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Save your dotfiles once, deploy them everywhere

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Build Status License: GPL v3 Coverage Status PyPI version AUR Python

Save your dotfiles once, deploy them everywhere

Dotdrop makes the management of dotfiles between different hosts easy. It allows to store your dotfiles on git and automagically deploy different versions of the same file on different setups.

It also allows to manage different sets of dotfiles. For example you can have a set of dotfiles for your home laptop and a different set for your office desktop. Those sets may overlap and different versions of the same dotfiles can be deployed on different predefined profiles. Or you may have a main set of dotfiles for your everyday’s host and a sub-set you only need to deploy to temporary hosts (cloud VM, etc) that may be using a slightly different version of some of the dotfiles.


  • Sync once every dotfile on git for different usages
  • Allow dotfiles templating by leveraging jinja2
  • Dynamically generated dotfile content with variables
  • Comparison between local and stored dotfiles
  • Handling multiple profiles with different sets of dotfiles
  • Easy import dotfiles
  • Handle files and directories
  • Allow to symlink dotfiles
  • Associate an action to the deployment of specific dotfiles
  • Associate transformations that allow to store encrypted dotfiles
  • Provide different solutions for handling dotfiles containing sensitive information

Check also the blog post, the example or how people are using dotdrop for more.

Quick start:

mkdir dotfiles && cd dotfiles
git init
git submodule add
sudo pip3 install -r dotdrop/requirements.txt
./ --help

A mirror of this repository is available on gitlab under

Why dotdrop ?

There exist many tools to manage dotfiles however not many allow to deploy different versions of the same dotfile on different hosts. Moreover dotdrop allows to specify the set of dotfiles that need to be deployed on a specific profile.

See the example for a concrete example on why dotdrop rocks.

Table of Contents


There are two ways of installing and using dotdrop, either as a submodule to your dotfiles git tree or system-wide with pypi.

Having dotdrop as a submodule guarantees that anywhere your are cloning your dotfiles git tree from you’ll have dotdrop shipped with it. It is the recommended way.

Below instructions show how to install dotdrop as a submodule. For alternative installation instructions (with virtualenv, pypi, etc), see the wiki installation page.

Dotdrop is also available on aur: * stable: * git version:

As a submodule

The following will create a git repository for your dotfiles and keep dotdrop as a submodule:

$ mkdir dotfiles; cd dotfiles
$ git init
$ git submodule add
$ sudo pip3 install -r dotdrop/requirements.txt
$ ./dotdrop/
$ ./ --help

For MacOS users, make sure to install realpath through homebrew (part of coreutils).

Using this solution will need you to work with dotdrop by using the generated script at the root of your dotfiles repository.

To ease the use of dotdrop, it is recommended to add an alias to it in your shell with the config file path, for example

alias dotdrop=<> --cfg=<path-to-your-config.yaml>'

Finally import your dotfiles as described below.


If starting fresh, the import command of dotdrop allows to easily and quickly get a running setup.

Install dotdrop on one of your host and then import any dotfiles you want dotdrop to manage (be it a file or a directory):

$ dotdrop import ~/.vimrc ~/.xinitrc

Dotdrop does two things:

  • Copy the dotfiles in the dotfiles directory
  • Create the entries in the config.yaml file

Commit and push your changes.

Then go to another host where your dotfiles need to be managed as well, clone the previously setup git tree and compare local dotfiles with the ones stored by dotdrop:

$ dotdrop list
$ dotdrop compare --profile=<other-host-profile>

Then adapt any dotfile using the template feature (if needed) and set a new profile for the current host by simply adding lines in the config files, for example:

    - f_vimrc
    - f_xinitrc
    - f_vimrc

When done, you can install your dotfiles using

$ dotdrop install

That’s it, a single repository with all your dotfiles for your different hosts.

For more options see dotdrop --help.

For easy deployment the default profile used by dotdrop reflects the hostname of the host on which it runs. It can be changed either with the --profile switch or by defining the DOTDROP_PROFILE environment variable.

Install dotfiles

Simply run

$ dotdrop install

Compare dotfiles

Compare local dotfiles with dotdrop’s defined ones:

$ dotdrop compare

The diffing is done by diff in the backend, one can provide specific options to diff using the -o switch.

It is possible to add patterns to ignore when using compare for example when a directory is managed by dotdrop and might contain temporary files that don’t need to appear in the output of compare.

Either use the command line switch -i --ignore or add an entry in the dotfile directly in the cmpignore entry (see Config). The pattern follows Unix shell-style wildcards like for example */path/file. Make sure to quote those when using wildcards in the config file.

It is also possible to install all dotfiles for a specific profile in a temporary directory in order to manually compare them with the local version by using install and the -t switch.

Import dotfiles

Dotdrop allows to import dotfiles directly from the filesystem. It will copy the dotfile and update the config file automatically.

For example to import ~/.xinitrc

$ dotdrop import ~/.xinitrc

You can control how the dotfile key is generated in the config file with the option longkey (per default to false).

Two formats are available:

  • short format (default): take the shortest unique path
  • long format: take the full path

For example ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua gives

  • f_rc.lua in the short format
  • f_config_awesome_rc.lua in the long format

Importing ~/.mutt/colors and then ~/.vim/colors will result in

  • d_colors and d_vim_colors in the short format
  • d_mutt_colors and d_vim_colors in the long format

List profiles

$ dotdrop list

Dotdrop allows to choose which profile to use with the --profile switch if you use something else than the default (the hostname).

The default profile can also be changed by defining the DOTDROP_PROFILE environment variable.

List dotfiles

The following command lists the different dotfiles configured for a specific profile:

$ dotdrop listfiles --profile=<some-profile>

For example:

Dotfile(s) for profile "some-profile":

f_vimrc (file: "vimrc", link: False)
    -> ~/.vimrc
f_dunstrc (file: "config/dunst/dunstrc", link: False)
    -> ~/.config/dunst/dunstrc

By using the -T --template switch, only the dotfiles that are using jinja2 directives are listed.

It is also possible to list all files related to each dotfile entries by invoking the detail command, for example:

$ dotdrop detail

This is especially useful when the dotfile entry is a directory and one wants to have information on the different files (is it a templated file, etc).

Use actions

It is sometimes useful to execute some kind of action when deploying a dotfile. For example let’s consider Vundle is used to manage vim’s plugins, the following action could be set to update and install the plugins when vimrc is deployed:

  vundle: vim +VundleClean! +VundleInstall +VundleInstall! +qall
  backup: true
  create: true
  dotpath: dotfiles
    dst: ~/.vimrc
    src: vimrc
      - vundle
    - f_vimrc

Thus when f_vimrc is installed, the command vim +VundleClean! +VundleInstall +VundleInstall! +qall will be executed.

Sometimes, you may even want to execute some action prior to deploying a dotfile. Let’s take another example with vim-plug:

    vim-plug-install: test -e ~/.vim/autoload/plug.vim || (mkdir -p ~/.vim/autoload; curl
      -fLo ~/.vim/autoload/plug.vim
  vim-plug: vim +PlugInstall +qall
  backup: true
  create: true
  dotpath: dotfiles
    dst: ~/.vimrc
    src: vimrc
       - vim-plug-install
       - vim-plug
    - f_vimrc

This way, we make sure vim-plug is installed prior to deploying the ~/.vimrc dotfile.

You can also define post actions like this:

    some-action: echo "Hello, World!" >/tmp/log

If you don’t specify neither post nor pre, the action will be executed after the dotfile deployment (which is equivalent to post). Actions cannot obviously be named pre or post.

Actions can even be parameterized. For example:

  echoaction: echo '{0}' > {1}
  backup: true
  create: true
  dotpath: dotfiles
    dst: ~/.vimrc
    src: vimrc
      - echoaction "vim installed" /tmp/mydotdrop.log
    dst: ~/.xinitrc
    src: xinitrc
      - echoaction "xinitrc installed" /tmp/myotherlog.log
    - f_vimrc
    - f_xinitrc

The above will execute echo 'vim installed' > /tmp/mydotdrop.log when vimrc is installed and echo 'xinitrc installed' > /tmp/myotherlog.log' when xinitrc is installed.

Use transformations

There are two types of transformations available:

  • read transformations: used to transform dotfiles before they are installed (Config key trans)
    • Used for commands install and compare
    • They have two arguments:
      • {0} will be replaced with the dotfile to process
      • {1} will be replaced with a temporary file to store the result of the transformation
  • write transformations: used to transform files before updating a dotfile (Config key trans_write)
    • Used for command update
    • They have two arguments:
      • {0} will be replaced with the file path to update the dotfile with
      • {1} will be replaced with a temporary file to store the result of the transformation

A typical use-case for transformations is when dotfiles need to be stored encrypted.

Here’s an example of part of a config file to use PGP encrypted dotfiles:

    dst: ~/.secret
    src: secret
    trans: gpg
  gpg: gpg2 -q --for-your-eyes-only --no-tty -d {0} > {1}

The above config allows to store the dotfile ~/.secret encrypted in the dotpath directory and uses gpg2 to decrypt it when install is run.

See the wiki page for a walkthrough on how to deploy this solution as well as more information on transformations: wiki transformation page.

Note that transformations cannot be used if the dotfiles is to be linked (when link: true).

Update dotdrop

If used as a submodule, update it with

$ git submodule update --init --recursive
$ git submodule update --remote dotdrop

You will then need to commit the changes with

$ git add dotdrop
$ git commit -m 'update dotdrop'
$ git push

Or if installed through pypi:

$ sudo pip3 install dotdrop --upgrade

Update dotfiles

Dotfiles managed by dotdrop can be updated using the update command. When updating, only dotfiles that have differences with the stored version are updated. A confirmation is requested from the user before any overwrite/update unless the -f --force switch is used.

Either provide the path of the file containing the new version of the dotfile or provide the dotfile key to update (as found in the config file) along with the -k --key switch. When using the -k --key switch and no key is provided, all dotfiles for that profile are updated.

# update by path
$ dotdrop update ~/.vimrc

# update by key with the --key switch
$ dotdrop update --key f_vimrc

There are two cases when updating a dotfile:

The dotfile doesn’t usetemplating

The new version of the dotfile is copied to the dotfiles directory and overwrites the old version. If git is used to version the dotfiles stored by dotdrop, the git command diff can be used to view the changes.

$ dotdrop update ~/.vimrc
$ git diff

The dotfile usestemplating

The dotfile must be manually updated, two solutions can be used to identify the changes to apply to the template:

  • Use dotdrop’s compare command
# use compare to identify change(s)
$ dotdrop compare --file=~/.vimrc
  • Install the dotfiles to a temporary directory (using the install command and the -t switch) and compare the generated dotfile with the local one.
# use install to identify change(s)
$ dotdrop install -t
Installed to tmp /tmp/dotdrop-6ajz7565
$ diff ~/.vimrc /tmp/dotdrop-6ajz7565/home/user/.vimrc

It is also possible to install only specific dotfiles by providing their keys in the command line. For example for a dotfile having a key f_zshrc in the config file.

$ dotdrop install -t f_zshrc

Store sensitive dotfiles

Two solutions exist, the first one using an unversioned file (see Environment variables) and the second using transformations (see Transformations).


The config file (defaults to config.yaml) is a yaml file containing the following entries:

  • config entry: contains settings for the deployment
    • backup: create a backup of the dotfile in case it differs from the one that will be installed by dotdrop (default true)
    • create: create directory hierarchy when installing dotfiles if it doesn’t exist (default true)
    • dotpath: path to the directory containing the dotfiles to be managed by dotdrop (absolute path or relative to the config file location)
    • banner: display the banner (default true)
    • longkey: use long keys for dotfiles when importing (default false)
    • keepdot: preserve leading dot when importing hidden file in the dotpath (default false)
    • link_by_default: when importing a dotfile set link to that value per default (default false)
    • workdir: directory where templates are installed before being symlink when using link (default ~/.config/dotdrop)
    • showdiff: on install show a diff before asking to overwrite (see --showdiff) (default false)
    • ignoreempty: do not deploy template if empty (default false)
  • dotfiles entry: a list of dotfiles
    • dst: where this dotfile needs to be deployed (can use variables and dynvariables, make sure to quote).
    • src: dotfile path within the dotpath (can use variables and dynvariables, make sure to quote).
    • link: if true dotdrop will create a symlink instead of copying (default false).
    • cmpignore: list of pattern to ignore when comparing (enclose in quotes when using wildcards).
    • actions: list of action keys that need to be defined in the actions entry below.
    • trans: transformation key to apply when installing this dotfile (must be defined in the trans entry below).
    • trans_write: transformation key to apply when updating this dotfile (must be defined in the trans_write entry below).
    • ignoreempty: if true empty template will not be deployed (defaults to the value of ignoreempty above)
  dst: <where-this-file-is-deployed>
  src: <filename-within-the-dotpath>
  # Optional
  link: <true|false>
  ignoreempty: <true|false>
    - "<ignore-pattern>"
    - <action-key>
  trans: <transformation-key>
  trans_write: <transformation-key>
  • profiles entry: a list of profiles with the different dotfiles that need to be managed
    • dotfiles: the dotfiles associated to this profile
    • include: include all dotfiles from another profile (optional)
  - <some-dotfile-key-name-defined-above>
  - <some-other-dotfile-key-name>
  - ...
  # Optional
  - <some-other-profile>
  - ...
  • actions entry (optional): a list of action (see Use actions)
<action-key>: <command-to-execute>
<trans-key>: <command-to-execute>
<trans-key>: <command-to-execute>
  • variables entry (optional): a list of template variables (see Variables)
<variable-name>: <variable-content>
<variable-name>: <shell-oneliner>

All dotfiles for a profile

To use all defined dotfiles for a profile, simply use the keyword ALL.

For example:

    dst: ~/.xinitrc
    src: xinitrc
    dst: ~/.vimrc
    src: vimrc
    - ALL
    - f_vimrc

Include dotfiles from another profile

If one profile is using the entire set of another profile, one can use the include entry to avoid redundancy.

For example:

        - f_xinitrc
        - host2
        - f_vimrc

Here profile host1 contains all the dotfiles defined for host2 plus f_xinitrc.

Ignore empty template

It is possible to avoid having an empty rendered template being deployed by setting the ignoreempty entry to true. This can be set globally for all dotfiles or only for specific dotfiles. For more see the Config.


Dotdrop leverage the power of jinja2 to handle the templating of dotfiles. See jinja2 template doc or the example section for more information on how to template your dotfiles.

Note that dotdrop uses different delimiters than jinja2’s defaults:

  • block start = {%@@
  • block end = @@%}
  • variable start = {{@@
  • variable end = @@}}
  • comment start = {#@@
  • comment end = @@#}

Available variables

Following template variables are available:


Variables can be added in the config file under the variables entry. The variables added there are directly reachable in any templates.

For example in the config file:

  var1: some variable content

These can then be used in any template with

{{@@ var1 @@}}

Interpreted variables

It is also possible to have dynamic variables in the sense that their content will be interpreted by the shell before being replaced in the templates.

For example:

  dvar1: head -1 /proc/meminfo
  dvar2: "echo 'this is some test' | rev | tr ' ' ','"
  dvar3: /tmp/

These can be used as any variables in the templates

{{@@ dvar1 @@}}

Environment variables

It’s possible to access environment variables inside the templates.

{{@@ env['MY_VAR'] @@}}

This allows for storing host-specific properties and/or secrets in environment variables. It is recommended to use variables (see Available variables) instead of environment variables unless these contain sensitive information that shouldn’t be versioned in git.

For example you can have a .env file in the directory where your config.yaml lies:

## Some secrets

If this file contains secrets that should not be tracked by git, put it in your .gitignore.

You can then invoke dotdrop with the help of an alias

# when dotdrop is installed as a submodule
alias dotdrop='eval $(grep -v "^#" ~/dotfiles/.env) ~/dotfiles/'

# when dotdrop is installed from pypi or aur
alias dotdrop='eval $(grep -v "^#" ~/dotfiles/.env) /usr/bin/dotdrop --cfg=~/dotfiles/config.yaml'

The above aliases load all the variables from ~/dotfiles/.env (while omitting lines starting with #) before calling dotdrop.

Available methods

Beside jinja2 global functions (see jinja2 global functions the following functions are available and can be used within the templates:

  • exists(path): return true when path exists
{%@@ if exists('/dev/null') @@%}
it does exist
{%@@ endif @@%}

If you’d like a specific function to be available, either open an issue or do a PR.

Dynamic dotfile paths

Dotfile source (src) and destination (dst) can be dynamically constructed using defined variables (variables or dynvariables).

For example to have a dotfile deployed on the unique firefox profile where the profile path is dynamically found using a shell oneliner stored in a dynvariable:

  mozpath: find ~/.mozilla/firefox -name '*.default'
    dst: "{{@@ mozpath @@}}/somefile"
    src: firefox/somefile
    - f_somefile

Make sure to quote the path in the config file.

Dotdrop header

Dotdrop is able to insert a header in the generated dotfiles. This allows to remind anyone opening the file for editing that this file is managed by dotdrop.

Here’s what it looks like:

This dotfile is managed using dotdrop

The header can be automatically added using jinja2 directive:

{{@@ header() @@}}

Properly commenting the header in templates is the responsability of the user as jinja2 has no way of knowing what is the proper char(s) used for comments. Either prepend the directive with the commenting char(s) used in the dotfile (for example # {{@@ header() @@}}) or provide it as an argument {{@@ header('# ') @@}}. The result is equivalent.

Debug template

To debug the result of a template, one can install the dotfiles to a temporary directory with the install command and the -t switch:

$ dotdrop install -t
Installed to tmp /tmp/dotdrop-6ajz7565


Let’s consider two hosts:

  • home: home computer with hostname home
  • office: office computer with hostname office

The home computer is running awesomeWM and the office computer bspwm. The .xinitrc file will therefore be different while still sharing some lines. Dotdrop allows to store only one single .xinitrc but to deploy different versions depending on where it is run from.

The following file is the dotfile stored in dotdrop containing jinja2 directives for the deployment based on the profile used.

Dotfile <dotpath>/xinitrc:


# load Xresources
if [ -f "$userresources" ]; then
      xrdb -merge "$userresources" &

# launch the wm
{%@@ if profile == "home" @@%}
exec awesome
{%@@ elif profile == "office" @@%}
exec bspwm
{%@@ endif @@%}

The if branch will define which part is deployed based on the hostname of the host on which dotdrop is run from.

And here’s how the config file looks like with this setup. Of course any combination of the dotfiles (different sets) can be done if more dotfiles have to be deployed.

config.yaml file:

  backup: true
  create: true
  dotpath: dotfiles
    dst: ~/.xinitrc
    src: xinitrc
    - f_xinitrc
    - f_xinitrc

Installing the dotfiles (the --profile switch is not needed if the hostname matches the profile entry in the config file):

# on home computer
$ dotdrop install --profile=home

# on office computer
$ dotdrop install --profile=office

Comparing the dotfiles:

# on home computer
$ dotdrop compare

# on office computer
$ dotdrop compare

User tricks

See the related wiki page


If you are having trouble installing or using dotdrop, open an issue.

If you want to contribute, feel free to do a PR (please follow PEP8).


This project is licensed under the terms of the GPLv3 license.

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