How to use Tezos

This How To illustrates the use of the various Tezos binaries as well as some concepts about the network.

The binaries

After a successful compilation, you should have the following binaries:

  • tezos-node: the tezos daemon itself;
  • tezos-client: a command-line client and basic wallet;
  • tezos-admin-client: administration tool for the node;
  • tezos-{baker,endorser,accuser}-alpha: daemons to bake, endorse and accuse on the Tezos network (see How to run Tezos);
  • tezos-signer: a client to remotely sign operations or blocks (see Signer);

Note that Alphanet and Zeronet only support the last version of the protocol which is always called alpha while Betanet must also support all past protocols. For this reason the name of the 3 daemons in Betanet contains the incremental number and the partial hash of the protocol they are bound to, such as tezos-{baker,endorser,accuser}-002-PsYLVpVv.

Read The Friendly Manual

The manual of each binary can be obtained with the command man and the verbosity can be increased with -v. To use one specific command, type the command without arguments to see possible completions and options. It is also possible to search a keyword in the manual with man keyword. The full documentation is also available online Client manual.

tezos-client man -v 3
tezos-client transfer
tezos-client man set


The node is effectively the Tezos blockchain and it has two main functions: running the gossip network and updating the context. The gossip network is where all Tezos nodes exchange blocks and operations with each other (see Admin Client to monitor p2p connections). Using this peer-to-peer network, an operation originated by a user can hop several times through other nodes until it finds its way in a block baked by a baker. Using the blocks it receives on the gossip network the shell also keeps up to date the current context, that is the full state of the blockchain shared by all peers. Approximately every minute a new block is created and, when the shell receives it, it applies each operation in the block to its current context and computes a new context. The last block received on a chain is also called the head of that chain. Each new head is then advertised by the node to its peers, disseminating this information to build a consensus across the network.

Other than passively observing the network, your node can also inject its own new operations when instructed by the tezos-client and even send new blocks when guided by the tezos-baker-alpha. The node has also a view of the multiple chains that may exist concurrently and selects the best one based on its fitness (see Proof-of-stake in Tezos).

Node identity

First we need to generate a new identity in order for the node to connect to the network:

tezos-node identity generate

The identity comprises a pair of cryptographic keys that nodes use to encrypt messages sent to each other, and an antispam-PoW stamp proving that enough computing power has been dedicated to creating this identity. Note that this is merely a network identity and it is not related in any way to a Tezos address on the blockchain.

Node synchronization

Whenever a node starts, it tries to retrieve the most current head of the chain from its peers. This can be a long process if there are many blocks to retrieve (e.g when a node is launched for the first time, or has been out of sync for a while), or on a slow network connection.

Once the synchronization is complete, the node is said to be bootstrapped. Some operations require the node to be bootstrapped.

Node protocol

A Tezos node can switch from one protocol to another during its execution. This typically happens during the synchronization phase when a node launches for the first time. The node starts with the genesis protocol and then switches to the alpha protocol.


All blockchain data is stored under $HOME/.tezos-node/.

If for some reason your node is misbehaving or there has been an upgrade of the network, it is safe to remove this directory, it just means that your node will take some time to resync the chain.

If removing this directory, please note that if it took you a long time to compute your node identity, keep the identity.json file and instead only remove the child store and context directories.

If you are also running a baker make sure that it has access to the .tezos-node directory of the node.

RPC interface

The only interface to the node is through JSON RPC calls and it is disabled by default. A more detailed documentation can be found in the RPC index. The RPC interface must be enabled in order for the clients to communicate with the node, but is should not be publicly accessible on the internet. With the following command it is available uniquely on the localhost address of your machine, on the default port 8732.

tezos-node run --rpc-addr

The node listens by default on port 19732 so it is advisable to open incoming connections to that port. You can read more about the node configuration and its private mode.


Tezos client can be used to interact with the node, it can query its status or ask the node to perform some actions. For example after starting your node you can check if it has finished synchronizing using

tezos-client bootstrapped

This call will hang and return only when the node is synchronized. We can now check what is the current timestamp of the head of the chain (time is in UTC so it may differ from your local):

tezos-client get timestamp

Beware that the commands available on the client depend on the specific protocol run by the node. For instance, get timestamp isn’t available when the node runs the genesis protocol, which may happen for a few minutes when launching a node for the first time.

A simple wallet

The client is also a basic wallet and after the activation above you will notice that the directory .tezos-client has been populated with 3 files public_key_hashs, public_keys and secret_keys. The content of each file is in JSON and keeps the mapping between aliases (alice in our case) and what you would expect from the name of the file. Secret keys are stored on disk encrypted with a password except when using a hardware wallet (see Ledger support). An additional file contracts contains the addresses of originated contracts, which have the form KT1….

We can for example generate a new pair of keys, which can be used locally with the alias bob:

$ tezos-client gen keys bob

To check the contract has been created:

$ tezos-client list known contracts

Tezos support three different ECC schemes: Ed25519, secp256k1 (the one used in Bitcoin), and P-256 (also called secp256r1). The two latter curves have been added for interoperability with Bitcoin and Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) mostly. Unless your use case require those, you should probably use Ed25519. We use a verified library for Ed25519, and it is generally recommended over other curves by the crypto community, for performance and security reasons.

Make sure to make a back-up of this directory and that the password protecting your secret keys is properly managed.

For more advanced key management we offer ledger support and a remote signer.

Get free tez

In order to test the networks and help users get familiar with the system, on Zeronet and Alphanet you can obtain free tez from a faucet.

This will provide a wallet in the form of a JSON file tz1__xxxxxxxxx__.json, that can be activated with the following command:

tezos-client activate account alice with "tz1__xxxxxxxxx__.json"

If you use the script, you should prefix the file with container: in order to copy it into the docker image: ./ client activate account alice with "container:tz1__xxxxxxxxx__.json"

Let’s check the balance of the new account with:

tezos-client get balance for alice

Please preserve the JSON file, after each reset of Zeronet or Alphanet, you will have to reactivate the wallet.

Please drink carefully and don’t abuse the faucet: it only contains 30,000 wallets for a total amount of 760,000,000ꜩ.


Let’s transfer some tez to the new account:

tezos-client transfer 1 from alice to bob --fee 0.05

The transfer command returns a receipt with all the details of the transaction, including its hash, and then waits for the operation to be included in one block. If you want to simulate a transaction without actually sending it to the network you can use the --dry-run option. As in any blockchain it is advisable to wait several blocks to consider the transaction as final, for an important operation we advice to wait 60 blocks. We can do that with:

tezos-client wait for <operation hash> to be included

In the rare case when an operation is lost, how can we be sure that it will not be included in any future block and re-emit it? After 60 blocks a transaction is considered invalid and can’t be included anymore in a block. Furthermore each operation has a counter (explained in more detail later) that prevents replays so it is usually safe to re-emit an operation that seems lost.

Receipts for operations and blocks

After an operation succeeds, the client prints a receipt of the propagation of the operation to the blockchain. It is possible to review the receipt of a transaction with:

tezos-client get receipt for <operation hash>

Alternatively, the operations stored in the head block can be inspected via an RPC call:

tezos-client rpc get /chains/main/blocks/head/operations

A manager operation, such as a transaction, has 3 important parameters: counter, gas and storage limit. The counter belongs to each account, it increases at each operation signed by that account and enforces some good intuitive properties:

  • each operation is unique: for example if we perform twice the same transfer from alice to bob, even if all the data are the same the counter will be different.
  • each operation is applied once: for example if the transfer above reaches two peers and they both send it to a third peer, it will not apply the transaction twice.
  • operations are applied in order.
  • all previous operations have been applied: if we emit operation n and n+1, and n gets lost then n+1 cannot be applied.

Additionally each operation needs to declare a gas and storage limit, if an operation consumes more than these limits it will fail. Later we’ll learn more about the gas and storage model.

Another interesting field of the receipts are the balance updates showing which account was credited or debited. For the transaction above the updates are symmetrical, alice is debited 1ꜩ and bob is credited the same amount. The same is true for the fees with the difference that the baker is credited and, more importantly, it is not credited immediately on its main account but on its frozen fees account, hence the category freezer. Each delegate has 3 frozen accounts: deposits, fees and rewards. They are frozen because the delegate can’t use them for now, but only after a number cycles.

It is also possible to review the receipt of the whole block:

tezos-client rpc get /chains/main/blocks/head/metadata

Here we always see the deposit that the baker had to put down to bake the block, which is again a debit on its main account paired with a credit on its deposits account, and the creation of a reward, which is a single credit to its rewards account.

An interesting block receipt is the one produced at the end of a cycle as many delegates receive back part of their unfrozen accounts.

Originated accounts and contracts

In Tezos there are two kinds of accounts: implicit and originated.

  • The implicit accounts are the tz1 we have used up to now. They are created with a transfer operation to the account public key hash.
  • Originated accounts have addresses KT1 and are created with an origination operation.

An originated account doesn’t have a corresponding secret key, but is managed by an implicit account. An originated account serves two purposes.

  • delegate tokens (see more here).
  • run Michelson code, in which case it is called a contract.

Let’s originate our first contract and call it id:

tezos-client originate contract id for alice transferring 1 from alice \
             running ./src/bin_client/test/contracts/attic/ \
             --init '"hello"' --burn-cap 0.4

The contract manager is the implicit account alice. The initial balance is 1ꜩ, generously provided by implicit account alice (but it could be from another contract managed by alice too). The contract stores a Michelson program, with Michelson value "hello" as initial storage (the extra quotes are needed to avoid shell expansion). The parameter --burn-cap specifies the maximal fee the user is willing to pay for this operation, the actual fee being determined by the system.

A Michelson contract is semantically a pure function, mapping a pair (parameter, storage) to a pair (list_of_operations, storage). It can be seen equivalently as an object with a single method, and a single attribute. The method updates the state (the storage), and submits operations as a side effect.

For the sake of this example, here is the contract:

parameter string;
storage string;
code {CAR; NIL operation; PAIR};

It specifies the types for the parameter and storage, and implements a function which ignores the parameter and returns the storage unchanged together with an empty list of operations.

Gas and storage cost model

A quick look at the balance updates on the receipt shows that on top of funding the contract with 1ꜩ, alice was also charged an extra cost that is burnt. This cost comes from the storage and is shown in the line Paid storage size diff: 46 bytes, 41 for the contract and 5 for the string "hello". Given that a contract saves its data on the public blockchain that every node stores, it is necessary to charge a fee per byte to avoid abuse and encourage lean programs.

Let’s see what calling a program with a new argument would look like with the --dry-run option:

tezos-client transfer 0 from alice to id --arg '"world"' --dry-run

The transaction would successfully update the storage but this time it wouldn’t cost us anything more than the fee, the reason is that the storage for "world" is the same as for "hello", which has already been paid for. To store more we’ll need to pay more, you can try by passing a longer string.

The other cost associated with running contracts is the gas, which measures how long does a program take to compute. Contrary to storage there is no cost per gas unit, a transfer can require as much gas as it wants, however a baker that has to choose among several transactions is much more likely to include a low gas one because it’s cheaper to run and validate. At the same time bakers also give priority to high fee transactions. This means that there is an implicit cost for gas that is related to the fee offered versus the gas and fees of other transactions.

If you are happy with the gas and storage of your transaction you can run it for real, however it is always a good idea to set explicit limit for both. The transaction fails if the limits are passed.

tezos-client transfer 0 from alice to id --arg '"world"' \
                                         --gas-limit 1475 \
                                         --storage-limit 46

A baker is more likely to include an operation with lower gas and storage limits because it takes less resources to execute so it is in the best interest of the user to pick limits that are as close as possible to the actual use.

More test contracts can be found in directory src/bin_client/test/contracts/. An advanced documentation of the smart contract language is available here. For details and examples, see also


The node allows to validate an operation before submitting it to the network by simply simulating the application of the operation to the current context. In general if you just send an invalid operation e.g. sending more tokens that what you own, the node will broadcast it and when it is included in a block you’ll have to pay the usual fee even if it won’t have an affect on the context. To avoid this case the client first asks the node to validate the transaction and then sends it.

The same validation is used when you pass the option --dry-run, the receipt that you see is actually a simulated one.

Another important use of validation is to determine gas and storage limits. The node first simulates the execution of a Michelson program and takes trace of the amount of gas and storage. Then the client sends the transaction with the right limits for gas and storage based on that indicated by the node. This is why we were able to submit transactions without specifying this limits, they were computed for us.

More information on validation can be found here.

It’s RPCs all the way down

The client communicates with the node uniquely through RPC calls so make sure that the node is listening and that the ports are correct. For example the get timestamp command above is a shortcut for:

tezos-client rpc get /chains/main/blocks/head/header/shell

The client tries to simplify common tasks as much as possible, however if you want to query the node for more specific informations you’ll have to resort to RPCs. For example to check the value of important constants in Tezos, which may differ between Betanet, Alphanet and Zeronet, you can use:

tezos-client rpc get /chains/main/blocks/head/context/constants | jq
  "proof_of_work_nonce_size": 8,
  "nonce_length": 32,
  "max_revelations_per_block": 32,
  "max_operation_data_length": 16384,
  "preserved_cycles": 5,
  "blocks_per_cycle": 4096,
  "blocks_per_commitment": 32,
  "blocks_per_roll_snapshot": 256,
  "blocks_per_voting_period": 32768,
  "time_between_blocks": [
  "endorsers_per_block": 32,
  "hard_gas_limit_per_operation": "400000",
  "hard_gas_limit_per_block": "4000000",
  "proof_of_work_threshold": "70368744177663",
  "tokens_per_roll": "10000000000",
  "michelson_maximum_type_size": 1000,
  "seed_nonce_revelation_tip": "125000",
  "origination_burn": "257000",
  "block_security_deposit": "48000000",
  "endorsement_security_deposit": "6000000",
  "block_reward": "0",
  "endorsement_reward": "0",
  "cost_per_byte": "1000",
  "hard_storage_limit_per_operation": "60000"

You can find more info in the RPCs’ page.