/Lib/site-packages. Alternatively you could create your Virtualenv with the --system-site-packages option.
  • Install http-parser by adding MinGW/bin to the path and running pip install http-parser. You may also need to alter $PYTHON_HOME/Lib/distutils/cygwincompiler.py to remove all instances of '-mno-cygwin' which is a depreciated compiler option. The http-parser package is required by restkit.
  • Having installed those packages you can comment them out of the requirements/requirements.txt file.
  • Now run

    $ pip install -r requirements/requirements.txt -r requirements/prod-requirements.txt

    as described in the section above.

Common issues

  • A bug in psycopg 2.4.1 (a Python package we require) may break CommCare HQ when using a virtualenv created with --no-site-packages or when the egenix-mx-base Python package is not already installed. To fix this, install egenix-mx-base (sudo apt-get install python-egenix-mxdatetime on Ubuntu) and use virtualenv --system-site-packages instead.

  • On Mac OS X, pip doesn't install the libmagic dependency for python-magic properly. To fix this, run brew install libmagic.

  • On Mac OS X, libevent may not be installed already, which the Python gevent library requires. The error message will be a clang error that file event.h is not found. To fix this using Homebrew, run brew install libevent.

  • On Mac OS X, if lxml fails to install, ensure that your command line tools are up to date by running xcode-select --install.

  • On Mac OS X, if Pillow complains that it can't find freetype, make sure freetype is installed with brew install freetype. Then create a symlink with: ln -s /usr/local/include/freetype2 /usr/local/include/freetype.

  • If you have an authentication error running ./manage.py migrate the first time, open pg_hba.conf (/etc/postgresql/9.1/main/pg_hba.conf on Ubuntu) and change the line "local all all peer" to "local all all md5".

  • On Windows, to get python-magic to work you will need to install the following dependencies. Once they are installed make sure the install folder is on the path.

  • On Windows, Touchforms may complain about not having permission to access tmp. To solve this make a c:\tmp folder.

  • On Windows, if Celery gives this error on startup: TypeError: 'LazySettings' object is not iterable apply the changes decribed in this bug report comment: https://github.com/celery/django-celery/issues/228#issuecomment-13562642

  • On Amazon EC2's latest Ubuntu Server 14.04 Edition with default source list, install.sh may not install elasticsearch due to dependency issues. Use instructions provided in https://gist.github.com/wingdspur/2026107 to install