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How do I edit my dotfiles with chezmoi?

There are five popular approaches:

  1. Use chezmoi edit $FILE. This will open the source file for $FILE in your editor, including opening the template if the file is templated and transparently decrypting and re-encrypting it if it is encrypted. For extra ease, use chezmoi edit --apply $FILE to apply the changes when you quit your editor, and chezmoi edit --watch $FILE to apply the changes whenever you save the file.

  2. Use chezmoi cd and edit the files in the source directory directly. Run chezmoi diff to see what changes would be made, and chezmoi apply to make the changes.

  3. If your editor supports opening directories, run chezmoi edit with no arguments to open the source directory.

  4. Edit the file in your home directory, and then either re-add it by running chezmoi add $FILE or chezmoi re-add.

  5. Edit the file in your home directory, and then merge your changes with source state by running chezmoi merge $FILE.


    re-add doesn't work with templates.

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 chezmoi add.

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 called .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?

Yes. Run chezmoi add will update the source state with the target. To see diffs of what would change, without actually changing anything, use chezmoi diff.

Once I've made a change to the source directory, how do I commit it?

You have several options:

  • chezmoi cd opens a shell in the source directory, where you can run your usual version control commands, like git add and git commit.

  • chezmoi git runs git in 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.

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.

Can I use chezmoi to manage my shell history across multiple machines?

No. Every change in a file managed by chezmoi requires an explicit command to record it (e.g. chezmoi add) or apply it somewhere else (e.g. chezmoi update), and is recorded as a commit in your dotfiles repository. Creating a commit every time a command is entered would quickly become cumbersome. This makes chezmoi unsuitable for sharing changes to rapidly-changing files like shell histories.

Instead, consider using a dedicated tool for sharing shell history across multiple machines, like atuin. You can use chezmoi to install and configure atuin.

How do I install pre-requisites for templates?

If you have a template that depends on some other tool, like curl, you may need to install it before chezmoi renders the template.

To do so, use a run_before script that is not a template. Something like:

set -eu

# Install curl if it's not already installed
if ! command -v curl >/dev/null; then
  sudo apt update
  sudo apt install -y curl

Chezmoi will make sure to execute it before templating other files.

How do I enable shell completions?

chezmoi includes shell completions for bash, fish, PowerShell, and zsh. If you have installed chezmoi via your package manager then the shell completion should already be installed. Please open an issue if this is not working correctly.

chezmoi provides a completion command and a completion template function which return the shell completions for the given shell. These can be used either as a one-off or as part of your dotfiles repo. The details of how to use these depend on your shell.