Command Line Interface

Most common CKAN administration tasks can be carried out from the command line on the server that CKAN is installed on, using the paster command.

If you have trouble running paster commands, see Troubleshooting Paster Commands below.


Before running a CKAN paster command, you have to activate your CKAN virtualenv and change to the ckan directory, for example:

. /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/activate
cd /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckan

To run a paster command without activating the virtualenv first, you have to give the full path the paster script within the virtualenv, for example:

/usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/paster --plugin=ckan user list -c /etc/ckan/default/development.ini

To run a paster command without changing to the ckan directory first, add the --plugin=ckan option to the command. For example:

paster --plugin=ckan user list -c /etc/ckan/default/development.ini

In the example commands below, we assume you’re running the commands with your virtualenv activated and from your ckan directory.

The general form of a CKAN paster command is:

paster command --config=/etc/ckan/default/development.ini

The --config option tells CKAN where to find your config file, which it reads for example to know which database it should use. As you’ll see in the examples below, this option can be given as -c for short.

command should be replaced with the name of the CKAN command that you wish to execute. Most commands have their own subcommands and options. For example, to print out a list of all of your CKAN site’s users do:


You may also specify the location of your config file using the CKAN_INI environment variable. You will no longer need to use –config= or -c= to tell paster where the config file is:

export CKAN_INI=/etc/ckan/default/development.ini
paster user list -c /etc/ckan/default/development.ini

(Here user is the name of the CKAN command you’re running, and list is a subcommand of user.)

For a list of all available commands, simply run paster on its own with no command, or see Paster Commands Reference. In this case we don’t need the -c option, since we’re only asking CKAN to print out information about commands, not to actually do anything with our CKAN site:


Each command has its own help text, which tells you what subcommands and options it has (if any). To print out a command’s help text, run the command with the --help option:

paster user --help

Troubleshooting Paster Commands

Permission Error

If you receive ‘Permission Denied’ error, try running paster with sudo.

sudo /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/paster db clean -c /etc/ckan/default/production.ini

Virtualenv not activated, or not in ckan dir

Most errors with paster commands can be solved by remembering to activate your virtual environment and change to the ckan directory before running the command:

. /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/activate
cd /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckan

Error messages such as the following are usually caused by forgetting to do this:

  • Command ‘foo’ not known (where foo is the name of the command you tried to run)
  • The program ‘paster’ is currently not installed
  • Command not found: paster
  • ImportError: No module named fanstatic (or other ImportErrors)

Running paster commands provided by extensions

If you’re trying to run a CKAN command provided by an extension that you’ve installed and you’re getting an error like Command ‘foo’ not known even though you’ve activated your virtualenv and changed to the ckan directory, this is because you need to run the extension’s paster commands from the extension’s source directory not CKAN’s source directory. For example:

. /usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/activate
cd /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckanext-spatial
paster foo -c /etc/ckan/default/development.ini

This should not be necessary when using the pre-installed extensions that come with CKAN.

Alternatively, you can give the extension’s name using the --plugin option, for example

paster --plugin=ckanext-foo foo -c /etc/ckan/default/development.ini


Running a paster shell with paster --plugin=pylons shell -c .... Useful for development?

Wrong config file path

AssertionError: Config filename development.ini does not exist
This means you forgot to give the --config or -c option to tell CKAN where to find your config file. (CKAN looks for a config file named development.ini in your current working directory by default.)
ConfigParser.MissingSectionHeaderError: File contains no section headers
This happens if the config file that you gave with the -c or --config option is badly formatted, or if you gave the wrong filename.
IOError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory: ‘…’
This means you gave the wrong path to the --config or -c option (you gave a path to a file that doesn’t exist).

Paster Commands Reference

The following paster commands are supported by CKAN:

celeryd Control celery daemon.
check-po-files Check po files for common mistakes
color Create or remove a color scheme.
create-test-data Create test data in the database.
dataset Manage datasets.
datastore Perform commands to set up the datastore.
db Perform various tasks on the database.
front-end-build Creates and minifies css and JavaScript files
less Compile all root less documents into their CSS counterparts
minify Create minified versions of the given Javascript and CSS files.
notify Send out modification notifications.
plugin-info Provide info on installed plugins.
profile Code speed profiler
ratings Manage the ratings stored in the db
rdf-export Export active datasets as RDF.
search-index Creates a search index for all datasets
sysadmin Gives sysadmin rights to a named user.
tracking Update tracking statistics.
trans Translation helper functions
user Manage users.

celeryd: Control celery daemon


celeryd <run>            - run the celery daemon
celeryd run concurrency  - run the celery daemon with
                           argument 'concurrency'
celeryd view             - view all tasks in the queue
celeryd clean            - delete all tasks in the queue

check-po-files: Check po files for common mistakes


check-po-files [options] [FILE] ...

color: Create or remove a color scheme

After running this command, you’ll need to regenerate the css files. See less: Compile all root less documents into their CSS counterparts for details.


color               - creates a random color scheme
color clear         - clears any color scheme
color <'HEX'>       - uses as base color eg '#ff00ff' must be quoted.
color <VALUE>       - a float between 0.0 and 1.0 used as base hue
color <COLOR_NAME>  - html color name used for base color eg lightblue

create-test-data: Create test data

As the name suggests, this command lets you load test data when first setting up CKAN. See Creating test data for details.

dataset: Manage datasets


dataset DATASET_NAME|ID            - shows dataset properties
dataset show DATASET_NAME|ID       - shows dataset properties
dataset list                       - lists datasets
dataset delete [DATASET_NAME|ID]   - changes dataset state to 'deleted'
dataset purge [DATASET_NAME|ID]    - removes dataset from db entirely

datastore: Perform commands to set up the datastore

Make sure that the datastore URLs are set properly before you run these commands.


datastore set-permissions  - shows a SQL script to execute

db: Manage databases

See Database Management.

front-end-build: Creates and minifies css and JavaScript files



less: Compile all root less documents into their CSS counterparts



minify: Create minified versions of the given Javascript and CSS files


paster minify [--clean] PATH

For example:

paster minify ckan/public/base
paster minify ckan/public/base/css/*.css
paster minify ckan/public/base/css/red.css

If the –clean option is provided any minified files will be removed.

notify: Send out modification notifications


notify replay    - send out modification signals. In "replay" mode,
                   an update signal is sent for each dataset in the database.

plugin-info: Provide info on installed plugins

As the name suggests, this commands shows you the installed plugins, their description, and which interfaces they implement

profile: Code speed profiler

Provide a ckan url and it will make the request and record how long each function call took in a file that can be read by runsnakerun.


profile URL

The result is saved in To view the profile in runsnakerun:


You may need to install the cProfile python module.

ratings: Manage dataset ratings

Manages the ratings stored in the database, and can be used to count ratings, remove all ratings, or remove only anonymous ratings.

For example, to remove anonymous ratings from the database:

paster --plugin=ckan ratings clean-anonymous --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

rdf-export: Export datasets as RDF

This command dumps out all currently active datasets as RDF into the specified folder:

paster rdf-export /path/to/store/output

search-index: Rebuild search index

Rebuilds the search index. This is useful to prevent search indexes from getting out of sync with the main database.

For example:

paster --plugin=ckan search-index rebuild --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

This default behaviour will clear the index and rebuild it with all datasets. If you want to rebuild it for only one dataset, you can provide a dataset name:

paster --plugin=ckan search-index rebuild test-dataset-name --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

Alternatively, you can use the -o or –only-missing option to only reindex datasets which are not already indexed:

paster --plugin=ckan search-index rebuild -o --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

If you don’t want to rebuild the whole index, but just refresh it, use the -r or –refresh option. This won’t clear the index before starting rebuilding it:

paster --plugin=ckan search-index rebuild -r --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

There is also an option available which works like the refresh option but tries to use all processes on the computer to reindex faster:

paster --plugin=ckan search-index rebuild_fast --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

There are other search related commands, mostly useful for debugging purposes:

search-index check                  - checks for datasets not indexed
search-index show DATASET_NAME      - shows index of a dataset
search-index clear [DATASET_NAME]   - clears the search index for the provided dataset or for the whole ckan instance

sysadmin: Give sysadmin rights

Gives sysadmin rights to a named user. This means the user can perform any action on any object.

For example, to make a user called ‘admin’ into a sysadmin:

paster --plugin=ckan sysadmin add admin --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

tracking: Update tracking statistics


tracking update [start_date]       - update tracking stats
tracking export FILE [start_date]  - export tracking stats to a csv file

trans: Translation helper functions


trans js      - generate the javascript translations
trans mangle  - mangle the zh_TW translations for testing

user: Create and manage users

Lets you create, remove, list and manage users.

For example, to create a new user called ‘admin’:

paster --plugin=ckan user add admin --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini

To delete the ‘admin’ user:

paster --plugin=ckan user remove admin --config=/etc/ckan/std/std.ini