Command Line Interface (CLI)


From CKAN 2.9 onwards the CKAN configuration file is named ‘ckan.ini’. Previous names: ‘production.ini’ and ‘development.ini’ (plus others) may also still appear in documentation and the software. These legacy names will eventually be phased out.


From CKAN 2.9 onwards, the paster command used for common CKAN administration tasks has been replaced with the ckan command.

If you have trouble running ‘ckan’ CLI commands, see Troubleshooting ckan Commands below.


Once you activate your CKAN virtualenv the “ckan” command is available from within any location within the host environment.

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

/usr/lib/ckan/default/bin/ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini user list

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 ckan command is:

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

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.

The config file (ckan.ini) will generally be located in the /etc/ckan/default/ directory however it can be located in any directory on the host machine

command should be replaced with the name of the CKAN command that you wish to execute. Most commands have their own subcommands and options.


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 ckan where the config file is:

export CKAN_INI=/etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini


You can run the ckan command in the same directory as the CKAN config file when the config file is named ‘ckan.ini’. You will not be required to use –config or -c in this case. For backwards compatibility, the config file can be also named ‘development.ini’, but this usage is deprecated and will be phased out in a future CKAN release.

cd /usr/lib/ckan/default/src/ckan; ckan command

Commands and Subcommands

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini user list

(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, see CKAN Commands Reference.

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, for example:

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini user --help

Troubleshooting ckan Commands

Permission Error

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

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

Virtualenv not activated, or not in ckan dir

Most errors with ckan 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 ‘ckan’ is currently not installed
  • Command not found: ckan
  • ImportError: No module named fanstatic (or other ImportErrors)

Running ckan 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, make sure that you have added the relevant plugin to the ckan.plugins setting in the ini file.

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).

ckan Commands Reference

The following ckan commands are supported by CKAN:

asset WebAssets commands.
config-tool Tool for editing options in a CKAN config file
datapusher Perform commands in the datapusher.
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
generate Generate empty extension files to expand CKAN
jobs Manage background jobs
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.
run Start Development server.
search-index Creates a search index for all datasets
seed Create test data in the database.
sysadmin Gives sysadmin rights to a named user.
tracking Update tracking statistics.
translation Translation helper functions
user Manage users.
views Create views on relevant resources

asset: WebAssets commands


ckan asset build            - Builds bundles, regardless of whether they are changed or not
ckan asset watch            - Start a daemon which monitors source files, and rebuilds bundles
ckan asset clean            - Will clear out the cache, which after a while can grow quite large

config-tool: Tool for editing options in a CKAN config file


ckan config-tool --section (-s)  - Section of the config file
ckan config-tool --edit (-e)     - Checks the option already exists in the config file
ckan config-tool --file (-f)     - Supply an options file to merge in


ckan config-tool /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini sqlalchemy.url=123 'ckan.site_title=ABC'
ckan config-tool /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini -s server:main -e port=8080
ckan config-tool /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini -f custom_options.ini

datapusher: Perform commands in the datapusher


ckan datapusher resubmit    - Resubmit udated datastore resources
ckan datapusher submit      - Submits resources from package

dataset: Manage datasets


ckan dataset DATASET_NAME|ID            - shows dataset properties
ckan dataset show DATASET_NAME|ID       - shows dataset properties
ckan dataset list                       - lists datasets
ckan dataset delete [DATASET_NAME|ID]   - changes dataset state to 'deleted'
ckan 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.


ckan datastore set-permissions  - generate SQL for permission configuration
ckan datastore dump             - dump a datastore resource

db: Manage databases

ckan db clean               - Clean the database
ckan db downgrade           - Downgrade the database
ckan db duplicate_emails    - Check users email for duplicate
ckan db init                - Initialize the database
ckan db pending-migrations  - List all sources with unapplied migrations.
ckan db upgrade             - Upgrade the database
ckan db version             - Returns current version of data schema

See Database Management.

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


ckan front-end-build      - compile css and js

generate: Generate empty extension files to expand CKANs


ckan generate extension           - Create empty extension
ckan generate --output-dir (-o)   - Location to put the generated template

jobs: Manage background jobs

ckan jobs cancel      - cancel a specific job.
ckan jobs clear       - cancel all jobs.
ckan jobs list        - list jobs.
ckan jobs show        - show details about a specific job.
ckan jobs test        - enqueue a test job.
ckan jobs worker      - start a worker

The jobs command can be used to manage Background jobs.

New in version 2.7.

Run a background job worker

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs worker [--burst] [QUEUES]

Starts a worker that fetches job from the job queues and executes them. If no queue names are given then it listens to the default queue. This is equivalent to

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs worker default

If queue names are given then the worker listens to those queues and only those:

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs worker my-custom-queue another-special-queue

Hence, if you want the worker to listen to the default queue and some others then you must list the default queue explicitly

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs worker default my-custom-queue

If the --burst option is given then the worker will exit as soon as all its queues are empty. Otherwise it will wait indefinitely until a new job is enqueued (this is the default).


In a production setting you should use a more robust way of running background workers.

List enqueued jobs

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs list [QUEUES]

Lists the currently enqueued jobs from the given job queues. If no queue names are given then the jobs from all queues are listed.

Show details about a job

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs show ID

Shows details about the enqueued job with the given ID.

Cancel a job

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs cancel ID

Cancels the enqueued job with the given ID. Jobs can only be canceled while they are enqueued. Once a worker has started executing a job it cannot be aborted anymore.

Clear job queues

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs clear [QUEUES]

Cancels all jobs on the given job queues. If no queues are given then all queues are cleared.

Enqueue a test job

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini jobs test [QUEUES]

Enqueues a test job. If no job queues are given then the job is added to the default queue. If queue names are given then a separate test job is added to each of the queues.

less: Compile all root less documents into their CSS counterparts



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


ckan minify [--clean] PATH     - remove any minified files in the path
ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini minify ckan/public/base
ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini minify ckan/public/base/css/*.css
ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini minify ckan/public/base/css/red.css

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

notify: Send out modification notifications


ckan 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 (based on the .ini file) , 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.


ckan profile URL

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


You may need to install the cProfile python module.

run: Start Development server


ckan run --host (-h)                  - Set Host
ckan run --port (-p)                  - Set Port
ckan run --disable-reloader (-r)      - Use reloader
ckan run --passthrough_errors         - Crash instead of handling fatal errors

Use --passthrough-errors to enable pdb

Exceptions are caught and handled by CKAN. Sometimes, user needs to disable this error handling, to be able to use pdb or the debug capabilities of the most common IDE. This allows to use breakpoints, inspect the stack frames and evaluate arbitrary Python code. Running CKAN with --passthrough-errors will automatically disable CKAN reload capabilities and run everything in a single process, for the sake of simplicity.


python -m pdb ckan run –passthrough-errors

search-index: Search index commands


ckan search-index check                    - Check search index
ckan search-index clear                    - Clear the search index
ckan search-index rebuild                  - Rebuild search index
ckan search-index rebuild-fast             - Reindex with multiprocessing
ckan search-index show                     - Show index of a dataset

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

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini search-index rebuild

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

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini search-index rebuild test-dataset-name

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

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini search-index rebuild -o

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

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini search-index rebuild -r

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

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini search-index rebuild-fast

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

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

seed: Create test data in the database


basic           - annakarenina and warandpeace.
family          - package relationships data.
gov             - government style data.
hierarchy       - hierarchy of groups.
search          - realistic data to test search.
translations    - test translations of terms.
user            - create a user "tester" with api key "tester".
vocabs          - some test vocabularies.


ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini seed basic

sysadmin: Give sysadmin rights


ckan sysadmin add       - convert user into a sysadmin
ckan sysadmin list      - list sysadmins
ckan sysadmin remove    - removes user from sysadmins

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

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini sysadmin add admin

tracking: Update tracking statistics


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

translation: Translation helper functions


ckan translation js          - generate the JavaScript translations
ckan translation mangle      - mangle the zh_TW translations for testing
ckan translation check-po    - check po files for common mistakes


Since version 2.7 the JavaScript translation files are automatically regenerated if necessary when CKAN is started. Hence you usually do not need to run ckan translation js manually.

user: Create and manage users

Lets you create, remove, list and manage users.


ckan user add         - add new user
ckan user list        - list all users
ckan user remove      - remove user
ckan user setpass     - set password for the user
ckan user show        - show user

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

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini user add admin

To delete the ‘admin’ user

ckan -c /etc/ckan/default/ckan.ini user remove admin

views: Create views on relevant resources


ckan views clean      - permanently delete views for all types no...
ckan views clear      - permanently delete all views or the ones with...
ckan views create     - create views on relevant resources.

ckan views --dataset (-d)        - Set Dataset
ckan views --no-default-filters
ckan views --search (-s)         - Set Search
ckan views --yes (-y)