Installing Core Arches#

Most of the instructions here will focus on installation of Arches on the Ubuntu distribution of Linux. Arches can also be installed on Windows and macOS, but installation on those operating systems will likely require additional configuration and debugging.

See also

If you plan to extend or contribute to Arches, please see Creating a Development Environment.

See also

We have an in-progress Docker install, and would love help improving it. You can also review some works-in-progress and community-created approaches to using Docker Installation with Docker

Installation on Windows via WSL#

Some of the directions below will provide some guidance to instal Arches dependencies and core Arches on machines running the Windows operating system. However, installation on Windows will likely require more configuration (and troubleshooting) than installation on a Linux distribution like Ubuntu. Fortunately, the Windows operating system has a feature called “Windows Subystem for Linux” (WLS) that allows one to run a Linux environment on a Windows machine. With WSL, one can install Arches dependencies and core Arches on an Ubuntu (or other Linux distribution) virtual machine. The steps for installing Arches on a WSL Ubuntu virtual machine will be identical to the steps used to install Arches on an “bare-metal” Ubuntu machine.

Currently, WSL comes in two architectures. We recommnd using the current default “WSL 2” version of WSL because it has a better file system performance and other benefits. It should be simpler and easier to install Arches on Windows machines via WSL (especially WSL 2).

Create a Virtual Environment#

Regardless of the your machine’s operating system, you’ll need to have Python installed and the capability to start Python virtual environments (see introduction). For Arches, you’ll need a Python 3.10+ virtual environment. Skip ahead if you have already created and activated one. Otherwise, use the commands below for a quick start.

Create a virtual environment:

python3 -m venv ENV

This will generate a new directory called ENV.


On some linux distributions, if the python version is less than 3.8, entering the following command may yield an error but it should alert you to any dependencies you may need to install, after which you’ll be able to run this command.

Activate the virtual environment

The following are relative paths to an activate script within ENV.

Linux and macOS:

source ENV/bin/activate




After you activate your virtual environment, your command prompt will be prefixed with (ENV). From here on the documentation will assume you have your virtual environment activated. Run deactivate if you need to deactivate the virtual environment.

Test the Python version in ENV:


This will run the Python interpreter and tell you what version is in use. If you don’t see at least 3.8, check your original Python installation, delete the entire ENV directory, and create a new virtual environment. Use exit() or ctrl+C to leave the interpreter.

Upgrade pip

A recommended step, though not always strictly necessary:

python -m pip install --upgrade pip

Install Arches with pip#

Use the following to get the latest stable release of Arches:

pip install arches

Common Errors

Creating a New Arches Project#

A Project holds branding and customizations that make one installation of Arches different from the next. The name of your project must be lowercase and use underscores instead of spaces or hyphens. The example below uses my_project.

Create a Project#

Linux and macOS:

arches-project create my_project


python ENV\Scripts\arches-project create my_project

Common Errors


You can add --directory path/to/dir to change the directory your new project will be created in.


On Windows, open my_project\my_project\ and add the following line:

GDAL_LIBRARY_PATH = "C:/OSGeo4W64/bin/gdal201.dll"

Be sure to adjust the path as necessary for your GDAL installation, and note the forward slashes.

Setup the Database#

First, enter the project directory:

cd my_project

and then run:

python setup_db


You may be prompted to enter a password for the postgres user. Generally, our installation scripts set this password to postgis, however you may have set a different password during your own Postgres/PostGIS installation.

Common Errors

Build a Frontend Asset Bundle#

In your current terminal, run the Django development server (with the Arches virtual environment activated):

python runserver

Then, in a second terminal, activate the virtual environment used by Arches (this is a required step). Then navigate to the root directory of the project. ( you should be on the same level as package.json) and build a frontend asset bundle:

cd my_project/my_project
yarn build_development

If you have trouble with this step, see Troubleshooting Frontend Builds below.


yarn build_development creates a static frontend asset bundle. Any changes made to frontend files (eg. .js) will not be viewable until the asset bundle is rebuilt. run yarn build_development again to update the asset bundle, or run yarn start to run an asset bundler server that will detect changes to frontend files and rebuild the bundle appropriately.

View the Project in a Browser#

Navigate to localhost:8000 in a browser. Use ctrl+C to stop the server.

Configure the Map Settings#

The first thing everyone wants to do is look at the map, so let’s set this up first.

  1. Go to and create a free account.

  2. Find your default API key (starts with pk.) and copy it.

  3. Now go to localhost:8000/settings.

  4. Login with the default credentials: username: admin password: admin

  5. Find the Default Map Settings, and enter your Mapbox API Key there.

  6. Feel free to use the ? in the top-right corner of the page to learn about all of the other settings, and change any that you like (heed warning below).

  7. Save the settings.

  8. Navigate to localhost:8000/search to make sure the basemap appears.


We recommend exporting these settings by running python packages -o save_system_settings. This will create a JSON file in your project, which will be used if you ever need to setup your database again.


If you create a new Project Extent, you should also update the Search Results Grid settings, otherwise you could get a JSON error in the search page. To be on the safe side, choose a high Hexagon Size combined with a low Hexagon Grid Precision.

Load a Package#

An Arches “package” is an external container for database definitions (graphs, concept schemes), custom extensions (including functions, widgets, datatypes) and even data (resources). Packages are installed into projects, and can be used to share schema between installations.

To get started, load this sample package:

python packages -o load_package -s -db

Go to localhost:8000/graph to see 6 Resource Models that you can now use. You can also create new Resource models from scratch.

Go to localhost:8000/resource to begin creating resources based on one of these resource models.

Go to localhost:8000/search to find and inspect resources that you have created.

You can add -dev to the load_package command to create a few test user accounts.

What Next?#

Common Errors#

  • On macOS, If you get this error


    ValueError: –enable-zlib requested but zlib not found, aborting.

    try running xcode-select --install (reference)

  • Getting a connection error like this (in the dev server output or in the browser)


    ConnectionError: ConnectionError(<urllib3.connection.HTTPConnection object at 0x0000000005C6BC50>: Failed to establish a new connection: [Errno 10061] No connection could be made because the target machine actively refused it) caused by: NewConnectionError(<urllib3.connection.HTTPConnection object at 0x0000000005C6BC50>: Failed to establish a new connection: [Errno 10061] No connection could be made because the target machine actively refused it)

    means Arches is not able to communicate with ElasticSearch. Most likely, ElasticSearch is just not running, so just start it up and reload the page. If you can confirm that it is running, make sure Arches is pointed to to correct port.

  • Postgres password authentication error


    django.db.utils.OperationalError: FATAL: pw authentification failed for user postgres

    Most likely you have not correctly set the database credentials in your file. Many of our install scripts set the db user to postgres and password to postgis, so that’s what Arches looks for by default. However, if you have changed these values (particularly if you are on Windows and had to enter a password during the Postgres/PostGIS installation process), the new values must be reflected in in or


    On Windows, you can avoid having to repeatedly enter the password while running commands in the console by setting the PGPASSWORD environment variable: set PGPASSWORD=<your password>.

Troubleshooting Frontend Builds#

Building the frontend assets can sometimes be a source of challenge and frustration. Sometimes a “locked down” computer (with strict security configurations) may cause some trouble. If this is the case, you can try the following steps to interate toward a successful build.

  1. Edit your .yarnrc file to disable strict SSL.

    To do so, navigate to your project’s root directory and open the .yarnrc file in a text editor. Add the following lines to the end of the file: .. code-block:: bash

    cafile null strict-ssl false

  2. After the above edits, save the file.

  3. Remove the node_modules folder and yarn.lock file if they exist:
    cd path/to/dir/my_project/my_project
    rm -rf node_modules
    rm yarn.lock
  4. If you’re using a virtual environment, activate it. ENV should be replaced with the name of your virtual environment.
    source ENV/bin/activate
  5. Run your Arches Django server and leave it running.
    python runserver
  6. Open a *new terminal* to complete the following steps below.

  7. If you’re using a virtual environment, activate it as in step 4 above. ENV should be replaced with the name of your virtual environment.
    source ENV/bin/activate
  8. Navigate to the same directory as package.json, and install the frontend dependencies:
    cd path/to/dir/my_project/my_project
    yarn install
  9. Once the dependencies are installed, build your static asset bundle:
    yarn build_development

    If successful, you should see a message indicating that the build was successful. A successful build should make a message looking something like this:

    cacheable modules 8.62 MiB (javascript) 3.28 KiB (asset) modules by path ./media/ 6.48 MiB 996 modules modules by path ../../ 2.15 MiB (javascript) 3.28 KiB (asset) modules by path ../../arches/arches/app/media/ 1.2 MiB (javascript) 3.28 KiB (asset) 264 modules modules by path ../../arches/arches/app/templates/views/ 970 KiB 90 modules ../../arches-rdm/arches_rdm/media/js/.gitkeep 1 bytes [built] [code generated] ./media/js/ sync ^./.*$ 207 bytes [optional] [built] [code generated] ../../arches/arches/app/media/js/ sync ^./.*$ 18.9 KiB [optional] [built] [code generated] ../../ENV/lib/python3.10/site-packages/ sync ^./.*/media/js/.*$ 160 bytes [optional] [built] [code generated] ../../arches-rdm/arches_rdm/media/js/ sync ^./.*$ 160 bytes [optional] [built] [code generated] ../../arches/arches/app/media/js/utils/ sync ^.*/media/js/.*$ 160 bytes [optional] [built] [code generated] ./media/node_modules/moment/locale/ sync ^./.*$ 3.21 KiB [optional] [built] [code generated] webpack 5.89.0 compiled successfully in 8545 ms ✨ Done in 10.71s.