This program is experimental and its interface is subject to change.


nix develop - run a bash shell that provides the build environment of a derivation


nix develop [option...] installable


  • Start a shell with the build environment of the default package of the flake in the current directory:

    # nix develop

    Typical commands to run inside this shell are:

    # configurePhase
    # buildPhase
    # installPhase

    Alternatively, you can run whatever build tools your project uses directly, e.g. for a typical Unix project:

    # ./configure --prefix=$out
    # make
    # make install
  • Run a particular build phase directly:

    # nix develop --unpack
    # nix develop --configure
    # nix develop --build
    # nix develop --check
    # nix develop --install
    # nix develop --installcheck
  • Start a shell with the build environment of GNU Hello:

    # nix develop nixpkgs#hello
  • Record a build environment in a profile:

    # nix develop --profile /tmp/my-build-env nixpkgs#hello
  • Use a build environment previously recorded in a profile:

    # nix develop /tmp/my-build-env
  • Replace all occurrences of the store path corresponding to glibc.dev with a writable directory:

    # nix develop --redirect nixpkgs#glibc.dev ~/my-glibc/outputs/dev

    Note that this is useful if you're running a nix develop shell for nixpkgs#glibc in ~/my-glibc and want to compile another package against it.

  • Run a series of script commands:

    # nix develop --command bash -c "mkdir build && cmake .. && make"


nix develop starts a bash shell that provides an interactive build environment nearly identical to what Nix would use to build installable. Inside this shell, environment variables and shell functions are set up so that you can interactively and incrementally build your package.

Nix determines the build environment by building a modified version of the derivation installable that just records the environment initialised by stdenv and exits. This build environment can be recorded into a profile using --profile.

The prompt used by the bash shell can be customised by setting the bash-prompt, bash-prompt-prefix, and bash-prompt-suffix settings in nix.conf or in the flake's nixConfig attribute.

Flake output attributes

If no flake output attribute is given, nix develop tries the following flake output attributes:

  • devShells.<system>.default

  • packages.<system>.default

If a flake output name is given, nix develop tries the following flake output attributes:

  • devShells.<system>.<name>

  • packages.<system>.<name>

  • legacyPackages.<system>.<name>


  • --build

    Run the build phase.

  • --check

    Run the check phase.

  • --command / -c command args

    Instead of starting an interactive shell, start the specified command and arguments.

  • --configure

    Run the configure phase.

  • --ignore-environment / -i

    Clear the entire environment (except those specified with --keep).

  • --install

    Run the install phase.

  • --installcheck

    Run the installcheck phase.

  • --keep / -k name

    Keep the environment variable name.

  • --phase phase-name

    The stdenv phase to run (e.g. build or configure).

  • --profile path

    The profile to operate on.

  • --redirect installable outputs-dir

    Redirect a store path to a mutable location.

  • --unpack

    Run the unpack phase.

  • --unset / -u name

    Unset the environment variable name.

Common evaluation options

  • --arg name expr

    Pass the value expr as the argument name to Nix functions.

  • --arg-from-file name path

    Pass the contents of file path as the argument name to Nix functions.

  • --arg-from-stdin name

    Pass the contents of stdin as the argument name to Nix functions.

  • --argstr name string

    Pass the string string as the argument name to Nix functions.

  • --debugger

    Start an interactive environment if evaluation fails.

  • --eval-store store-url

    The URL of the Nix store to use for evaluation, i.e. to store derivations (.drv files) and inputs referenced by them.

  • --impure

    Allow access to mutable paths and repositories.

  • --include / -I path

    Add path to the Nix search path. The Nix search path is initialized from the colon-separated NIX_PATH environment variable, and is used to look up the location of Nix expressions using paths enclosed in angle brackets (i.e., <nixpkgs>).

    For instance, passing

    -I /home/eelco/Dev
    -I /etc/nixos

    will cause Nix to look for paths relative to /home/eelco/Dev and /etc/nixos, in that order. This is equivalent to setting the NIX_PATH environment variable to


    It is also possible to match paths against a prefix. For example, passing

    -I nixpkgs=/home/eelco/Dev/nixpkgs-branch
    -I /etc/nixos

    will cause Nix to search for <nixpkgs/path> in /home/eelco/Dev/nixpkgs-branch/path and /etc/nixos/nixpkgs/path.

    If a path in the Nix search path starts with http:// or https://, it is interpreted as the URL of a tarball that will be downloaded and unpacked to a temporary location. The tarball must consist of a single top-level directory. For example, passing

    -I nixpkgs=https://github.com/NixOS/nixpkgs/archive/master.tar.gz

    tells Nix to download and use the current contents of the master branch in the nixpkgs repository.

    The URLs of the tarballs from the official nixos.org channels (see the manual page for nix-channel) can be abbreviated as channel:<channel-name>. For instance, the following two flags are equivalent:

    -I nixpkgs=channel:nixos-21.05
    -I nixpkgs=https://nixos.org/channels/nixos-21.05/nixexprs.tar.xz

    You can also fetch source trees using flake URLs and add them to the search path. For instance,

    -I nixpkgs=flake:nixpkgs

    specifies that the prefix nixpkgs shall refer to the source tree downloaded from the nixpkgs entry in the flake registry. Similarly,

    -I nixpkgs=flake:github:NixOS/nixpkgs/nixos-22.05

    makes <nixpkgs> refer to a particular branch of the NixOS/nixpkgs repository on GitHub.

  • --override-flake original-ref resolved-ref

    Override the flake registries, redirecting original-ref to resolved-ref.

  • --debug

    Set the logging verbosity level to 'debug'.

  • --log-format format

    Set the format of log output; one of raw, internal-json, bar or bar-with-logs.

  • --print-build-logs / -L

    Print full build logs on standard error.

  • --quiet

    Decrease the logging verbosity level.

  • --verbose / -v

    Increase the logging verbosity level.

Miscellaneous global options

  • --help

    Show usage information.

  • --offline

    Disable substituters and consider all previously downloaded files up-to-date.

  • --option name value

    Set the Nix configuration setting name to value (overriding nix.conf).

  • --refresh

    Consider all previously downloaded files out-of-date.

  • --repair

    During evaluation, rewrite missing or corrupted files in the Nix store. During building, rebuild missing or corrupted store paths.

  • --version

    Show version information.

Options that change the interpretation of installables

  • --expr expr

    Interpret installables as attribute paths relative to the Nix expression expr.

  • --file / -f file

    Interpret installables as attribute paths relative to the Nix expression stored in file. If file is the character -, then a Nix expression will be read from standard input. Implies --impure.


See man nix.conf for overriding configuration settings with command line flags.