Skip to content

Manage machine-to-machine differences

Use templates

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.toml defining variables that might vary from machine to machine. For example, for your home machine:

    email = ""


All variable names will be converted to lowercase. This is due to a feature of a library used by chezmoi. See this GitHub issue for more information.

If you intend to store private data (e.g. access tokens) in ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.toml, make sure it has permissions 0600.

If you prefer, you can use any format supported by Viper for your configuration file. This includes JSON, YAML, and TOML. Variable names must start with a letter and be followed by zero or more letters or digits.

Then, add ~/.gitconfig to chezmoi using the --autotemplate flag to turn it into a template and automatically detect variables from the data section of your ~/.config/chezmoi/chezmoi.toml file:

$ chezmoi add --autotemplate ~/.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 | quote }}

To disable automatic variable detection, use the --template or -T option to chezmoi add instead of --autotemplate.

Templates are often used to capture machine-specific differences. 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 }}

For a full list of variables, run:

$ chezmoi data

For more advanced usage, you can use the full power of the text/template language. chezmoi includes all of the text functions from sprig and its own functions for interacting with password managers.

Templates can be executed directly from the command line, without the need to create a file on disk, with the execute-template command, for example:

$ chezmoi execute-template "{{ .chezmoi.os }}/{{ .chezmoi.arch }}"

This is useful when developing or debugging templates.

Some password managers allow you to store complete files. The files can be retrieved with chezmoi's template functions. For example, if you have a file stored in 1Password with the UUID uuid then you can retrieve it with the template:

{{- onepasswordDocument "uuid" -}}

The -s inside the brackets remove any whitespace before or after the template expression, which is useful if your editor has added any newlines.

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.

Ignore files or a directory on different machines

For coarser-grained control of files and entire directories 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 }}

The use of ne (not equal) is deliberate. What we want to achieve is "only install .work if hostname is work-laptop" but chezmoi installs everything by default, so we have to turn the logic around and instead write "ignore .work unless the hostname is work-laptop".

Patterns can be excluded by prefixing them with a !, for example:


will ignore all files beginning with an f except foo.

You can see what files chezmoi ignores with the command

$ chezmoi ignored

Handle different file locations on different systems with the same contents

If you want to have the same file contents in different locations on different systems, but maintain only a single file in your source state, you can use a shared template.

Create the common file in the .chezmoitemplates directory in the source state. For example, create .chezmoitemplates/file.conf. The contents of this file are available in templates with the template $NAME . function where $NAME is the name of the file (. passes the current data to the template code in file.conf; see for details).

Then create files for each system, for example Library/Application Support/App/file.conf.tmpl for macOS and dot_config/app/file.conf.tmpl for Linux. Both template files should contain {{- template "file.conf" . -}}.

Finally, tell chezmoi to ignore files where they are not needed by adding lines to your .chezmoiignore file, for example:

{{ if ne .chezmoi.os "darwin" }}
Library/Application Support/App/file.conf
{{ end }}
{{ if ne .chezmoi.os "linux" }}
{{ end }}

Use completely different dotfiles on different machines

chezmoi's template functionality allows you to change a file's contents based on any variable. For example, if you want ~/.bashrc to be different on Linux and macOS you would create a file in the source state called dot_bashrc.tmpl containing:

{{ if eq .chezmoi.os "darwin" -}}
# macOS .bashrc contents
{{ else if eq .chezmoi.os "linux" -}}
# Linux .bashrc contents
{{ end -}}

However, if the differences between the two versions are so large that you'd prefer to use completely separate files in the source state, you can achieve this using a symbolic link template. Create the following files:

.bashrc_{{ .chezmoi.os }}
# macOS .bashrc contents
# Linux .bashrc contents
{{ if ne .chezmoi.os "darwin" }}
{{ end }}
{{ if ne .chezmoi.os "linux" }}
{{ end }}

This will make ~/.bashrc a symlink to .bashrc_darwin on darwin and to .bashrc_linux on linux. The .chezmoiignore configuration ensures that only the OS-specific .bashrc_os file will be installed on each OS.

The same thing can be achieved using the include function.

{{ if eq .chezmoi.os "darwin" }}
{{   include ".bashrc_darwin" }}
{{ end }}
{{ if eq .chezmoi.os "linux" }}
{{   include ".bashrc_linux" }}
{{ end }}
Back to top