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A small script that can help you maintain your dotfiles across several devices

Project description

What is dotmgr?

dotmgr is a little helper script you can use to manage and deploy your dotfiles or other configs across multiple machines.

The idea is to define tags for individual hosts and/or types of devices such as "laptop", "headless", "work", "server" and use those to filter ("specialize") dotfiles by commenting out blocks. Therefor the dotfiles have to be decorated with markup comments controlling the filter.
Dotfile "templates" are stored in a git repository so you can track and possibly revert your changes or get totally schwifty by combining the powers of dotmgr and git branches.
Specialized dotfiles are written directly to your home directory. Changes made to those files can later be merged back into the repository by applying an inverted ("generalize") filter.


  • Store and maintain dotfiles containing different sets of configurations in a git repository.
  • Maintain specific versions of dotfiles in your home directory (or anywhere on the file system) and merge changes back.
  • Filter files based on defined tags (or simply hostnames) and/or user name.
  • Ignore files based on the same rules so they don't pollute your home directory.
  • Concise command-line interface inspired by pacman.

How it works

Dotfile repository

Dotfile templates - also called "generic dotfiles" - are stored in a git repository. Each dotfile's path relative to the repository's root directory is the same as relative to your home directory.

Special comments in the dotfiles are used to indicate blocks ("tagged blocks") that should either be commented out or left intact, depending on the tags activated for a host. Lines not enclosed by a tagged block directives are always left untouched. Note that for this to work, the first line of a dotfile must begin with a comment so dotmgr can identify the comment character sequence (# for bash, -- for lua, " for vim, ...).

The dotfile repository path default is ~/.local/share/dotmgr/repository. It can be modified using the environment variable $DOTMGR_REPO.

Tag configuration

The script relies on a simple configuration file that defines active tags for hostnames in the following format:

hostnameA: tagA1 tagA2 ...
hostnameB: tagB1 tagB2 ...

This file is normally read from .config/dotmgr/tags.conf in your home directory or, if that file does not exist, directly from dotfile repository.

If for some reason this does not suit you, setting the environment variable $DOTMGR_TAG_CONF lets you override the default path. It is however not recommended.

Command-line interface

dotmgr's clean command-line interface lets you add dotfiles from your home directory to the repository, filter (specialize/generalize) them according to your tag configuration and filter directives or remove them from the repository in case they become obsolete. It also lets you perform common git tasks with the flick of a switch.



You can install the script via pip, which will conveniently take care of dependencies:

pip install dotmgr

It is important that you use the Python 3 version of pip. If in doubt, call pip3 explicitly:

pip3 install dotmgr

Initial run

If you already have a repository containing your dotfiles, you can simply clone it:

dotmgr -I<user>/dotfiles.git

If the tag configuration is not found, dotmgr will automatically create one and commit it. If you do not have a repository yet, you can let dotmgr create one for you:

dotmgr -I

This will also generate and commit an initial tag configuration.

When the repository is set up, you can specialize all dotfiles:

dotmgr -S

Data- and workflow

The following diagram summarizes the data-/workflow and associated command-line parameters:

Data flow

You can tell dotmgr about a new dotfile it should care about by issuing:

dotmgr -G <file>

It will automatically generalize the file and copy the result to your repository.

After you have changed a file, you can re-generalize it, for example:

dotmgr -G .vimrc

Omitting the file path (which has to be a path relative to your home directory) lets you generalize all dotfiles at once.

When files in the dotfile repository change, you can apply those changes to your dotfiles:

dotmgr -S

If you want to specialize only a single file, just add its path to the command line.

To forget about a file, delete it from the repository:

dotmgr -D <file>

Please refer to the scripts --help option for more information on command line options and arguments.

Git integration

The program can interact with the repository and automate or at least simplify some pretty repetitive actions when managing dotfiles:

  • -I initializes or clones remote repositories as shown in Initial run.
  • -c automatically commits changes to dotfiles (using generated or custom commit messages).
  • -s automatically synchronizes with a remote repository before specialization / after generalization.
  • -V lets you execute git commands in the dotfile repository without having to cd into it first.

Please refer to --help for details on the command-line syntax.


Dotfile specialization / generalization

This is the workflow for generating specific dotfiles for the current hostname and installing them in the system:

  1. Read hostname and the tags activated for it this host from the tag configuration
  2. Read dotfiles from the repository
  3. Specialize / generalize dotfiles by uncommenting / commenting blocks with matching tags
  4. Write them to the home directory

When changed dotfiles are generalized and merged back to the dotfile repository, all changes of the specialization are reversed by removing all comments from tagged blocks.

Tagged blocks

Create tagged blocks using a double comment sequence and the directive only or not. A double comment sequence followed by end ends a tagged block. The following example assumes that the comment character for the file is # - of course the same is possible for other file types as well:

##only desktop laptop
# ordinary comment

##not headless

You can leave out the ##end directive on sequential lines / blocks:

##only tagA
echo Hello dotmgr
##not tagB
echo Cheers dotmgr

If you have multiple accounts on a host (maybe root and a user account) and you want to customize your dotfiles based on these, you can use an e-mail / SSH-style syntax in all directives:

##only operator@reactor
##not guest@reactor

If you want a particular user to have the same set of files and configuration on all devices, you can use the syntax <user>@* in tag definitions. This is probably most useful with admin accounts such as root. Please see Skipping files below for an example.

Special dotmgr header

During specialization, files can be written to arbitrary locations or skipped completely on hosts with certain tags by adding a special dotmgr header to it.

# dotmgr
##use not server


As with tag-blocks, the end directive marks the end of the header block. Everything after it is treated as "normal" file content.

Skipping files

The use directive allows you to skip ignore files during specialization.
Syntax: use (only|not) <tag> [<tag> ...]

% dotmgr
%%use not root@*

yada yada

Parameters only and not have the same effect as in tagged-blocks.

Custom paths

You can store files anywhere on you machine by specifying a custom path using the path directive:
Syntax: path <path> <tag> [<tag> ...]

# dotmgr
##path /etc/hosts root@server

If the path directive is present in the header and the host's active tags do not match, the file is automatically skipped.

Advanced vim magic

Adding the following line to your .vimrc automagically invokes the script each time you save a dotfile in your home directory:

autocmd BufWritePost ~/.* !dotmgr -G %



python -m venv venv
. venv/bin/activate
pip install -e '.[dev]'

# All of the following should succeed
mypy src
pylint src


python -m build
twine upload dist/*


sphinx-build docs/sphinx docs/generated

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