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1. Installation Overview

1.1 Choose an Install Type:

Sakai is available for three different installation methods.
  • Demo: this archive provides the quickest and easiest way to try out Sakai. It includes the Tomcat container and pre-built webapps, so that the only prerequisite for getting started is Java (version 1.4.2).
  • Binary: this archive is a kind of Tomcat overlay. If you have a working Tomcat appropriately configured, the binary installation provides a quick way to drop the Sakai application bundle into place without modification. This may be a good choice if you're already comfortable with Sakai installation and configuration, but it is not recommended for a first look at the software.
  • Source: this archive includes only the source code to build Sakai, and therefore calls for separate, preparatory installations of Tomcat and the Maven build tool, along with (most likely) a preferred database.

1.2 Demo Installation

A demo installatation is fairly brief and straightforward. The steps are as follows:
  1. Verify Java Installation and Environment Variables (see the Set up Build Environment section (2.1 - 2.2) of this guide)
  2. Download and unpack the Demo Archive
  3. Start Tomcat with the following commands from the root Tomcat directory:
    OS Sample Output
    Windows: bin\catalina.bat start
    Mac/*nix: bin/ start
    Once Tomcat is started up, you can point your browser to


    This will bring you to the Sakai gateway site where you can log in using the default administrator's account (username="admin" and password="admin"). New user accounts can be created from the admin "User" tool, or using the "New Account" link on the Sakai gateway site. New sites can be created using the admin "Worksite Setup" tool.

    To stop the demo:
    OS Sample Output
    Windows: bin\catalina.bat stop
    Mac/*nix: bin/ stop
Demo Data Storage: The data for a Demo installation is stored in a HypersonicSql database (HSQLDB) which is stored in memory and then written out to files when Tomcat is shut down. These files are located at:


Objects created and modified during runs of the Sakai demo will persist through server restarts. [Warning: HSQLDB is not appropriate for running Sakai in any sort of production environment. For such cases we recommend MySql or Oracle (see Database Configuration)]

Email not configured in the Demo:
  • email detection in Sakai (i.e. mail sent to the Sakai server) is not enabled.
  • email from Sakai (i.e. mail sent from Sakai) is not configured. This would require providing Sakai with an SMTP server to use. See Post-Installation Configuration for more details.

1.3 Binary Installation

The Binary Installation of Sakai provides a shortcut for those that already have Tomcat in place and configured as needed (see Set up Build Environment for details on Tomcat configuration), and it does so by providing a pre-built Sakai that can simply be dropped into Tomcat as an overlay. All you need to do is unpack the Binary archive from within the root Tomcat directory (e.g. $CATALINA_HOME). The appropriate wars, jars, etc., will be deposited in the correct locations.

If you wish to configure a binary installation you'll need to manually create a 'sakai' directory in $CATALINA_HOME to hold your *.properties files, as described in Post-Installation Configuration.

1.4 Source Installation

The Demo and Binary installs described above offer much-abbreviated processes, but they assume that no special configuration is called for. The remainder of this installation guide is devoted to the more rigorous and configurable Source installation, the steps of which may be organized into the following phases:
  1. Set up the build environment, including Java, Tomcat, and Maven.
  2. Build and deploy Sakai by running Maven on the source.
  3. Perform appropriate Post-Installation Configuration of the application.
  4. Carry out the steps for Database Configuration.
The Demo and Binary Installations can freely skip most of these phases, with exceptions noted above. To view detailed breakdowns of these phases use the Table of Contents links at the upper left.