WTF are dotfiles?

Dot Files.....what are they good for? First off let's follow along over here at My Dotfiles. Dotfiles are basically configuration files for your favorite applications on *nix systems. If you're reading this chances are you already know what they are, so I just want to go over a quick synposis of what I do with them.

Back when I was a simple recreational Linux user, part of the fun of using linux was the customizability of your system. A lot of times when a person new to Linux would start using it, they would stop shortly and revert back to Windows because of the lingo associated with it. With dotfiles we have the capability to create our OWN lingo, in our own way, while still being able to work within a greater system. A user account is a user account and you should make sure you're working in your most efficient manner.

A lot of things on my system I have forgotten how to use. Granted it's probably just manual page away from being accessible in my mind, I really don't find the need to retain knowledge on things(e.g. linters, code organization, whitespace removal) when I have dotfiles that have already configured this for me and do what I need them to do. When you're working with old solid programs to do work(vim/tmux/screen/ssh/mosh), it's very rare that there is a breaking change introduced that will keep your own personal config from persisting.

I have found over time that using codebases and applications with long standing rapport is the best way to develop. Some people like using bleeding edge applications, I actually rather enjoy using older terminal based systems and solutions in my workflow. It gives me a level of stability, and just one more place where I don't have to think about my tooling, and can focus on my purpose.

I have found in my development career that often times the best way to find out how something works is to simply read the documentation, and pray to god it has examples. I have actually stopped looking for examples on other websites except in cases of language specific functions that probably don't need to be rewritten again(*coughs regular expressions).

I've been working on my dotfiles now for about seven years. There's a LOT of things that I've found that I have added and were really useful a lot that I have added that weren't so useful. Over time I've learned to build a happy medium. I like to stick to a rigid set of rules when I'm doing anything with my dotfiles.


  1. Are my dotfiles human readable.
  2. I write my own dotfiles, and try to abstain from copy & paste.
  3. I use Vim, I center around Vim/Tmux
  4. I try to keep my 3rd party apps light.
  5. I aim for speed of reproduction on my dotfiles
  6. I can maintain them easily across different operating systems.
  7. They enforce my typical file structures
  8. Windows can fuck off

Dotfiles are great ways to keep your system organized and to leave a little piece of you wherever you work. It's nice to just be able to pull them in and set up your editor in the way you like with the keybindings you want.

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