twpayne / chezmoi

Manage your dotfiles securely across multiple machines.


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Manage your dotfiles securely across multiple machines.


  • Declarative: you declare the desired state of files, directories, and symbolic links in your home directory and chezmoi updates your home directory to match that state.

  • Flexible: your dotfiles can be templates (using text/template syntax). Predefined variables allow you to change behaviour depending on operating system, architecture, and hostname.

  • Secure: chezmoi can retreive secrets from Bitwarden, LastPass, your Keychain (on macOS), and GNOME Keyring (on Linux).

  • Robust: chezmoi updates all files and symbolic links atomically (using google/renameio) so you are never left with incomplete files that could lock you out, even if the update process is interrupted.

  • Portable: chezmoi's configuration uses only visible, regular files and directories and so is portable across version control systems and operating systems.

  • Transparent: chezmoi includes verbose and dry run modes so you can review exactly what changes it will make to your home directory before making them.

  • Fast, easy to use, and familiar: chezmoi runs in fractions of a second and includes commands to make most operations trivial. You can use the version control system of your choice to manage your configuration, and many different formats (e.g. JSON, YAML, TOML, etc.) are supported for the configuration file.

I already have a system to manage my dotfiles, why should I use chezmoi?

  • If your system is based on copying files with a shell script or creating symlinks (e.g. using GNU Stow) then handling files that vary from machine to machine requires manual work. You might need to maintain separate config files for separate machines, or run different commands on different machines. chezmoi gives you a single command that works on every machine.

  • If your system is based on using git with a different branches for different machines, then you need manually merge or rebase to ensure that changes you make are applied to each machine. chezmoi makes it trivial to share common parts while allowing specific per-machine configuration.

  • If your system stores secrets in plain text, then your dotfiles repository must be private. With chezmoi you never need to store secrets in your repository, so you can make it public. You can check out your repository on your work machine and not fear that this will give your work IT department access to your personal data.

  • If your system was written by you for your personal use, then it probably has the minimum functionality that you need. chezmoi includes a wide range of functionality out-of-the-box, including dry run and diff modes.

  • All systems suffer from the "bootstrap" problem: you need to install your system before you can install your dotfiles. chezmoi provides statically-linked binaries, packages for many Linux and BSD distributions, and Homebrew formulae to make overcoming the bootstrap problem as simple as possible.


Binaries and packages for multiple platforms, including RedHat, Debian, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD, are available on the releases page.

On macOS you can install chezmoi with Homebrew:

$ brew install twpayne/taps/chezmoi

If you have Go installed you can install the latest version from HEAD:

$ go get -u

Quick start

chezmoi evaluates the source state for the current machine and then updates the destination directory, where:

  • The source state declares the desired state of your home directory, including templates and machine-specific configuration.

  • The source directory is where chezmoi stores the source state, by default ~/.config/share/chezmoi.

  • The target state is the source state computed for the current machine.

  • The destination directory is the directory that chezmoi manages, by default ~, your home directory.

  • A target is a file, directory, or symlink in the destination directory.

  • The destination state is the state of all the targets in the destination directory.

  • The config file contains machine-specific configuration, by default it is ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml.

Manage an existing file with chezmoi:

$ chezmoi add ~/.bashrc

This will create the source directory ~/.local/share/chezmoi with permissions 0600 where chezmoi will store the source state (if it does not already exist), and copy ~/.bashrc to ~/.local/share/chezmoi/dot_bashrc.

You should manage your ~/.local/share/chezmoi directory with the version control system of your choice. chezmoi will ignore all files and directories beginning with a . in this directory, including directories like .git and .hg.

Edit the source state:

$ chezmoi edit ~/.bashrc

This will open ~/.local/share/chezmoi/dot_bashrc in your $EDITOR. Make some changes and save them.

See what changes chezmoi would make:

$ chezmoi diff

Apply the changes:

$ chezmoi -v apply

All chezmoi commands accept the -v (verbose) flag to print out exactly what changes they will make to the file system, and the -n (dry run) flag to not make any actual changes. The combination -n -v is very useful if you want to see exactly what changes would be made.

For a full list of commands run:

$ chezmoi help

Using templates to manage files that vary from machine to machine

The primary goal of chezmoi is to manage configuration files across multiple machines, for example your personal macOS laptop, your work Ubuntu desktop, and your work Linux laptop. You will want to keep much configuration the same across these, but also need machine-specific configurations for email addresses, credentials, etc. chezmoi achieves this functionality by using text/template for the source state where needed.

For example, your home ~/.gitconfig on your personal machine might look like:

    email =

Whereas at work it might be:

    email =

To handle this, on each machine create a configuration file called ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml defining what might change. For your home machine:


If you intend to store private data (e.g. access tokens) in ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml, make sure it has permissions 0600. See "Keeping data private" below for more discussion on this.

If you prefer, you can use any format supported by Viper for your configuration file. This includes JSON, YAML, and TOML.

Then, add ~/.gitconfig to chezmoi using the -T flag to automatically turn it in to a template:

$ chezmoi add -T ~/.gitconfig

You can then open the template (which will be saved in the file ~/.local/share/chezmoi/dot_gitconfig.tmpl):

$ chezmoi edit ~/.gitconfig

The file should look something like:

    email = {{ .email }}

chezmoi will substitute the variables from the data section of your ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml file when calculating the target state of .gitconfig.

For more advanced usage, you can use the full power of the text/template language to include or exclude sections of file. chezmoi provides the following automatically populated variables:

Variable Value
.chezmoi.arch Architecture, e.g. amd64, arm, etc. as returned by runtime.GOARCH. The group of the user running chezmoi.
.chezmoi.homedir The home directory of the user running chezmoi.
.chezmoi.hostname The hostname of the machine chezmoi is running on.
.chezmoi.os Operating system, e.g. darwin, linux, etc. as returned by runtime.GOOS.
.chezmoi.username The username of the user running chezmoi.

For example, in your ~/.local/share/chezmoi/dot_bashrc.tmpl you might have:

# common config
export EDITOR=vi

# machine-specific configuration
{{- if eq .chezmoi.hostname "work-laptop" }}
# this will only be included in ~/.bashrc on work-laptop
{{- end }}

If, after executing the template, the file contents are empty, the target file will be removed. This can be used to ensure that files are only present on certain machines. If you want an empty file to be created anyway, you will need to give it an empty_ prefix. See "Under the hood" below.

For coarser-grained control of files and entire directories are managed on different machines, or to exclude certain files completely, you can create .chezmoiignore files in the source directory. These specify a list of patterns that chezmoi should ignore, and are interpreted as templates. An example .chezmoiignore file might look like:
{{- if ne .chezmoi.hostname "work-laptop" }}
.work # only manage .work on work-laptop
{{- end }}

Keeping data private

chezmoi automatically detects when files and directories are private when adding them by inspecting their permissions. Private files and directories are stored in ~/.local/share/chezmoi as regular, public files with permissions 0644 and the name prefix private_. For example:

$ chezmoi add ~/.netrc

will create ~/.local/share/chezmoi/private_dot_netrc (assuming ~/.netrc is not world- or group- readable, as it should be). This file is still private because ~/.local/share/chezmoi is not group- or world- readable or executable. chezmoi checks that the permissions of ~/.local/share/chezmoi are 0700 on every run and will print a warning if they are not.

It is common that you need to store access tokens in config files, e.g. a Github access token. There are several ways to keep these tokens secure, and to prevent them leaving your machine.

Using templates variables

Typically, ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml is not checked in to version control and has permissions 0600. You can store tokens as template values in the data section. For example, if your ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml contains:

    user: <github-username>
    token: <github-token>

Your ~/.local/share/chezmoi/private_dot_gitconfig.tmpl can then contain:

{{- if .github }}
    user = {{ .github.user }}
    token = {{ .github.token }}
{{- end }}

Any config files containing tokens in plain text should be private (permissions 0600).

Using Bitwarden

chezmoi includes support for Bitwarden using the Bitwarden CLI to expose data as a template function.

Log in to Bitwarden using:

$ bw login <bitwarden-email>

Unlock your Bitwarden vault:

$ bw unlock

Set the BW_SESSION environment variable, as instructed. You can also pass the session directly to chezmoi using the --bitwarden-session flag.

The structured data from bw get is available as the bitwarden template function in your config files, for example:

username = {{ (bitwarden "item" "").login.username }}
password = {{ (bitwarden "item" "").login.password }}

Using LastPass

chezmoi includes support for LastPass using the LastPass CLI to expose data as a template function.

Log in to LastPass using:

$ lpass login <lastpass-username>

Check that lpass is working correctly by showing password data:

$ lpass show -j <lastpass-entry-id>

where <lastpass-entry-id> is a LastPass Entry Specification.

The structured data from lpass show -j id is available as the lastpass template function. The value will be an array of objects. You can use the index function and .Field syntax of the text/template language to extract the field you want. For example, to extract the password field from first the "Github" entry, use:

githubPassword = {{ (index (lastpass "Github") 0).password }}

chezmoi automatically parses the note value of the Lastpass entry, so, for example, you can extract a private SSH key like this:

{{ (index (lastpass "SSH") 0).note.privateKey }}

Keys in the note section written as CamelCase Words are converted to camelCaseWords.

Using keyring

chezmoi includes support for Keychain (on macOS), GNOME Keyring (on Linux), and Windows Credentials Manager (on Windows) via the zalando/go-keyring library.

Set passwords with:

$ chezmoi keyring set --service=<service> --user=<user>
Password: xxxxxxxx

The password can then be used in templates using the keyring function which takes the service and user as arguments.

For example, save a Github access token in keyring with:

$ chezmoi keyring set --service=github --user=<github-username>
Password: xxxxxxxx

and then include it in your ~/.gitconfig file with:

    user = {{ .github.user }}
    token = {{ keyring "github" .github.user }}

You can query the keyring from the command line:

$ chezmoi keyring get --service=github --user=<github-username>

Using encrypted config files

chezmoi takes a -c flag specifying the file to read its configuration from. You can encrypt your configuration and then only decrypt it when needed:

$ gpg -d ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml.gpg | chezmoi -c /dev/stdin apply

Managing your ~/.chezmoi directory with version control

chezmoi has some helper commands to assist managing your source directory with version control. The default version control system is git but you can change this by setting sourceVCSCommand in your ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml file, for example, if you want to use Mercurial:

sourceVCSCommand: hg

chezmoi source is then a shortcut to running sourceVCSCommand in your ~/.local/share/chezmoi directory. For example you can push the current branch with:

$ chezmoi source push

Extra arguments are passed along unchanged, although you'll need to use -- stop chezmoi from interpreting extra flags. For example:

$ chezmoi source pull -- --rebase

The source command accepts the usual -n and -v flags, so you can see exactly what it will run without executing it.

As a shortcut,

$ chezmoi cd

starts a shell in your source directory, which can be very useful when performing multiple VCS operations.

Importing archives

It is occasionally useful to import entire archives of configuration into your source state. The import command does this. For example, to import the latest version to ~/.oh-my-zsh run:

$ curl -s -L -o oh-my-zsh-master.tar.gz
$ chezmoi import --strip-components 1 --destination ~/.oh-my-zsh oh-my-zsh-master.tar.gz

Note that this only updates the source state. You will need to run

$ chezmoi apply

to update your destination directory.

Exporting archives

chezmoi can create an archive containing the target state. This can be useful for generating target state on a different machine or for simply inspecting the target state. A particularly useful command is:

$ chezmoi archive | tar tvf -

which lists all the targets in the target state.

Under the hood

For an example of how chezmoi stores its state, see

chezmoi stores the desired state of files, symbolic links, and directories in regular files and directories in ~/.local/share/chezmoi. This location can be overridden with the -S flag or by giving a value for sourceDir in ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml. Some state is encoded in the source names. chezmoi ignores all files and directories in the source directory that begin with a .. The following prefixes and suffixes are special, and are collectively referred to as "attributes":

Prefix/suffix Effect
private_ prefix Remove all group and world permissions from the target file or directory.
empty_ prefix Ensure the file exists, even if is empty. By default, empty files are removed.
exact_ prefix Remove anything not managed by chezmoi.
executable_ prefix Add executable permissions to the target file.
symlink_ prefix Create a symlink instead of a regular file.
dot_ prefix Rename to use a leading dot, e.g. dot_foo becomes .foo.
.tmpl suffix Treat the contents of the source file as a template.

Order is important, the order is exact_, private_, empty_, executable_, symlink_, dot_, .tmpl.

Different target types allow different prefixes and suffixes:

Target type Allowed prefixes and suffixes
Directory exact_, private_, dot_
Regular file private_, empty_, executable_, dot_, .tmpl
Symbolic link symlink_, dot_, .tmpl

You can change the attributes of a target in the source state with the chattr command. For example, to make ~/.netrc private and a template:

chezmoi chattr private,template ~/.netrc

This only updates the source state of ~/.netrc, you will need to run apply to apply the changes to the destination state:

chezmoi apply ~/.netrc

Using chezmoi outside your home directory

chezmoi, by default, operates on your home directory, but this can be overridden with the --dest command line flag or by specifying destDir in your ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.yaml. In theory, you could use chezmoi to manage any aspect of your filesystem. That said, although you can do this, you probably shouldn't. Existing configuration management tools like Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and Salt are much better suited to whole system configuration management.

chezmoi was inspired by Puppet, but created because Puppet is a slow overkill for managing your personal configuration files. The focus of chezmoi will always be personal home directory management. If your needs grow beyond that, switch to a whole system configuration management tool.

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