Basic Steps

Most of the documentation in this section is kept as a reference. More up-to-date documentation is in the install sections in the Wiki.

The basic steps for installing OpenACS are:

  1. Install an OS and supporting software (see Install a Unix-like OS or Appendix A, Install Red Hat 8/9 for more details). See the Table 2.2, “Version Compatibility Matrix”.

  2. Install a database (see the section called “Install Oracle 8.1.7” or Install PostgreSQL).

  3. Install AOLserver (Install AOLserver 4) .

  4. Create a unique database and system user. Install the OpenACS tarball, start and AOLserver instance, and use the OpenACS web pages to complete installation (see Install OpenACS 5.9.0).

Specific instructions are available for macOS and Windows2000 (see the section called “OpenACS Installation Guide for macOS” or the section called “OpenACS Installation Guide for Windows”).

Binaries and other shortcuts

You can try out OpenACS using some binary installers. In general, they are not yet supported by the community, so they are mostly for evaluation purposes. Installing OpenACS

You can see a list of current installers.

  1. The packaged version of PostgreSQL in Debian, Red Hat, and FreeBSD ports works fine.

  2. Once AOLserver and a database are installed, a bash script automates the OpenACS checkout and installation.

System Requirements

You will need a PC (or equivalent) with at least these minimum specifications:

  • 128MB RAM (much more if you want Oracle)

  • 1GB free space on your hard drive (much more if you want Oracle)

  • A Unix-like operating system with Tcl, tDOM, and a mail transport agent like sendmail or qmail. (see the section called “Prerequisite Software”)

All of the software mentioned is open-source and available without direct costs, except for Oracle. You can obtain a free copy of Oracle for development purposes. This is described in the Acquire Oracle section.

How to use this guide

  • This is text you will see on screen, such as a Button or link in a radio button list or menu.

  • This is text that you will type.

  • This is text from a program or file which you may need to examine or edit:

    if {$database eq "oracle"} {
              set db_password        "mysitepassword"
  • This is text that you will see and type in a command shell, including text you may have to change. It is followed by a list of just the commands, which you can copy and paste. The command prompt varies by system; in the examples we use the form[$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME aolserver]$, where $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME is the current user and aolserver is the current directory. The root prompt is shown ending in # and all other prompts in $.

    [root root]# su - $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME
    [$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME aolserver]$ svc -d /service/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME
    svc -d /service/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME

    Setting a global shell variable for cut and paste. In order to cut and paste the instructions into your shell, you must set the environment variable $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME. In order to set it globally so that it works for any new users or special service users you may create, edit the file /etc/profile ( /etc/share/skel/dot.profile for FreeBSD) and add this line:

    export OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME=service0

Paths and Users

Table 2.1. Default directories for a standard install

Fully qualified domain name of your serveryourserver.test
name of administrative access accountremadmin
OpenACS service $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME (set to service0 in default install)
OpenACS service account$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME
Root of OpenACS service file tree (SERVERROOT)/var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME
Location of source code tarballs for new software/var/tmp
The OpenACS tarball contains some files which are useful while setting up other software. Those files are located at:/var/tmp/openacs-5.9.0/packages/acs-core-docs/www/files
Database backup directory/var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/database-backup
Service config files/var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/etc
Service log files/var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/log
Compile directory/usr/local/src
PostgreSQL directory/usr/local/pgsql
AOLserver directory/usr/local/aolserver

None of these locations are set in stone - they're simply the values that we've chosen. The values that you'll probably want to change, such as service name, are marked like this. The other values we recommend you leave unchanged unless you have a reason to change them.


Some of the paths and user accounts have been changed from those recommended in previous versions of this document to improve security and maintainability. See this thread for discussion.

Getting Help during installation

We'll do our best to assure that following our instructions will get you to the promised land. If something goes wrong, don't panic. There are plenty of ways to get help. Here are some tips:

  • Keep track of the commands you are run and record their output. I like to do my installations in a shell inside of emacs (M-x shell) so that I can save the output if needed. An alternative would be to use the script command.

  • We'll point out where the error logs for the various pieces of software are. Output from those logs will help us help you. Don't worry if you feel overwhelmed by all the information in the error logs. Over time, you'll find that they make more and more sense. Soon, you'll actually look forward to errors so that you can run to the log and diagnose the problem.

  • Search the forums at - you'll often find many people who have struggled through the same spot that you're in.

  • The bottom of each page has a link to, where you can post comments and read other users comments about the contents of the page.

  • Ask questions at the irc channel on (#openacs). They're knowledgeable and quite friendly if you can keep them on topic.

  • Post a question on the forums. Make sure you've done a search first. When you do post, be sure to include your setup information (OS, etc) as well as the exact commands that are failing with the accompanying error. If there's a SQL error in the Tcl error or in the log, post that too.

  • If you find errors in this document or if you have ideas about making it better, please post them in our BugTracker.

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