Installation overview

Some overview and some details that can help understanding the options when installing Kallithea.

  1. Prepare environment and external dependencies.
    Kallithea needs:
    • A filesystem where the Mercurial and Git repositories can be stored.
    • A database where meta data can be stored.
    • A Python environment where the Kallithea application and its dependencies can be installed.
    • A web server that can host the Kallithea web application using the WSGI API.
  2. Install Kallithea software.
    This makes the kallithea-cli command line tool available.
  3. Prepare front-end files
    Some front-end files must be fetched or created using npm and node tooling so they can be served to the client as static files.
  4. Create low level configuration file.
    Use kallithea-cli config-create to create a .ini file with database connection info, mail server information, configuration for the specified web server, etc.
  5. Populate the database.
    Use kallithea-cli db-create with the .ini file to create the database schema and insert the most basic information: the location of the repository store and an initial local admin user.
  6. Configure the web server.
    The web server must invoke the WSGI entrypoint for the Kallithea software using the .ini file (and thus the database). This makes the web application available so the local admin user can log in and tweak the configuration further.
  7. Configure users.
    The initial admin user can create additional local users, or configure how users can be created and authenticated from other user directories.

See the subsequent sections, the separate OS-specific instructions, and Setup for details on these steps.

File system location

Kallithea can be installed in many different ways. The main parts are:

  • A location for the Kallithea software and its dependencies. This includes the Python code, template files, and front-end code. After installation, this will be read-only (except when upgrading).
  • A location for the .ini configuration file that tells the Kallithea instance which database to use (and thus also the repository location). After installation, this will be read-only (except when upgrading).
  • A location for various data files and caches for the Kallithea instance. This is by default in a data directory next to the .ini file. This will have to be writable by the running Kallithea service.
  • A database. The .ini file specifies which database to use. The database will be a separate service and live elsewhere in the filesystem if using PostgreSQL or MariaDB/MySQL. If using SQLite, it will by default live next to the .ini file, as kallithea.db.
  • A location for the repositories that are hosted by this Kallithea instance. This will have to be writable by the running Kallithea service. The path to this location will be configured in the database.

For production setups, one recommendation is to use /srv/kallithea for the .ini and data, place the virtualenv in venv, and use a Kallithea clone in kallithea. Create a kallithea user, let it own /srv/kallithea, and run as that user when installing.

For simple setups, it is fine to just use something like a kallithea user with home in /home/kallithea and place everything there.

For experiments, it might be convenient to run everything as yourself and work inside a clone of Kallithea, with the .ini and SQLite database in the root of the clone, and a virtualenv in venv.

Python environment

Kallithea is written entirely in Python and requires Python version 3.6 or higher.

Given a Python installation, there are different ways of providing the environment for running Python applications. Each of them pretty much corresponds to a site-packages directory somewhere where packages can be installed.

Kallithea itself can be run from source or be installed, but even when running from source, there are some dependencies that must be installed in the Python environment used for running Kallithea.

  • Packages could be installed in Python’s site-packages directory … but that would require running pip as root and it would be hard to uninstall or upgrade and is probably not a good idea unless using a package manager.
  • Packages could also be installed in ~/.local … but that is probably only a good idea if using a dedicated user per application or instance.
  • Finally, it can be installed in a virtualenv. That is a very lightweight “container” where each Kallithea instance can get its own dedicated and self-contained virtual environment.

We recommend using virtualenv for installing Kallithea.

Locale environment

In order to ensure a correct functioning of Kallithea with respect to non-ASCII characters in user names, file paths, commit messages, etc., it is very important that Kallithea is run with a correct locale configuration.

On Unix, environment variables like LANG or LC_ALL can specify a language (like en_US) and encoding (like UTF-8) to use for code points outside the ASCII range. The flexibility of supporting multiple encodings of Unicode has the flip side of having to specify which encoding to use - especially for Mercurial.

It depends on the OS distribution and system configuration which locales are available. For example, some Docker containers based on Debian default to only supporting the C language, while other Linux environments have en_US but not C. The locale -a command will show which values are available on the current system. Regardless of the actual language, you should normally choose a locale that has the UTF-8 encoding (note that spellings utf8, utf-8, UTF8, UTF-8 are all referring to the same thing)

For technical reasons, the locale configuration must be provided in the environment in which Kallithea runs - it cannot be specified in the .ini file. How to practically do this depends on the web server that is used and the way it is started. For example, gearbox is often started by a normal user, either manually or via a script. In this case, the required locale environment variables can be provided directly in that user’s environment or in the script. However, web servers like Apache are often started at boot via an init script or service file. Modifying the environment for this case would thus require root/administrator privileges. Moreover, that environment would dictate the settings for all web services running under that web server, Kallithea being just one of them. Specifically in the case of Apache with mod_wsgi, the locale can be set for a specific service in its WSGIDaemonProcess directive, using the lang parameter.

Installation methods

Kallithea must be installed on a server. Kallithea is installed in a Python environment so it can use packages that are installed there and make itself available for other packages.

Two different cases will pretty much cover the options for how it can be installed.

  • The Kallithea source repository can be cloned and used – it is kept stable and can be used in production. The Kallithea maintainers use the development branch in production. The advantage of installation from source and regularly updating it is that you take advantage of the most recent improvements. Using it directly from a DVCS also means that it is easy to track local customizations.

    Running pip install -e . in the source will use pip to install the necessary dependencies in the Python environment and create a .../site-packages/Kallithea.egg-link file there that points at the Kallithea source.

  • Kallithea can also be installed from ready-made packages using a package manager. The official released versions are available on PyPI and can be downloaded and installed with all dependencies using pip install kallithea.

    With this method, Kallithea is installed in the Python environment as any other package, usually as a .../site-packages/Kallithea-X-py3.8.egg/ directory with Python files and everything else that is needed.

    (pip install kallithea from a source tree will do pretty much the same but build the Kallithea package itself locally instead of downloading it.)


Kallithea includes front-end code that needs to be processed to prepare static files that can be served at run time and used on the client side. The tool npm is used to download external dependencies and orchestrate the processing. The npm binary must thus be available at install time but is not used at run time.

Web server

Kallithea is (primarily) a WSGI application that must be run from a web server that serves WSGI applications over HTTP.

Kallithea itself is not serving HTTP (or HTTPS); that is the web server’s responsibility. Kallithea does however need to know its own user facing URL (protocol, address, port and path) for each HTTP request. Kallithea will usually use its own HTML/cookie based authentication but can also be configured to use web server authentication.

There are several web server options:

  • Kallithea uses the Gearbox tool as command line interface. Gearbox provides gearbox serve as a convenient way to launch a Python WSGI / web server from the command line. That is perfect for development and evaluation. Actual use in production might have different requirements and need extra work to make it manageable as a scalable system service.

    Gearbox comes with its own built-in web server for development but Kallithea defaults to using Waitress. Gunicorn and Gevent are also options. These web servers have different limited feature sets.

    The web server used by gearbox serve is configured in the .ini file. Create it with config-create using for example http_server=waitress to get a configuration starting point for your choice of web server.

    (Gearbox will do like paste and use the WSGI application entry point kallithea.config.application:make_app as specified in

  • Apache httpd can serve WSGI applications directly using mod_wsgi and a simple Python file with the necessary configuration. This is a good option if Apache is an option.

  • uWSGI is also a full web server with built-in WSGI module. Use config-create with http_server=uwsgi to get a .ini file with uWSGI configuration.

  • IIS can also server WSGI applications directly using isapi-wsgi.

  • A reverse HTTP proxy can be put in front of another web server which has WSGI support. Such a layered setup can be complex but might in some cases be the right option, for example to standardize on one internet-facing web server, to add encryption or special authentication or for other security reasons, to provide caching of static files, or to provide load balancing or fail-over. Nginx, Varnish and HAProxy are often used for this purpose, often in front of a gearbox serve that somehow is wrapped as a service.

The best option depends on what you are familiar with and the requirements for performance and stability. Also, keep in mind that Kallithea mainly is serving dynamically generated pages from a relatively slow Python process. Kallithea is also often used inside organizations with a limited amount of users and thus no continuous hammering from the internet.


Kallithea, the libraries it uses, and Python itself do in several places use simple caching in memory. Caches and memory are not always released in a way that is suitable for long-running processes. They might appear to be leaking memory. The worker processes should thus regularly be restarted - for example after 1000 requests and/or one hour. This can usually be done by the web server or the tool used for running it as a system service.