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A knife plugin facilitating installing, updating, and tracking Chef cookbooks found on Github.


gem install knife-github-cookbooks


The current "repo of cookbooks" pattern of sharing neglects Chef's core unit of currency: the cookbook. Excellent cookbooks that developers have labored over for hours are lost in the sea of forks of opscode/cookbooks, hidden from the prying eyes of Google. Just look at this mess:

There's also the Opscode Community, which presents users with a cookbook, but no way to see what it contains without downloading a tarball. This feels vauguely like ... SourceForge.

For pete's sake, folks, I thought this was DevOps! I'm a developer. I spend hours on Github everyday. Cookbooks should be individual Github repos, with all of the bells and whistles that come along with it. The network graph! Pull requests! Issues! The tools of a developer! Tarballs? Tarballs are what a smelly sysadmin downloads between games of Quake.

The hedgehog knows what I'm talking about:

And this:


Installing Cookbooks

Say you wanted to install the yum cookbook located at To do so, you'd run the following command:

knife cookbook github install cookbooks/yum

The repo at will be cloned into a temporary directory, moved into cookbooks/yum using the familiar vendor branch pattern, and the resulting files committed into the repo with a log message like so:

Import cookbooks/yum version 8c6f4082482b5f9d93e9b8256c23a7add03aa0fb

By default, the public git:// URI will be used. To clone a private repo via the git@ URI, pass the -S option:

knife cookbook github install my_stealthy_startup/secret_sauce -S

Tracking Cookbook Changes

Say you've seen some activity on one of the cookbooks you're using and you want to see what's new. There's magic for that too! Say you installed papercavalier's mongodb cookbook on May 1st, and want to see what's new. When you run the following command:

knife cookbook github compare mongodb

The local git log will be parsed to see what revision the cookbook was at when it was installed, and the Github compare view will be launched:

If you want to get up to date, another quick call to the install command will get the cookbook updated:

knife cookbook github install papercavalier/mongodb-cookbook

But wait! Say you've noticed that someone (in this case, erkki) has forked the mongo cookbook. To see what they've added, just run the following:

knife cookbook github compare mongodb erkki

Working with branches other than master

If someone's made changes in another branch, you can compare the changes like so:

knife cookbook github compare mongodb jnewland/fix-bug

Then install those changes like so:

knife cookbook github install jnewland/mongodb/fix-bug

Epic. The tools of a developer.


This plugin only supports installing repositories that contain a single repository at the top-level. I do not plan to support installing cookbooks contained in a repository like opscode/cookbooks, because I feel this is a broken pattern for storing and sharing cookbooks.

If the repo you're trying to install is prefixed or suffixed with chef and/or cookbook, this will be stripped from the repo name. For example, running:

knife cookbook github install my_stealthy_startup/chef-nosql_cookbook

...will create the cookbook in the cookbooks/nosql directory.


This plugin does not support automatically fetching cookbook dependencies, since version constraints are numeric and cookbook names can't specify the Github user. If you have an clever ideas for how this should work, hit me up.

Bundler has been tried (see Bundler's pull request history), but is a no-go until it fixes its Git repo support. Git repo support was not a priority for Bundler core devs, so anyone should be aware if they do try to revisit this.


  • git
  • chef ~> 0.10.0


Jesse Newland
jnewland on freenode


Author:: Jesse Newland (<>)
Copyright:: Copyright (c) 2011 Webster Clay, LLC
License:: Apache License, Version 2.0

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.