Question

Exception("DATABASE_URL environment variable not defined") When running local server

I built a django app on my local machine, and then used this tutorial to deploy it with app platform (https://docs.digitalocean.com/tutorials/app-deploy-django-app/) The deployment was successful.

However, now when I try to run my django app locally to continue development, I’m getting the following error:

…/settings.py", line 95, in <module> raise Exception(“DATABASE_URL environment variable not defined”) Exception: DATABASE_URL environment variable not defined

Current settings in settings.py: DEVELOPMENT_MODE = os.getenv(“DEVELOPMENT_MODE”, “False”) == “True”

DEBUG = os.getenv(“DEBUG”, “False”) == “True”

I am unsure of how to reset my settings.py file so that it points to a local sqlite3 db for development.


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Jon Friesen
DigitalOcean Employee
DigitalOcean Employee badge
December 16, 2022

👋 @43e88fede83e446f9e392debd41d3c

Giving that tutorial a quick read over, it looks like you’ll need to set an environment variable to indicate that you’re in a development environment.

So in your dev env, set DEVELOPMENT_MODE=true.

This way the code will use a sqlite db instead of looking for a postgres instance, snippet from the tutorial:


if DEVELOPMENT_MODE is True:
    DATABASES = {
        "default": {
            "ENGINE": "django.db.backends.sqlite3",
            "NAME": os.path.join(BASE_DIR, "db.sqlite3"),
        }
    }

The dev env defaults to being disabled just above the snippet above:


# Database
# https://docs.djangoproject.com/en/3.1/ref/settings/#databases
DEVELOPMENT_MODE = os.getenv("DEVELOPMENT_MODE", "False") == "True"