pycsw is available as a Docker image. The image is hosted on the Docker Hub.

Assuming you already have docker installed, you can get a pycsw instance up and running by issuing the following command:

docker run -p 8000:8000 geopython/pycsw

Docker will retrieve the pycsw image from Docker Hub (if needed) and then start a new container listening on port 8000.

The default configuration will run pycsw with an sqlite repository backend loaded with some test data from the CITE test suite. You can use this to take pycsw for a test drive.

Inspect logs

The default configuration for the docker image outputs logs to stdout. This is common practice with docker containers and enables the inspection of logs with the docker logs command:

# run a pycsw container in the background
docker run \
    --name pycsw-test \
    --publish 8000:8000 \
    --detach \

# inspect logs
docker logs pycsw-test


In order to have pycsw logs being sent to standard output you must set server.logfile= in the pycsw configuration file.

Using pycsw-admin

pycsw-admin can be executed on a running container by using docker exec:

docker exec -ti <running-container-id> -h

Running custom pycsw containers

pycsw configuration

It is possible to supply a custom configuration file for pycsw as a bind mount or as a docker secret (in the case of docker swarm). The configuration file is searched at the value of the PYCSW_CONFIG environmental variable, which defaults to /etc/pycsw/pycsw.cfg.

Supplying the configuration file via bind mount:

docker run \
    --name pycsw \
    --detach \
    --volume <path-to-local-pycsw.cfg>:/etc/pycsw/pycsw.cfg \
    --publish 8000:8000 \

Supplying the configuration file via docker secrets:

# first create a docker secret with the pycsw config file
docker secret create pycsw-config <path-to-local-pycsw.cfg>
docker service create \
    --name pycsw \
    --secret src=pycsw-config,target=/etc/pycsw/pycsw.cfg \
    --publish 8000:8000

sqlite repositories

The default database repository is the CITE database that is used for running pycsw’s test suites. Docker volumes may be used to specify a custom sqlite database path. It should be mounted under /var/lib/pycsw:

# first create a docker volume for persisting the database when
# destroying containers
docker volume create pycsw-db-data
docker run \
    --volume db-data:/var/lib/pycsw \
    --detach \
    --publish 8000:8000

PostgreSQL repositories

Specifying a PostgreSQL repository is just a matter of configuring a custom pycsw.cfg file with the correct specification.

Check pycsw’s github repository for an example of a docker-compose/stack file that spins up a postgis database together with a pycsw instance.

Setting up a development environment with docker

Working on pycsw’s code using docker enables an isolated environment that helps ensuring reproducibility while at the same time keeping your base system free from pycsw related dependencies. This can be achieved by:

  • Cloning pycsw’s repository locally;
  • Starting up a docker container with appropriately set up bind mounts. In addition, the pycsw docker image supports a reload flag that turns on automatic reloading of the gunicorn web server whenever the code changes;
  • Installing the development dependencies by using docker exec with the root user;

The following instructions set up a fully working development environment:

# clone pycsw's repo
git clone

# start a container for development
cd pycsw
docker run \
    --name pycsw-dev \
    --detach \
    --volume ${PWD}/pycsw:/usr/lib/python3.5/site-packages/pycsw \
    --volume ${PWD}/docs:/home/pycsw/docs \
    --volume ${PWD}/VERSION.txt:/home/pycsw/VERSION.txt \
    --volume ${PWD}/LICENSE.txt:/home/pycsw/LICENSE.txt \
    --volume ${PWD}/COMMITTERS.txt:/home/pycsw/COMMITTERS.txt \
    --volume ${PWD}/CONTRIBUTING.rst:/home/pycsw/CONTRIBUTING.rst \
    --volume ${PWD}/pycsw/plugins:/home/pycsw/pycsw/plugins \
    --publish 8000:8000 \
    geopython/pycsw --reload

# install additional dependencies used in tests and docs
docker exec \
    -ti \
    --user root \
    pycsw-dev pip3 install -r requirements-dev.txt

# run tests (for example unit tests)
docker exec -ti pycsw-dev py.test -m unit

# build docs
docker exec -ti pycsw-dev sh -c "cd docs && make html"


Please note that the pycsw image only uses python 3.5 and that it also does not install pycsw in editable mode. As such it is not possible to use tox.

Since the docs directory is bind mounted from your host machine into the container, after building the docs you may inspect their content visually, for example by running:

firefox docs/_build/html/index.html