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Easily back up lightweight documentation of installed packages, dotfiles, and more.

Project description


shallow-backup lets you easily create lightweight backups of installed packages, applications, fonts and dotfiles.

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What can I back up?

  1. All dotfiles and dotfolders.

    • macOS System Preferences
    • Sublime Text Settings
    • Atom Settings
    • .bashrc.
    • etc.
  2. Package Manager and Application installs.

    • apm
    • brew
    • brew cask
    • gem
    • pip
    • npm
    • macports
    • Sublime Text 2 and 3 packages
    • macOS ~/Applications/ directory
  3. User installed fonts.


  1. Install with pip

    • $ pip install shallow-backup
    • $ sudo shallow-backup
  2. Download the shallow-backup binary from Releases tab.


Usage: [OPTIONS]

  Easily back up installed packages, dotfiles, and more.

  -complete        Back up everything.
  -dotfiles        Back up dotfiles.
  -fonts           Back up installed fonts.
  -packages        Back up package libraries and installed applications.
  -old_path        Skip setting new back up directory path.
  --new_path TEXT  Input a new back up directory path.
  -reinstall       Reinstall packages from package lists.
  -delete_config   Remove config file.
  -v               Display version and author information and exit.
  -help, -h        Show this message and exit.

NOTE: shallow-backup works best when it's populating an empty directory.

Example Commands

$ shallow-backup # Launch interactive CLI backup process
$ shallow-backup -old_path -complete # Make complete backup using same path as in config file
$ shallow-backup -new_path new_backup_dir -fonts # Back up fonts using path: `/new_backup_dir/`

Use Cases

  1. Reduce your backup size by compressing all package manager libraries to .txt files.
  2. Easily back up your dotfiles, Sublime Text settings and Atom config.
  3. Back up all user installed .ttf and .otf fonts from Fontbook.

Output Structure

├── dotfiles
│   ├── .bashrc
│   ├── .pypirc
│   ├── ...
│   ├── .ssh/
│   │   └── known_hosts
│   ├── .vim/
│   └── .zshrc
├── fonts
│   ├── AllerDisplay.ttf
│   ├── Aller_Bd.ttf
│   ├── Aller_BdIt.ttf
│   ├── Aller_It.ttf
│   ├── ...
│   ├── Ubuntu Mono derivative Powerline Bold Italic.ttf
│   ├── Ubuntu Mono derivative Powerline Bold.ttf
│   ├── Ubuntu Mono derivative Powerline Italic.ttf
│   └── Ubuntu Mono derivative Powerline.ttf
└── installs
    ├── apm_list.txt
    ├── brew-cask_list.txt
    ├── brew_list.txt
    ├── gem_list.txt
    ├── installed_apps_list.txt
    ├── macports_list.txt
    ├── npm_list.txt
    └── pip_list.txt

5 directories, 214 files


I back up system images of my MacBook Pro to an external SSD multiple times every week, and it always takes way too long. I wanted to speed this up, so I took a look at what was actually being backed up. I saw that my brew, npm, and pip libraries took up way more memory than I imagined.

And it's totally unnecessary! All you need to "back up" your package installs is a list of the installed packages from each package manager. If you have these lists, restoring your system package installs is easy: $ pip install -r pip_list.txt, for example. Additionally, you have the added bonus of always installing up-to-date packages after an OS wipe and reinstall.

I could now safely cut down my backup size by almost 10GB by replacing my pip, brew, brew cask and npm install libraries with simple text files, which cuts down the back up time significantly.

Once I'd built that functionality, I wanted to have a single backup utility for files and folders often used by developers, so I added the ability to backup dotfiles and fonts. (Note: Because just having a list of installed fonts or a list of dotfiles that exist isn't very useful, shallow-backup creates copies of all dotfiles and user installed fonts.)

What's Next?

  1. Automatic restic backup.
  2. MacOS GUI.

How to Contribute

  1. Clone repo and create a new branch: $ git checkout -b name_for_new_branch.
  2. Make changes and test
  3. Submit Pull Request with comprehensive description of changes

Project details

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