Created: 2010-08-22 17:12
Updated: 2019-03-03 15:21



dotfiles store your personal settings. These are mine. When compared to Windows' broken registry, dotfiles are bliss.


I use zsh as my shell, because it's so much better than bash. Want to search your history using wildcards? No problem! Just bindkey '^R' history-incremental-pattern-search-backward.

zsh runs on Windows only through Cygwin. Other platforms support it natively through <package manager> install zsh; chsh --shell $(which zsh)

Don't expect a fancy bash setup, my dotfiles are organized around zsh.

Supported Platforms

I use these dotfiles on Windows, Cygwin, macOS and Linux. They should work on msysgit (a.k.a. Git for Windows) as well, but I don't use it on a daily basis.


When you install dotfiles under Cygwin the bootstrap script tries to create native NTFS symlinks by running ln with CYGWIN=winsymlinks:nativestrict.

Native NTFS symlinks can only be created if you are either an Administrator in an elevated shell or if you have the SeCreateSymbolicLinkPrivilege privilege. Check with

  • %SystemRoot%\system32\whoami.exe /priv (cmd.exe)
  • $SYSTEMROOT/system32/whoami.exe /priv (bash or zsh)

and if necessary grant yourself this privilege.

msysgit (a.k.a. Git for Windows)

msysgit's implementation of ln just copies the file/directory to the symlink target.

As I don't use msysgit, I didn't bother working around this limitation. If you're interested in having native NTFS symlinks, you may want to code up a solution that works using this answer as a starting point and submit a pull request.


$ git clone --recursive ~/.dotfiles
$ cd ~/.dotfiles
$ ./bootstrap

The bootstrap script installs (symlinks) dotfiles to your home directory.

The bootstrapper does not delete existing files; it will ask you for permission to overwrite files. Existing files can also be backed up before overwriting. You can run boostrap as often as you like, for example after adding new dotfiles or topics.

This is what you can expect from the boostrapper on a Linux system:

agross@linux ~/.dotfiles
$ ./bootstrap
  [ INFO ] Installing dotfiles from /home/agross/.dotfiles

  [ INFO ] Installing dotfiles to $HOME=/home/agross for $OSTYPE=linux
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles == /home/agross/.dotfiles
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/bash/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/bash/bash_profile == /home/agross/.bash_profile
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/bash/bashrc == /home/agross/.bashrc
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/bash/inputrc == /home/agross/.inputrc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/git/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/git/gitconfig == /home/agross/.gitconfig
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/git/ == /home/agross/
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/git/git-wtfrc == /home/agross/.git-wtfrc
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/git/gitshrc == /home/agross/.gitshrc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/mintty/bootstrap
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/ruby/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/ruby/gemrc == /home/agross/.gemrc
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/ruby/guard.rb == /home/agross/.guard.rb
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/ruby/irbrc == /home/agross/.irbrc
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/ruby/pryrc == /home/agross/.pryrc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/screen/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/screen/screenrc == /home/agross/.screenrc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/ssh/bootstrap
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/tmux/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/tmux/tmux.conf == /home/agross/.tmux.conf
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/vim/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/vim/vim == /home/agross/.vim
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/vim/vimrc == /home/agross/.vimrc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/wget/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/wget/wgetrc == /home/agross/.wgetrc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/zsh/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/zsh/zprofile == /home/agross/.zprofile
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/zsh/zshenv == /home/agross/.zshenv
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/zsh/zshrc == /home/agross/.zshrc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/htop/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/htop/htoprc == /home/agross/.htoprc
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/elixir/bootstrap
  [  OK  ] Linked /home/agross/.dotfiles/elixir/iex.exs == /home/agross/.iex.exs
  [ INFO ] Running /home/agross/.dotfiles/gpg/bootstrap

  [ INFO ] All installed from /home/agross/.dotfiles


dotfiles are structured around topics. Topics are directories under the dotfiles root. Each topic directory contains settings specific to the application. This organization allows for a nice separation of concerns. E.g. if you have a new application with dotfile(s) or if the application requires setup in your shell sessions, just create a new topic directory and put files underneath.

├─ example
|  ├─ bootstrap              # bootstrapper: script to symlink files and install additional programs
|  ├─ zprofile.zsh           # zsh #1: run for login shells
|  ├─ something.zsh          # zsh #3: additional setup
|  ├─ postinit.zsh           # zsh #4: run after additional setup (no guaranteed order)
|  ├─ aliases.zsh            # zsh #4: run after additional setup (no guaranteed order)
|  └─ completion.zsh         # zsh #5: zsh completion setup
└─ git
   ├─ bin                    # contains git scripts, invoke with git specific-script
   |  └─ git-specific-script
   ├─ bootstrap              # bootstrapper to create symlinks
   ├─ gitconfig              # symlinked to ~/.gitconfig by bootstrap
   ├─ aliases.zsh            # sets up git aliases
   ├─ path.zsh               # adds dotfiles/git/bin to $PATH
   └─ ...

There are some special files that either the bootstrap script or zsh reads.

bootstrap-specific files

The bootstrapper will create an implicit symlink for the dotfiles directory itself. $HOME/.dotfiles will point to the dotfiles clone directory unless you git cloned the dotfiles into $HOME/.dotfiles.

This makes it easier to refer to other dotfiles from within dotfiles as you can use a static path. For example, my git mergetool scripts point to $HOME/.dotfiles/git/tools.


bootstrap will source each topic/bootstrap file and thereby run it using bash. The script can then

  • symlink files using the symlink $source $target function. $target may be omitted, e.g. symlink $topic/foo will create the symlink as $HOME/.foo pointing to $DOTFILES/topic/foo.
  • install additional programs at the script's discretion.

Each topic/bootstrap has the following environment variables available:

Variable Description
$topic Directory of the topic of the current bootstrap script
$OSTYPE Normalized operating system, e.g. linux, mac, windows for msysgit and Git for Windows, cygwin, or the original $OSTYPE
$HOME Home directory for the operating system, e.g. $HOME for all Linux-style $OSTYPEs and /c/Users/<you>/ for $OSTYPE == 'windows'

zsh-specific files

I use the excellent zplug project to manage my zsh plugins and initialization.

You can configure verbose logging of the zsh startup process by setting ZSH_VERBOSE to a nonempty value.


These files are loaded for login shells only (i.e. zsh --login). I use them to run screen or tmux when connecting to a server via SSH.


You can put anything you want in these, e.g. set up topic-specific aliases.

topic/**/aliases.zsh, topic/**/postinit.zsh

These scripts are loaded last, i.e. after all zplug plugins are loaded and before completion setup is run. Put any last-minute setup here. I use them on Windows to make my Cygwin SSH agent environment variables known system-wide.


Completion scripts are run after zplug calls zsh's compinit to initialize the completion system. Put any completion-specific setup here.


This work, especially the boostrap script, is based on the dotfiles of Zach Holman.

git-sh by Ryan Tomayko has been adapted to my needs.

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