Next Steps

OK, you've installed a copy of Alaveteli, and can see the site in a browser. What next?

Create an admin account

Once you create an account for yourself you can give it admin status using the Rails console.

Alaveteli ships with sample data that includes a dummy admin user called “Joe Admin”. If the sample data has been loaded into the database (this will depend on how you installed), you must revoke Joe’s administrator status too, because you will be using your own admin account instead.


First, in the browser:

  • Go to /profile/sign_in and create a user by signing up.
  • Check your email and confirm your account.
  • Type bin/rails console in the root of your Alaveteli installation (or if using Docker, type docker exec -it app bin/rails console).
  • Type User.find_by(email: '').add_role(:admin), replacing the email with the email you used during sign up.

From now on, when you are logged into your Alaveteli site, you’ll have access to the admin (at /admin). Furthermore, you’ll see links to admin pages off the main site (which don’t appear for regular users).

If your installation has loaded the sample data, there will be a dummy user in your database called “Joe Admin” who has admin status too. You should remove this status so there’s no risk of it being used to access your site admin. You can either do this while you’re still logged in as the emergency user… or else, later, logged in as yourself:

  • Go to /admin/users or click on Users in the navigation menu on any admin page.
  • Find “Joe Admin” in the list of users, and click on the name to see the user details. On that page, click Edit.
  • In the “Roles” section, uncheck the “admin” checkbox and click Save.
  • Joe Admin no longer has admin status.

Now that your account is an admin, you don’t need to allow the emergency user access to the admin. On the command line shell, edit /var/www/alaveteli/alaveteli/config/general.yml:

  • It’s important that you change the emergency user’s password (and, ideally, the username too) from the values Alaveteli ships with, because they are public and hence insecure. In general.yml, change ADMIN_PASSWORD (and maybe ADMIN_USERNAME too) to new, unique values.
  • Additionally, you can totally disable the emergency user. Under normal operation you don’t need it, because from now on you’ll be using the admin user you’ve just created. Set DISABLE_EMERGENCY_USER to true.
  • To apply these changes restart the service as a user with root privileges: sudo service alaveteli restart

You can use the same process (logged in as your admin account) to add or remove the admin role from any users that are subsequently added to your site. If you accidentally remove the admin role from all accounts (try not to do this, though!), you can enable the emergency user by editing the general.yml file and restarting Alaveteli.

Load sample data

If you want some dummy data to play with, you can try loading the fixtures that the test suite uses into your development database. As the alaveteli user, do:


If the sample data has already been loaded into the database, this command won’t do anything, but will instead fail with an error.

If you have added the sample data, update the Xapian search index afterwards:


Remember that the sample data includes a user with admin access to your site. You should revoke that status so it cannot be used to access your site – follow the steps described in the previous section.

Test out the request process

  • Create a new public authority in the admin interface – give it a name like “Test authority”. Set the request email to an address that you will receive.

  • From the main interface of the site, make a request to the new authority.

  • You should receive the request email – try replying to it. Your response email should appear in Alaveteli. Not working? Take a look at our troubleshooting tips. If that doesn’t sort it out, get in touch on the developer mailing list for help.

Import Public Authorities

Alaveteli can import a list of public authorities and their contact email addresses from a CSV file.

Follow the instructions for uploading public authority data.

Set the amount of time authorities will be given to respond to requests

In most countries that have a Freedom of Information law, authorities have a certain number of days in order to respond to requests. Alaveteli helps requesters by reminding them when their request is overdue for a response according to the law. You can set the number of days an authority is given to respond to a request in the REPLY_LATE_AFTER_DAYS and REPLY_VERY_LATE_AFTER_DAYS options in config/general.yml. Most laws specify that the days are either working days, or calendar days. You can set this using the WORKING_OR_CALENDAR_DAYS option in config/general.yml.

Add some public holidays

Interface introduced in Alaveteli version 0.21

Alaveteli calculates the due dates of requests taking account of the public holidays you enter into the admin interface.

If you have set the WORKING_OR_CALENDAR_DAYS setting for Alaveteli to working, the date when a response to a request is officially overdue will be calculated in days that are not weekends or public holidays.

If you have set WORKING_OR_CALENDAR_DAYS to calendar, the date will be calculated in calendar days, but if the due date falls on a public holiday or weekend day, then the due date is considered to be the next week day that isn’t a holiday.

To add public holidays, go to the admin interface and click on Holidays. From here you can either add each day of holiday by hand, using the New Holiday button, or you can create multiple holidays at once using the Create holidays from suggestions or iCalendar feed button.

Start thinking about customising Alaveteli

Check out our guide.

Consider enabling Alaveteli Professional

Alaveteli Professional offers a toolset for professional users. Everything journalists, researchers and campaigners need to conduct investigations.