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Develop locally

Local mode is the development mode for balena. It allows you to build and sync code to a single development device in your local network without having to go through the whole git push, build, deployment pipeline. It uses the Docker daemon on the device to build container images and starts the container up in very much the same way the balena device supervisor would.

Local mode requirements

In order to use local mode on a device:

  • The device must be running balenaOS v2.0 or higher with supervisor v4.0 or higher.
  • The device must be running a development variant of the OS. If you try to use a production variant, you will not be able to use local mode. The production devices have SSH and the Docker socket locked down, both of which are needed for the local mode feature.
  • You must have the balena CLI installed on your workstation.
  • Local mode must be enabled through the dashboard. To use local mode on a development device, click on the small Actions dropdown at the top right of the device page and select Enable Local Mode.

Note: At the moment, balena local push will not work for multicontainer applications. The recommended development workflow is to put the device in local mode and use the Docker Compose remote API.

Scan the network and find your device

Before you can get any code running, you first have to find your device. To do this, login to the balena CLI and use balena local scan.

All balena devices advertise themselves on the network using Avahi. The names take the form <short-uuid>.local, where the short-uuid is the uuid you see on your device dashboard. The balena CLI allows you to scan the network and discover your device:


sudo balena local scan


  host:          bce2006.local
    Containers:        1
    ContainersRunning: 1
    ContainersPaused:  0
    ContainersStopped: 0
    Images:            1
    Driver:            aufs
    SystemTime:        2018-10-18T13:38:30.960146041Z
    KernelVersion:     4.14.48-yocto-standard
    OperatingSystem:   balenaOS 2.19.0+rev4
    Architecture:      x86_64
    Version:    17.12.0-dev
    ApiVersion: 1.35

Push over a new project

Now that we know where our device is on the network we can start pushing some code to it. To do this, we use the balena local push command. This command instructs the device to do a Docker build and then runs your container in the same configuration as the balena device supervisor supervisor would. You can either pass the command your device's IP address or <short-uuid>.local name. If you leave this out, you will be presented with a list of devices to choose from.


sudo balena local push f340127.local -s .


* Building..
- Stopping and Removing any previous 'rainbow' container
- Building new 'rainbow' image
Step 1 : FROM /raspberrypi3-python:3-slim
 ---> aa2d93575b6c
Step 2 : WORKDIR /usr/src/app
 ---> Using cache
 ---> b94e519dbdf9
Step 3 : COPY requirements.txt ./
 ---> 3485a10ad432
Removing intermediate container 42b4f5138e73
Step 4 : RUN pip install -r requirements.txt
 ---> Running in f1814424d7e6
Collecting Flask==0.10.1 (from -r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading Flask-0.10.1.tar.gz (544kB)
Collecting Werkzeug>=0.7 (from Flask==0.10.1->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading Werkzeug-0.12-py2.py3-none-any.whl (312kB)
Collecting Jinja2>=2.4 (from Flask==0.10.1->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading Jinja2-2.9.5-py2.py3-none-any.whl (340kB)
Collecting itsdangerous>=0.21 (from Flask==0.10.1->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading itsdangerous-0.24.tar.gz (46kB)
Collecting MarkupSafe>=0.23 (from Jinja2>=2.4->Flask==0.10.1->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
  Downloading MarkupSafe-1.0.tar.gz
Installing collected packages: Werkzeug, MarkupSafe, Jinja2, itsdangerous, Flask
  Running install for MarkupSafe: started
    Running install for MarkupSafe: finished with status 'done'
  Running install for itsdangerous: started
    Running install for itsdangerous: finished with status 'done'
  Running install for Flask: started
    Running install for Flask: finished with status 'done'
Successfully installed Flask-0.10.1 Jinja2-2.9.5 MarkupSafe-1.0 Werkzeug-0.12 itsdangerous-0.24
 ---> 0de3e75604ef
Removing intermediate container f1814424d7e6
Step 5 : COPY . .
 ---> 731a390dabbd
Removing intermediate container c18df177d9df
Step 6 : CMD python -u
 ---> Running in 57cac5778640
 ---> 579c2859dd81
Removing intermediate container 57cac5778640
Successfully built 579c2859dd81
- Cleaning up previous image of 'rainbow'
- Creating 'rainbow' container
- Starting 'rainbow' container

rdt push completed successfully!
* Streaming application logs..
 * Running on (Press CTRL+C to quit) - - [10/Mar/2017 21:53:14] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 - - - [10/Mar/2017 21:53:22] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 -

In your code you will still have access to most of the regular balena device features. For example, you will still be able to query and use the supervisor API. However, you will notice that your local mode device will not push logs back to the balena dashboard. You also won't be able to set environment or configuration variables from the dashboard, but you can set them in your .balena-sync.yml.

SSH into the running app container or host OS

If we want to run some test commands in our app container, we can do this easily using balena local ssh. This command drops us directly into the selected container:

sudo balena local ssh f340127.local

To connect to the host OS, we can add the --host option. From here, we can check system logs and perform other troubleshooting tasks:

sudo balena local ssh f340127.local --host

Other useful local commands

There are many other balena local commands, which can be used to stop containers, reconfigure device WiFi and a few other useful things.

local configure <target>            (Re)configure a balenaOS drive or image                          
local flash <image>                 Flash an image to a drive                                       
local logs [deviceIp]               Get or attach to logs of a running container on a balenaOS device
local promote [deviceIp]            Promote a balenaOS device                                        
local ssh [deviceIp]                Get a shell into a balenaOS device                               
local stop [deviceIp]               Stop a running container on a balenaOS device