Dotfiles solution

I wanted to describe the way I keep my dotfiles sorted and use this as a way of remembering how I do it for future me's benefit.

I follow the "home directory bare git repository" method. It's quite simple and nifty. There are a few kinks in this method but it ticks all my boxes overall.

Repository setup

First, we will initialise a new git repository in our user home directory:

git init --bare $HOME/.dotfiles

Here git init simply creates a .git directory and prepares a git repository. --bare tells git to create a barebone repository with no working tree. $HOME/.dotfiles is just the directory name for git, instead of .git which could pose to be confusing.

Some prefer to name their git repository .config, I use dotfiles because it's easier to remember the function.

For the repository setup to be complete, we need two more things:

alias dotfiles='/usr/bin/git --git-dir=$HOME/.dotfiles/ --work-tree=$HOME'
dotfiles config --local status.showUntrackedFiles no

The alias is simple: /usr/bin/git is where the git executable is, --git-dir=$HOME/.dotfiles/ tells git to use our dotfiles git directory, --work-tree=$HOME associates the entire $HOME directory with your git repository. You can also alias this with git itself:

git config --global alias.dotfiles '!git --git-dir=$HOME/.dotfiles/ --work-tree=$HOME'

This allows you to use git dotfiles <any git command> freely anywhere, too.

The dotfiles config command is just a quality of life improvement, we change the config of our dotfiles repository to not show any untracked files, otherwise we would have a very messy git status.

That's it! You can go about adding all your dotfiles/configuration files to your git repository now:

dotfiles remote add origin REMOTE_URL
dotfiles add .zshrc
dotfiles commit -m "Add .zshrc"
dotfiles push

You might have to set your git email and user if you don't have it set up globally:

dotfiles config --local user.email YOUR@EMAIL.ORG
dotfiles config --local user.name YOUR_NAME


Cloning your repository, or syncing it, on another computer is fairly simple too:

git clone --bare REPO_URL $HOME/.dotfiles
alias dotfiles='/usr/bin/git --git-dir=$HOME/.dotfiles/ --work-tree=$HOME'
dotfiles checkout


Other resources

Naturally, I did not come up with this method. You can find the "origin" on this hackernews post and more in-depth details on the arch wiki.