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Bootstrap your Dotfiles with dotbot
- Elliot DeNolf
A customized set of dotfiles can vastly increase your command-line productivity and happiness. Having your dotfiles in a repo allows you to take your configuration anywhere. In this tutorial, we'll be setting up a dotfiles repository and bootstrapping it using dotbot.
While it could be tempting for some to script your dotfiles configuration and installation yourself, I would advise against going this route. I previously went this route, but I would constantly run into edge-cases leading to constant modification of the scripts. With a framework, most of the use-cases have been thought of, so it is very low friction in comparison.
On investigating a number of tools out there, dotbot's features set it apart from the others:
- Single configuration file
- Single command to install on a new machine via symbolic links
- Can be added as a git submodule
- Python is the only dependency (standard for almost all distros)
The first step is to get a git repository started and add dotbot as a submodule
# Create project directory mkdir dotfiles cd dotfiles # Initialize Repository git init git submodule add https://github.com/anishathalye/dotbot cp dotbot/tools/git-submodule/install . touch install.config.yaml
So now we have a few things set up:
- New git repository
- Dotbot added as a submodule
installscript copied to the project root
- A blank configuration file
Next, we'll start modifying our config file. Here is a starting point:
- defaults: link: relink: true - clean: ['~'] - link: ~/.bashrc: bashrc ~/.zshrc: zshrc ~/.vimrc: vimrc - shell: - [git submodule update --init --recursive, Installing submodules]
Let's go through each section to see what it does
Defaults controls what action will be taken for everything in the
relink removes the old target if it is a symlink. There are additional options that may be worth looking at in the documentation
This simply defines what directory should be inspected for dead links. Dead links are automatically removed.
This is where most of your modifications will take place. Here we define where we want the symlink to be once linked, and what file should be linked there. In the above example, we have 3 files that commonly contain customizations.
This section contains any raw shell commands that you'd like to run upon running your install script. In this case, it installs any submodules.
Move files into Repository
Next, we move the files we want to link into our repository. Assuming you want the 3 files specified from above, we can run the following commands to move them in.
cp ~/.vimrc ./vimrc cp ~/.zshrc ./zshrc cp ~/.bashrc ./bashrc
Run Install Script
We can test out if everything works properly by running
./install within our repository. If all is configured properly, you should see something like the following:
./install All targets have been cleaned Creating link ~/.bashrc -> ~/.dotfiles/bashrc Creating link ~/.zshrc -> ~/.dotfiles/zshrc Creating link ~/.vimrc -> ~/.dotfiles/vimrc All links have been set up Installing submodules [git submodule update --init --recursive] All commands have been executed ==> All tasks executed successfully
Once you are satisfied with how you dotfiles install, be sure to commit your changes and push to a remote repository.
git add --all git remote add origin email@example.com:username/dotfiles.git git push -u origin master
Use on Multiple Machines
Now that you have a basic dotfiles repository set up, you can push this to a public repository in order to use on multiple machines. On any machine, you can now simply run the following commands to install your dotfiles:
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:username/dotfiles.git --recursive cd dotfiles && ./install
Any new changes can be retrieved from the repository and installed using the following commands:
git pull ./install
You can now easily maintain your dotfiles in a git repository and share them between your environments.
Here is my personal dotfiles repository that uses dotbot. There are many other places to draw dotfiles inspiration from such as GitHub Does Dotfiles and other dotbot users.