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Getting Started

Setting up a Development Environment

Getting started with NetBox development is pretty straightforward, and should feel very familiar to anyone with Django development experience. There are a few things you'll need:

Fork the Repo

Assuming you'll be working on your own fork, your first step will be to fork the official git repository. (If you're a maintainer who's going to be working directly with the official repo, skip this step.) You can then clone your GitHub fork locally for development:

$ git clone
Cloning into 'netbox'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 231, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (231/231), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (147/147), done.
remote: Total 56705 (delta 134), reused 145 (delta 84), pack-reused 56474
Receiving objects: 100% (56705/56705), 27.96 MiB | 34.92 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (44177/44177), done.
$ ls netbox/
base_requirements.txt  contrib          docs         mkdocs.yml  NOTICE     requirements.txt   LICENSE.txt  netbox  scripts

The NetBox project utilizes three persistent git branches to track work:

  • master - Serves as a snapshot of the current stable release
  • develop - All development on the upcoming stable release occurs here
  • feature - Tracks work on an upcoming major release

Typically, you'll base pull requests off of the develop branch, or off of feature if you're working on a new major release. Never merge pull requests into the master branch, which receives merged only from the develop branch.

For example, assume that the current NetBox release is v3.1.1. Work applied to the develop branch will appear in v3.1.2, and work done under the feature branch will be included in the next minor release (v3.2.0).

Enable Pre-Commit Hooks

NetBox ships with a git pre-commit hook script that automatically checks for style compliance and missing database migrations prior to committing changes. This helps avoid erroneous commits that result in CI test failures. You are encouraged to enable it by creating a link to scripts/git-hooks/pre-commit:

$ cd .git/hooks/
$ ln -s ../../scripts/git-hooks/pre-commit

Create a Python Virtual Environment

A virtual environment (or "venv" for short) is like a container for a set of Python packages. These allow you to build environments suited to specific projects without interfering with system packages or other projects. When installed per the documentation, NetBox uses a virtual environment in production.

Create a virtual environment using the venv Python module:

$ mkdir ~/.venv
$ python3 -m venv ~/.venv/netbox

This will create a directory named .venv/netbox/ in your home directory, which houses a virtual copy of the Python executable and its related libraries and tooling. When running NetBox for development, it will be run using the Python binary at ~/.venv/netbox/bin/python.

Where to Create Your Virtual Environments

Keeping virtual environments in ~/.venv/ is a common convention but entirely optional: Virtual environments can be created almost wherever you please.

Once created, activate the virtual environment:

$ source ~/.venv/netbox/bin/activate
(netbox) $ 

Notice that the console prompt changes to indicate the active environment. This updates the necessary system environment variables to ensure that any Python scripts are run within the virtual environment.

Install Dependencies

With the virtual environment activated, install the project's required Python packages using the pip module:

(netbox) $ python -m pip install -r requirements.txt
Collecting Django==3.1 (from -r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Cache entry deserialization failed, entry ignored
  Using cached

Configure NetBox

Within the netbox/netbox/ directory, copy to and update the following parameters:

  • ALLOWED_HOSTS: This can be set to ['*'] for development purposes
  • DATABASE: PostgreSQL database connection parameters
  • REDIS: Redis configuration, if different from the defaults
  • SECRET_KEY: Set to a random string (use in the parent directory to generate a suitable key)
  • DEBUG: Set to True
  • DEVELOPER: Set to True (this enables the creation of new database migrations)

Start the Development Server

Django provides a lightweight, auto-updating HTTP/WSGI server for development use. It is started with the runserver management command:

$ python netbox/ runserver
Performing system checks...

System check identified no issues (0 silenced).
November 18, 2020 - 15:52:31
Django version 3.1, using settings 'netbox.settings'
Starting development server at
Quit the server with CONTROL-C.

This ensures that your development environment is now complete and operational. Any changes you make to the code base will be automatically adapted by the development server.

IDE Integration

Some IDEs, such as PyCharm, will integrate with Django's development server and allow you to run it directly within the IDE. This is strongly encouraged as it makes for a much more convenient development environment.

Running Tests

Prior to committing any substantial changes to the code base, be sure to run NetBox's test suite to catch any potential errors. Tests are run using the test management command. Remember to ensure the Python virtual environment is active before running this command.

$ python netbox/ test

In cases where you haven't made any changes to the database (which is most of the time), you can append the --keepdb argument to this command to reuse the test database between runs. This cuts down on the time it takes to run the test suite since the database doesn't have to be rebuilt each time. (Note that this argument will cause errors if you've modified any model fields since the previous test run.)

$ python netbox/ test --keepdb

You can also limit the command to running only a specific subset of tests. For example, to run only IPAM and DCIM view tests:

$ python netbox/ test dcim.tests.test_views ipam.tests.test_views

Submitting Pull Requests

Once you're happy with your work and have verified that all tests pass, commit your changes and push it upstream to your fork. Always provide descriptive (but not excessively verbose) commit messages. When working on a specific issue, be sure to prefix your commit message with the word "Fixes" or "Closes" and the issue number (with a hash mark). This tells GitHub to automatically close the referenced issue once the commit has been merged.

$ git commit -m "Closes #1234: Add IPv5 support"
$ git push origin

Once your fork has the new commit, submit a pull request to the NetBox repo to propose the changes. Be sure to provide a detailed accounting of the changes being made and the reasons for doing so.

Once submitted, a maintainer will review your pull request and either merge it or request changes. If changes are needed, you can make them via new commits to your fork: The pull request will update automatically.

Remember to Open an Issue First

Remember, pull requests are permitted only for accepted issues. If an issue you want to work on hasn't been approved by a maintainer yet, it's best to avoid risking your time and effort on a change that might not be accepted. (The one exception to this is trivial changes to the documentation or other non-critical resources.)