OpenProject development Setup on Debian / Ubuntu

To develop OpenProject a setup similar to that for using OpenProject in production is needed.

This guide assumes that you have a Ubuntu 18.04 installation with administrative rights. This guide will work analogous with all other distributions, but may require slight changes in the required packages. Please, help us to extend this guide with information on other distributions should there be required changes.

OpenProject will be installed with a PostgreSQL database.

Please note: This guide is NOT suitable for a production setup, but only for developing with it!

If you find any bugs or you have any recommendations for improving this tutorial, please, feel free to send a pull request or comment in the OpenProject forums.

Prepare your environment

We need an active Ruby and Node JS environment to run OpenProject. To this end, we need some packages installed on the system.o

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install git curl build-essential zlib1g-dev libyaml-dev libssl-dev libpq-dev libreadline-dev

Install Ruby

Use rbenv and ruby-build to install Ruby. We always require the latest ruby versions, and you can check which version is required by checking the Gemfile for the ruby "~> X.Y" statement. At the time of writing, this version is “2.7”

Install rbenv and ruby-build

rbenv is a ruby version manager that lets you quickly switch between ruby versions. ruby-build is an addon to rbenv that installs ruby versions.

# Install rbenv locally for the dev user
git clone ~/.rbenv
# Optional: Compile bash extensions
cd ~/.rbenv && src/configure && make -C src
# Add rbenv to the shell's $PATH.
echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc

# Run rbenv-init and follow the instructions to initialize rbenv on any shell
~/.rbenv/bin/rbenv init
# Source bashrc
source ~/.bashrc

Installing ruby-build

ruby-build is an addon to rbenv that installs ruby versions

git clone ~/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build

Installing ruby-2.7

With both installed, we can now install the actual ruby version 2.7. You can check available ruby versions with rbenv install --list. At the time of this writing, the latest stable version is 2.7.4, which we also require.

We suggest you install the version we require in the Gemfile. Search for the ruby '~> X.Y.Z' line and install that version.

# Install the required version as read from the Gemfile
rbenv install 2.7.4

This might take a while depending on whether ruby is built from source. After it is complete, you need to tell rbenv to globally activate this version

rbenv global 2.7.4
rbenv rehash

You also need to install bundler, the ruby gem bundler.

gem install bundler

If you get Command 'gem' not found... here, ensure you followed the instructions rbenv init command to ensure it is loaded in your shell.

Setup PostgreSQL database

Next, install a PostgreSQL database.

[dev@debian]# sudo apt-get install postgresql postgresql-client

Create the OpenProject database user and accompanied database.

sudo su postgres
[postgres@ubuntu]# createuser -d -P openproject

You will be prompted for a password, for the remainder of these instructions, we assume its openproject-dev-password.

Now, create the database openproject_dev and openproject_test owned by the previously created user.

[postgres@ubuntu]# createdb -O openproject openproject_dev
[postgres@ubuntu]# createdb -O openproject openproject_test

# Exit the shell as postgres
[postgres@ubuntu]# exit

Install Node.js

We will install the latest LTS version of Node.js via nodenv. This is basically the same steps as for rbenv:

Install nodenv

# Install nodenv
git clone ~/.nodenv
# Optional: Install bash extensions
cd ~/.nodenv && src/configure && make -C src
# Add nodenv to the shell's $PATH.
echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.nodenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc

# Run nodenv init and follow the instructions to initialize nodenv on any shell
~/.nodenv/bin/nodenv init
# Source bashrc
source ~/.bashrc

Install node-build

git clone $(nodenv root)/plugins/node-build

Install latest LTS node version

You can find the latest LTS version here:

At the time of writing this is v14.17.0 Install and activate it with:

nodenv install 14.17.0
nodenv global 14.17.0
nodenv rehash

Update NPM to the latest version

npm install npm@latest -g

Verify your installation

You should now have an active ruby and node installation. Verify that it works with these commands.

ruby --version
ruby 2.7.4p191 (2021-07-07 revision a21a3b7d23) [x86_64-linux]

bundler --version
Bundler version 2.1.4

node --version

npm --version

Install OpenProject

In order to create a pull request to the core OpenProject repository, you will want to fork it to your own GitHub account. This allows you to create branches and push changes and finally opening a pull request for us to review.

To do that, go to and press “Fork” on the upper right corner.

# Download the repository
# If you want to create a pull request, replace the URL with your own fork as described above
git clone
cd openproject

Note that we have checked out the dev branch of the OpenProject repository. Development in OpenProject happens in the dev branch (there is no master branch). So, if you want to develop a feature, create a feature branch from a current dev branch.

Configure OpenProject

Create and configure the database configuration file in config/database.yml (relative to the openproject-directory.

[dev@debian]# vim config/database.yml

Now edit the config/database.yml file and insert your database credentials. It should look like this (just with your database name, username, and password):

default: &default
  adapter: postgresql
  encoding: unicode
  host: localhost
  username: openproject
  password: openproject-dev-password

  <<: *default
  database: openproject_dev

  <<: *default
  database: openproject_test

Finish the Installation of OpenProject

Install code dependencies, link plugin modules and export translation files.

  • gem dependencies (If you get errors here, you’re likely missing a development dependency for your distribution)
  • node_modules
  • link plugin frontend modules
  • and export frontend localization files

Now, run the following tasks to seed the dev database, and prepare the test setup for running tests locally.

RAILS_ENV=development bin/rails db:seed

Run OpenProject through foreman

You can run all required workers of OpenProject through foreman, which combines them in a single tab. This is useful for starting out, however most developers end up running the tasks in separate shells for better understanding of the log output, since foreman will combine all of them.

gem install foreman
foreman start -f

The application will be available at To customize bind address and port copy the .env.example provided in the root of this project as .env and configure values as required.

By default a worker process will also be started. In development asynchronous execution of long-running background tasks (sending emails, copying projects, etc.) may be of limited use. To disable the worker process:

echo “concurrency: web=1,assets=1,worker=0” » .foreman

For more information refer to Foreman documentation section on default options.

You can access the application with the admin-account having the following credentials:

Username: admin
Password: admin

Run OpenProject manually

To run OpenProject manually, you need to run the rails server and the webpack frontend bundler to:

Rails web server

RAILS_ENV=development ./bin/rails server

This will start the development server on port 3000 by default.

Angular frontend

To run the frontend server, please run

RAILS_ENV=development npm run serve

This will watch for any changes within the frontend/ and compile the application javascript bundle on demand. You will need to watch this tab for the compilation output, should you be working on the TypeScript / Angular frontend part.

You can then access the application either through localhost:3000 (Rails server) or through the frontend proxied http://localhost:4200, which will provide hot reloading for changed frontend code.

Start Coding

Please have a look at our development guidelines for tips and guides on how to start coding. We have advice on how to get your changes back into the OpenProject core as smooth as possible. Also, take a look at the doc directory in our sources, especially the how to run tests documentation (we like to have automated tests for every new developed feature).


The OpenProject logfile can be found in log/development.log.

If an error occurs, it should be logged there (as well as in the output to STDOUT/STDERR of the rails server process).

Questions, Comments, and Feedback

If you have any further questions, comments, feedback, or an idea to enhance this guide, please tell us at the appropriate forum. Follow OpenProject on twitter, and follow the news to stay up to date.