Installation Guide

This page will set your machine up for working on the CS Field Guide project. You should only need to do these installation steps once (unless the required steps for setup change).


  • At least 5 GB of hard drive space.

  • An internet connection to download 1 to 2 GB of data.

Step 1: Install Git

Install the version control software Git onto your computer.


If you are new to Git and not comfortable with using the terminal, you may like to use a free program like SourceTree to use Git.

Step 3: Create GitHub Account

If you don’t already have an account on GitHub, create a free account on the GitHub website. This account will be tied to any changes you submit to the project.

Step 4: Set Git Account Values

When you make a commit in Git (the term for changes to the project), the commit is tied to a name and email address. We need to set name and email address within the Git system installed on the machine.

You can also keep your email address private on GitHub if needed.


If your GitHub account is secured with two-factor authentication (2FA) this is a perfect time to setup SSH keys.

Step 5: Download the CS Field Guide Repository

Firstly create the directory you wish to hold the CS Field Guide repository directory in if you wish to store the data in a specific location. Once you have decided upon the location, clone (the Git term for download) the project onto your computer.

If you are using terminal commands to use Git, type the following command in terminal (you don’t need to enter the $ character, this shows the start of your terminal prompt):

$ git clone


If you connect to GitHub through SSH, then type:

$ git clone

This may be necessary if you use two-factor authentication to login to GitHub. See the note in Step 4 for help with setting up SSH keys with this.

Once Git has cloned the directory, checkout the repository to the development branch develop.

Step 6: Install Docker

We use a system called Docker to run the CS Field Guide system, both on local machine for development, and also when deployed to production.


While it is possible to install Docker Desktop on Linux, we recommend installing Docker Engine and Docker Compose individually.

With these installed, for our dev script to work, you need to be able to manage docker as a non root user. See these instructions on how to do this.

Once you have installed the software, run the following commands in a terminal to check Docker is working as intended (you don’t need to enter the $ character, this shows the start of your terminal prompt).

$ docker version
$ docker compose version
$ docker run hello-world


If you are using Windows, we highly recommend using Docker Desktop in combination with the Windows Subsystem for Linux. See here for installation instructions.


If you are using macOS, Docker Desktop would likely be your best bet, however we haven’t tested the installation on macOS yet.

Step 7: Install Text Editor/IDE (optional)

This is a good time to install your preferred IDE or text editor, if you don’t have one already. Some free options we love:

Step 8: Check Project Setup Works

To check the project works, open a terminal in the project root directory, which is the cs-field_guide/ directory (should contain a file called dev).

Type the following commands into the terminal (we will cover these commands in more detail on the next page):

$ ./dev start
$ ./dev update

If this is the first time you’re running this script, it will need to build system images. This can take some time, roughly 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your computer and internet speed (we recommend grabbing a cup of tea and watching an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix).

After the helper script builds the system images, it will automatically start the system, and will let you know when the system is ready. You should then be able to open your preferred web browser to the URL cs-field-guide.localhost and see the CS Field Guide homepage.

If you are working on documentation, navigate to docs.cs-field-guide.localhost. This is a live server, so any changes you make to the documentation should be visible on the webpage within a couple seconds of saving the file.

Congratulations if you made it this far and everything is working, you’re all set to contribute to the CS Field Guide project.