Dotenv File Format

.env files (a.k.a. "dotenv") store key-value pairs in a format descended from simple bash files that exported environment variables.

This implementation cleaves closely to the format described by the original dotenv package, but it is not a direct match (by design).

Typically, a dotenv (.env) file is formatted into simple key-value pairs:

S3_BUCKET=YOURS3BUCKET
SECRET_KEY=YOURSECRETKEYGOESHERE

You may add export in front of each line so you can source the file in bash (see Dotenvy.source/2):

export S3_BUCKET=YOURS3BUCKET
export SECRET_KEY=YOURSECRETKEYGOESHERE

Variable Names

For the sake of portability (and sanity), environment variable names must consist solely of letters, digits, and the underscore ( _ ) and must not begin with a digit. In regex-speak:

[a-zA-Z_]+[a-zA-Z0-9_]*

Example variable names

DATABASE_URL  # ok  
foobar        # ok  
NO-WORK       # <-- invalid !!!
ÜBER          # <-- invalid !!!
2MUCH         # <-- invalid !!!

Values

Values are to the right of the equals sign. They may be quoted. Using single quotes will prevent variables from being interpolated.

SIMPLE=xyz123
INTERPOLATED="Multiple\nLines and variable substitution: ${SIMPLE}"
NON_INTERPOLATED='raw text without variable interpolation'
MULTILINE = """
long text here,
e.g. a private SSH key
"""

Escape Sequences

The following character strings will be interpreted (i.e. escaped) as specific codepoints in the same way you would expect if the values were assigned inside a script. Remember: when a text file is read, it is read as a series of utf8 encoded code points. Character sequences like \n have no special meaning until they are "escaped" and a combination of codepoints is replaced by a single codepoint.

  • \n Linefeed (aka newline); <<92, 110>> -> <<10>>
  • \r Carriage return; <<92, 114>> -> <<13>>
  • \t Tab; -> <<92, 116>> -> <<9>>
  • \f Form feed; -> <<92, 102>> -> <<12>>
  • \b Backspace; -> <<92, 98>> -> <<8>>
  • \" Double-quote; -> <<92, 34>> -> <<34>>
  • \' Single-quote; -> <<92, 39>> -> <<39>>
  • \\ Backslash; -> <<92, 92>> -> <<92>>
  • \uFFFF Unicode escape (4 hex characters to denote the codepoint)

If a backslash precedes any other character, that character will be interpretted literally: i.e. the backslash will be ignored and removed from output.

Interpolation (a.k.a. Variable Substitution)

Values left unquoted or wrapped in double-quotes will interpolate variables in the ${VAR} syntax. This can be useful for referencing existing system environment variables or to reference varaibles previously parsed.

For example:

USER=admin
EMAIL=${USER}@example.org
DATABASE_URL="postgres://${USER}@localhost/my_database"
CACHE_DIR=${PWD}/cache

Multi-line values (e.g. private keys) can use the triple-quoted heredoc syntax:

PRIVATE_KEY="""
-----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY-----
...
HkVN9...
...
-----END DSA PRIVATE KEY-----
"""

Non-Interpolated

If your values must retain ${} in their output, wrap the value in single quotes, e.g.:

PASSWORD='!@G0${k}k'
MESSAGE_TEMPLATE='''
    Hello ${PERSON},

    Nice to meet you!
'''

Comments

The hash-tag # symbol denotes a comment when on its own line or when it follows a quoted value. It is not treated as a comment when it appears within quotes.

# This is a comment
SECRET_KEY=YOURSECRETKEYGOESHERE # also a comment
SECRET_HASH="something-with-a-hash-#-this-is-not-a-comment"