Development Environment


To get an overview on how to set up a development environment, please read Development Quick Start or see NixOS Virtualbox Dev VM to learn how to set up a NixOS development VM from start to finish.

To get a consistent development environment, we use Nix to install Python and the project dependencies. The development environment also includes PostgreSQL, linters, a SASS compiler and pytest for running the tests.

The following code snippets are written for ekklesia-portal but also work for ekklesia-voting when you change the project name.

Install Nix


There’s a new guide, Zero to Nix: Get Nix running on your system which uses an alternative installer that wants to make it easier to set up Nix in the correct way. This looks promising but we haven’t tested it, yet. Please try it out!

Official Nix installer

Installation instructions taken from Getting Nix. See the link for other installation methods.

Nix is currently supported on Linux and Mac. The quickest way to install Nix is to open a terminal and run the following command (as a user other than root with sudo permission):

curl -L | sh

Make sure to follow the instructions output by the script. The installation script requires that you have sudo access to root.

Enable Nix Flakes support

We use Nix Flakes, which are a widely used feature of Nix. They are still marked as experimental, though, so we need to enable the feature flag first if you used the official installation method.

You can add the required config to your local Nix config file like this:

mkdir -p ~/.config/nix
echo "experimental-features = nix-command flakes" >> ~/.config/nix/nix.conf 

See Flakes - NixOS Wiki for more details and other methods.

if you want to know more about Nix Flakes, see Zero to Nix: Nix flakes


Use direnv together with nix-direnv to get a automatically updating development shell. See the linked pages for instruction on how to set them up.

There’s a :file:envrc.example in the project repository root which shows how to configure direnv for the project.

Setting up the Cachix Binary Cache

To speed up installation, you should add the edemocracy binary cache hosted on Cachix.

If your user can edit Nix config files (when using a single-user installation on a non-NixOS system, for example), just install the Cachix client and add the edemocracy cache:

nix-env -if
cachix use edemocracy

If cachix cannot change the config, it will instructions on how to do it. On NixOS, you have to run cachix as root (sudo cachix use edemocracy) or another trusted Nix user.

Install devenv

We use devenv to provide a development shell environment. You don’t have to install this separately to work on the project and a limited version of devenv is available in the development shell itself but you might find some devenv commands useful, especially when working on project dependencies. We will probably use this tool more in the future.

nix-env -if

See Getting Started - devenv for more details. The documentation there also repeats some of the steps also included in here, like setting up Cachix and Nix.

Running PostgreSQL as User

You can run a PostgreSQL database server with your user permissions if you don’t want to use an existing database server. Run the pg_ctl commands from the Nix dev shell.

Run as user:

pg_ctl -D ~/postgresql init
postgres -D ~/postgresql -k /tmp -h ''

Create database (in another terminal):

createdb -h /tmp ekklesia_portal

You can connect to the database with psql now:

psql -h /tmp ekklesia_portal

Use the following connection string in the app config file:

  uri: "postgresql+psycopg2:///ekklesia_portal?host=/tmp"

Updating The Development Environment

When using the direnv integration, the shell is automatically updated when something changes in the Python dependencies or the Nix code of the project. Press Enter in the development shell to trigger the build or run direnv allow if direnv didn’t recognize a change.

If you don’t use direnv, exit your current shell and run nix develop again.

Editor / IDE Integration

Tested with VSCode, Pycharm

Run this in the dev shell to build the environment:


This creates a directory venv that looks like a Python virtualenv. The Environment should be picked up by the IDE using the Python interpreter in the directory. A restart of the IDE may be required.