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Dotfile Management Made Easy

dotfiles is a tool to make managing your dotfile symlinks in $HOME easy, allowing you to keep all your dotfiles in a single directory.

Hosting is up to you. You can use a VCS like git, Dropbox, or even rsync to distribute your dotfiles repository across multiple hosts.

One or more repositories can be specified at runtime or with an environment variable, so you can manage multiple repositories without hassle.

You can choose to have your dotfiles linked with symbolic links or copied into place, either way dotfiles will keep track of what's missing and what's different.

dotfiles is unique in the way it manages links and copies. The entire directory structure leading to a file is preserved and only the file itself is considered managed. This allows managed and unmanaged files to live next to each other without needing to specify complicated ignore rules. If you want to be less selective, you can specify a directory that contains several files, and dotfiles will grab all of them in whatever hierarchy they exist.

Upgrading From An Old Version

Much has changed in the most recent version. If you're considering upgrading it's probably best to unlink everything and start with an empty repository. This can be done with the following command:

$ dotfiles --unsync


There are a few ways to install this thing. The easiest way is using whatever package manager is available on your OS if there is an official package available.

If not, you can install globally with pip:

$ pip install dotfiles

If you don't want to or don't have permission to install it globally, you can install it just for your user:

$ pip install --user dotfiles

If you just want to run it directly from the source tree, you can do that too:

$ git clone
$ cd dotfiles
$ git submodule update --init
$ ./bin/dotfiles --help

Note: the source tree example above will run whatever code has been committed to your current checkout, whereas pip will fetch the latest official version from pypi. This might be what you want, but you should be aware.

Getting Help And Discovering Commands

dotfiles uses click for its CLI interface, so every subcommand accepts the --help flag to offer additional information on what is available. The aim is for this information to be sufficient for use. At some point I'll write a manpage, but do file a bug if any of the usage information is inaccurate or misleading.


-a, --add <file...> Add dotfile(s) to the repository.

-c, --check Check for missing or unsynced dotfiles.

-l, --list List currently managed dotfiles, one per line.

-r, --remove <file...> Remove dotfile(s) from the repository.

-s, --sync [file...] Update dotfile symlinks. You can overwrite colliding files with -f or --force. All dotfiles are assumed if you do not specify any files to this command.

-m, --move <path> Move dotfiles repository to another location, updating all symlinks in the process.

For all commands you can use the --dry-run option, which will print actions and won't modify anything on your drive.


To install dotfiles, simply:

$ pip install dotfiles

Or, if you absolutely must:

$ easy_install dotfiles

But, you really shouldn't do that.

If you want to work with the latest version, you can install it from the repository_:

$ git clone
$ cd dotfiles
$ ./bin/dotfiles --help


To install your dotfiles on a new machine, you might do this:

$ git clone Dotfiles
$ dotfiles --sync

To add '~/.vimrc' to your repository:

$ dotfiles --add ~/.vimrc     (relative paths work also)

To make it available to all your hosts:

$ cd ~/Dotfiles
$ git add vimrc
$ git commit -m "Added vimrc, welcome aboard!"
$ git push

You get the idea. Type dotfiles --help to see the available options.


You can choose to create a configuration file to store personal customizations. By default, dotfiles will look for ~/.dotfilesrc. You can change this with the -C flag. An example configuration file might look like:

repository = ~/Dotfiles
ignore = [
externals = {
    '.bzr.log':     '/dev/null',
    '.uml':         '/tmp'}

You can also store your configuration file inside your repository. Put your settings in .dotfilesrc at the root of your repository and dotfiles will find it. Note that ignore and externals are appended to any values previously discovered.


Dotfiles are stored in the repository with no prefix by default. So, ~/.bashrc will link to ~/Dotfiles/bashrc. If your files already have a prefix, . is common, but I've also seen _, then you can specify this in the configuration file and dotfiles will do the right thing. An example configuration in ~/.dotfilesrc might look like:

prefix = .


You may want to link some dotfiles to external locations. For example, bzr writes debug information to ~/.bzr.log and there is no easy way to disable it. For that, I link ~/.bzr.log to /dev/null. Since /dev/null is not within the repository, this is called an external. You can have as many of these as you like. The list of externals is specified in the configuration file:

externals = {
    '.bzr.log':     '/dev/null',
    '.adobe':       '/tmp',
    '.macromedia':  '/tmp'}


If you're using a VCS to manage your repository of dotfiles, you'll want to tell dotfiles to ignore VCS-related files. For example, I use git, so I have the following in my ~/.dotfilesrc:

ignore = [

Any file you list in ignore will be skipped. The ignore option supports glob file patterns.


Many programs store their configuration in ~/.config. It's quite cluttered and you probably don't want to keep all its content in your repository. For this situation you can use the packages setting:

packages = ['config']

This tells dotfiles that the contents of the config subdirectory of your repository must be symlinked to ~/.config. If for example you have a directory config/awesome in your repository, it will be symlinked to ~/.config/awesome.

This feature allows one additional level of nesting, but further subdirectories are not eligible for being a package. For example, config is valid, but config/transmission is not valid. Arbitrary nesting is a feature under current consideration.

At the moment, packages can not be added or removed through the command line interface. They must be constructed and configured manually. Once this is done, sync, list, check, and move will do the right thing. Support for add and remove is a current TODO item.


If you'd like to contribute, simply fork the repository, commit your changes, make sure tests pass, and send a pull request. Go ahead and add yourself to AUTHORS or I'll do it when I merge your changes.