Getting Started with Paco

Once you have the paco command-line installed, to get up and running you will need to:

  1. Create a Paco project.
  2. Create an IAM User and Role in your AWS account.
  3. Connect your Paco project with your IAM User and Role.

Create a Paco project

The paco init command is there to help you get started with a new Paco project. It will let you create a new Paco project from a template and connect that project to your AWS account(s).

First you will use the paco init project command to create a new project. This command takes as a single arguement the name of directory to create with your new Paco project files. Run it with:

$ paco init project <my-paco-project>

You will be presented with a series of questions about your new project.

You will be asked to supply some name and title values. Paco makes an important distinction between a name field and a title field. The name fields are used to construct unique resource names in AWS, while title is for human-readable descriptions.


Name guidelines in Paco

  1. AWS resources have different character set restrictions.
    We recommend using only alphanumeric charcters and the hyphen character in names (a-zA-Z-).
  2. Try to limit names to only 3 to 5 characters.
    Paco name fields are concatenated together to create unique names. Certain AWS resources names are limited to only 32 characters. If you use long names they may be too long for AWS.
  3. Names can not be changed after they provsion AWS resources.
    Names identify resources in AWS. Once you use Paco to create resources in AWS, if you change name fields Paco will no longer know where those resources are. The only way to change a name field is to delete the resources, change the name, and create new ones.

An example set of answers for creating a Paco project:

project_title: My Paco Project
network_environment_name: ne
network_environment_title: My Paco Network
application_name: app
application_title: My Application
aws_default_region: us-west-2
master_account_id: 123456789012

After this you will have a new directory of files that comprises and Paco project.

The path to this Paco Project directory is called your PACO home. The rest of the commands you run will need this path supplied with the –home CLI option. For macos and linux users, there is also a file named which will export an PACO_HOME environment variable to your shell. This environment variable can be used to make it easier by avoiding the need to type out the –home option for every command:

$ source my-paco-project/
(My AWS Paco Project) laptop username$

Create a User and Role in your AWS account

When you run Paco it requires access to your AWS account.

Paco requires access key credentials for an IAM User that has permissions to switch to an IAM Role that delegates full Administrator access.


Why can’t I just use any AWS Access Key with Administrator access with Paco?

Paco requires an IAM User capable of switching to a Role that contains Administrator permissions. Paco does this for security reasons. Paco will ask you for your MFA token from the CLI. As you store an AWS Access Key and Secret in a Paco .credentials file, if this file is accidentaly leaked then unwanted users will not be able to use your key without also being able to access your MFA device.

To install a CloudFormation template that will create a User and Role to use with Paco.

  1. Click on this URL to create a PacoAdminAccess CloudFormation stack in your AWS Account.

  2. Click “Next” and take note that you will create a IAM User with the name paco-admin. If you like you can change this username here.

  3. On the “Configure stack options” screen you can leave everything default and click “Next”. On the “Review PacoInitialization” you can also leave all the defaults click “I acknowledge that AWS CloudFormation might create IAM resources with custom names.” to confirm that this stack can create an IAM User. Finally click “Create stack”.

Create an AWS Access Key and configure MFA

Next you will need to set-up the new User account with an API key:

  1. In the AWS Console, go to the Identity and Access Management (IAM) Service, click on “Users” and click on the User name you supplied earlier. Then click on the “Security credentials” tab.

  2. Set-up multi-factor authentication (MFA). Where it says, “Assigned MFA device” click on “Manage”. Choose “Virtual MFA device” and use either Authy or Google Authenticator on your computer or phone as a virtual MFA device.

  3. Create an AWS Access Key. While still on the “Security credentials” tab, click on “Create access key”. You will be given an “Access key ID” and “Secret access key”. Copy these and you will use them to configure your Paco credentials next.


If you no longer want to use Paco, you can go to CloudFormation and delete the stack that you created. However, before you delete the stack, you will need to return to this user and manually delete the Assigned MFA Device and Access key. If you try and delete the stack without doing this first, you will get the error message “DELETE_FAILED: Cannot delete entity, must delete MFA device first.”.

Connect your Paco project with your AWS account

Next use the paco init credentials command to initialize your credentials. Enter the name of your IAM User if you used the CloudFormation template your role name will be Paco-Admin-Delegate-Role.

$ paco init credentials --home=/path/to/your-paco-project

Paco project credentials initialization

Paco Admin Username: [paco-admin]:
AWS Access Key: KAKIA***********4MXP
AWS Secret Key: 56aU******************57cT
Paco credentials file created at:


It is NOT recommended to store this file in version control.
Paco starter project include a .gitignore file to prevent this.
You can store this file in a secrets mananger or re-create it again
by generating a new AWS Api Key for the Paco Admin User and re-running
this 'paco init credentials' command.

This will create a file named .credentials in your Paco project directory. Starting Paco projects also have a .gitignore file that will prevent you from committing this credentials file to a git repo. You can save this file somewhere secure, or if it is lost use the AWS Console to create a new acccess key for your IAM User and re-run paco init credentials to generate a new .credentials file.

Finally, use the paco validate command to verify your credentials allow you to connect to your AWS account. The paco validate command generates CloudFormation templates and validates them in your AWS account. Validate will never modify resources. It’s a safe command to run to test the state of your Paco proejct.

$ paco validate