Package management

How docassemble uses packages

docassemble interviews can be packaged into Python packages that are installed on a server. The Python package can also include:

A package containing docassemble code needs to be a subpackage of the docassemble package. The docassemble package itself is just a shell (a namespace package) that contains subpackages. These subpackages include docassemble’s core components (docassemble.base, docassemble.webapp) as well as user-created packages.

Anatomy of a docassemble package

Here is the file structure of a (fictional) docassemble package called

|-- docassemble
| |-- baseball
| | |--
| | |-- data
| | | |-- questions
| | | | |-- baseball-questions.yml
| | | | `-- hitters.yml
| | | |-- static
| | | | |-- catcher.jpg
| | | | `-- pitcher.jpg
| | | |-- sources
| | | | `-- words.yml
| | | `-- templates
| | | `--
| | `--
| `--
|-- setup.cfg

The package is known as in Python, but the name docassemble-baseball, replacing the dot with a hyphen, is sometimes used. There are reasons for using the hyphen – in certain contexts, the dot is considered an invalid character.

There are a lot of subdirectories (this is the nature of namespace packages). There are reasons for all of these subdirectories.

  1. The top-level directory, docassemble-baseball, is important because a complete Python package should be all in one directory.
  2. Within that, the docassemble directory is necessary so that the package is a subpackage of docassemble.
  3. Within that, the baseball directory is necessary because when packages within the docassemble namespace package are installed on a system, Python needs them to be in a subdirectory under a directory called docassemble.
  4. Within baseball, you have, which contains Python code. The __init.py__ file is necessary for declaring baseball to be a package; you never have to edit that file.
  5. There is also a data directory with subdirectories questions, static, sources, and templates. These are for interviews, static files, data files, and document templates.

When installed on the server, the interview hitters.yml can be run by going to a link like

In your own interviews, you can include resources from this package by writing things like the following:

yesno: person_is_a_catcher
question: |
Did the person look like this?
subquestion: |
question: |
Here is how the game went down.
sets: user_given_summary
- name: Summary of ${ game }
filename: game_summary
content file:

The first block uses include to incorporate by reference a YAML interview file located in the data/questions directory of the package.

The second block uses a file reference to refer to an image file in the data/static directory of the package.

The third block uses content file within an attachment to refer to a Markdown file in the data/templates directory of the package.

The fourth block uses modules to import Python names from the file.

Creating your own packages


You can create your own docassemble package on-line using the Packages area of the Playground. This allows you to download a package as a ZIP file that contains resources from various “folders” in the Playground.


To create your own docassemble package off-line, start by downloading a docassemble package template from your docassemble server.

  1. On the menu in the upper right hand corner, select Package Management.
  2. Click “Create a package.”
  3. Enter a name for the package, such as baseball and click “Get template.”
  4. Save the resulting .zip file to your computer.

Then you will have a ZIP file called, which contains a directory docassemble-baseball. You can extract this directory to a convenient location on your computer, so that you can make changes to the files and/or add files of your own.


If your package uses code from other Python packages that are not distributed with the standard docassemble installation, you will need to indicate that these packages are “dependencies” of your package.

This will ensure that if you share your package with someone else and they install it on their system, the packages that your package needs will be automatically installed. Otherwise, that person will get errors when they try to use your package.

If you maintain your package in the Packages area of the Playground, you can indicate the dependencies of your package by selecting them from a multi-select list.

If you maintain your package off-line, you will need to edit the file and change the line near the end that begins with install_requires. This refers to a list of Python packages. For example:

install_requires=['docassemble.helloworld', 'kombu'],

This line indicates that the package relies on the docassemble extension package docassemble.helloworld, as well as the Python package kombu. When someone tries to install on their system, docassemble.helloworld and kombu will be installed first, and any packages that these packages depend on will also be installed.

Note that if your package depends on a package that exists on GitHub but not on PyPI, you will also need to add an extra line so that the system knows where to find the package. For example, if docassemble.helloworld did not exist on PyPI, you would need to include:

install_requires=['docassemble.helloworld', 'kombu'],

If you use the Packages area of the Playground to maintain your package, this is all handled for you.

Installing a package

You can install a docassemble extension package, or any other Python package, using the docassemble web application.

From the menu, go to Package Management. Then click “Update a package.”

docassemble installs packages using the pip package manager. This installation process may take a long time. A log of the output of pip will be shown when the installation is complete. The server will restart so that any old versions of the package that are still in memory will be refreshed.

Installing through GitHub

One way to install Python packages on a server is through GitHub.

  1. Find the GitHub URL of the package you want to install. This is in the location bar when you are looking at a GitHub repository. For example, the GitHub URL of the docassemble-baseball package may be (No such package actually exists.)
  2. In the docassemble web app, go to Package Management.
  3. Click “Update a package.”
  4. Enter into the “GitHub URL” field.
  5. Click “Update.”

GitHub Install

Installing through a .zip file

You can also install Python packages from ZIP files. For example, if you have a package docassemble-baseball, the ZIP file will be called It will contain a single directory called docassemble-baseball, which in turn contains, a subdirectory called docassemble, and other files.

  1. In the docassemble web app, go back to Package Management.
  2. Click “Update a package.”
  3. Under “Zip File,” upload the .zip file you want to install.
  4. Click “Update.”

Zip Install

Installing through PyPI

You can also install Python packages from PyPI. PyPI is the central repository for Python software. Anyone can register on PyPI and upload software to it. For example, if you want to install the docassemble-baseball package:

  1. Make sure the docassemble-baseball package exists on PyPI (note: it doesn’t; it is just a fictional package).
  2. In the docassemble web app, go to Package Management.
  3. Click “Update a package.”
  4. Type into the “Package on PyPI” field.
  5. Click “Update.”

PyPI Install

Running interviews from installed packages

Once a docassemble extension package is installed, you can start using its interviews. For example, if you installed, and there was an interview file in that package called questions.yml, you would point your browser to http://localhost/? (substituting the actual domain and base URL of your docassemble site).

Updating Python packages

To upgrade a package that you installed from a GitHub URL or from PyPI, you can press the “Update” button next to the package name on the “Update a package” screen. You will only see these Update buttons if you are an administrator or if you are the person who caused the packages to be installed. Also, the “Update” buttons will not appear if the package was installed using a ZIP file.

Publishing a package

Publishing on PyPI

The best place to publish a docassemble extension packages is on PyPI, the central repository for Python software.

In order to publish to PyPI, you will first need to create an account on PyPI. You will need to choose a username and password and verify your e-mail address.

Then, go to “Configuration” on the menu and enable the PyPI publishing feature in docassemble configuration like so:

pypi: True

After you save the configuration, go to “Profile” on the menu and fill in “PyPI Username” and “PyPI Password” with the username and password you obtained from PyPI.

Next, go to the “Packages” folder of the docassemble Playground and open the package you want to publish (e.g., docassemble-baseball).

Press the PyPI button to publish the package to PyPI.

If your package already exists on PyPI, then pressing the Publish button will increment the version of your package. This is necessary because you cannot overwrite files that already exist on PyPI.

When the publishing is done, you will see an informational message with the output of the uploading commands. Check this message to see if there are any errors.

If the publishing was successful, then at the bottom of the page describing your package, you should see a message that the package now exists on PyPI.

PyPI Published

You can click on the link to see what the package looks like on PyPI.

PyPi Page

Now, on the docassemble menu (of this server or another server), you can go to Package Management -> Update a Package, and install the package by typing in “” into the “Package on PyPI” field.

PyPi Install

Publishing on GitHub

You can publish your package on GitHub in addition to (or instead of) publishing it on PyPI. (Publishing on both sites is recommended. PyPI is the simplest and safest way to distribute Python packages, while GitHub is a version control system with many features for facilitating sharing and collaboration.)

To configure integration with GitHub, follow the steps in the setting up GitHub integration section, and edit the GitHub section of the configuration.

When that configuration is done, each user who is a developer will need to connect their GitHub accounts with their accounts on your docassemble server. From the menu, the user should go to “Profile,” click “GitHub integration,” and follow the instructions. If the user is not currently logged in to GitHub in the same browser, GitHub will ask for log in information. (Users without GitHub accounts can create one.) Users will need to give consent to giving the docassemble server to have privileges of making changes to repositories and SSH keys within the GitHub account.

(Note: it is not possible to connect more than one docassemble account on a single docassemble server with the same GitHub account. However, it is possible to connect accounts on multiple servers with the same GitHub account, so long as the appname on each docassemble server is different.)

To publish a package on GitHub, go to the Packages area of the Playground and press the GitHub button. You will be asked for a “commit message.” This is a brief, one-line message that describes the changes made to your package since the last time you “committed” changes. Each “commit” is like a snapshot, and the history of “commit” messages is a record of the development of your project.


When you press the “Commit” button after writing the commit message, your package will be “pushed” to a GitHub repository in your account. If a repository does not already exist on GitHub with the name of your package, a new repository will be created.

GitHub published

You can follow the hyperlink to your package’s page on GitHub.

GitHub repository

After your first commit, GitHub reports that there have been two commits; this is because the initial creation of the repository caused a commit (containing a LICENSE file only) and then the addition of the files of your package caused a second commit.

Once your package is on GitHub, then on the docassemble menu, you can go to Package Management -> Update a Package and install the package using its GitHub URL.

GitHub Install

Best practices for packaging your interviews

It is a good practice to bundle related interviews in a single package. Think about making it easy for other people to install your packages on their system and make use of your questions and code.

It is also a good practice to separate your interview into at least three files, separately containing:

This way, other people can take advantage of your work product in interviews that might have a very different purpose.