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My OS X / Ubuntu dotfiles.

5 years after


My OS X / Ubuntu dotfiles.

Why is this a git repo?

I've been using bash on-and-off for a long time (since Slackware Linux was distributed on 1.44MB floppy disks). In all that time, every time I've set up a new Linux or OS X machine, I've copied over my .bashrc file and my ~/bin folder to each machine manually. And I've never done a very good job of actually maintaining these files. It's been a total mess.

I finally decided that I wanted to be able to execute a single command to "bootstrap" a new system to pull down all of my dotfiles and configs, as well as install all the tools I commonly use. In addition, I wanted to be able to re-execute that command at any time to synchronize anything that might have changed. Finally, I wanted to make it easy to re-integrate changes back in, so that other machines could be updated.

That command is ~/bin/dotfiles, and this is my "dotfiles" Git repo.

What, exactly, does the "dotfiles" command do?

It's really not very complicated. When dotfiles is run, it does a few things:

  1. Git is installed if necessary, via APT or Homebrew (which is installed if necessary).
  2. This repo is cloned into the ~/.dotfiles directory (or updated if it already exists).
  3. Files in init are executed (in alphanumeric order).
  4. Files in copy are copied into ~/.
  5. Files in link are linked into ~/.


  • The backups folder only gets created when necessary. Any files in ~/ that would have been overwritten by copy or link get backed up there.
  • Files in bin are executable shell scripts (~/.dotfiles/bin is added into the path).
  • Files in source get sourced whenever a new shell is opened (in alphanumeric order)..
  • Files in conf just sit there. If a config file doesn't need to go in ~/, put it in there.
  • Files in caches are cached files, only used by some scripts. This folder will only be created if necessary.




  • You need to be an administrator (for sudo).
  • You need to have installed XCode Command Line Tools, which are available as a separate, optional (and much smaller) download from XCode.
bash -c "$(curl -fsSL" && source ~/.bashrc



  • You need to be an administrator (for sudo).
  • If APT hasn't been updated or upgraded recently, it will probably be a few minutes before you see anything.
sudo apt-get -qq update && sudo apt-get -qq upgrade && sudo apt-get -qq install curl && echo &&
bash -c "$(curl -fsSL" && source ~/.bashrc

The "init" step

These things will be installed, but only if they aren't already.


  • Homebrew
    • git
    • tree
    • sl
    • lesspipe
    • id3tool
    • nmap
    • git-extras
    • htop-osx
    • apple-gcc42 (via homebrew-dupes)


  • APT
    • build-essential
    • libssl-dev
    • git-core
    • tree
    • sl
    • id3tool
    • nmap
    • telnet
    • htop


  • Nave
    • Npm (latest stable)
    • Grunt
    • JSHint
    • Uglify-JS
  • Rbenv
    • Ruby 1.9.3-p194 (default)
    • Ruby 1.9.2-p290 (default)
  • Ruby Gems
    • bundler
    • awesome_print
    • interactive_editor

The ~/ "copy" step

Any file in the copy subdirectory will be copied into ~/. Any file that needs to be modified with personal information (like .gitconfig which contains an email address and private key) should be copied into ~/. Because the file you'll be editing is no longer in ~/.dotfiles, it's less likely to be accidentally committed into your public dotfiles repo.

The ~/ "link" step

Any file in the link subdirectory gets symbolically linked with ln -s into ~/. Edit these, and you change the file in the repo. Don't link files containing sensitive data, or you might accidentally commit that data!

Aliases and Functions

To keep things easy, the ~/.bashrc and ~/.bash_profile files are extremely simple, and should never need to be modified. Instead, add your aliases, functions, settings, etc into one of the files in the source subdirectory, or add a new file. They're all automatically sourced when a new shell is opened. Take a look, I have a lot of aliases and functions. I even have a fancy prompt that shows the current directory, time and current git/svn repo status.


In addition to the aforementioned dotfiles script, there are a few other bash scripts. This includes ack, which is a git submodule.

  • dotfiles - (re)initialize dotfiles. It might ask for your password (for sudo).
  • src - (re)source all files in source directory
  • Look through the bin subdirectory for a few more.


I think my bash prompt is awesome. It shows git and svn repo status, a timestamp, error exit codes, and even changes color depending on how you've logged in.

Git repos display as [branch:flags] where flags are:

? untracked files
! changed (but unstaged) files
+ staged files

SVN repos display as [rev1:rev2] where rev1 and rev2 are:

rev1 last changed revision
rev2 revision

Check it out:

My awesome bash prompt



Copyright (c) 2012 "Cowboy" Ben Alman & 2013 Colin Gourlay Licensed under the MIT license.

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