Skip to content
Runtime configuration system for Elixir
Branch: master
Clone or download
keathley Merge pull request #44 from DianaOlympos/add-callback-definition-Vapor
Makes Vapor a behaviour to document the callback injected by __using__
Latest commit cd630ad Jun 24, 2019


A complete configuration system for dynamic configuration in elixir applications.

Why Vapor?

Dynamically configuring elixir apps can be hard. There are major differences between configuring applications with mix and configuring applications in a release. Vapor wants to make all of that easy by providing an alternative to mix config for runtime configs. Specifically Vapor can:

  • Find and load configuration from files (JSON, YAML, TOML).
  • Read configuration from environment variables.
  • .env file support for easy local development.
  • Allow developers to programmatically set config values.
  • Watch configuration sources for changes.
  • Lookup speed is comparable to Application.get_env/2.

Vapor provides its own supervision tree that you can add to your application's supervision tree similar to Phoenix.Endpoint or Ecto.Repo. This means that you can start Vapor at any point in your application lifecycle. But because of this tradeoff Vapor will always be started after the release and any kernel modules have started.


Add vapor to your mix dependencies:

def deps do
    {:vapor, "~> 0.2"},


defmodule VaporExample.Config do
  use Vapor

  alias Vapor.Config
  alias Vapor.Provider.{File, Env}

  def start_link(_args \\ []) do
    config =
      |> Config.merge(File.with_path("$HOME/.vapor/config.json"))
      |> Config.merge(Env.with_prefix("APP"))

    Vapor.start_link(__MODULE__, config, name: __MODULE__)

defmodule VaporExample.Application do
  use Application

  def start(_type, _args) do
    children = [

    opts = [strategy: :one_for_one, name: VaporExample.Supervisor]
    Supervisor.start_link(children, opts)

Using the system above the app will not boot until vapor can get a configuration. This can be changed using standard OTP supervision strategies.

Startup guarantees

During the init process Vapor will block until the configuration is loaded. If any error is encountered during the initialization step then after a given number of failures Vapor will halt and tell the supervisor to stop. This is important because dependencies will not be able to boot without proper configuration.


Vapor will apply configuration in the order that it is merged. In the example:

config =
  |> Config.merge(Dotenv.default())
  |> Config.merge(File.with_path("$HOME/.vapor/config.json"))
  |> Config.merge(Env.with_prefix("APP"))

Env will have the highest precedence, followed by File, and finally Dotenv.

Manually setting a configuration value always take precedence over any other configuration source.

Reading config files

Config files can be read from a number of different file types including JSON, TOML, and YAML. Vapor determines which file format to use based on the file extension.

Setting config values

Occasionally you'll need to set values programatically. You can do that like so:

VaporExample.Config.set("key", "value")

Any manual changes to a configuration value will always take precedence over other configuration changes even if the underlying sources change.

Watching config files for changes

You can tell Vapor to watch for changes in your various sources. This allows you to easily change an application by changing your configuration source. If you need to take actions (such as restarting processes in your system) when vapor notices a config change you can implement the handle_change/2 callback:

defmodule VaporExample.Config do
  def handle_change(source, config) do
    # take some action here...

Getting config values

There are multiple ways of getting values out of the configuration:

VaporExample.Config.get("config_key", as: :string)
VaporExample.Config.get("config_key", as: :int)
VaporExample.Config.get("config_key", as: :float)
VaporExample.Config.get("config_key", as: :bool)

If you need to read a nested value you can provide a path to the value needed like so:

VaporExample.Config.get(["my_app", "repo", "port"], as: :int)

Overriding application environment

In some cases you may want to overwrite the keys in the application environment for convenience. While this is generally discouraged it can be a quick way to adopt Vapor. To do this automatically you can provide the overwrite_application_env: true option when starting a config. Vapor will insert values based on the application name. It will convert each key into an atom and insert the values into application env.

If you would like to do this manually then you can overwrite the init callback like so:

defmodule VaporExample.Config do
  def init(config) do
    Application.put_env(:my_app, MyApp.Repo, [
      database: Vapor.get(config, ["my_app", "repo", "database"], as: :string),
      username: Vapor.get(config, ["my_app", "repo", "username"], as: :string),
      password: Vapor.get(config, ["my_app", "repo", "password"], as: :string),
      hostname: Vapor.get(config, ["my_app", "repo", "hostname"], as: :string),
      port: Vapor.get(config, ["my_app", "repo", "port"], as: :int)



There are several built in providers

  • Environment
  • .env files
  • JSON
  • YAML
  • TOML

If you need to create a new provider you can do so with the included Vapor.Provider protocol.

defmodule MyApp.DatabaseProvider do
  defstruct [id: nil]

  defimpl Vapor.Provider do
    def load(db_provider) do

Why does this exist?

Vapor is intended to be used for the configuration of other runtime dependencies such as setting the port for Phoenix.Endpoint or setting the database url for Ecto.Repo. Vapor is not intended for configuration of kernel modules such as :ssh.

If you need to configure lower level modules then you should use Distillery's Provider system. But in my experience most people can get away with configuring most of their dependencies at runtime.

Why not just use distillery's providers for everything?

Distillery provides a set of providers for loading runtime configuration before a release is booted. That means its suitable for configuring modules like :ssh. Those providers are very useful however there are still a few limitations that I need to be able to solve in my daily work:

  • If configuration ends up in Mix config then its still functioning as a global and is shared across all of your running applications.
  • Providers are only run on boot.
  • Limited ability to recover from failures while fetching config from external providers.

Vapor is specifically designed to target all of these use cases.

You can’t perform that action at this time.