Developing Salt Tutorial

This tutorial assumes you have:

  • a web browser
  • a GitHub account (<my_account>)
  • a command line (CLI)
  • git
  • a text editor


In your browser, navigate to the saltstack/salt GitHub repository.

Click on Fork (


If you have more than one GitHub presence, for example if you are a member of a team, GitHub will ask you into which area to clone Salt. If you don't know where, then select your personal GitHub account.


In your CLI, navigate to the directory into which you want clone the Salt codebase and submit the following command:

$ git clone<my_account>/salt.git

where <my_account> is the name of your GitHub account. After the clone has completed, add SaltStack as a second remote and fetch any changes from upstream.

$ cd salt
$ git remote add upstream
$ git fetch upstream

For this tutorial, we will be working off from the develop branch, which is the default branch for the SaltStack GitHub project. This branch needs to track upstream/develop so that we will get all upstream changes when they happen.

$ git checkout develop
$ git branch --set-upstream-to upstream/develop


Fetch any upstream changes on the develop branch and sync them to your local copy of the branch with a single command:

$ git pull --rebase


For an explanation on pull vs pull --rebase and other excellent points, see this article by Mislav Marohnić.


Now we are ready to get to work. Consult the sprint beginner bug list and select an execution module whose __virtual__ function needs to be updated. I'll select the alternatives module.

Create a new branch off from develop. Be sure to name it something short and descriptive.

$ git checkout -b virt_ret


Edit the file you have selected, and verify that the changes are correct.

$ vim salt/modules/
$ git diff
diff --git a/salt/modules/ b/salt/modules/
index 1653e5f..30c0a59 100644
--- a/salt/modules/
+++ b/salt/modules/
@@ -30,7 +30,7 @@ def __virtual__():
         if os.path.isdir('/etc/alternatives'):
                 return True
-        return False
+        return (False, 'Cannot load alternatives module: /etc/alternatives dir not found')

 def _get_cmd():


Stage and commit the changes. Write a descriptive commit summary, but try to keep it less than 50 characters. Review your commit.

$ git add salt/modules/
$ git commit -m 'modules.alternatives: __virtual__ return err msg'
$ git show


If you need more room to describe the changes in your commit, run git commit (without the -m, message, option) and you will be presented with an editor. The first line is the commit summary and should still be 50 characters or less. The following paragraphs you create are free form and will be preserved as part of the commit.


Push your branch to your GitHub account. You will likely need to enter your GitHub username and password.

$ git push origin virt_ret
Username for '': <my_account>
Password for 'https://<my_account>':


If authentication over https does not work, you can alternatively setup ssh keys. Once you have done this, you may need add the keys to your git repository configuration

$ git config ssh.key ~/.ssh/<key_name>

where <key_name> is the file name of the private key you created.


In your browser, navigate to the new pull request page on the saltstack/salt GitHub repository and click on compare across forks. Select <my_account> from the list of head forks and the branch you are wanting to merge into develop (virt_ret in this case).

When you have finished reviewing the changes, click Create pull request.

If your pull request contains only a single commit, the title and comment will be taken from that commit's summary and message, otherwise the branch name is used for the title. Edit these fields as necessary and click Create pull request.


Although these instructions seem to be the official pull request procedure on github's website, here are two alternative methods that are simpler.

  • If you navigate to your clone of salt,<my_account>/salt, depending on how old your branch is or how recently you pushed updates on it, you may be presented with a button to create a pull request with your branch.

  • I find it easiest to edit the following URL:<my_account>:virt_ret


GitHub offers many great tutorials on various aspects of the git- and GitHub-centric development workflow:

There are many topics covered by the Salt Developer documentation:

The contributing documentation presents more details on specific contributing topics: