Synchronize configuration files between machines, lazily, without root permissions, and still be able to create powerful rules when needed.

While it is mainly targeted at managing personal configuration files (dotfiles), it can be used to deploy files to pretty much anything.

It is designed to have almost no dependencies, and is contained in one small file.

By default, it will create symbolic links in the destination directory to the files in the source directory. However, some filenames can indicate special actions instead (see below).


Python 2.6 or later (for 2.5, try v0.1). No installation needed, though you can install it.


The project is usable, but has no CLI interface for now. Examples are available in example.py and in the public-dotfiles repository.

A simple example:

from confman import ConfigSource
c = ConfigSource("~/dotfiles", "~")

Special actions

  • Files with names starting with _ will be ignored. This is useful to provide data for programmable actions.
  • File with names ending with .copy will be a copy. It will update the destination file every time.
  • File with names ending with .copyonce will be a copy. It will not update the destination file if either file is modified.
  • Files with names ending with .empty will be an empty file. It will not update the destination file if either file is modified.
  • Files with names ending with .p.py are programmable actions. They contain Python code, and are provided with some special methods.
  • Files with names ending with .F are normal files. It means blah.p.py.F will end up as blah.p.py, and f.F.F as f.F. It is really useful to make a symbolic link of a directory instead of all its children (effectively treating the directory as a file).

All the matching parts of the special actions are removed; myfile.empty will create an empty file named myfile.

Programmable actions

Programmable actions can do everything special actions can do, and more. They have to raise a "Forwarder", however for most uses helpers are provided to keep the code short.

  • empty() raises an empty action.
  • ignore() raises an ignore action.
  • redirect(filename) will create a symbolic link to the provided filename with a _ added. redirect('myfile') will create a symbolic link to _myfile.

Text / Templates

Both text() and template() use string.Template templates.

  • text(data) will put the text from the data variable in the destination file.
  • template(filename) acts like text() but takes the data from a file.

They have to be used in two steps:

text('hello $name').render(hello='laurentb')

A warning variable is provided, to help prevent users from modifying automatically generated files.

text('''# $warning

Will output:

# WARNING: Do not edit this file, edit the template instead.

Since it is Python, you can use external libraries if you want, including advanced template libraries like mako.

Options variable

You can provide an options variable to confman, which will be provided to the programmable actions.

from confman import ConfigSource
c = ConfigSource("~/dotfiles", "~", options={'hostname': 'myhostname'})

A programmable action could use it like this:

if options['hostname'] == 'myhostname':

The options variable does not have to be a dict, it can be anything you want.

Advanced use

To debug what is happening (and why), you can do:

from confman import ConfigSource
print repr(c)

Changing the default behavior

All special actions are optional, and can be configured or subclassed. For example, you could change the matching of "copy" actions:

import confman, re
# use .COPY instead of .copy
confman.CopyAction.MATCHED = re.compile(r"\.COPY$")
# use hg instead of git
confman.IgnoreAction.MATCHED = re.compile(r"_|\.hg|\.hgignore")

You can also change what classes are used. By default, it is confman.ConfigSource.DEFAULT_CLASSES.

import confman
confman.ConfigSource("~/dotfiles", "~", classes=[MyClass, confman.SymlinkAction])


Contributions can be sent in the form of git patches, to laurent@bachelier.name.