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Docker Installation


Documentation and processes are being reworked and improved at the moment. It may happen that you miss information. If you face problems, please let us know, we are there to support you. You may also contact us directly if you plan to install Chemotion.


To setup the Chemotion ELN using Docker, Docker and Docker-Compose have to be installed on the host machine. Please refer to your distributions documentation on how this can be achieved. For Ubuntu-based machines, this can be found here.

In addition you need that latest version of our Docker-Compose service description. This file can be found here:

docker-compose.yml (For other releases, check out our repository on DockerHub:

Download this file and place it in a separate folder (further referred to as CHEMOTION_PATH as it will contain all the service description but also Chemotion's configuration and data files):

curl -L -o docker-compose.yml

As a next step, create the necessary folders for configuration, data sharing and the database:

mkdir config shared db-data
chown 1000:1000 config shared db-data

Note: Make sure that the folders are read and writeable by UID 1000:1000.

Running Chemotion#

You are now ready to run the initialization. Please note that this will create a new database and delete any old database that might exist. Therefore it is curical that you do only run this command if you want to create a new instance of Chemotion.

docker-compose run eln init

As the previous command finishes, you are ready to start Chemotion:

docker-compose up

You will see the system logs in your terminal and after the start-up you can access your fresh instance using a browser. The application is running on http://localhost:4000, the seeded administration account is ADM (all caps!) with password PleaseChangeYourPassword.

To start your instance in background mode, use docker-compose up -d. To automagically start your services when the host machine boots, extend the compose file to contain the property restart, for example:

restart: unless-stopped
restart: unless-stopped

Please refer to the Docker documentation on how this property works:

Managing your instance#

Basic Information#

To get basic information about your instance, run:

docker-compose run eln info

This will output storage, memory as well as several version information and ensure the fundamentally required runtime is correct.

Getting a shell inside the container#


To get access to the inside of the container, i.e to perform tasks based on the Rails console, one can use the following command:

docker-compose run eln bash

This will drop you to a root shell inside the container. You are now free to perform any administrative tasks in the container context, but be aware that all changes are ephemeral and lost when the container is stopped. To access the host file system, a mount point has to be used, i.e. such as the already configured /config (which maps to ./config on the host) or /shared (which maps to ./shared on the host).

To change to the Chemotion user context, sudo can be used. The Chemotion user context is uid 1000, "chemotion", also stored in the environment variable ${PROD}. Note: It is important to source the user environment using source $HOME/.profile to make sure the right versions of ruby and node are used for any further commands.

The following command will change to the user context and setup user's profile in an easy way:

source /etc/init/ # source helper functions, i.e. odus
odus bash # "opposite of sudo", changes to user context and
# makes sure environment is set up properly

v21.06-3 and later#

As of version 21.06-3 and later, a build-in command is available to simplify this process:

docker-compose eln run (user-shell|shell) # use shell for a root shell, user-shell for a user shell.

Backing up your data#

To backup your data, it is sufficient to run the following command in the folder, where your Compose file resides:

sudo tar cfvz backup.tar.gz config shared db-data

Note: It is adviced to setup a automaticly execute system task (i.e. cron job) to backup regularly. This is highly system specific and thus out of the scope of this documentation. Please refer to your OS's manual to find out how to setup cron job/scheduled tasks. In addition, you should always backup before upgradeing your installation.


Note: Before upgrading anything, we highly advice to create a backup (see above)! No backup? no pity!

To upgrade your instance, change the version number of the Chemotion containers you are using in the docker-compose.yml: if you open the file, you will find the settings image: for the services eln and worker. Change them to the version you want to use.

Note: downgrading is not supported.

Then stop the services: docker-compose stop As a next step, run the upgrade script in the ELN context coming with your new container images: docker-compose run eln upgrade This will make sure files are properly configured and the database schemes are adjusted if necessary.

Note: Without this step, the containers will refuse to start to prevent any possible damage to your installation.

Now, restart the services: docker-compose restart

Setting up a Reverse-Proxy#

To make the installation available to the public, the container's ports should to be forwarded. We suggest to run NGINX as a reverse-proxy either in docker (by extending the Docker-Compose service description file) or stand-alone on the host. The application is (by default) listening on ''.

A demo service description as well as some sample configuration files for NGINX can be found in the Docker-Chemotion-Monorepo ( in the sub-folder reverse-proxy.

Last updated on by maipy