Newbie Guide: Getting Started on Windows

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Note: Feel free to correct, expand, do anything which could make this better and clearer. ^_^
Note: If you have a different OS you may still find this helpful. While you may not need to install and set up any software the rest is pretty much universal.

Contributor Licensing Agreement

The very first thing you need to do is read and sign a Contributor Licensing Agreement and mail it to Denise. If you don't agree with its terms Dreamwidth won't be able to accept your code; if you've submitted code but Denise doesn't have your CLA your code can't be used. So read it, think it over, sign it, mail it then wait until you're told it's been received. Now you can get started.

What do you need and why?

Because you're on Windows, you have to use quite a number of tools to access and manage things so this part might seem a little daunting. The good news is that 1) you're used to being flexible and resourceful, right? 2) once you've got everything set up things will be much simpler and intuitive.

So what do you need?

  1. You need a account to be able to fetch and copy the Dreamwith code, find issues to work on, and publish your code so it can be integrated to Dreamwidth. This is both where all the Dreamwidth code comes from and where your own code will end up but you won't do much work on the site itself.
  2. You need a Dreamhack to see what your changes will do on the site for real. Think of a Dreamhack as an online mirror of the Dreamwidth site which you can do whatever you want with.
  3. You need PuTTY to connect to your Dreamhack, to connect your Dreamhack to, and manage your work. Think of PuTTY as your command center.
  4. You need WinSCP to visualize your Dreamhack files and be able to open them in a text editor. Think of WinSCP as a Dreamhack Explorer.
  5. You need a text editor to edit your files.

Create an account on GitHub

Go to GitHub and create your account.

On your GitHub account

You need to fork the Dreamwidth code onto your own account. Forking is like cloning and branching. It will copy the code and also label your copy as being a branch (a fork) of the original Dreamwidth code so that everybody knows the two are connected.

Dreamwidth is divided into two parts: an open-source part called 'dw-free', and a private part called 'dw-nonfree'. The private part is composed of elements which are specific to and can't be used on other sites (e.g. the logo) and external elements Dreamwidth is allowed to use on its own site but can't redistribute to other sites.

Get a Dreamhack

Apply for a Dreamhack by filling this form. You can pick anything as your username. The email address you choose is used to send you important info and alerts.

N.B. Some users like having a separate address for their dev work but it's entirely up to you!

Once you're done, you should get an email with your login username and a password. Don't lose it.

Install PuTTY

  • Download it at [1] and install it.
  • Run PuTTY. In the configuration window, enter "" for the host name. Go to Connection/Data and enter the username/login given to you in the welcome e-mail. It should be something like dh-username.
  • Click on Open. If you get a pop-up message about a key, click Yes.
  • Enter the password given to you in the welcome email when asked. Note that characters aren't displayed and the cursor doesn't move. It's normal.
  • Change your password by typing:
  • Your default Dreamhack account is called 'system'. Set its password with this command:

Install WinSCP

  • Install it at [2]. During the installation, you may be asked about the mode you prefer: Commander and Explorer. Commander works like an FTP client: a partitioned window with your computer files on one side and the Dreamhack files on the other. Explorer works like Windows Explorer and only displays your Dreamhack files. Either mode is fine. Pick what you're most used to.
  • Use "" for the host name. Enter your username and the password you typed when you did passwd on PuTTY. Click on Save then on Login.

Get a good text editor

While you can use Notepad, I recommend Notepad++ instead. It's free, simple and will make editing much easier.

Set things up

Further configuration steps

These are not mandatory but will certainly make your life easier.

Change some git settings

In PuTTY, I suggest going through all the steps mentioned in this section.

Give special abilities to your system account

Get rid of invite codes

  • In WinSCP, go to /dw/ext/local/etc/, and double-click on Find $USE_ACCT_CODES = 1; and change 1 to 0. Save your file.

Customize PuTTY and Notepad++

See these articles for details: PuTTY, Notepad++.

Update your code

--> in PuTTY

Code is committed by developers all the time. You must always update your repositories before you do anything else.

  • Make sure to check for updates as the script occasionally changes.
N.B. To create a new file open WinSCP, right click into the correct folder (/bin here) then click on New/File.

Make changes to your Dreamhack

Find and claim issues

--> on

Issues are listed at and You can use the search bar at the top to browse labels. Once you've found something you like comment on the issue to 'claim' it.

Create a branch stemming from develop

Important: in PuTTY, you can get explanations about bash commands using help COMMAND (e.g. help cd) and any git commands using git COMMAND -h (e.g git pull -h).

--> in PuTTY

  • Pick the correct repository:
    • if you want to work in dw-free you need to be in ~/dw$. If you're not type cd $LJHOME.
    • if you want to work in dw-nonfree you need to be in ~/dw/ext/dw-nonfree$. If you're not type cd $LJHOME/ext/dw-nonfree
  • Then make sure you're in the develop branch using the checkout command:
git checkout develop
  • Now you can create a new branch specifically dedicated to the issue you want to work on:
git branch BRANCH_NAME
N.B. Use the issue number and a short description as your branch name: bug #xxx/short-description
  • Switch to your new branch:
git checkout BRANCH_NAME
  • And that's it. Now you can start coding!

Work, work, work

--> in WinSCP and your text editor

  • In WinSCP right click to edit the file you want to work on.
  • Remember that the free part of the code is in ~/dw/* while the non-free part is in ~/dw/ext/dw-nonfree/*.
  • Site pages are either .bml or .tt files. You can find them in ~dw/htdocs/ and ~dw/views/. They may use .pm modules and widgets, found in ~dw/cgi-bin/LJ/ and ~dw/cgi-bin/DW/.
  • Text strings are in ~dw/htdocs/xxx.bml.text, ~dw/views/ or ~dw/bin/upgrading/en.dat.
  • For more specific searches, see this article on how to use rgrep and find.

Test your changes

--> on your Dreamhack

Go to your Dreamhack and test. Edit the files again in WinSCP if more changes are needed. Go through these steps again to test your new changes.

N.B. In some rare instances, your changes won't go live instantly on your hack and you may need to update your database first.

Mark your changes as ready to be committed

--> in PuTTY

Before being committed, work is moved to the index or staging area. Think of it as the "Ready? Steady?" before the "Go!". At this point nothing is definite and you can easily change things.

  • To add the changes you've made on a specific file:
git add FILE_NAME
  • To add all files which have been edited or deleted at once:
git add -u
  • To add all files which have been added, deleted or edited at once:
git add .
  • If you realize you need to do some more work, edit the files again and use add when you're done. It's that simple.

Commit your changes

--> in PuTTY

  • If you think you're done with your work at this point you can commit your changes:
git commit
  • This will open the nano editor so you can type a commit message. Unfortunately, nano isn't very easy to type into (you can't use the number pad for instance) so I advise you to type your commit message in your text editor then paste it in nano (right click in PuTTY to paste).
  • Here's an example of commit message:

Bug #123. Short subject

Fixes #123.

Patch description

Description can go on several short lines.

  • Hit Ctrl+X, 'y' then Enter to save your message.
  • If you you need to do some more work later you can update your commit:
git commit --amend
N.B. You can also do this if you need to edit your commit message.
  • If you want to pace yourself or be easily able to go back to a certain point in your work you can do successive commits instead of one big final one.

Publish your code

Push your code to your repository

--> in PuTTY

You should only push your changes to your develop branch on once you're happy with your patch as things are a bit harder to change at this point. Once you've finished your work use the push command and the branch name:

git push origin BRANCH_NAME

Request your code to be pulled into the original Dreamwidth repository

--> on

Go to your profile page on GitHub. Select the Public Activity tab. Spot the line where it says you've created a new branch. Click on the branch name then on Compare and Pull Request. Once you've checked things over, click on Send Pull Request on the right side. Finally, comment on the pull request to say it 'fixes #xxx' where #xxx is the issue number.

N.B. If there's an unusual delay between the moment you pushed your branch and the moment it appears on GitHub, check the status page.

What now?

--> on

  • You'll get a notification once your pull request has been merged into the original develop branch, and the issue will be closed if no more work is needed.
  • On your profile your request will be marked as merged.
  • That's it! You're done. Congratulations!


If something's wrong you can always ask for help at [info]dw_dev_training or on the #dreamwidth-dev IRC channel.

Reading / References

To understand things better, I suggest reading the GitHub Workflow guide from, relevant sections of Git - The Simple Guide, watching part of Git for Ages 4 and Up (Watch on YouTube or Download), and reading the first three chapters of Pro Git.

For lots of useful commands, see Git How To.

Other useful references: