Frequently Asked Questions #
How can I quickly check for problems with chezmoi on my machine? #
ok is fine, anything
warning is only a problem if you want to use
the related feature, and anything
error indicates a definite problem.
What are the consequences of “bare” modifications to the target files? If my
.zshrc is managed by chezmoi and I edit
~/.zshrc without using
chezmoi edit, what happens?
Until you run
chezmoi apply your modified
~/.zshrc will remain in place.
When you run
chezmoi apply chezmoi will detect that
~/.zshrc has changed
since chezmoi last wrote it and prompt you what to do. You can resolve
differences with a merge tool by running
chezmoi merge ~/.zshrc.
How can I tell what dotfiles in my home directory aren’t managed by chezmoi? Is there an easy way to have chezmoi manage a subset of them? #
chezmoi unmanaged will list everything not managed by chezmoi. You can add
entire directories with
How can I tell what dotfiles in my home directory are currently managed by chezmoi? #
chezmoi managed will list everything managed by chezmoi.
If there’s a mechanism in place for the above, is there also a way to tell chezmoi to ignore specific files or groups of files (e.g. by directory name or by glob)? #
By default, chezmoi ignores everything that you haven’t explicitly added. If you
have files in your source directory that you don’t want added to your
destination directory when you run
chezmoi apply add their names to a file
.chezmoiignore in the source state.
Patterns are supported, and you can change what’s ignored from machine to machine. The full usage and syntax is described in the reference manual.
If the target already exists, but is “behind” the source, can chezmoi be configured to preserve the target version before replacing it with one derived from the source? #
chezmoi add will update the source state with the target. To see
diffs of what would change, without actually changing anything, use
Once I’ve made a change to the source directory, how do I commit it? #
You have several options:
chezmoi cdopens a shell in the source directory, where you can run your usual version control commands, like
gitin the source directory and pass extra arguments to the command. If you’re passing any flags, you’ll need to use
--to prevent chezmoi from consuming them, for example
chezmoi git -- commit -m "Update dotfiles".
- You can configure chezmoi to automatically commit and push changes to your source state, as described in the how-to guide.
How do I only run a script when a file has changed? #
A common example of this is that you’re using Homebrew and
.Brewfile listing all the packages that you want installed and only want
brew bundle --global when the contents of
.Brewfile have changed.
chezmoi has two types of scripts: scripts that run every time, and scripts that only run when their contents change. chezmoi does not have a mechanism to run a script when an arbitrary file has changed, but there are some ways to achieve the desired behavior:
Have the script create
.Brewfileinstead of chezmoi, e.g. in your
#!/bin/sh cat > $HOME/.Brewfile <<EOF brew "imagemagick" brew "openssl" EOF brew bundle --global
.Brewfile, and instead install the packages explicitly in
#!/bin/sh brew install imagemagick || true brew install openssl || true
|| trueis necessary because
brew installexits with failure if the package is already installed.
Use a script that runs every time (not just once) and rely on
brew bundle --globalbeing idempotent.
Use a script that runs every time, records a checksum of
.Brewfilein another file, and only runs
brew bundle --globalif the checksum has changed, and updates the recorded checksum after.
I’ve made changes to both the destination state and the source state that I want to keep. How can I keep them both? #
chezmoi merge will open a merge tool to resolve differences between the source
state, target state, and destination state. Copy the changes you want to keep in
to the source state.
Why does chezmoi convert all my template variables to lowercase? #
~/.ssh/config group writeable. How do I stop this?
By default, chezmoi uses your system’s umask when creating files. On most
systems the default umask is
022 but some systems use
002, which means
that files and directories are group writeable by default.
You can override this for chezmoi by setting the
umask configuration variable
in your configuration file, for example:
umask = 0o022
Note that this will apply to all files and directories that chezmoi manages and will ensure that none of them are group writeable. It is not currently possible to control group write permissions for individual files or directories. Please open an issue on GitHub if you need this.
Why doesn’t chezmoi use symlinks like GNU Stow? #
Symlinks are first class citizens in chezmoi: chezmoi supports creating them, updating them, removing them, and even more advanced features not found elsewhere like having the same symlink point to different targets on different machines by using templates.
With chezmoi, you only use a symlink where you really want a symlink, in contrast to some other dotfile managers (e.g. GNU Stow) which require the use of symlinks as a layer of indirection between a dotfile’s location (which can be anywhere in your home directory) and a dotfile’s content (which needs to be in a centralized directory that you manage with version control). chezmoi solves this problem in a different way.
Instead of using a symlink to redirect from the dotfile’s location to the centralized directory, chezmoi generates the dotfile in its final location from the contents of the centralized directory. Not only is no symlink is needed, this has the advantages that chezmoi is better able to cope with differences from machine to machine (as a dotfile’s contents can be unique to that machine) and the dotfiles that chezmoi creates are just regular files. There’s nothing special about dotfiles managed by chezmoi, whereas dotfiles managed with GNU Stow are special because they’re actually symlinks to somewhere else.
The only advantage to using GNU Stow-style symlinks is that changes that you
make to the dotfile’s contents in the centralized directory are immediately
visible, whereas chezmoi currently requires you to run
chezmoi apply or
chezmoi edit --apply. chezmoi will likely get an alternative solution to this
too, see #752.
You can configure chezmoi to work like GNU Stow and have it create a set of symlinks back to a central directory, but this currently requires a bit of manual work (as described in #167). chezmoi might get some automation to help (see #886 for example) but it does need some convincing use cases that demonstrate that a symlink from a dotfile’s location to its contents in a central directory is better than just having the correct dotfile contents.
Do I have to use
chezmoi edit to edit my dotfiles?
chezmoi edit is a convenience command that has a couple of useful
features, but you don’t have to use it. You can also run
chezmoi cd and then
just edit the files in the source state directly. After saving an edited file
you can run
chezmoi diff to check what effect the changes would have, and run
chezmoi apply if you’re happy with them.
chezmoi edit provides the following useful features:
- It opens the correct file in the source state for you, so you don’t have to know anything about source state attributes.
- If the dotfile is encrypted in the source state, then
chezmoi editwill decrypt it to a private directory, open that file in your
$EDITOR, and then re-encrypt the file when you quit your editor. That makes encryption more transparent to the user. With the
--applyoptions you can see what would change and apply those changes without having to run
chezmoi apply. Note also that the arguments to
chezmoi editare the files in their target location.
Can I change how chezmoi’s source state is represented on disk? #
There are a number of criticisms of how chezmoi’s source state is represented on disk:
- The source file naming system cannot handle all possible filenames.
- Not all possible file permissions can be represented.
- The long source file names are weird and verbose.
- Everything is in a single directory, which can end up containing many entries.
chezmoi’s source state representation is a deliberate, practical compromise.
Certain target filenames, for example
~/dot_example, are incompatible with
used in the source state. In practice, dotfile filenames are unlikely to
conflict with chezmoi’s attributes. If this does cause a genuine problem for
you, please open an issue on
dot_ attribute makes it transparent which dotfiles are managed by chezmoi
and which files are ignored by chezmoi. chezmoi ignores all files and
directories that start with
. so no special whitelists are needed for version
control systems and their control files (e.g.
chezmoi needs per-file metadata to know how to interpret the source file’s
contents, for example to know when the source file is a template or if the
file’s contents are encrypted. By storing this metadata in the filename, the
metadata is unambiguously associated with a single file and adding, updating, or
removing a single file touches only a single file in the source state. Changes
to the metadata (e.g.
chezmoi chattr +template *target*) are simple file
renames and isolated to the affected file.
If chezmoi were to, say, use a common configuration file listing which files were templates and/or encrypted, then changes to any file would require updates to the common configuration file. Automating updates to configuration files requires a round trip (read config file, update config, write config) and it is not always possible preserve comments and formatting.
chezmoi’s attributes of
private_ only allow a the file
0o700 to be represented.
Directories can only have permissions
0o700. In practice, these
cover all permissions typically used for dotfiles. If this does cause a genuine
problem for you, please open an issue on
File permissions and modes like
also be stored in the filesystem, rather than in the filename. However, this
requires the permissions to be preserved and handled by the underlying version
control system and filesystem. chezmoi provides first-class support for Windows,
private_ attributes have no direct equivalents and
symbolic links are not always permitted. By using regular files and directories,
chezmoi avoids variations in the operating system, version control system, and
filesystem making it both more robust and more portable.
chezmoi uses a 1:1 mapping between entries in the source state and entries in the target state. This mapping is bi-directional and unambiguous.
However, this also means that dotfiles that in the same directory in the target state must be in the same directory in the source state. In particular, every entry managed by chezmoi in the root of your home directory has a corresponding entry in the root of your source directory, which can mean that you end up with a lot of entries in the root of your source directory.
If chezmoi were to permit, say, multiple separate source directories (so you
could, say, put
dot_bashrc in a
bash/ subdirectory, and
dot_vimrc in a
vim/ subdirectory, but have
chezmoi apply map these to
~/.vimrc in the root of your home directory) then the mapping between source
and target states is no longer bidirectional nor unambiguous, which
significantly increases complexity and requires more user interaction. For
example, if both
vim/dot_bashrc exist, what should be
the contents of
~/.bashrc? If you run
chezmoi add ~/.zshrc, should
dot_zshrc be stored in the source
bash/ directory, the source
directory, or somewhere else? How does the user communicate their preferences?
chezmoi has many users and any changes to the source state representation must be backwards-compatible.
In summary, chezmoi’s source state representation is a compromise with both advantages and disadvantages. Changes to the representation will be considered, but must meet the following criteria, in order of importance:
- Be fully backwards-compatible for existing users.
- Fix a genuine problem encountered in practice.
- Be independent of the underlying operating system, version control system, and filesystem.
- Not add significant extra complexity to the user interface or underlying implementation.
gpg encryption fails. What could be wrong? #
gpg.recipient key should be ultimately trusted, otherwise encryption will
fail because gpg will prompt for input, which chezmoi does not handle. You can
check the trust level by running:
The trust level for the recipient’s key should be
6. If it is not, you can
change the trust level by running:
gpg --edit-key $recipient
trust at the prompt and chose
5 = I trust ultimately.
chezmoi reports “user: lookup userid NNNNN: input/output error” #
This is likely because the chezmoi binary you are using was statically compiled with musl and the machine you are running on uses LDAP or NIS.
The immediate fix is to use a package built for your distriubtion (e.g a
.rpm) which is linked against glibc and includes LDAP/NIS support instead
of the statically-compiled binary.
If the problem still persists, then please open an issue on GitHub.
I’m getting errors trying to build chezmoi from source #
chezmoi requires Go version 1.16 or later. You can check the version of Go with:
For more details on building chezmoi, see the Contributing Guide.
What inspired chezmoi? #
chezmoi was inspired by Puppet, but was created because Puppet is an 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.
Why not use Ansible/Chef/Puppet/Salt, or similar to manage my dotfiles instead? #
Whole system management tools are more than capable of managing your dotfiles, but are large systems that entail several disadvantages. Compared to whole system management tools, chezmoi offers:
- Small, focused feature set designed for dotfiles. There’s simply less to learn with chezmoi compared to whole system management tools.
- Easy installation and execution on every platform, without root access. Installing chezmoi requires only copying a single binary file with no external dependencies. Executing chezmoi just involves running the binary. In contrast, installing and running a whole system management tools typically requires installing a scripting language runtime, several packages, and running a system service, all typically requiring root access.
chezmoi’s focus and simple installation means that it runs almost everywhere: from tiny ARM-based Linux systems to Windows desktops, from inside lightweight containers to FreeBSD-based virtual machines in the cloud.
Can I use chezmoi to manage files outside my home directory? #
In practice, yes, you can, but this is strongly discouraged beyond using your system’s package manager to install the packages you need.
chezmoi is designed to operate on your home directory, and is explicitly not a full system configuration management tool. That said, there are some ways to have chezmoi manage a few files outside your home directory.
chezmoi’s scripts can execute arbitrary commands, so you can use a
that is run every time you run
chezmoi apply, to, for example:
- Make the target file outside your home directory a symlink to a file managed by chezmoi in your home directory.
- Copy a file managed by chezmoi inside your home directory to the target file.
- Execute a template with
chezmoi execute-template --output=filename templatewhere
filenameis outside the target directory.
chezmoi executes all scripts as the user executing chezmoi, so you may need to
add extra privilege elevation commands like
PowerShell start -verb runas -wait to your script.
chezmoi, by default, operates on your home directory but this can be overridden
--destination command line flag or by specifying
destDir in your
config file, and could even be the root directory (
C:\). This allows
you, in theory, to use chezmoi to manage any file in your filesystem, but this
usage is extremely strongly discouraged.
If your needs extend beyond modifying a handful of files outside your target
system, then existing configuration management tools like
Ansible, and Salt are
much better suited - and of course can be called from a chezmoi
Put your Puppet Manifests, Chef Recipes, Ansible Modules, and Salt Modules in a
directory ignored by
.chezmoiignore so they do not pollute your home
Where does the name “chezmoi” come from? #
“chezmoi” splits to “chez moi” and pronounced /ʃeɪ mwa/ (shay-moi) meaning “at my house” in French. It’s seven letters long, which is an appropriate length for a command that is only run occasionally.
What other questions have been asked about chezmoi? #
See the issues on GitHub.
Where do I ask a question that isn’t answered here? #
Please open an issue on GitHub.
I like chezmoi. How do I say thanks? #
Thank you! chezmoi was written to scratch a personal itch, and I’m very happy
that it’s useful to you. Please give chezmoi a star on
GitHub, and if you’re happy to
share your public dotfile repo then tag it with