So you want to contribute to the Salt project? Excellent! You can help in a number of ways:

If you'd like to update docs or fix an issue, you're going to need the Salt repo. The best way to contribute is using Git.

Environment setup

To hack on Salt or the docs you're going to need to set up your development environment. If you already have a workflow that you're comfortable with, you can use that, but otherwise this is an opinionated guide for setting up your dev environment. Follow these steps and you'll end out with a functioning dev environment and be able to submit your first PR.

This guide assumes at least a passing familiarity with Git, a common version control tool used across many open source projects, and is necessary for contributing to Salt. For an introduction to Git, watch Salt Docs Clinic - Git For the True Beginner. Because of its widespread use, there are many resources for learning more about Git. One popular resource is the free online book Learn Git in a Month of Lunches.

pyenv, Virtual Environments, and you

We recommend pyenv, since it allows installing multiple different Python versions, which is important for testing Salt across all the versions of Python that we support.

On Linux

Install pyenv:

git clone ~/.pyenv
export PATH="$HOME/.pyenv/bin:$PATH"
git clone $(pyenv root)/plugins/pyenv-virtualenv

On Mac

Install pyenv using brew:

brew update
brew install pyenv
brew install pyenv-virtualenv

Now add pyenv to your .bashrc:

echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.pyenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc
pyenv init 2>> ~/.bashrc
pyenv virtualenv-init 2>> ~/.bashrc

For other shells, see the pyenv instructions.

Go ahead and restart your shell. Now you should be able to install a new version of Python:

pyenv install 3.9.18

If that fails, don't panic! You're probably just missing some build dependencies. Check out pyenv common build problems.

Now that you've got your version of Python installed, you can create a new virtual environment with this command:

pyenv virtualenv 3.9.18 salt

Then activate it:

pyenv activate salt

Sweet! Now you're ready to clone Salt so you can start hacking away! If you get stuck at any point, check out the resources at the beginning of this guide. IRC and Slack are particularly helpful places to go.

Get the source!

Salt uses the fork and clone workflow for Git contributions. See Using the Fork-and-Branch Git Workflow for how to implement it. But if you just want to hurry and get started you can go ahead and follow these steps:

Clones are so shallow. Well, this one is anyway:

git clone --depth=1 --origin salt

This creates a shallow clone of Salt, which should be fast. Most of the time that's all you'll need, and you can start building out other commits as you go. If you really want all 108,300+ commits you can just run git fetch --unshallow. Then go make a sandwich because it's gonna be a while.

You're also going to want to head over to GitHub and create your own fork of Salt. Once you've got that set up you can add it as a remote:

git remote add yourname <YOUR SALT REMOTE>

If you use your name to refer to your fork, and salt to refer to the official Salt repo you'll never get upstream or origin confused.


Each time you start work on a new issue you should fetch the most recent changes from salt/upstream.

Set up pre-commit and nox

Here at Salt we use pre-commit and nox to make it easier for contributors to get quick feedback, for quality control, and to increase the chance that your merge request will get reviewed and merged. Nox enables us to run multiple different test configurations, as well as other common tasks. You can think of it as Make with superpowers. Pre-commit does what it sounds like: it configures some Git pre-commit hooks to run black for formatting, isort for keeping our imports sorted, and pylint to catch issues like unused imports, among others. You can easily install them in your virtualenv with:

python -m pip install pre-commit nox
pre-commit install


Currently there is an issue with the pip-tools-compile pre-commit hook on Windows. The details around this issue are included here: Please ensure you export SKIP=pip-tools-compile to skip pip-tools-compile.

Now before each commit, it will ensure that your code at least looks right before you open a pull request. And with that step, it's time to start hacking on Salt!

Set up imagemagick

One last prerequisite is to have imagemagick installed, as it is required by Sphinx for generating the HTML documentation.

# On Mac, via homebrew
brew install imagemagick
# Example Linux installation: Debian-based
sudo apt install imagemagick

Salt issues

Create your own

Perhaps you've come to this guide because you found a problem in Salt, and you've diagnosed the cause. Maybe you need some help figuring out the problem. In any case, creating quality bug reports is a great way to contribute to Salt even if you lack the skills, time, or inclination to fix it yourself. If that's the case, head on over to Salt's issue tracker on GitHub.

Creating a good report can take a little bit of time - but every minute you invest in making it easier for others to reproduce and understand your issue is time well spent. The faster someone can understand your issue, the faster it will be able to get fixed correctly.

The thing that every issue needs goes by many names, but one at least as good as any other is MCVE - Minimum Complete Verifiable Example.

In a nutshell:

  • Minimum: All of the extra information has been removed. Will 2 or 3 lines of master/minion config still exhibit the behavior?

  • Complete: Minimum also means complete. If your example is missing information, then it's not complete. Salt, Python, and OS versions are all bits of information that make your example complete. Have you provided the commands that you ran?

  • Verifiable: Can someone take your report and reproduce it?

Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast - it may feel like you're taking a long time to create your issue if you're creating a proper MCVE, but a MCVE eliminates back and forth required to reproduce/verify the issue so someone can actually create a fix.

Pick an issue

If you don't already have an issue in mind, you can search for help wanted issues. If you also search for good first issue then you should be able to find some issues that are good for getting started contributing to Salt. Documentation issues are also good starter issues. When you find an issue that catches your eye (or one of your own), it's a good idea to comment on the issue and mention that you're working on it. Good communication is key to collaboration - so if you don't have time to complete work on the issue, just leaving some information about when you expect to pick things up again is a great idea!

Hacking away

Salt, tests, documentation, and you

Before approving code contributions, Salt requires:

  • documentation

  • meaningful passing tests

  • correct code

Documentation fixes just require correct documentation.

What if I don't write tests or docs?

If you aren't into writing documentation or tests, we still welcome your contributions! But your PR will be labeled Needs Testcase and Help Wanted until someone can get to write the tests/documentation. Of course, if you have a desire but just lack the skill we are more than happy to collaborate and help out! There's the documentation working group and the testing working group. We also regularly stream our test clinic live on Twitch every Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning, Central Time. If you'd like specific help with tests, bring them to the clinic. If no community members need help, you can also just watch tests written in real time.


Salt uses both docstrings, as well as normal reStructuredText files in the salt/doc folder for documentation. Sphinx is used to generate the documentation, and does require imagemagick. See Set up imagemagick for more information.

Before submitting a documentation PR, it helps to first build the Salt docs locally on your machine and preview them. Local previews helps you:

  • Debug potential documentation output errors before submitting a PR.

  • Saves you time by not needing to use the Salt CI/CD test suite to debug, which takes more than 30 minutes to run on a PR.

  • Ensures the final output looks the way you intended it to look.

To set up your local environment to preview the core Salt and module documentation:

  1. Install the documentation dependencies. For example, on Ubuntu:

    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install -y enchant-2 git gcc imagemagick make zlib1g-dev libc-dev libffi-dev g++ libxml2 libxml2-dev libxslt-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libssl-dev libgnutls28-dev xz-utils inkscape
  2. Navigate to the folder where you store your Salt repository and remove any .nox directories that might be in that folder:

    rm -rf .nox
  3. Install pyenv for the version of Python needed to run the docs. As of the time of writing, the Salt docs theme is not compatible with Python 3.10, so you'll need to run 3.9 or earlier. For example:

    pyenv install 3.9.18
    pyenv virtualenv 3.9.18 salt-docs
    echo 'salt-docs' > .python-version
  4. Activate pyenv if it's not auto-activated:

    pyenv exec pip install -U pip setuptools wheel
  5. Install nox into your pyenv environment, which is the utility that will build the Salt documentation:

    pyenv exec pip install nox

Since we use nox, you can build your docs and view them in your browser with this one-liner:

python -m nox -e 'docs-html(compress=False, clean=False)'; cd doc/_build/html; python -m webbrowser http://localhost:8000/contents.html; python -m http.server

The first time you build the docs, it will take a while because there are a lot of modules. Maybe you should go grab some dessert if you already finished that sandwich. But once nox and Sphinx are done building the docs, python should launch your default browser with the URL http://localhost:8000/contents.html. Now you can navigate to your docs and ensure your changes exist. If you make changes, you can simply run this:

cd -; python -m nox -e 'docs-html(compress=False, clean=False)'; cd doc/_build/html; python -m http.server

And then refresh your browser to get your updated docs. This one should be quite a bit faster since Sphinx won't need to rebuild everything.

Alternatively, you could build the docs on your local machine and then preview the build output. To build the docs locally:

pyenv exec nox -e 'docs-html(compress=False, clean=True)'

The output from this command will put the preview files in: doc > _build > html.

If your change is a docs-only change, you can go ahead and commit/push your code and open a PR. You can indicate that it's a docs-only change by adding [Documentation] to the title of your PR. Otherwise, you'll want to write some tests and code.

Running development Salt

Note: If you run into any issues in this section, check the Troubleshooting section.

If you're going to hack on the Salt codebase you're going to want to be able to run Salt locally. The first thing you need to do is install Salt as an editable pip install:

python -m pip install -e .

This will let you make changes to Salt without having to re-install it.

After all of the dependencies and Salt are installed, it's time to set up the config for development. Typically Salt runs as root, but you can specify which user to run as. To configure that, just copy the master and minion configs. We have .gitignore setup to ignore the local/ directory, so we can put all of our personal files there.

mkdir -p local/etc/salt/

Create a master config file as local/etc/salt/master:

cat <<EOF >local/etc/salt/master
user: $(whoami)
root_dir: $PWD/local/
publish_port: 55505
ret_port: 55506

And a minion config as local/etc/salt/minion:

cat <<EOF >local/etc/salt/minion
user: $(whoami)
root_dir: $PWD/local/
master: localhost
id: saltdev
master_port: 55506

Now you can start your Salt master and minion, specifying the config dir.

salt-master --config-dir=local/etc/salt/ --log-level=debug --daemon
salt-minion --config-dir=local/etc/salt/ --log-level=debug --daemon

Now you should be able to accept the minion key:

salt-key -c local/etc/salt -Ay

And check that your master/minion are communicating:

salt -c local/etc/salt \* test.version

Rather than running test.version from your master, you can run it from the minion instead:

salt-call -c local/etc/salt test.version

Note that you're running salt-call instead of salt, and you're not specifying the minion (\*), but if you're running the dev version then you still will need to pass in the config dir. Now that you've got Salt running, you can hack away on the Salt codebase!

If you need to restart Salt for some reason, if you've made changes and they don't appear to be reflected, this is one option:

kill -INT $(pgrep salt-master)
kill -INT $(pgrep salt-minion)

If you'd rather not use kill, you can have a couple of terminals open with your salt virtualenv activated and omit the --daemon argument. Salt will run in the foreground, so you can just use ctrl+c to quit.

Test first? Test last? Test meaningfully!

You can write tests first or tests last, as long as your tests are meaningful and complete! Typically the best tests for Salt are going to be unit tests. Testing is a whole topic on its own, But you may also want to write functional or integration tests. You'll find those in the tests/ directory.

When you're thinking about tests to write, the most important thing to keep in mind is, “What, exactly, am I testing?” When a test fails, you should know:

  • What, specifically, failed?

  • Why did it fail?

  • As much as possible, what do I need to do to fix this failure?

If you can't answer those questions then you might need to refactor your tests.

When you're running tests locally, you should make sure that if you remove your code changes your tests are failing. If your tests aren't failing when you haven't yet made changes, then it's possible that you're testing the wrong thing.

But whether you adhere to TDD/BDD, or you write your code first and your tests last, ensure that your tests are meaningful.

Running tests

As previously mentioned, we use nox, and that's how we run our tests. You should have it installed by this point but if not you can install it with this:

python -m pip install nox

Now you can run your tests:

python -m nox -e "test-3(coverage=False)" -- tests/unit/cli/

It's a good idea to install espeak or use say on Mac if you're running some long-running tests. You can do something like this:

python -m nox -e "test-3(coverage=False)" -- tests/unit/cli/; espeak "Tests done, woohoo!"

That way you don't have to keep monitoring the actual test run.

python -m nox -e "test-3(coverage=False)" -- --core-tests

You can enable or disable test groups locally by passing their respected flag:

  • --no-fast-tests - Tests that are ~10s or faster. Fast tests make up ~75% of tests and can run in 10 to 20 minutes.

  • --slow-tests - Tests that are ~10s or slower.

  • --core-tests - Tests of any speed that test the root parts of salt.

  • --flaky-jail - Test that need to be temporarily skipped.

In your PR, you can enable or disable test groups by setting a label. All fast, slow, and core tests specified in the change file will always run.

  • test:no-fast

  • test:core

  • test:slow

  • test:flaky-jail

Changelog and commit!

When you write your commit message you should use imperative style. Do this:

Add frobnosticate capability

Don't do this:

Added frobnosticate capability

But that advice is backwards for the changelog. We follow the keepachangelog approach for our changelog, and use towncrier to generate it for each release. As a contributor, all that means is that you need to add a file to the salt/changelog directory, using the <issue #>.<type> format. For instance, if you fixed issue 123, you would do:

echo "Made sys.doc inform when no minions return" > changelog/123.fixed

And that's all that would go into your file. When it comes to your commit message, it's usually a good idea to add other information, such as

  • What does a reviewer need to know about the change that you made?

  • If someone isn't an expert in this area, what will they need to know?

This will also help you out, because when you go to create the PR it will automatically insert the body of your commit messages.

See the changelog docs for more information.

Pull request time!

Once you've done all your dev work and tested locally, you should check out our PR guidelines. After you read that page, it's time to open a new PR. Fill out the PR template - you should have updated or created any necessary docs, and written tests if you're providing a code change. When you submit your PR, we have a suite of tests that will run across different platforms to help ensure that no known bugs were introduced.

Now what?

You've made your changes, added documentation, opened your PR, and have passing tests… now what? When can you expect your code to be merged?

When you open your PR, a reviewer will get automatically assigned. If your PR is submitted during the week you should be able to expect some kind of communication within that business day. If your tests are passing and we're not in a code freeze, ideally your code will be merged that week or month. If you haven't heard from your assigned reviewer, ping them on GitHub, irc, or Community Slack.

It's likely that your reviewer will leave some comments that need addressing - it may be a style change, or you forgot a changelog entry, or need to update the docs. Maybe it's something more fundamental - perhaps you encountered the rare case where your PR has a much larger scope than initially assumed.

Whatever the case, simply make the requested changes (or discuss why the requests are incorrect), and push up your new commits. If your PR is open for a significant period of time it may be worth rebasing your changes on the most recent changes to Salt. If you need help, the previously linked Git resources will be valuable.

But if, for whatever reason, you're not interested in driving your PR to completion then just note that in your PR. Something like, “I'm not interested in writing docs/tests, I just wanted to provide this fix - someone else will need to complete this PR.” If you do that then we'll add a “Help Wanted” label and someone will be able to pick up the PR, make the required changes, and it can eventually get merged in.

In any case, now that you have a PR open, congrats! You're a Salt developer! You rock!



Once the minion starts, you may see an error like the following:


zmq.core.error.ZMQError: ipc path "/path/to/your/virtualenv/var/run/salt/minion/minion_event_7824dcbcfd7a8f6755939af70b96249f_pub.ipc" is longer than 107 characters (sizeof(sockaddr_un.sun_path)).

This means that the path to the socket the minion is using is too long. This is a system limitation, so the only workaround is to reduce the length of this path. This can be done in a couple different ways:

  1. Create your virtualenv in a path that is short enough.

  2. Edit the :conf_minion:sock_dir minion config variable and reduce its length. Remember that this path is relative to the value you set in :conf_minion:root_dir.

NOTE: The socket path is limited to 107 characters on Solaris and Linux, and 103 characters on BSD-based systems.

No permissions to access ...

If you forget to pass your config path to any of the salt* commands, you might see

No permissions to access "/var/log/salt/master", are you running as the
correct user?

Just pass -c local/etc/salt (or whatever you named it)

File descriptor limit

You might need to raise your file descriptor limit. You can check it with:

ulimit -n

If the value is less than 3072, you should increase it with:

ulimit -n 3072
# For c-shell:
limit descriptors 3072

Pygit2 or other dependency install fails

You may see some failure messages when installing requirements. You can directly access your nox environment and possibly install pygit (or other dependency) that way. When you run nox, you'll see a message like this:

nox > Re-using existing virtual environment at .nox/pytest-parametrized-3-crypto-none-transport-zeromq-coverage-false.

For this, you would be able to install with:

.nox/pytest-parametrized-3-crypto-none-transport-zeromq-coverage-false/bin/python -m pip install pygit2