Installing Salt for development

Clone the repository using:

git clone



Just cloning the repository is enough to work with Salt and make contributions. However, fetching additional tags from git is required to have Salt report the correct version for itself. To do this, first add the git repository as an upstream source:

git remote add upstream

Fetching tags is done with the git 'fetch' utility:

git fetch --tags upstream

Create a new virtualenv:

virtualenv /path/to/your/virtualenv

Avoid making your virtualenv path too long.

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

On Gentoo you must use --system-site-packages to enable pkg and portage_config functionality


Using system Python modules in the virtualenv

To use already-installed python modules in virtualenv (instead of having pip download and compile new ones), run virtualenv --system-site-packages Using this method eliminates the requirement to install the salt dependencies again, although it does assume that the listed modules are all installed in the system PYTHONPATH at the time of virtualenv creation.


Python development package

Be sure to install python devel package in order to install required Python modules. In Debian/Ubuntu run sudo apt-get install -y python-dev. In RedHat based system install python-devel

Activate the virtualenv:

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

Install Salt (and dependencies) into the virtualenv:

pip install M2Crypto    # Don't install on Debian/Ubuntu (see below)
pip install pyzmq PyYAML pycrypto msgpack-python jinja2 psutil futures tornado
pip install -e ./salt   # the path to the salt git clone from above


Installing M2Crypto

swig and libssl-dev are required to build M2Crypto. To fix 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

Debian and Ubuntu systems have modified openssl libraries and mandate that a patched version of M2Crypto be installed. This means that M2Crypto needs to be installed via apt:

apt-get install python-m2crypto

This also means that pulling in the M2Crypto installed using apt requires using --system-site-packages when creating the virtualenv.

If you're using a platform other than Debian or Ubuntu, and you are installing M2Crypto via pip instead of a system package, then you will also need the gcc compiler.


Installing psutil

Python header files are required to build this module, otherwise the pip install will fail. If your distribution separates binaries and headers into separate packages, make sure that you have the headers installed. In most Linux distributions which split the headers into their own package, this can be done by installing the python-dev or python-devel package. For other platforms, the package will likely be similarly named.


Installing dependencies on macOS.

You can install needed dependencies on macOS using homebrew or macports. See macOS Installation


Installing on RedHat-based Distros

If installing from pip (or from source using install), be advised that the yum-utils package is needed for Salt to manage packages on RedHat-based systems.

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 ./salt/conf/minion /path/to/your/virtualenv/etc/salt/

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.

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.
  5. If you changed the ret_port value in the master config because you are also running a non-development version of Salt, then you will have to change the master_port value in the minion config to match.


Using salt-call with a 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.


Too long socket path?

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

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

This means that 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 sock_dir minion config variable and reduce its length. Remember that this path is relative to the value you set in root_dir.

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


File descriptor limits

Ensure that the system open file limit is raised to at least 2047:

# check your current limit
ulimit -n

# raise the limit. persists only until reboot
# use 'limit descriptors 2047' for c-shell
ulimit -n 2047

To set file descriptors on macOS, refer to the macOS Installation instructions.

Changing Default Paths

Instead of updating your configuration files to point to the new root directory and having to pass the new configuration directory path to all of Salt's CLI tools, you can explicitly tweak the default system paths that Salt expects:

GENERATE_SALT_SYSPATHS=1 pip install --global-option='--salt-root-dir=/path/to/your/virtualenv/' \
    -e ./salt   # the path to the salt git clone from above

You can now call all of Salt's CLI tools without explicitly passing the configuration directory.

Additional Options

In case you want to distribute your virtualenv, you probably don't want to include Salt's clone .git/ directory, and, without it, Salt won't report the accurate version. You can tell to generate the hardcoded version information which is distributable:

GENERATE_SALT_SYSPATHS=1 WRITE_SALT_VERSION=1 pip install --global-option='--salt-root-dir=/path/to/your/virtualenv/' \
    -e ./salt   # the path to the salt git clone from above

Instead of passing those two environmental variables, you can just pass a single one which will trigger the other two:

MIMIC_SALT_INSTALL=1 pip install --global-option='--salt-root-dir=/path/to/your/virtualenv/' \
    -e ./salt   # the path to the salt git clone from above

This last one will grant you an editable salt installation with hardcoded system paths and version information.

Installing Salt from the Python Package Index

If you are installing using easy_install, you will need to define a USE_SETUPTOOLS environment variable, otherwise dependencies will not be installed:

USE_SETUPTOOLS=1 easy_install salt

Editing and previewing the documentation

You need sphinx-build command to build the docs. In Debian/Ubuntu this is provided in the python-sphinx package. Sphinx can also be installed to a virtualenv using pip:

pip install Sphinx==1.3.1

Change to salt documentation directory, then:

cd doc; make html
  • This will build the HTML docs. Run make without any arguments to see the available make targets, which include html, man, and text.
  • The docs then are built within the docs/_build/ folder. To update the docs after making changes, run make 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/.
  • To build the docs on Arch Linux, the python2-sphinx package is required. Additionally, it is necessary to tell make where to find the proper sphinx-build binary, like so:
make SPHINXBUILD=sphinx-build2 html
  • To build the docs on RHEL/CentOS 6, the python-sphinx10 package must be installed from EPEL, and the following make command must be used:
make SPHINXBUILD=sphinx-build html

Once you've updated the documentation, you can run the following command to launch a simple Python HTTP server to see your changes:

cd _build/html; python -m SimpleHTTPServer

Running unit and integration tests

Run the test suite with following command:

./ test

See here for more information regarding the test suite.

Issue and Pull Request Labeling System

SaltStack uses several labeling schemes to help facilitate code contributions and bug resolution. See the Labels and Milestones documentation for more information.