Getting psiTurk Installed on Your Computer

psiTurk can be installed on any modern computer which supports Python (<= 2.7). However, currently psiTurk is not supported on Windows (see below). It works well on most unix variants including Mac OS X, BSD, and Linux. Installation is usually not difficult.

When psiTurk is successfully installed, you will simply have a new command line tool available called psiturk. The psiturk command provides a number of functions to you including launching the server and interacting with the Mechanical Turk and Amazon Web Services (AWS) systems.

Installation requirements

Installation of psiTurk requires:

  1. A python installation (<= v2.7). We recommend the Enthought python distribution on Mac OS X.
  2. The ``pip`` package manager. Directions on installing this are given below.
  3. Access to a command line tool. (e.g., on Mac OS X)
  4. A web browser. A WebKit compatible browser such as FireFox, Safari, or Chrome is recommended.

An additional requirement for actually using psiTurk to run experiments is an Internet connected computer capable of receiving incoming requests.

Installation steps

To install the package there are two options currently. First, the current stable release of psiTurk is hosted on the python package index pypi. As a result, it can easily be installed as a standard python package using the python package manager tool pip. Alternatively, you can install directly from the development branch on github. The following instructions describe the general process. In addition, system specific notes are provided below.

Install stable version via pypi

The easiest way to install psiTurk is via pip. Linux users will likely prefer to install pip as described below. Otherwise, If you don’t already have pip, you can install it by typing the following in a terminal:

cd /tmp  # Just to put us in a directory that will be cleaned up periodically
curl -O
python  # If you get a permissions error, try typing sudo python

If you want a single system to run different versions of psiTurk (or other python packages) on a per-experiment basis, follow the Virtual Environment instructions below.

Once pip is installed, type into a terminal:

pip install psiturk

If this doesn’t work, try

sudo pip install psiturk

If the install was successful you will have a new command psiturk available on your command line. You can check the location of this command by typing

which psiturk

Install directly from github

You can also install the bleeding-edge development version directly from github using pip. To install the latest stable branch follow the instructions above to install pip and:

sudo pip install git+git://

If the install was successful you will have a new command psiturk available on your command line. You can check the location of this command by typing

which psiturk

Updating from a previous version

To avoid compatibility issues, if you upgrade from a previous version it can be useful to first uninstall then reinstall psiTurk using the following sequence of commands:

$ pip uninstall psiturk
$ git clone
$ cd psiTurk
$ sudo python install

Running inside a Virtual Environment

It can desirable to keep each of your experiments’ dependencies (python and python package versions) isolated from each other. For example, if you want to install the development version of psiTurk (as described above) in one experiment, but not all the others installed on your system, Virtual Environments provide a solution.

You can install via pip:

sudo pip install virtualenv virtualenvwrapper

And then start a new shell session. This will install the virtualenv tool as well as the supplementary virtualenvwrapper tools that make working with virtualenvs easier. You create a virtual environment as follows (if mkvirtualenv is not recognized follow the instructions here) :

$ mkvirtualenv my-experiment

Running virtualenv with interpreter /usr/bin/python2
New python executable in my-experiment/bin/python2
Also creating executable in my-experiment/bin/python
Installing setuptools, pip...done.

Then, at any point in the future, to activate the virtual environment use the workon command

$ workon my-experiment
(my-experiment) $ which python python pip easy_install


As you can see, when the environment is active, running python or pip will run copies specific to your project. Any packages installed with pip or easy_install will be installed inside your my-experiment virtualenv rather than system-wide. Use the deactivate command to leave the virtualenv.

System-specific notes

Mac OS X

Apple users will need to install a C compiler via XCode; to do so, install XCode from the App store. Once you have downloaded it, install the command line tools from the preferences menu as instructed here. For earlier versions of Mac OS X (e.g., Snow Leopard) you may need to install XCode using the installation disc that came with your computer. The command line tools are an option during the installation process for these systems.


psiTurk is relatively painless to install on most Linux systems since all four of the requirements listed above come installed by default in most distributions.

If you encounter install problems when installing using pip as above, a likely cause is that you are missing the package from your distribution that contains a needed header file. In this case, one way to troubleshoot the problem is to do a web search for the name of your distribution and the name of the missing header file (which often appears in the error text produced by a failed pip install). That search will likely turn up the name of the package for your distribution that supplies the needed header file.

As an example, before installing psiTurk on a minimal Debian 7 server (such as the one provided by many server hosting companies) you will need to install some additional packages, as illustrated by the following example command:

aptitude install python-pip python-dev libncurses-dev

If you would like to use mysql as your backend database (which is optional, and can be done at any time), further packages are needed. On a Debian system, they are:

aptitude install python-pymysql python-sqlalchemy libmysqlclient-dev

If you have additional specific issues, or if you can report the steps needed to install psiTurk on a particular Linux distribution, please help us update the documentation!


psiTurk is currently not supported on Windows. This is due to a technical limitation in the ability to run server processes on Windows. We currently recommend that Windows users try a cloud-based install such as openshift.

Cloud-based install (experimental)

If your local computer does not support psiTurk is it still possible to use the package by using a free hosting solution such as openshift. Begin by creating an account at and download the command line tools at

Create a python-2.7 application and add a PostgreSQL cartridge to the app

rhc app create psiturk python-2.7 postgresql-8.4 --from-code git://

or you can do this to watch the build

rhc app create -a psiturk -t python-2.7
rhc cartridge add -a psiturk20 postgresql-8.4

Add this upstream psiturk repo

cd psiturk
git remote add upstream -m master
git pull -s recursive -X theirs upstream master

Then push the repo upstream

git push

That’s it, you can now checkout your application at


To access the your openshift hosted database run

rhc port forward -a psiturk

Connect to the database using your favorite SQL app, the PostgreSQL Local specs, and your credentials.