Environment for writing Michelson contracts

Here is how to setup a practical environment for writing, editing and debugging Michelson programs.

Install Emacs and configure it to use the MELPA package repository.

Inside Emacs, install the michelson-mode package and its dependency deferred by running M-x package-install-file; the package file is located in the emacs folder of the Tezos code base.

Set up the Michelson mode to use the Tezos client in mockup mode (to typecheck Michelson scripts without interacting with a Tezos node) by adding in your .emacs file:

(setq michelson-client-command "tezos-client --base-dir /tmp/mockup --mode mockup --protocol ProtoALphaALphaALphaALphaALphaALphaALphaALphaDdp3zK")
(setq michelson-alphanet nil)

Note that the Michelson mode will be chosen automatically by Emacs for files with a .tz or .tez extension.

We can now open our favourite contract tests_python/contracts_alpha/attic/ in Emacs and, when moving the cursor on a Michelson instruction, in the bottom of the windows Emacs should display the state of the stack before (left) and after (right) the application of the instruction. The Emacs mode automatically type-checks your program and reports errors; once you are happy with the result you can ask the client to run it locally:

tezos-client run script ./tests_python/contracts_alpha/attic/ \
             on storage '"hello"' and input '"world"'

Admin Client

The admin client enables you to interact with the peer-to-peer layer in order to:

  • check the status of the connections

  • force connections to known peers

  • ban/unban peers

A useful command to debug a node that is not syncing is:

tezos-admin-client p2p stat

Tezos binaries: signals and exit codes

Signals: Upon receiving SIGINT (e.g., via Ctrl+C in an interactive session) or SIGTERM (e.g., via systemctl stop) the process will exit (with code 64 or 255, see details below). Note that sending the same signal a second time (after a one (1) second grace period) will terminate the process immediately, interrupting the normal clean-up functions of clean-up (in this case the exit code will be 255).

Exit codes: The meaning of exit codes is presented in the following table. The action column indicates a recommended course of action.

exit code




the process exited successfully



something went unexpectedly

check output/log to see if you forgot an argument or some such


an exception was not handled

report a bug


the process received a signal (e.g., via Ctrl-C)



the process was about to exit successfully but an error occurred during exit

check output/logs, clean-up leftover files, open a bug report


like 1–125 and an error occurred during exit

check output/logs, clean-up leftover files, open a bug report


like 126 and an error and an error occurred during exit

check output/logs, clean-up leftover files, open a bug report


like 127 but an error and an error occurred during exit (e.g., kill -9)

check output/logs, clean-up leftover files

Failing_noop operation

Starting with protocol 009 a Failing_noop operation is added. This operation is not executable in the protocol and will always fail when injected. It allows to sign an arbitrary string that cannot be misinterpreted in the protocol.

The client has commands to sign a message with a given key or to check that message has been signed by a given key. These commands create a failing_noop operation from the message that is being signed or checked.

tezos-client sign message "hello world" for <account>

tezos-client check that message "hello world" was signed by <account> to
produce <signature>