Getting started with developing Sourcegraph

The best way to become familiar with the Sourcegraph repository is by reading the code at


The Sourcegraph server is actually a collection of smaller binaries, each of which performs one task. The core entrypoint for the Sourcegraph development server is dev/, which will initialize the environment, and start a process manager that runs all of the binaries.

See the Architecture doc for a full description of what each of these services does.

The sections below describe the the dependencies that you need to have to be able to run dev/ properly.

Step 1: Get the code

Run this command to get the Sourcegraph source code on your local machine:

Using Go:

go get

Install Go (v1.11 or higher)

This is your “Sourcegraph repository directory”.

Step 2: Install dependencies

Sourcegraph has the following dependencies:

You have two options for installing these dependencies.

Option A: Homebrew setup for macOS

This is a streamlined setup for Mac machines.

  1. Install Homebrew.

  2. Install Docker for Mac.

    optionally via brew

    brew cask install docker
  3. Install Go, Node, PostgreSQL 9.6, Redis, Git, nginx, and SQLite tools with the following command:

    brew install go node redis [email protected] git gnu-sed nginx sqlite pcre FiloSottile/musl-cross/musl-cross
  4. Configure PostgreSQL and Redis to start automatically

    brew services start [email protected]
    brew services start redis

    (You can stop them later by calling stop instead of start above.)

  5. Ensure psql, the PostgreSQL command line client, is on your $PATH. Homebrew does not put it there by default. Homebrew gives you the command to run to insert psql in your path in the “Caveats” section of brew info [email protected]. Alternatively, you can use the command below. It might need to be adjusted depending on your Homebrew prefix (/usr/local below) and shell (bash below).

    hash psql || { echo 'export PATH="/usr/local/opt/[email protected]/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_profile }
    source ~/.bash_profile
    1. Open a new Terminal window to ensure psql is now on your $PATH.

      Option B: Linux / Manual Install

      For Linux users or if you don’t want to use Homebrew on macOS, install the dependencies listed above using your preferred method.

      NodeJS on Ubuntu

      Ubuntu installs a fairly old NodeJS by default. To get a more recent version: “`

curl -sL | sudo -E bash - sudo apt-get install -y nodejs

As of this writing, `setup_8.x` also works, but you may want to prefer the newer

#### Redis on Linux

You can follow these [instructions to install Redis
natively]( If you have Docker installed and
are running Linux, however, the easiest way to get Redis up and running is

dockerd # if docker isn’t already running docker run -p 6379:6379 -v $REDIS_DATA_DIR redis

_`$REDIS_DATA_DIR` should be an absolute path to a folder where you intend to store Redis data._

You need to have the redis image running when you run the Sourcegraph
`dev/` script. If you do not have docker access without root, run these
commands under `sudo`.

#### SQLite tools

On Ubuntu, you can get the required tools by running:

apt-get install libpcre3-dev libsqlite3-dev pkg-config musl-tools

## Step 3: Install Yarn

Run the following command to install Yarn, a package manager for Node.js.

npm install -g yarn

## Step 4: Initialize your database

You need a fresh Postgres database, and a database user that has full ownership
of that database.

### I. Create a database for the current Unix user

Create the database - `createdb` with no arguments creates
a database with a name matching the current user.

> If you are running on Linux, you may need to become the `postgres` user to
> administer Postgres. Run `sudo su - postgres` first then continue.


II. Create the Sourcegraph user and password

createuser --superuser sourcegraph
psql -c "ALTER USER sourcegraph WITH PASSWORD 'sourcegraph';"

III. Create the Sourcegraph database

createdb --owner=sourcegraph --encoding=UTF8 --template=template0 sourcegraph

IV. Configure database settings in your environment

The Sourcegraph server reads PostgreSQL connection configuration from the PG* environment variables; for example, in your ~/.bashrc:

export PGPORT=5432
export PGHOST=localhost
export PGUSER=sourcegraph
export PGPASSWORD=sourcegraph
export PGDATABASE=sourcegraph
export PGSSLMODE=disable

You can also use a tool like envdir or a .dotenv file to source these env vars on demand when you start the server.

More info

For more information about data storage, read our full PostgreSQL Guide page.

Migrations are applied automatically.

Step 5: Start Docker

Start the Docker binary. You have two options:

Option A: Docker for Mac

This is the easy way - just launch and wait for it to finish loading.

Option B: docker-machine

The Docker daemon should be running in the background, which you can test by running docker ps. If you’re on OS X and using docker-machine instead of Docker for Mac, you may have to run:

docker-machine start default
eval $(docker-machine env)

Step 6: Start the Server

You’re finally ready to run In the terminal, cd to the directory that contains the Sourcegraph source code, and run:


This will continuously compile your code and live reload your locally running instance of Sourcegraph. Navigate your browser to http://localhost:3080 to see if everything worked.


Problems with node_modules or Javascript packages

Noticing problems with node_modules/ or package versions? Try running this command to clear the local package cache.

yarn cache clean; rm -rf node_modules web/node_modules; yarn; cd web; yarn
dial tcp connect: connection refused

This means the frontend server failed to start, for some reason. Look through the previous logs for possible explanations, such as failure to contact the redis server, or database migrations failing.

Database migration failures

While developing Sourcegraph, you may run into:

frontend | failed to migrate the DB. Please contact [email protected] for further assistance:Dirty database version 1514702776. Fix and force version.

You may have to run migrations manually. First, install the Go migrate CLI, and run something like:

Then try:

dev/ up

If you get something like error: Dirty database version 1514702776. Fix and force version., you need to roll things back and start from scratch.

dev/ drop
dev/ up

Internal Server Error

If you see this error when opening the app:

500 Internal Server Error template: app.html:21:70: executing "app.html" at <version "styles/styl...>: error calling version: open ui/assets/styles/style.bundle.css: no such file or directory

that means Webpack hasn’t finished compiling the styles yet (it takes about 3 minutes). Simply wait a little while for a message from webpack like web | Time: 180000ms to appear in the terminal.

Increase maximum available file descriptors.

./dev/ may ask you to run ulimit to increase the maximum number of available file descriptors for a process. You can make this setting permanent for every shell session by adding the following line to your .*rc file (usually .bashrc or .zshrc):

# increase max number of file descriptors for running a sourcegraph instance.
ulimit -n 10000

On Linux, it may also be necessary to increase sysctl -n fs.inotify.max_user_watches, which can be done by running one of the following:

echo 524288 | sudo tee -a /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_user_watches

# If the above doesn't work, you can also try this:
sudo sysctl fs.inotify.max_user_watches=524288

If you ever need to wipe your local database, run the following command.


How to Run Tests

See for details.

CPU/RAM/bandwidth/battery usage

On first install, the program will use quite a bit of bandwidth to concurrently download all of the Go and Node packages. After packages have been installed, the Javascript assets will be compiled into a single Javascript file, which can take up to 5 minutes, and can be heavy on the CPU at times.

After the initial install/compile is complete, the Docker for Mac binary uses about 1.5GB of RAM. The numerous different Go binaries don’t use that much RAM or CPU each, about 5MB of RAM each.

Some users report heavy battery usage running gulp watch. Double check that Spotlight is not indexing your Sourcegraph repository, as this can lead to additional, unnecessary, poll events. We are investigating other causes of this issue.

How to debug live code

How to debug a program with Visual Studio Code:

Debug TypeScript code

Requires “Debugger for Chrome” extension.

  • Quit Chrome
  • Launch Chrome (Canary) from the command line with a remote debugging port:
    • Mac OS: /Applications/Google\ Chrome\\ Chrome\ Canary --remote-debugging-port=9222
    • Windows: start chrome.exe –remote-debugging-port=9222
    • Linux: chromium-browser --remote-debugging-port=9222
  • Go to http://localhost:3080
  • Open the Debugger in VSCode: “View” > “Debug”
  • Launch the (ui) http://localhost:3080/* debug configuration
  • Set breakpoints, enjoy

Debug Go code

Install Delve:

xcode-select --install
go get -u

Then install pgrep:

brew install proctools

Make sure to run env DELVE=true dev/ to disable optimizations during compilation, otherwise Delve will have difficulty stepping through optimized functions (line numbers will be off, you won’t be able to print local variables, etc.).

Now you can attach a debugger to any Go process (e.g. frontend, searcher, go-langserver) in 1 command:

dlv attach $(pgrep frontend)

Delve will pause the process once it attaches the debugger. Most used commands:

  • b cmd/frontend/db/access_tokens.go:52 to set a breakpoint on a line (bp lists all, clearall deletes all)
  • c to continue execution of the program
  • Ctrl-C pause the program to bring back the command prompt
  • n to step over the next statement
  • s to step into the next function call
  • stepout to step out of the current function call
  • Ctrl-D to exit

Go dependency management

We use Go modules to manage Go dependencies in this repository.


The Sourcegraph repository relies on code generation triggered by go generate. Code generation is used for a variety of tasks:

  • generating code for mocking interfaces
  • generate wrappers for interfaces (e.g., ./server/internal/middleware/* packages)
  • pack app templates and assets into binaries

To generate everything, just run:


Note: Sometimes, there are erroneous diffs. This occurs for a few reasons, none of which are legitimate (i.e., they are tech debt items we need to address):

  • The codegen tools might emit code that depends on system configuration, such as the system timezone or packages you have in your GOPATH. We need to submit PRs to the tools to eliminate these issues.
  • You might have existing but gitignored files that the codegen tools read on your disk that other developers don’t have. (This occurs for app assets especially.)

If you think a diff is erroneous, don’t commit it. Add a tech debt item to the issue tracker and assign the person who you think is responsible (or ask).

Code style guide

See docs/

Windows support

Running Sourcegraph on Windows is not actively tested, but should be possible within the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Sourcegraph currently relies on Unix specifics in several places, which makes it currently not possible to run Sourcegraph directly inside Windows without WSL. We are happy to accept contributions here! :)

Other nice things

Offline development

Sometimes you will want to develop Sourcegraph but it just so happens you will be on a plane or a train or perhaps a beach, and you will have no WiFi. And you may raise your fist toward heaven and say something like, “Why, we can put a man on the moon, so why can’t we develop high-quality code search without an Internet connection?” But lower your hand back to your keyboard and fret no further, for the year is 2019, and you can develop Sourcegraph with no connectivity by setting the OFFLINE environment variable:

OFFLINE=true dev/