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A dotfile manager for lazy people and pair programmers.

Table of Contents


dfm supports these features that I was unable to find in other Dotfile Management solutions.

Multiple dotfile profiles

dfm's core feature is the idea of profiles. Profiles are simply a collection of dotfiles that dfm manages and links in the $HOME directory or configuration directories. This means that you can have multiple profiles and overlap them.

This feature is hard to describe, so I will illustrate it's usefulness with two use cases:

The work profile

I use one laptop for work and personal projects in my dfm profiles I have my personal profile chasinglogic which contains all my dotfiles for Emacs, git, etc. and a "work" profile which only has a .gitconfig that has my work email in it. So my profile directory looks like this:

├── chasinglogic
│   ├── agignore
│   ├── bash
│   ├── bashrc
│   ├── gitconfig
│   ├── gnupg
│   ├── password-store
│   ├── pypirc
│   ├── spacemacs.d
│   └── tmux.conf
└── work
    └── gitconfig

Since dfm when linking only overwrites the files which are in the new profile, I can run dfm link work and still have access to my emacs configuration but my gitconfig has been updated to use my work email. Similarly when I leave work I just dfm link chasinglogic to switch back.

See profile modules for an even better solution to this particular use case.

Pair programming

The original inspiration for this tool was pair programming with my friend lionize. lionize has a dotfiles repository so I can clone it using the git backend for dfm with dfm clone --name lionize https://github.com/lionize/dotfiles.

Now our profile directory looks like:

├── chasinglogic
│   ├── .dfm.yml
│   ├── .git
│   ├── .gitignore
│   ├── agignore
│   ├── bash
│   ├── bashrc
│   ├── gitconfig
│   ├── gnupg
│   ├── password-store
│   ├── pypirc
│   ├── spacemacs.d
│   └── tmux.conf
├── lionize
│   ├── .agignore
│   ├── .git
│   ├── .gitconfig
│   ├── .gitignore_global
│   ├── .gitmessage
│   ├── .scripts
│   ├── .tmux.conf
│   ├── .vim
│   ├── .vimrc -> ./.vim/init.vim
│   └── .zshrc
└── work
    ├── .git
    └── gitconfig

Now when I'm driving I simply dfm link chasinglogic and when passing back to lionize he runs dfm link lionize and we don't have to mess with multiple machines vice versa.

Profile modules

dfm supports profile modules which can be either additional dotfiles profiles as accepted by the dfm clone command or can be any git repository such as Spacemacs. You can get more info about how to use them and configure them in Configuration

Pre and Post command hooks

dfm supports pre and post command hooks. that allows you to specify before and after command scripts to run. For example, I use a profile module to keep certain ssh keys in an encrypted git repository. Whenever I run the dfm sync command I have hooks which fix the permissions of the keys and ssh-add them to my ssh agent. You can read about how to write your own hooks in Configuration


dfm respects dotfiles which exist in the $XDG_CONFIG_HOME directory, meaning if in your repository you have a folder named config or .config it'll translate those into the $XDG_CONFIG_HOME directory automatically. Similarly when using dfm add if inside your $XDG_CONFIG_HOME or $HOME/.configuration directories it'll add those to the repository appropriately.

Skips relevant files

dfm by default will skip multiple relevant files.

  • .git

dfm will skip the .git directory so your $HOME directory isn't turned into a git repository.

  • .gitignore

If you would like to store a global .gitignore file you can either omit the leading dot (so just gitignore) or name the global one .ggitignore and dfm will translate the name for you. Otherwise it assumes that .gitignore is the gitignore for the profile's repository and so skips it.


Want to make a README for your dotfiles? Go ahead! As long as the file name starts with README dfm will ignore it. So README.txt README.md and README.rst or whatever other permutations you can dream up all work.


You should put a LICENSE on all code you put on the internet and some dotfiles / configurations are actual code (See: Emacs). If you put a LICENSE in your profile dfm will respect you being a good open source citizen and not clutter your $HOME directory.

  • .dfm.yml

This is a special dfm file used for hooks today and in the future for other ways to extend dfm. As such dfm doesn't put it in your $HOME directory.

Custom mappings

The above ignores are implemented as a dfm feature called Mappings. You can write your own mappings to either skip, skip based on platform or translate files to different locations than dfm would normally place them. You can read how to configure your own mappings in Configuration

Encrypted Dotfiles

Using hooks and mappings you can integrate GPG with DFM to have an encrypted dotfiles repository.

If you add the following .dfm.yml to your repository per the Configuration documentation:

  - match: '.*.gpg'
    skip: true

    - interpreter: /bin/bash -c
      script: |
        echo "encrypting files..."
        for file in $(find . -not -name '*.gpg' -not -name '.dfm.yml' -not -name '.gitignore' -not -path './.git/*'); do
          echo "Encrypting $file to ${file/.gpg/}"
          gpg --batch --yes --encrypt ${file/.gpg/}
    - interpreter: /bin/bash -c
      script: |
        for file in $(git ls-files | grep -v .dfm.yml | grep -v .gitignore); do
          gpg --batch --yes --decrypt -o ${file/.gpg/} $file

And the following .gitignore file:


Then when running dfm sync DFM will run the gpg command to encrypt all your files, then git will ignore all non-GPG encrypted files (due to the .gitignore), and after syncing DFM will decrypt all the GPG encrypted files.

This all happens before linking, when you run dfm link DFM will ignore all gpg encrypted files due to the mapping configuration. It will then only link the unencrypted versions into your home directory.


Install from Release

dfm is available on Github Releases and should be installed from there.

The latest release is available here.

Download the archive that is appropriate for your platform and extract the binary into your $PATH. A common valid path location is /usr/local/bin.

You can run these commands to automate this install (on most platforms, it does not always work):

platform=$(uname -s)
arch=$(uname -m)
# If you're running on an M1 Macbook run this:
download_url=$(curl -s https://api.github.com/repos/chasinglogic/dfm/releases/latest | grep "browser_download_url.*$arch.*${platform,,}" | cut -d : -f 2,3 | sed 's/"//g' | xargs)
curl -L -o /tmp/dfm.tar.gz "$download_url"
tar -C /tmp -xzvf /tmp/dfm.tar.gz
mv $(find /$(readlink /tmp) -perm +111 -type f -name dfm 2>/dev/null) /usr/local/bin/

Install from Source

You will need a rust compiler to build dfm from source.

Clone the repository and run ./scripts/local_install.sh:

git clone https://github.com/chasinglogic/dfm
cd dfm

It's possible that for your system you will need to run the install script with sudo.


    dfm [options] <command> [<args>...]
    dfm help
    dfm sync
    dfm link <profile>

Dotfile management written for pair programmers. Examples on getting
started with dfm are avialable at https://github.com/chasinglogic/dfm

    -v, --verbose  If provided print more logging info
    --debug        If provided print debug level logging info
    -h, --help     Print this help information

    help           Print usage information about dfm commands
    sync (s)       Sync your dotfiles
    add (a)        Add the file to the current dotfile profile
    clean (x)      Clean dead symlinks
    clone (c)      Use git clone to download an existing profile
    git (g)        Run the given git command on the current profile
    init (i)       Create a new profile
    link (l)       Create links for a profile
    list (ls)      List available profiles
    remove (rm)    Remove a profile
    run-hook (rh)  Run dfm hooks without using normal commands
    where (w)      Prints the location of the current dotfile profile

See 'dfm help <command>' for more information on a specific command.

Quick start

Quick start (Existing dotfiles repository)

If you already have a dotfiles repository you can start by cloning it using the clone command.

SSH URLs will work as well.

dfm clone https://github.com/chasinglogic/dotfiles

If you're using GitHub you can shortcut the domain:

dfm clone chasinglogic/dotfiles

If you want to clone and link the dotfiles in one command:

dfm clone --link chasinglogic/dotfiles

You may have to use --overwrite as well if you have existing non-symlinked versions of your dotfiles

Once you have multiple profiles you can switch between them using dfm link

dfm link some-other-profile

See the Usage Notes below for some quick info on what to expect from other dfm commands.

Quick Start (No existing dotfiles repository)

If you don't have a dotfiles repository the best place to start is with dfm init

dfm init my-new-profile

Then run dfm link to set it as the active profile, this is also how you switch profiles

dfm link my-new-profile

Once that's done you can start adding your dotfiles

dfm add ~/.bashrc

Alternatively you can add multiple files at once

dfm add ~/.bashrc ~/.vimrc ~/.vim ~/.emacs.d

Then create your dotfiles repository on GitHub. Instructions for how to do that can be found here. Once that's done get the "clone" URL for your new repository and set it as origin for the profile:

Note: When creating the remote repository don't choose any options such as "initialize this repository with a README" otherwise git'll get cranky when you add the remote because of a recent git update and how it handles unrelated histories if you do don't worry the linked post explains how to get past it.

dfm git remote add origin <your clone URL>

Then simply run dfm sync to sync your dotfiles to the remote

dfm sync

Now you're done!


dfm supports a .dfm.yml file in the root of your repository that changes dfm's behavior when syncing and linking your profile. This file will be ignored when doing a dfm link so won't end up in your home directory. The .dfm.yml can be used to configure these features:


Modules in dfm are sub profiles. They're git repositories that are cloned into a a special directory: $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/dfm/modules. They're shared across profiles so if two dotfile profiles have the same module they'll share that module.

The syntax for defining a minimum module is as follows:

    - repository: git@github.com:chasinglogic/dotfiles

This would clone my dotfiles repository as a module into $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/dfm/modules/chasinglogic. If I wanted to use a unique name or some other folder name so it wouldn't be shared you can specify an additional option name:

    - repository: git@github.com:chasinglogic/dotfiles
      name: chasinglogic-dotfiles

Which would instead clone into $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/dfm/modules/chasinglogic-dotfiles. You can define multiple modules:

    - repository: git@github.com:chasinglogic/dotfiles
      name: chasinglogic-dotfiles
    - repository: git@github.com:lionize/dotfiles

Make sure that you specify a name if the resulting clone location as defined by git would conflict as we see here. Both of these would have been cloned into dotfiles which would cause the clone to fail for the second module if we didn't specify name for chasinglogic's dotfiles.

An additional use for modules is that of a git repository you want to clone but not link. An example use would be for downloading Spacemacs or any such community configuration like oh-my-zsh, etc.

    - repo: git@github.com:syl20bnr/spacemacs
      link: none
      pull_only: true
      location: ~/.emacs.d

Here we specify a few extra keys. There purpose should be self explanatory but if you're curious below is a detailed explanation of all keys that each module configuration supports.

Modules work just like any other dfm profile so if a module you're pulling in has a .dfm.yml in it that will be loaded and executed accordingly. Including pulling down any modules it defines.

Available keys


Required, this is the git repository to clone for the module.


This changes the cloned name. This only has an effect if location isn't provided. Normally a git repository would be cloned into $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/dfm/modules and the resulting folder would be named whatever git decides it should be based on the git URL. If this is provided it'll be cloned into the modules directory with the specified name. This is useful if multiple profiles use the same module.


If provided module will be cloned into the specified location. You can use the ~ bash expansion here to represent $HOME. No other expansions are available. This option is useful for cloning community configurations like oh-my-zsh or spacemacs.

Determines when to link the module. Link in this context means that it'll be treated like a normal dotfile profile, so all files will go through the same translation rules as a regular profile and be linked accordingly. Available values are post, pre, and none. post is the default and means that the module will be linked after the parent profile. "pre" means this will be linked before the parent profile, use this if for instance you want to use most files from this profile and override a few files with those from the parent file since dfm will overwrite the links with the last one found. "none" means the module is not a dotfiles profile and shouldn't be linked at all, an example being community configuration repositories like oh-my-zsh or spacemacs.


If set to true won't attempt to push any changes. It's important to know that dfm always tries to push to origin master, so if you don't have write access to the repository or don't want it to automatically push to master then you should set this to true. This is useful for community configuration repositories.


A list of file mappings as described below in Mappings. Modules do not inherit parent mappings, they do however inherit the default mappings as described in Skips Relevant Files


Mappings are a way of defining custom file locations. To understand mappings one must understand dfm's default link behavior:

Default behavior

For an example let's say you have a file named my_config.txt in your dotfile repository. dfm will try and translate that to a new location of $HOME/.my_config.txt. It'll then create a symlink at that location pointing to my_config.txt in your dotfile repository.

Using mappings

With mappings you can replace this behavior and make it so dfm will link my_config wherever you wish. This is useful if you need to store config files that are actually global. Such as configuration files that would go into /etc/ or if you want to sync some files in your repo but not link them.

Here is a simple example:

  - match: .config/some-dir
    link_as_dir: true
  - match: my_global_etc_files
    target_dir: /etc/
  - match: something_want_to_skip_but_sync
    skip: true
  - match: something_only_for_macos
    target_os: "Darwin"
  - match: some_file_for_mac_and_linux_only
        - "Linux"
        - "Darwin"
  - match: some_specific_translation_for_mac
    dest: ~/.mac_os_dotfile
        - "Darwin"

Here dfm uses the match as a regular expression to match the file paths in your dotfile repository. When it finds a path which matches the regular expression it adds an alternative linking behavior. For anything where skip is true it simply skips linking. For anything with target_dir that value will override $HOME when linking. For anything with a target_os value the file will only be linked if dfm is being run on the given os.

Above you can see a mapping using the link_as_dir option. When this is set to true for a mapping the match: value will be used as a directory relative to the root of the dotfile repo and will be linked as a directory. Normally DFM only links files, this can cause issues with some types of configuration where you regularly generate files like snippet tools. Consider the following dotfiles in a dotfile repository:

├── UltiSnips
   ├── gitcommit.snippets
   └── python.snippets

That would produce the following links in $HOME/.config/nvim:

├── UltiSnips
   ├── gitcommit.snippets -> $HOME/.config/dfm/profiles/chasinglogic/.config/nvim/UltiSnips/gitcommit.snippets
│   └── python.snippets -> $HOME/.config/dfm/profiles/chasinglogic/.config/nvim/UltiSnips/python.snippets

Every time you used :UltiSnipsEdit to create a new snippet file type you'd have to then remember to manually move that into your dotfile repository and re-run dfm link. To solve this problem you can use the following mapping in your .dfm.yml you can instead link UltiSnips the directory instead of it's files:

  - match: .config/nvim/UltiSnips
    link_as_dir: true

Now DFM links the $HOME/.config/nvim/UltiSnips directory to the $REPO/.config/nvim/UltiSnips:

├── UltiSnips -> $HOME/.config/dfm/profiles/chasinglogic/.config/nvim/UltiSnips

Available configuration

Mappings support the following configuration options:


Match is a regular expression used to match the file path of any files in your dotfile repository. This is used to determine if the custom linking behavior for a file should be used.

These are python style regular expressions and are matched using the re.findall method so are by default fuzzy matching.


If provided the file/s will not be linked.


The new full path to the file. This can be used to completely change a file's name or put it in a wholly new location. This is more explicity than target_dir and covers cases that target_dir is not suited for (for example if a file is a dotfile on one OS but not on another.)


Where to link the file to. The ~ expansion for $HOME is supported here but no other expansions are available. It is worth noting that if you're using ~ in your target_dir then you should probably just create the directory structure in your git repo.


A string or list of strings matching the OS's to link this file on. A non-exhaustive list of common values are: Linux, Darwin, or Windows. This matches the string returned by Python's platform.system() function.


Hooks in dfm are used for those few extra tasks that you need to do whenever your dotfiles are synced or linked.

An example from my personal dotfiles is running an Ansible playbook whenever I sync my dotfiles. To accomplish this I wrote an after_sync hook as follows:

    - ansible-playbook ansible/dev-mac.yml

Now whenever I sync my dotfiles Ansible will run my dev-mac playbook to make sure that my packages etc are also in sync!

The hooks option is just a YAML map which supports the following keys: after_link, before_link, after_sync, and before_sync. The values of any of those keys is a YAML list of strings which will be executed in a shell via /bin/sh -c '$YOUR COMMAND'. An example would be:

    - ls -l
    - whoami
    - echo "All done!"

All commands are ran with a working directory of your dotfile repository and the current process environment is passed down to the process so you can use $HOME etc environment variables in your commands.

By default the comamnds will run with the interpreter /bin/sh -c. So the expanded comamnd line for the first hook above would be:

/bin/sh -c 'ls -l'

If you want to use a different interpreter you can use instead use this hook format:

    - interpreter: python -c
      script: |
        print("hello world from Python")

You may want to do this in cases where you need complex logic (like that which should live in a Python script) or for example on Debian based systems which use dash instead of bash as the /bin/sh interpreter and so have a very limited expansion feature set.


  1. Fork it!
  2. Create your feature branch: git checkout -b my-new-feature
  3. Commit your changes: git commit -am 'Add some feature'
  4. Push to the branch: git push origin my-new-feature
  5. 🔥 Submit a pull request :D 🔥

All pull requests should go to the develop branch not master. Thanks!


This code is distributed under the GNU General Public License

    Copyright (C) 2018 Mathew Robinson

    This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
    it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
    the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
    (at your option) any later version.

    This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
    but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
    GNU General Public License for more details.

    You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
    along with this program.  If not, see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.


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