Environment Setup

In many of the subsequent lessons, we'll be directly interacting with the AWS DynamoDB APIs. To do this, we'll need to set up our environment.

Install the AWS CLI

The AWS CLI is a nice command line utility for interacting with AWS services.

$ pip install awscli

If you have trouble installing it, check the install instructions here.

Get IAM credentials

If you want to use a real AWS account, you'll need to set up your environment with the proper IAM credentials. You can read the AWS docs on doing that here.

The quickest route is to create an IAM profile with full DynamoDB permissions. The Policy statement would look like:

  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
      "Resource": "*"

Once you have the keys for your IAM user, you can add your profile with aws configure:

$ aws configure
AWS Secret Access Key [None]: wJalrXUtnFEMI/K7MDENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY
Default region name [None]: us-west-2
Default output format [None]: json

(Optional) Use DynamoDB Local

AWS has a downloadable version of DynamoDB that you can run locally. This is ideal if you don't want to configure a real AWS account or if you want to avoid any AWS charges.

To use it, download the zip file and unzip it:

$ curl -O https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/dynamodb-local/dynamodb_local_latest.zip
$ unzip dynamodb_local_latest.zip
$ rm dynamodb_local_latest.zip

Then start your DynamoDB local instance:

$ java -Djava.library.path=./DynamoDBLocal_lib -jar DynamoDBLocal.jar -sharedDb

Initializing DynamoDB Local with the following configuration:
Port:	8000
InMemory:	false
DbPath:	null
SharedDb:	true
shouldDelayTransientStatuses:	false
CorsParams:	*

If you see the initialization message in your terminal, you've successfully started the DynamoDB Local emulator. You're now ready to get started.

The $LOCAL variable

If you want to use the DynamoDB local emulator, you'll need to append the following flag to all commands given in the examples:

--endpoint-url http://localhost:8000

I don't like typing the full flag every time so I export it to a variable and use that shorthand:

$ export LOCAL="--endpoint-url http://localhost:8000"

$ aws dynamodb list-tables $LOCAL

All examples will include the $LOCAL flag for easier copy-paste functionality. If you are using a real AWS account rather than the DynamoDB local emulator, make sure the $LOCAL variable is unset in your terminal.