Development and Contributing



This document describes the development process of KIWI and how you can be part of it. This description applies for version 9.5.0.

The core appliance builder is developed in Python and follows the test driven development rules.

Fork the upstream KIWI repository

  1. On GitHub, navigate to:
  2. In the top-right corner of the page, click Fork.

Create a local clone of the forked KIWI repository

$ git clone

$ git remote add upstream

Create a python virtual development environment

The Python project uses pyvenv to setup a development environment for the desired Python version. The script pyvenv is already installed when using Python 3.3 and higher (see for details). For Python 2.7 use virtualenv, which is provided via pip or as an extra package in your favourite Linux distribution.

However, for setting up a Python virtual development environment the following additional include, header files and compilers are required in order to allow for compiling the C parts of the runtime required Python modules:

  • XML processing with libxml2 and libxslt (for lxml)
  • Foreign function interface library (libffi48)
  • Python header files (for xattr)
  • GCC compiler and glibc-devel header files


On SUSE systems the required components can be installed with the following command. Package names and install command are different on other systems.

$ zypper in python3-devel libxml2-devel libxslt-devel libffi48-devel glibc-devel gcc

Once the basic python module requirements are installed on your system, the next step is to create the virtual development environment. The following procedure describes how to create a Python3 virtual development environment:

  1. Create the virtual environment:

    $ python3 -m venv .env3
  2. Activate the virtual environment:

    $ source .env3/bin/activate
  3. Install KIWI requirements inside the virtual environment:

    $ pip3.4 install -r
  4. Install KIWI in “development mode”:

    $ ./ develop

Once the development environment is activated and initialized with the project required Python modules, you are ready to work.

The develop target of the script automatically creates the application entry point called kiwi-ng-3, which allows to simply call the application from the code in the virtual environment:

$ kiwi-ng-3 --help

In order to leave the development mode just call:

$ deactivate

To resume your work, change into your local Git repository and recall:

$ source .env3/bin/activate

If the version has changed by bumpversion, this causes the current entry point to become invalid. Reconstruct the entry point after a version change by recalling:

$ ./ develop

Running Test Cases

For running test cases, the preferred method is to use Tox. The Tox execution environment can be used to run any kind of target, tests are just one, documentation is another one. Refer to tox.ini for more details. Tox itself creates a python virtual environment for each tox target below ./.tox.

Before you start to contribute code make sure all tests pass by calling the following command:

$ tox

The previous call would run tox for different Python versions, checks the source code for errors, and builds the documentation.

If you want to see the target, use the option -l to print a list:

$ tox -l

To only run a special target, use the -e option. The following example runs the test cases for the 3.4 interpreter only:

$ tox -e 3.4

Create a branch for each feature or bugfix

Congratulation ! you successfully created a KIWI development environment and all tests passed. Now it’s time to hack on KIWI. Code changes should be done in an extra git branch. This allows for creating GitHub pull requests in a clean way. Also See Github Issues and Pull Requests

$ git checkout -b my-topic-branch

Make and commit your changes.


You can make multiple commits which is generally useful to give your changes a clear structure and to allow us to better review your work effort.


Your work is important and should be signed to ensure the integrity of the repository and the code. Thus we recommend to setup a signing key as documented in Signing_Git_Patches.

$ git commit -S -a

Run tests and code style checks. All of these are also performed by the travis integration test system at the time when a pull request will be created.

$ tox

Once all is done push your local branch to the forked repository and head out to GitHub for creating a pull request into the upstream repository.

$ git push origin my-topic-branch

Thanks much for contributing to KIWI. Your time and work effort is very much appreciated.

Good to know

The following sections provides further information about repository integrity, version, package and documentation management and are a good read to complete the picture of how the KIWI project works.

Signing Git Patches

With ssh keys being widely available and the increasing compute power available to many people refactoring of SSH keys is in the range of possibilities. Therefore SSH keys as used by GitHub as a “login/authentication” mechanism no longer provide the security they once did. In an effort to ensure the integrity of the repository and the code base patches sent for inclusion must be GPG signed.

To prepare Git to sign commits, follow these one-time instructions:

  1. Create a key suitable for signing (its not recommended to use existing keys to not mix it up with your email environment etc):

    $ gpg --gen-key
  2. Choose a DSA key (3) with a key size of 2048 bits (default) and a validation of 3 years (3y). Enter your name/email and GPG will generate a DSA key for you.

    You can also choose to use an empty passphrase, despite GPG’s warning, because you are only going to sign your public git commits with it and don’t need it for protecting any of your secrets. That might ease later use if you are not using an gpg-agent that caches your passphrase between multiple signed Git commits.

  3. Add the key ID to your git config

    In above case, the ID is 11223344 so you add it to either your global ~/.gitconfig or even better to your .git/config inside your repo:

    name = Joe Developer
    email =
    signingkey = 11223344

Raising Versions

The KIWI project follows the Semantic Versioning method. To make it easier to follow this method, bumpversion is used as a tool.

Follow these instructions to raise the major, minor, or patch part of a version:

  • For backwards-compatible bug fixes:

    $ bumpversion patch
  • For additional functionality in a backwards-compatible manner. When changed, the patch level is set back to zero:

    $ bumpversion minor
  • For incompatible API changes. When changed, the patch and minor levels are set back to zero:

    $ bumpversion major

Creating a Package

The creation of RPM package sources has to be done by calling the following make target:

$ make build

The sources are collected below the dist/ directory. In there you will find all required files to submit a package to the Open Build Service or just build it with rpmbuild.

Building Documentation

The documentation is implemented using Sphinx with the ReST markup. In order to build the documentation just call:

tox -e doc

Whenever a change in the documentation is pushed to the git, it will be automatically updated via travis-sphinx and is available at: