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Michael Currin
Michael Currin

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Dotfiles - How to Configure your Shell (intro)

Sharing my shell dotfiles for developers using macOS, Linux, ZSH or Bash

My aim is make my configs easy to understand and manage - using functions to make the shell config lighter, if statements to turn on features when needed. I use aliases at the shell and git level to make it easy to reach for long or frequently-used commands.

If want to just see config files, skip ahead to Part 2.

What you'll discover in this post series

Click links to skip to that part of the series.


Let me give you an idea of what development I do on a daily basis. You'll see the configs fit into these areas.

What is a dotfile?

A dotfile is a file or directory which has a name that starts with a "full-stop" or "dot".

On "Unix-like systems", such as Linux and macOS, a dotfile is hidden by default when viewing files in a folder browser and the shell. This makes it harder to see and edit but keeps them out of the way unless you are actually looking for them.

For example running ls shows Documents, Downloads etc. but ls -a will show all hidden files like .aliases and .bashrc and directories like .config/ and .ssh/.

Config files are typically stored are dotfiles in the user home directory. Such as ~/.bashrc.

You can open it for editing from the command-line using something like this:

$ edit ~/.bashrc
$ nano ~/.bashrc
$ vim ~/.bashrc
$ code ~/.bashrc # VS Code
$ subl ~/.bashrc # Sublime
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

My global dotfiles

The next few posts in this series cover content for files in user directory.

I provide links to files in my MichaelCurrin/dotfiles repo, which I created specifically for sharing in this blog post.

I also highlight and explain some of the content directly in the posts.

Dotfiles by other people

For further reading, see this dotfiles post by @helderburato. It includes dotfiles by a few people.

I have heard of yadm as a dotfile manager from comments on my post. I haven't used it before but its site has a couple of dotfile repos linked there.

Side note - the way I manage my dotfiles is actually through a private repo cloned locally. I have symlink in my home directory pointing to .bashrc and others in the repo, so get the benefit of my repo code being used live and I get to regularly push and pull changes on GH to keep work and personal laptops in sync. I find it works well.


Onto the configs! Go to Part 2 for my shell configs.

Top comments (4)

technoplato profile image
Michael Lustig -

Hey Mike, not sure if you mention it down the line, but I HIGHLY recommend yadm to manage all of your dotfiles. Makes everything a cinch, even for the not so gritty hackers.

michaelcurrin profile image
Michael Currin

Heya thanks for sharing. I've added a link to one of its pages in this post.

I am interested to see how it works. I added an explanation at the end above of how my setup works.

technoplato profile image
Michael Lustig -

Very cool man. Just followed!

It sounds like your setup is exactly what yadm does, so looks like we're on the same page. I'm newly getting into customizing my dots and even caring about the level of customizability that brings, so for me as a beginner, it was simple enough.

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michaelcurrin profile image
Michael Currin • Edited

Glad to hear.

I added a setup script in my repo which does this essentially. It adds the symlinks for me so it is easy to run across machines when I make changes.


# Bash array
  .commonrc .bashrc .zshrc
  .gitconfig .gitignore

# Symlink repo's .foo as a new file ~/.foo
for CONFIG in ${CONFIGS[@]}; do

The -f will overwrite existing symlinks in case they broke.

I also do a check to see if the files are text files to remind me to move their content out.