Dot Files For Your Shell and Even Ruby

I have come across a number of programmers who don’t know what dotfiles are. Thats a shame. Every programmer should know common dotfiles and actively seek to add aliases, functions, and other tidbits to increase their productivity and make the shell more usable. I recently went on a binge and updated a few of my dotfiles. I’ll share some useful tricks that I found on not only my ~/.bashrc file but also ~/.irbrc for my ruby IRB prompt!

I won’t show off my entire ~/.bashrc file, only because it is rather long. I just want to get across some of the usefulness of such a file:

# -----------
#   General
# -----------
alias ..='cd ..'
alias ll='ls -lh'
alias la='ls -la'
alias ps='ps -ax'
alias du='du -hc'
alias cd..='cd ..'
alias more='less'
alias mkdir='mkdir -p'
alias today='date +"%A, %B %d, %Y"'
alias yest='date -v-1d +"%A %B %d, %Y"'
alias recent='ls -lAt | head'
alias ebashrc='mate ~/.bashrc'
alias mbashrc='mate ~/.bashrc'
alias sbashrc='source ~/.bashrc'
alias htdocs='cd /Applications/MAMP/htdocs/'
alias mampmysql='/Applications/MAMP/Library/bin/mysql -u XXXXX -p'
alias desktoptopia='open /Users/joe/Library/Application\ Support/Desktoptopia/.Backgrounds/'
alias ql='qlmanage -p "$@" >& /dev/null' # Quick Look alias

# -------------
#   Shortcuts
# -------------
alias c="clear"
alias m="mate"

# --------
#   SSHs
# --------
alias rit="ssh -l XXXXX"
alias vega="ssh -l XXXXX"

# -------
#   Git
# -------
alias ga='git add'
alias gs='git status'
alias gd='git diff'
alias github="open \`git config -l | grep 'remote.origin.url' | sed -En 's/remote.origin.url=git(@|:\/\/)|\/)(.+)\/(.+).git/https:\/\/\/\3\/\4/p'\`"

# --------
#   Ruby
# --------
alias irb='irb -r irb/completion -rubygems'

# ---------------
#   Environment
# ---------------
export PATH="$PATH:/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/mysql/bin"
export PATH="$HOME/bin/:$PATH"
export HISTSIZE=10000
export HISTFILESIZE=10000
export PAGER=less
export CLICOLOR=1
export EDITOR="/usr/bin/mate -w"

Hopefully this wasn’t too overwhelming. But lets take a look at some of these. There are a bunch of aliases at the top which simply replace the older version? It just makes sense that when you do a ps you really want `ps -ax`. Likewise a few others there are printing disk usage with human readable output.

Nothing completely interesting however everything is extremely useful. I’m cutting my keystrokes in half and getting better output. I have a bunch of more exciting tricks in the rest of my ~/.bashrc. Its not just reserved for aliases and EXPORTS, take this function for example:

# cd directly to a dir and list contents
cdl() {
  if [ "$1" ]
  then builtin cd "$1" && ll
  else builtin cd && ll

Cd to a directory and list the directory. I even reference my ll alias up above to list long. You can take a peek at my entire .bashrc file on Lets move on to something you may not have known about. Let me walk you through parts of a nice ~/.irbrc file, which you might want for yourself:

# Load and Start Wirble, a gem to beautify irb
require 'wirble'

Probably one of the most popular inclusions in a .irbrc file. Wirble is a Ruby gem built for improving the irb interactive ruby console. That means you may also have to ‘require “rubygems”‘ in order for this to work. Take a look at the gem documentation for Wirble to find out more of its capabilities. But that also means you can include a number of other useful rubygems. For instance, what_methods, map_by_method, hpricot, yaml, the list goes on and on. Instead I’m going to point out some other neat additions you can add to your .irbrc!

# Awesome benchmarking function
# Source:
def time(times=1)
  require "benchmark"
  ret = nil { |x| { times.times { ret = yield } } }
alias bench time

# A cool way to index in a hash
# h = { :alpha => 'bet', :beta => 'blocker' }
# h/:beta #=> 'blocker'
class Hash
  def /(key)

# Simple regular expression helper
# show_regexp - stolen from the pickaxe
def show_regexp(a, re)
  if a =~ re
    "no match"

# Convenience method on Regexp so you can do
# /an/.show_match("banana") # => "b<>ana"
class Regexp
  def show_match(a)
    show_regexp(a, self)

There, now you’re building some really useful tricks! Check it out. Thanks to a few different sources for those code snippets I can easily benchmark any code run at any number of times. There is a neat way to pull an element from a hash, without having to put [brackets] around the key. Finally, a little helper for regular expressions which is useful every now and then.

But wait, there is more. This time a little more system specific:

# Textmate helper
# Source:
def mate *args
  flattened_args = {|arg| "\"#{arg.to_s}\""}.join ' '
  `mate #{flattened_args}`

# Clear
def c

You can now open up TextMate from within irb! I’ve also grown so used to using my ‘c’ alias to clear the terminal prompt that I added the same functionality to irb. Just make sure that you don’t name a variable c!

Now let me blow your mind:

# Why's aorta method to edit an object in YAML, awesome!
# Source:
require 'yaml'
def aorta( obj )
  tempfile = File.join('/tmp',"yobj_#{ }") tempfile, 'w' ) { |f| f << obj.to_yaml }
  system( "#{ ENV['EDITOR'] || 'vi' } #{ tempfile }" )
  return obj unless File.exists?( tempfile )
  content = YAML::load( tempfile ) )
  File.delete( tempfile )

Why is a famous member of the Ruby community. This function here actually takes a Ruby object, exports it as YAML to a file, opens the File for editing, and once saved reloads the file from YAML. Essentially it allows you to edit the contents of an object in YAML. Absolutely amazing, let that stir in your mind for a minute!

Now, I have started building my own library of functions that I have deemed semi-useful but not worthy of turning into a gem. These functions include some simple String extensions like my TXT helpers. I include all these files in a directory and I auto-load them like so:

# Load all my non-test libraries in '~/.util/irb'
util_dir = File.expand_path('~') + '/.util/irb/*'
Dir[util_dir].each do |f|
  require f unless File.basename(f) =~ /\Atest/

Notice how I ignore any files starting with “test”. I have gotten into the habit of creating test files for my libraries and the naming convention I use is the exact same as the majority of Ruby developers, you just create a new file called “test_library.rb” to test “library.rb”. Simple yes, and helpful in this case where I want to avoid loading these test files. This means I have all my useful functions pre-loaded whenever I open the irb. I’d like to see what additional stuff you have!

Finally here are links directly to my .bashrc and .irbrc files. Enjoy, and please give me additions!

3 Responses


Geoff on June 6, 2008 at 4:55 am  #

Nice list, though your SSH aliases might be better in .ssh/config, something like

Host rit

Host vega

Then you’d connect with
$ ssh rit
if you wanted to use a different username
$ ssh rit -l YYYYY


Leslie Viljoen on June 9, 2008 at 4:28 am  #

Fantastic list, thanks!


Joseph Pecoraro on June 10, 2008 at 12:11 am  #

@Geoff: Thats a great idea. Here I am talking about how people should know these dotfiles and you go an teach me about one I didn’t know! I just finished setting that up and it works great.

@Leslie: Glad it helped you out. Feel free to contribute =)

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