Options for running OpenSAFELY

In this guide, we've documented two different ways to work with OpenSAFELY:

  1. Use an online environment where the needed software is already installed for you (our recommended option).

    Services such as GitHub Codespaces provide online computing environments. GitHub Codespaces has a free plan with a generous monthly usage limit for working with code in public or private repositories. We've adapted our demonstration research study and this guide such that you can follow along with GitHub Codespaces, should you choose to do so.

    You might prefer an online environment if one or more of the following apply:

    • you are investigating what OpenSAFELY offers and want to start using it immediately;
    • you do not have administrative access to install software on your work computer;
    • you are not sure about whether your computer supports Docker, which OpenSAFELY uses;
    • you want to try OpenSAFELY via a device other than a desktop or laptop computer, e.g. a tablet.

    To use GitHub Codespaces, the only requirements are:

    • you have a current version of a modern web browser (e.g. Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari);
    • your internet connection allows access to GitHub Codespaces

    If your internet connection is not managed by you directly — perhaps you are in the office or connecting via your employer's virtual private network (VPN) — it may be that corporate firewalls prevent access to GitHub Codespaces; please contact the IT staff who manage your internet connection for help.

  2. Install the required software to your own computer.

    You might prefer a local installation if one or more of the following apply:

    • you already have the software required (Docker, Python and Git or GitHub Desktop) installed;
    • or you don't already have the required software installed, but are comfortable installing and configuring these tools yourself;
    • you want to have more control on the tools you use to develop studies for OpenSAFELY.

    Refer to the how-to section of this documentation that lists the installation guides.

    The current local installation guide is aimed at Windows users. Mac users should be able to follow along as well, with a few hopefully-obvious alterations; see also the macOS Install Guide! We aim to integrate macOS instructions into this guide in future.