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A Dynamic Dotfile Manager...

A simple dotfile management system designed to make updating/tweaking configurations a breeze. Dotfile templates are based around a central configuration file which specifies commonly used configuration options. The dotfiles, along with these central configuration files may be distributed to other systems and slightly tweaked to suit the environment.

gem install dotfile


dotfile --help

Usage: dotfile [option] [file]

    -u, --update [FILE]              Update dotfile/s locally.
    -e, --edit FILE                  Edit a matching dotfile with $EDITOR.
    -s, --set OPTION:VALUE[,...]     Temporarily set option values.
    -c, --edit-config                Edit dotfile.conf.
    -l, --edit-local                 Edit dotfile.conf.local.
    -g, --edit-groups                Edit groups.conf.
    -S, --setup                      Prepare the local environment.
    -q, --quiet                      Suppress all non-critical output.
    -v, --version                    Show version number.
    -h, --help                       Show help.

Some commands can be combined. For example, you may want to edit and then update a certain file in a single command:

dotfile -e FILE -u

# Equivalent of...
dotfile -e FILE -u FILE

... or edit the local configuration file and then run a full update.

dotfile -lu

Filenames specified above (FILE) need not be exact, as dotfile will take any matching dotfile/s defined in groups.conf. Where multiple matches are found, dotfile will present a list of choices.

For example, to edit zshrc.template, you might simply type dotfile -e z (assuming you do not have too many files containting the letter "z").

Directory Structure

The dotfile configuration directory should be (in order of preference) $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/dotfile, ~/.config/dotfile or ~/.dotfile. Files or directories referred to in this section will be found under this directory.

The directory should include the following files/directories:

dotfiles/   scripts/   files/   dotfile.conf   groups.conf   exec.rb

Dotfiles are stored as one of two types based on their filename. Files ending in a ".template" suffix will be compiled before updating the local copy. In these files, any instance of {{some_option}} will be substituted with the corresponding some_option: found in dotfile.conf. All other files will be updated as is (these are called "static files").


Each dotfile is part of a "group" which is specified in groups.conf. Each group has it's own directory under dotfiles corresponding to the group name.

Any dotfile within a group that is listed under the option groups in dotfile.conf will be copied over during a full update. See the default/groups.conf file in this repository for more information on how the groups.conf file works.


Scripts to execute before or after installation based on the values of the execute_before/after options in dotfile.conf.

If a script is executable, it will be executed assuming it has a valid shebang line. Otherwise, dotfile will try to guess the interpreter based on the file extension.

If two scripts exist with the same name but a different extension, then they will both be executed (so avoid doing this).


Where there is a file: prefix to an option in a template file, it refers to the corresponding file found in the files directory. The file: prefix to the option should be left off in dotfile.conf.

For example, a theme file specified {{file:x_theme}} in a template file may be written as x_theme: themes/my_theme in dotfile.conf. This file would be found under files/themes/my_theme.

The contents of the file are inserted into the template file at the point of the option.


To override options in dotfile.conf, use the "local" configuration file dotfile.conf.local. Ideally, dotfile.conf will define a set of sensible "base" settings, while dotfile.conf.local, will define settings on a per system basis.

For instance, setting the groups option in dotfile.conf.local, allows you to select only groups relevant to the current system.

If you're using Git to track your files, you'll probably want to either add this file to .gitignore or alternatively use ~/.dotfile.conf.local, which will take priority if it exists.


Template files can substitute in data returned by a method using the syntax {{exec:method_name,arg1,arg2}}. These methods should be defined as class methods of DotfileExec within the exec.rb file in your dotfile directory.


For an example setup, see my own dotfiles repository.

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