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I work on several different machines, all of which are *nix. I have a lot of specific things I like my shell to, or the prompt to look like, or aliases, etc, etc. I'm sure all of you folks deal with this as well.

What do you think the best way to keep all my machines' shells to act the same?

First off, I'm aware that different machines will need different paths to bins and other differences, so my first inclination is to just include a file at the end of my profile, this is the one that we'll keep in sync.

What is the best way to keep files synced up? I can put the file on a remote system, and perhaps use git, to push, then pull my changes every once and a while. However, isn't Rsync better suited for this?

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I apologize ahead of time if this is just a dumb question... – JP Silvashy Jun 15 '10 at 4:49
Not dumb at all. – Dennis Williamson Jun 15 '10 at 7:12
up vote 10 down vote accepted

This is how I do it:

  1. I never put real content on the ~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile files, instead those files are just symlinks to the real configuration files kept in a subdirectory in my home folder, for example ~/dotfiles/bashrc and ~/dotfiles/bash_profile.

  2. I keep the ~/dotfiles folder under source control using Git, and hosted at

  3. When I install a new system, I just clone the GitHub repository to a new local ~/dotfiles folder and create all the symlinks (currently by hand, though this step should be easy to automate).

  4. I use this same procedure for other config files, like .hgrc (for Mercurial), .vimrc and several others.

  5. Whenever I edit one of the configuration files, I just commit and push to GitHub, and then pull in every other machine.

This is still somewhat laborious and manual, but I've been happy with it.

This is the current content of my ~/dotfiles folder:

|-- bash
|   |-- aliases
|   |-- config
|   |-- env
|   `-- promptcolors
|-- bash_profile
|-- bashrc
|-- gitconfig
|-- gvimrc
|-- hg-templates
|   |-- map-cmdline.dlog
|   |-- map-cmdline.nlog
|   |-- map-cmdline.sglog
|   `-- map-cmdline.slog
|-- hgrc
|-- ssh
|   `-- config
|-- vim
|   |-- after
|   |-- colemak-mappings.vim
|   |-- colors
|   |-- doc
|   |-- filetype.vim
|   |-- ftplugin
|   `-- plugin
`-- vimrc

I stole this idea from the great Peepcode Advanced Command line screencast (worth the $9 in my opinion).

And this is where I keep my GitHub repository, in case you want to take a look. Don't expect anything of great interest, I'm just a bash/command line newbie.

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Don't these files contain sensitive data? – marines Mar 26 '15 at 11:31

There are a number of different tools that will accomplish this goal

Or see the big list of all things dotfiles related at

(Full disclosure: I am the original author of Hermit and still one of the primary maintainers)

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You could try

It's a free service to manage and store your aliases online. You can then sync directly to all of your machines.

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The OP wants to store their shell configuration files, which typically consist of much more than just aliases. – slhck Jan 16 '13 at 13:54
Yeah fair enough, thought it may have been useful when I saw the question which popped up while I was searching. I'm just glad that down vote didn't put my rank to 0 :) – user190433 Jan 16 '13 at 13:57

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