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A tool that bootstraps your dotfiles
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Dotbot is a tool that bootstraps your dotfiles (it's a [Dot]files [bo]o[t]strapper, get it?). It does less than you think, because version control systems do more than you think.

Dotbot is designed to be lightweight and self-contained, with no external dependencies and no installation required. Dotbot is easy to set up, and it's easy to configure.

Dotbot is VCS-agnostic, and it doesn't make any attempt to manage your dotfiles. Existing version control systems like git are pretty awesome at doing this.

Dotbot can be a drop-in replacement for any other tool you were using to manage your dotfiles.

Dotfiles Organization

A great way to organize your dotfiles is having all of them in a single (isolated) git repository and symlinking files into place. You can add plugins and stuff using git submodules. This whole symlinking business can be a bit of trouble, but it's much better than just having your entire home directory under source control, and Dotbot lets you have a one-click install process, so you can have all the benefits of isolation without the annoyance of having to manually copy or link files.

Dotbot itself is entirely self contained and requires no installation, so it's not necessary to install any software before you provision a new machine! All you have to do is download your dotfiles and then run ./install.


To make life easier, you can fork the template repository. If you want, you can rename it afterwards (to something like just dotfiles). If you're looking for inspiration, the template repository contains links to dotfiles repositories that use Dotbot.

If you prefer, instead of reading about how Dotbot works, you could refer to the code in the template repository and get a feel for how to set things up, learning by example.


Dotbot is super easy to set up. This description is given in terms of git and git submodules, but the procedure is similar for other VCSs.

You can add Dotbot to your dotfiles by running git submodule add https://github.com/anishathalye/dotbot from within your git repository.

To have a one-click (one-command) install, you can place a bootstrap install shell script that calls Dotbot with the appropriate parameters. This script simply passes its arguments to Dotbot, so the script itself will not have to be updated once it's placed in the proper location (the Dotbot repository can be updated independently).

An example bootstrap install shell script is given in tools/git-submodule/install (and included below). The script assumes that the configuration is located in install.conf.json and Dotbot is located in dotbot. The script automatically makes sure that the correct version of Dotbot is checked out in the submodule.

Adapting the bootstrap script for different situations (such as using a different VCS) is fairly straightforward.



BASEDIR="$(cd "$(dirname "${BASH_SOURCE[0]}")" && pwd)"

cd "${BASEDIR}"
git submodule update --init --recursive ${DOTBOT_DIR}



Dotbot uses json-formatted configuration files to let you specify how to set up your dotfiles. Currently, Dotbot knows how to link files, execute shell commands, and clean directories of broken symbolic links. Dotbot executes tasks in the order that they are specified in.

Ideally, bootstrap configurations should be idempotent. That is, the installer should be able to be run multiple times without causing any problems. This makes life easier.

Dotbot configuration files are json arrays of tasks, where each task is a dictionary that contains a command name mapping to data for that command. For link, you specify how files should be linked in a dictionary. For shell, you specify an array consisting of commands, where each command is an array consisting of the shell command as the first element and a description as the second. For clean, you specify an array consisting of targets, where each target is a path to a directory.

Dotbot is aware of a base directory (that is specified when running the installer), so link targets can be specified relative to that, and shell commands will be run in the base directory.

The configuration format is pretty simple, so here's an example to help you get started. The convention for configuration file names is install.conf.json.

        "clean": ["~"]
        "link": {
            "~/.tmux.conf": "tmux.conf",
            "~/.vimrc": "vimrc",
            "~/.vim": "vim/"
        "shell": [
            ["git submodule update --init --recursive", "Installing submodules"]


Copyright (c) 2014 Anish Athalye. Released under the MIT License. See LICENSE.md for details.