Vincent Aceto

Vincent Aceto

Getting Started with Dotfiles

What Are Dotfiles?

Dotfiles are configuration files that are used to customize and personalize your system. For all you history buffs, the dotfiles name comes from the UNIX convention of prefixing config files with a dot. You can checkout some of the dotfiles by opening up terminal, navigate to your home directory, and listing all contents:

cd ~ && ls -la

Some typical dots include: .bash_profile, .bashrc, and .lesshst. .bashrc, in particular, is a script used to initialize and configure an interactive bash shell session. Many programs that you use, in your day-to-day development / nix life, can be configured with specific dotfiles. Git, for example, utilizes a .gitconfig file that allows you set preferences such as your user email, handle, and default editor.

Saving and Sharing Dotfiles with Git

Tweaking dotfiles can be very time consuming (please don't let this deter you ... honestly, there's a joy in customizing your environments to your liking). It would be a real shame if your hard-drive were to crap out one day, and you lose all those precious config files!

Well, fear not. Git to the rescue! Of course, you can always archive and save your files to a portable drive, but if you're familiar with git, saving + sharing your dotfiles quick and easy.

To do this, make sure you:

  1. Have a github account
  2. Set up SSH
  3. Create a dotfiles repository

When you're ready: git add && git commit && git push

You can now rest assured that your files are safe and sound!

In the event that you get a new machine, whether that be for work or personal use, all you need to do is pull down your dotfiles repo and take the day off.


Dotfiles are configuration files for your environment. Modifying these files to your liking takes time, so make sure that you back them somewhere. If you're tech savvy, Git version control is perfect for saving your dots--quickly share and sync your configs across multiple devices.

I hope you're ready to start managing and configuring your dots! For some inspiration and more dotfile related information, check out my personal files on GitHub: