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Version: 1.11

Preview Environments Using GitLab CI/CD

This section will show you how to automatically create a preview environment for your applications using Okteto and GitLab's review apps.


For this tutorial, we'll be using our sample movies rental application. If you're using your own application to follow along, please ensure you have your Okteto Manifest configured.

Step 1: Configure your Okteto API Token

To deploy a preview environment with Okteto, you need to define the following environment variables:

  1. OKTETO_TOKEN: an Okteto personal access token.
  2. [Optional] OKTETO_URL: Specify the URL of your Okteto instance (e.g., If empty, it will default to

To add the environment variables:

  1. Navigate to your GitLab repository.
  2. Go to the Settings menu on the left, and click on the CI/CD entry.

GitLab settings, CI/CD

  1. Expand the Variables section, and click on the Add Variable button.

GitLab settings, add variables

  1. Add OKTETO_TOKEN as the key, and your personal access token as the value, and press the Add Variable button.

    update variable with Okteto Token

  2. Repeat the same process to add the OKTETO_URL variables (optional)

    environment variables added

Step 2: Configure the Preview Environment on the Repository

To tell GitLab how to deploy our preview environment, you need to create a file named .gitlab-ci.yml file at the root of the repository.

In this file, we'll define two jobs. The review creates a preview environment for every branch and a stop-review job to destroy it when merging or deleting the branch.

The flow to create a preview environment looks like this:

  1. Create a dedicated namespace for the Preview Environment
  2. Build and deploy the application using the Okteto preview defined in the repository.
  3. Add the URL of the Preview Environment to the Merge Request.

The flow to delete a preview environment looks like this:

  1. Destroy the application deployed with the Okteto preview

The .gitlab-ci.yml looks like this:

# file:
image: okteto/okteto:2.18.0

- review

stage: review
- okteto preview deploy review-$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG --scope global --branch $CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME --repository $CI_REPOSITORY_URL --wait

name: review/$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
url: https://movies-review-$
on_stop: stop-review
- branches
- master

stage: review
when: manual
name: review/$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
action: stop
- okteto preview destroy review-$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
- branches
- master

There are two scopes for preview environments, personal, where the only one who has access to the environment is the user, and global, where all cluster members have access to it and do not need to have the user's name at the end of the preview environment name. To create a preview environment with global scope it is necessary to have administrator permissions.

A few recommendations when creating your preview environment:

  • Create a preview environment per branch/merge request to keep things isolated. We use a preview and $CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG in the name to ensure the namespace is unique and that we only create one per branch.
  • Pass the URL of your preview environment using the environment.url key. That way, the reviewers can directly go to the preview environment from GitLab.
  • Delete both the preview environment, and the namespace when the branch is deleted to cut down on manual deletion.

Learn more about the okteto CLI here.

Step 3: Create a Merge Request

Once your changes are in your repository, make a small code change and create a new merge request.

After a few seconds, the workflow will update the pull request with the URL of your preview environment. Click on the View App button, access it, and see your changes running.

GitLab merge request

Step 4: Cleanup

Merging the merge request or deleting the branch automatically triggers the stop-review job we defined in the .gitlab-ci.yml file. The stop-review job will destroy the preview environment automatically for you.

Configure your GitLab Runner in Okteto

Okteto makes it easy to deploy your own GitLab Runner from the Okteto Catalog. Running your runners is useful if you find yourself constantly waiting for shared runners to be available or want to run more complex configurations.

Retrieve the Registration Information

  1. Navigate to your GitLab repository.
  2. Go to the Settings menu on the left, and click on the CI/CD entry.

    settings for GitLab

  3. Expand the Runners section, and copy the URL and registration tokens.

    GitLab specific runners

Deploy your GitLab Runner

  1. Log in using your Okteto account.
  2. Click on the Deploy button on the top.
  3. Choose Catalog as the source, select gitlab-runner from the options below, and click Deploy.

GitLab deploy runner

  1. On the configuration section, add your runner registration token to the runnerRegistrationToken key.

GitLab deploy runner configuration

  1. [Optional] If you're running your own GitLab instance, also update the value of gitlabUrl.
  2. Press the Deploy button.

In a few seconds, your GitLab Runner will be deployed and registered with your repository. To validate this, go back to the Runners section on your repository's settings, and validate that the runner is available there.

GitLab runner registered

To learn more about GitLab Runners, we recommend you check their official documentation.