Getting Started

This guide will walk you through setting up your own WriteFreely instance. For fully-managed hosting without the technical work, see our hosting plans — if not, read on!


WriteFreely has minimal requirements to get up and running. You'll only need:

Set Up

First, download the latest release for your operating system. If your OS and system architecture are not listed, you'll need to build from source, instead.

Connect to your MySQL server and run:

CREATE DATABASE writefreely;

We'd also recommend creating a dedicated user that only has basic privileges on this writefreely database. Now import the application's schema with:

mysql -u YOURUSERNAME -p writefreely < schema.sql

Extract the files and go into the project folder. Generate the encryption keys for your instance by running:

writefreely --gen-keys

Start the configuration process by running:

writefreely --config

This will walk you through the various ways you can configure your instance, and ask you for your database credentials. Once you've successfully finished the configuration process, it's time to run:



Running in Production

To run your instance publicly, you can either run WriteFreely as a standalone server or put it behind a reverse proxy.

Standalone server

To configure the application to run as a standalone server, run writefreely --config and choose Production, standalone for your Environment.

Next, choose whether the site will be Insecure or Secure. If you choose Secure, you'll need to enter the absolute paths to your Certificate and Key. With those configured, WriteFreely will serve traffic on port 80 and 443, redirecting all insecure traffic to your https:// address.

Behind a reverse proxy

Here's an example nginx configuration. It compresses certain files, allows federation endpoints on /.well-known/ to co-exist with other uses (like Let's Encrypt), and serves static files with nginx instead of the application. Values you should change to match your own configuration are in bold:

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;


    gzip on;
    gzip_min_length 256;
    gzip_comp_level 5;
    gzip_http_version 1.1;
    gzip_vary on;

    location ~ ^/.well-known/(webfinger|nodeinfo|host-meta) {
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $remote_addr;
        proxy_redirect off;

    location ~ ^/(css|img|js|fonts)/ {
        root /var/www/;
        # Optionally cache these files in the browser:
        # expires 12M;

    location / {
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $remote_addr;
        proxy_redirect off;

At this point, it'd be a great time to get a certificate from Let's Encrypt for your instance.

Lastly, you'll want to set the application up so it continues running. Here's how to do it on Ubuntu.

Ubuntu 14.10 or earlier. You can create an Upstart service by creating a file at /etc/init/writefreely.conf:

description "WriteFreely Instance"
author " "

start on runlevel [2345]
stop on runlevel [016]

chdir /var/www/
exec /var/www/ >> /var/log/writefreely.log

Then start the service and you're live!

sudo start writefreely

Ubuntu 15.04 or later. You can create a Systemd service by creating a file at /etc/systemd/system/writefreely.service:

Description=Write Freely Instance

ExecStart=/var/www/ >> /var/log/writefreely.log


Then start the service and you're live!

sudo systemctl start writefreely