Installing a Lino developer environment

This document describes how to install a Lino developer environment on your computer. This is the easiest way to get started. You might later evolve into a contributing developer as described in Setting up a Lino contributor environment. For installing Lino on a production server you should read Installing Lino on a production server.

This document is written for Debian and derived distributions. Other Linuxes should be pretty similar. On proprietary operating systems you might encounter problems that are not documented here because some dependencies are more difficult to install on these systems. Lino itself has no specific OS requirements.

This document assumes you are familiar with the Linux shell at least for basic file operations like ls, cp, mkdir, rmdir, file permissions, environment variables, bash scripts etc. Otherwise we suggest to learn about Working in a UNIX shell.

Set up a virtual Python environment

Rather than installing Lino into your site-wide Python installation, you install it to a separate virtual Python environment, also known as a virtualenv

If virtualenvs are new to you: the reason for creating a new environment is to separate Lino from your system-wide Python. The main advantages are: if you are also developing other things with Python you might require different packages than what Lino uses, and there is the chance of version or dependency conflicts.

Also if you wish to remove Lino from your system you only need to remove the virtual environment rather than trying to remove Lino's dependencies from the system environment without breaking any other programs that use python.

Where to put your virtualenv:

How to create a new virtual environment and activate it:

$ sudo apt-get install python3-pip
$ mkdir ~/lino
$ cd ~/lino
$ virtualenv -p python3 env
$ . env/bin/activate

The dot (.) is a synonym for the source command. If you didn't know it, read the manpage and What does 'source' do?

After creating a new environment, you should always update pip and setuptools to the latest version:

$ pip install -U pip
$ pip install -U setuptools

Did you know?

You can deactivate a virtual environment with the command deactivate. This switches you back to your machine's system-wide environment.

You can switch to another virtualenv simply by activating it, you don't need to deactivate the current one first.

You should never rename a virtualenv (they are not designed for that), but you can easily create a new one and remove the old one.

To learn more, read Dan Poirier's post Managing multiple Python projects: Virtual environments where he explains what they are and why you want them.

Set your default virtualenv

As a developer you probably don't want to type . ~/env/bin/activate each time you open a new terminal with Ctrl+Alt+T. So you should set your default default environment by adding the following line to your ~/.bashrc file:

. ~/lino/env/bin/activate

You will also instruct your favourite code editor to use this default environment when doing syntax checks or finding definitions etc. For example in Atom you say Edit ‣ Preferences ‣ Packages select the settings of the python-tools plugin and set the Path to Python directory field to ~/lino/env/bin

Run getlino

Make sure your default environment is activated and then install getlino via pip:

$ pip install getlino

Then run getlino configure:

$ getlino configure

It asks a lot of questions, but you can hit ENTER for each of them.

Warning : when getlino asks a [y or n] question, you should read it and understand it before you hit y. getlino overwrites certain configuration files without making a backup copy. Read twice before you hit y!

For details about each question see the documentation about getlino.

Your first Lino site

Run getlino startsite to create a first site:

$ getlino startsite noi first

Run runserver:

$ cd ~/lino/sites/first
$ python runserver

Now start your browser, point it to and you should see something like this:


Congratulations! Enjoy the first Lino application running on your machine!


Using virtual environments seems to be one of the biggest challenges for newbies. Here are some diagnostic tricks.

How to see which is your current virtualenv:


$ which python

How to see what's installed in your current virtualenv:

$ pip freeze

The output will be about 60 lines of text, here is an excerpt:

-e git+git+ssh://
-e git+git+ssh://
-e git+git+ssh://

Behind the scenes

The getlino script does a lot of work.

These commands take some time when you run them the first time on your machine because they will download and install all Python packages needed by Lino. If you install them a second time into another environment, the process will be quicker because the dependencies have been cached.

Note that the -e command-line switch for pip causes it to use the "development" mode. Development mode means that these modules run "directly from source". pip does not copy the sources to your Python site_packages, but instead adds a link to them. The first argument after -e is not a project name but a directory.

A quick test when you want to see whether Lino is installed is to say "hello" to Lino:

$ python -m lino.hello
Lino 20.3.0, Django 3.0.3, Python 3.6.8, Babel 2.7.0, Jinja 2.10.1, python-dateutil 2.8.0

In case you didn't know: Python's -m command-line switch instructs it to just import the specified module (here lino.hello) and then to return to the command line.



A virtual Python environment.

Developer environment

A set of tools configured on the desktop computer of a Lino developer who wants to develop their own Lino application.

Contributor environment

An extended developer environment suitable for developers who plan to potentially contribute to the Lino framework. A bit more work to install, but more future-proof.

Production server

A dedicated server designed to host one or several production sites.

Demo server

A dedicated server designed to host a series of demo sites.