Recently I’ve been spending a bit more time on my dotfiles and I’ve really been enjoying it so I wanted to try and put into words what’s so enjoyable about it.

Why I ❤ dotfiles

by Mads Hartmann - 02 Aug 2017

If you haven’t come across the concept of dotfiles before it’s simply the act of putting your personal computer’s configuration into version control – usually with a bit of automation to help you setup your system from scratch.

By putting your configuration in version control, and by automating your setup, you’re taking a step away from ad-hoc, perhaps a bit arbitrary, configuration of your system and instead committing to a more deliberate and considered approach. For me the key feature of dotfiles is not about being able to setup my system from scratch easily but rather that it motivates you to put a bit more thought into how you configure your system.

It changes your attitude towards your system. When you consider your configuration to be more permanent, that is, you expect it to outlive your current computer, you’re more likely to invest a bit of time into making sure everything works the way you want, like writing small bash scripts to automate work-flows. Over time this results in a highly customized environment that works just the way you want it to and where you know just how things fit together.

Another thing that I love about dotfiles is that they’re inherently personal. These are my dotfiles. You are not trying to convenience anyone else how to configure their system. It’s your personal preference - no apologies needed. This is very liberating to me.

I also ❤ the dotfiles community around sharing your dotfiles. This might seem a bit contradictory to the previous point, however, this is a very passive form of sharing. You’re simply putting the files out there for people to poke around in and borrow, and optimally modify, to their own needs.

The act of copying and modifying brings me to the last point. I absolutely love the culture that dotfiles represent to me. People who can’t help but tinker with their system till it works the way they want it to. I’m a tinkerer myself, and a curious one at that, so please go ahead and share your dotfiles so I can poke around and steal from them.

my dotfiles are still quite young but I like to think that they’ll still be around in 10 years time, and hopefully they’ll be much improved by then.