An rbenv plugin that safely sets global and per-project environment variables
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This is a plugin for rbenv that lets you set global and project-specific environment variables before spawning Ruby processes.


Make sure you have the latest version of rbenv, then run:

git clone $(rbenv root)/plugins/rbenv-vars


Define environment variables in an .rbenv-vars file in your project, one variable per line, in the format VAR=value. For example:


You can perform variable substitution with the traditional $ syntax. For example, to append to GEM_PATH:


You may also have conditional variable assignments, such that a variable will only be set if it is not already defined or is blank:

JAVA_OPTS?=-server -Xmx768m -Xms768m -Xmn128m -Xss20m

In the above case, JAVA_OPTS will only be set if $JAVA_OPTS is currently empty (i.e., if [ -z "$JAVA_OPTS" ] is true).

Spaces are allowed in values; quoting is not necessary. Expansion and command substitution are not allowed. Lines beginning with # or any lines not in the format VAR=value will be ignored.

Variables specified in the ~/.rbenv/vars file will be set first. Then variables specified in .rbenv-vars files in any parent directories of the current directory will be set. Variables from the .rbenv-vars file in the current directory are set last.

Use the rbenv vars command to print all environment variables in the order they'll be set.

Version History

1.2.0 (January 9, 2013)

  • Fixed a bug where source files without a trailing newline could concatenate improperly with other source files on systems with GNU sed.
  • Changed the output of rbenv vars to include the source file path in a comment above its variables, and an empty line between each source file, for easier debugging.
  • Added support for rbenv help vars with rbenv 0.4.0.

1.1.0 (June 25, 2012)

  • Added support for conditional variable assignments using ?=. Thanks to Scott Gonyea for the patch.

1.0.0 (September 27, 2011)

  • Initial public release.


© 2012 Sam Stephenson. Released under the MIT license. See LICENSE for details.