1. Workspace Setup

This section is a getting started guide for developers looking to build applications on the Algorand blockchain. Start here to learn what it means to build an application on Algorand and how to get started quickly.

What does it mean to build on Algorand?

Building an application on Algorand means that your application, directly or indirectly, reads from or writes to the Algorand blockchain. Writing to the Algorand blockchain is synonymous with issuing a transaction that will later be confirmed within a block. Reading from the blockchain means reading back transactions that have been confirmed within prior blocks.

A program connects to the Algorand blockchain through an algod client. The algod client requires a valid algod REST endpoint IP address and algod token from an Algorand node that is connected to the network you plan to interact with.

Available tools

Algorand officially supports four SDKs for developing applications on Algorand: Javascript, Java, Python, and Go.

There are also three command-line utilities packaged with Algorand node software: goal, kmd, and algokey.

goal is the primary tool for operating a node and it also contains functionality to manage keys, sign and send transactions, create assets, and perform many of the same or similar functions that are available in the SDKs. Although not required to build an application, developers who run nodes may find it useful to achieve some level of fluency in goal as a complementary tool during testing and validation. goal is required to setup more advanced testing environments using private networks.

kmd is the CLI for the Algorand Key Management daemon and algokey is a standalone utility for generating Algorand accounts and for signing transactions. It is often used as a lightweight offline client for secure key signing. These two tools are not essential for getting started, so details of their use are described elsewhere.

There are also REST APIs available for both algod and kmd processes.

Choosing a network

There are three public Algorand Networks paired with the functionality to create private networks using any protocol version.

MainNet is the primary Algorand Network with real-value assets, including Algorand's native currency - the Algo. TestNet mirrors MainNet in terms of its protocol (i.e. software) version, but it has test Algos, available via a faucet, and a different genesis block, which means that the state of accounts and distribution of funds is different. BetaNet is where new protocol-level features will be released for initial testing. Therefore, quality and features may not be final, and protocol upgrades and network restarts are common.

If your application depends on features currently available on MainNet, use TestNet as your public testing network. If your application depends on features only available on BetaNet, use BetaNet as your public testing network. In all cases, use private networks, as needed, for greater control and isolation of your development environment.

If you are not sure which network to start with, TestNet is usually a good option as it allows you to develop against live features without risking real assets. Switching networks later will be trivial.

Side-by-side Network Comparison

MainNet TestNet BetaNet
Protocol Version Current Current Future
Genesis Distribution Unique Unique Unique
Algo Accessibility For sale Free from faucet Free from faucet
Network Reliability Most Stable Very Stable, but restarts are possible Experimental; frequent restarts

How do I obtain an algod address and token?

There are three recommended ways to obtain an algod REST endpoint IP address and access token that each have their respective pros and cons depending on what your goals are. Below is an explanation of each followed by a side-by-side comparison.

  1. Use a third-party service
  2. Use Docker Sandbox
  3. Run your own node

1. Use a third-party service

This method is recommended if you plan to use only the SDKs or the algod RESTful interface, and want to get connected as fast as possible.

A third-party service runs a node and provides access to that node through its own API keys. On signup, the service provides you with an algod address and an API key which will replace your algod token.

See the list of known API services on the Community Projects page.

2. Use Docker Sandbox

This method is recommended if you need access to all developer tools including goal, kmd, and algokey, but can't wait days for your node to catchup.

Visit this Github link for Sandbox setup instructions.

Warning

Bootstrapping from a snapshot bypasses the normal node catchup procedure that cryptographically verifies the whole history of the blockchain - a procedure that is imperative to maintaining a healthy network. Therefore, this method is only recommended in the context of early-stage application development to avoid catchup wait times and get started quickly. It should never be used to run a node in production or participate in consensus. Make sure that you migrate your application to a node that has undergone full catchup prior to launching your application in production.

3. Run your own node

This method is recommended if you need access to all developer tools including goal, kmd, and algokey, and want to setup a production-ready environment. This is the recommended follow-on to option 2 before launching an application on MainNet. This method gives you full control of your node and its configuration.

Read the docs to setup and run a node.

After setup, find your REST endpoint's IP address here:

$ cat $ALGORAND_DATA/algod.net

and your algod token (required by your application to authenticate against algod) here:

$ cat $ALGORAND_DATA/algod.token

Side-by-Side Comparison

Use a third-party service Use Docker Sandbox Run your own node
Time Seconds - Just signup Minutes - Same as running a node with no catchup Days - need to wait for node to catchup
Trust 1 party 1 party Yourself
Cost Usually free for development; pay based on rate limits in production Variable (with free option) - see node types Variable (with free option) - see node types
Private Networks
goal, algokey, kmd
Platform Varies MacOS; Linux MacOS; Linux
Production Ready

Install your preferred SDK

Install your preferred SDK by following the setup instructions in the SDK reference docs.

Other Setup Tips

If you use goal, it is recommended that you set the ALGORAND_DATA environment variable to avoid the need to specify it for each goal command. It is also recommended that you place goal, kmd, and algokey within your executable path. The examples in these docs will assume you have done both of these.

So you will use:

$ goal node status 

instead of:

$ goal node status -d <your-node-directory>