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Never Leave Your Dotfiles Behind Again With Homesick

I was on a server the other day, and was getting a little weepy. I missed my dotfiles. The thought of doing this manually, especially on multiple servers, was even worse than the homesickness I had. Basically, I wanted:

  • A convention for laying out dotfiles repos
  • A command to clone my dotfiles from git
  • A command to symlink the files into my home directory
  • A delicious scotch

Lots of folks, myself included, have started sharing their configuration files, ie .vimrc, .bashrc, and .screenrc, on GitHub and elsewhere. Sometimes though, I think they are really more for personal backup and maybe to just share tips and tricks, rather than share them for consumption by others.

Why would I say such a thing? Well, let’s say you found someone that has put together the ultimate set vim configuration. How would you go about using them?

  • git clone whatever
  • Peek into the repo, try to figure out how it’s laid out and where the config files are
  • Are the files at the top level of the repo?
  • Do they include the dot in the file name, ie .vimrc, or exclude it so it’s easier to see when doing ls, ie vimrc?
  • Symlink the files into your home directory

After deliberating and coding for an evening, I had something to show for my troubles: homesick. Basically, it provides what I just described, less the scotch.

$ gem install homesick
$ homesick clone git://
   git clone  git:// to /Users/technicalpickles/.homesick/repos/pickled-vim
$ homesick list
 pickled-vim  git://
$ homesick symlink pickled-vim
     symlink  /Users/technicalpickles/.homesick/repos/pickled-vim/home/.gvimrc to /Users/technicalpickles/.gvimrc
     symlink  /Users/technicalpickles/.homesick/repos/pickled-vim/home/.vim to /Users/technicalpickles/.vim
     symlink  /Users/technicalpickles/.homesick/repos/pickled-vim/home/.vimrc to /Users/technicalpickles/.vimrc

homesick assumes a few things about the repos it clones and how to symlink files from them:

  • It’s a git repo (duh)
  • It contains a home directory
  • home contain any number of dotfiles, including the . prefix
  • Any file in home will be symlinked into the current user’s home directory

homesick uses thor under the hood, which provides a number of advantages:

  • Pretty, pretty colors
  • Simple parsing of commandline arguments
  • Helper methods for creating files, directories, etc
  • Builtin support for running the command without output, or only pretending to run the commands, or forcing the commands no matter what the cost
  • Ease to add new ‘commands’, ie symlink, clone
  • Conflict resolution when files already exist

Overall, I’m pretty happy where homesick is right now. It does what I wanted it to do, and looks pretty while doing so, so I can’t really complain.

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