Skogsrå

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The Skogsrå was a mythical creature of the forest that appears in the form of a small, beautiful woman with a seemingly friendly temperament. However, those who are enticed into following her into the forest are never seen again.

This library attempts to improve the use of OS environment variables for application configuration:

  • Variable defaults.
  • Automatic type casting of values.
  • Automatic docs and spec generation.
  • OS environment template generation.
  • Posibility to override Elixir configuration.
  • Runtime reloading.
  • Setting variable's values at runtime.
  • Fast cached values access by using :persistent_term as temporal storage.
  • Custom variable bindings.
  • YAML and JSON configuration providers for Elixir releases.

Small example

You would create a config module e.g:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My hostname"
  app_env :my_hostname, :myapp, :hostname,
    default: "localhost"
end

Calling MyApp.Config.my_hostname() will retrieve the value for the hostname in the following order:

  1. From the OS environment variable $MYAPP_HOSTNAME (can be overriden by the option os_env).
  2. From the configuration file e.g:
      config :myapp,
        hostname: "my.custom.host"
  3. From the default value if it exists (In this case, it would return "localhost").

Available options

There are several options for configuring an environment variables:

OptionTypeDefaultDescription
defaultanynilSets the Default value for the variable.
typeSkogsra.Env.type():anySets the explicit type for the variable.
os_envbinaryautogeneratedOverrides automatically generated OS environment variable name.
binding_orderSkogra.Env.bindings()[:system, :config]Sets the load order for variable binding.
binding_skipSkogra.Env.bindings()[]Which variable bindings should be skipped.
requiredbooleanfalseWhether the variable is required or not.
cachedbooleantrueWhether the variable should be cached or not.

IMPORTANT: Options skip_system: true and skip_config: true have been deprecated in favour of binding_skip: [:system] and binding_skip: [:config] respectively.

Additional topics:

Types

Skogsrå implements several built-in types. Some of them can be inferred from the default value while others must be set explicitly:

TypeCan be inferred?Description
:anyYesAny Elixir term.
:binaryYesA string e.g. "localhost".
:integerYesAn integer e.g. 42.
:neg_integerNoA negative integer.
:non_neg_integerNoA non negative integer.
:pos_integerNoA positive integer.
:floatYesA float e.g. 42.0.
:booleanYesA boolean e.g. false.
:atomYesAn atom e.g. :ok.
:moduleNoAn existent module e.g. Enum.
:unsafe_moduleNoA module e.g. SomeModule.
Skogsra.Type implementationNoSee Custom types section.

Automatic type casting

If the default value is set (and no explicit type is found), the variable value will be casted as the same type of the default value. For this to work, the default value should be of the following types:

  • :any
  • :binary
  • :integer
  • :float
  • :boolean
  • :atom

e.g. in the following example, the value will be casted to :atom automatically:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My environment"
  app_env :my_environment, :myapp, :environment,
    default: :prod
end

If either of the system OS or the application environment variables are defined, Skogsrå will try to cast their values to the default value's type which it atom e.g:

iex(1)> System.get_env("MYAPP_ENVIRONMENT")
"staging"
iex(2)> MyApp.Config.my_environment()
{:ok, :staging}

or

iex(1)> Application.get_env(:myapp, :environment)
"staging"
iex(2)> MyApp.Config.my_environment()
{:ok, :staging}

Note: If the variable is already of the desired type, it won't be casted.

Explicit type casting

A type can be explicitly set. The available types are the following:

  • :any (default).
  • :binary.
  • :integer.
  • :neg_integer.
  • :non_neg_integer.
  • :pos_integer.
  • :float.
  • :boolean.
  • :atom.
  • :module (modules loaded in the system).
  • :unsafe_module (modules that might or might not be loaded in the system)
  • A module name with an implementation for the behaviour Skogsra.Type.

e.g. in the following example, the value will be casted to :pos_integer according to the variable definition:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "Port"
  app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
    default: 4000,
    type: :pos_integer
end

If either of the system OS or the application environment variables are defined, Skogsrå will try to cast their values to a positive integer.

iex(1)> System.get_env("MYAPP_PORT")
"42"
iex(2)> MyApp.Config.my_port()
{:ok, 42}

or

iex(1)> Application.get_env(:myapp, :port)
42
iex(2)> MyApp.Config.my_port()
{:ok, 42}

Custom types

Skogsrå's types can be extented by implementing Skogra.Type behaviour e.g. a possible implementation for casting "1, 2, 3, 4" to [integer()] would be:

defmodule MyList do
  use Skogsra.Type

  @impl Skogsra.Type
  def cast(value)

  def cast(value) when is_binary(value) do
    list =
      value
      |> String.split(~r/,/)
      |> Stream.map(&String.trim/1)
      |> Enum.map(&String.to_integer/1)

    {:ok, list}
  end

  def cast(value) when is_list(value) do
    if Enum.all?(value, &is_integer/1), do: {:ok, value}, else: :error
  end

  def cast(_) do
    :error
  end
end

If then we define the following enviroment variable with Skogsrå:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  app_env :my_integers, :myapp, :integers,
    type: MyList
end

If either of the system OS or the application environment variables are defined, Skogsrå will try to cast their values using our implementation e.g:

iex(1)> System.get_env("MYAPP_INTEGERS")
"1, 2, 3"
iex(2)> MyApp.Config.my_integers()
{:ok, [1, 2, 3]}

or

iex(1)> Application.get_env(:myapp, :integers)
[1, 2, 3]
iex(2)> MyApp.Config.my_integers()
{:ok, [1, 2, 3]}

Important: The default value is not cast according to type.

Explicit OS environment variable names

Though Skogsrå automatically generates the names for the OS environment variables, they can be overriden by using the option os_env e.g:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  app_env :db_hostname, :myapp, [:postgres, :hostname],
    os_env: "PGHOST"
end

This will override the value $MYAPP_POSTGRES_HOSTNAME with $PGHOST e.g:

iex(1)> System.get_env("MYAPP_POSTGRES_HOSTNAME")
"unreachable"
iex(2)> System.get_env("PGHOST")
"reachable"
iex(3)> MyApp.Config.db_hostname()
{:ok, "reachable"}

Required variables

It is possible to set a environment variable as required with the required option e.g:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My port"
  app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
    required: true
end

If none of the system OS or the application environment variables are defined, Skogsrå will return an error e.g:

iex(1)> System.get_env("MYAPP_PORT")
nil
iex(2)> Application.get_env(:myapp, :port)
nil
iex(3)> MyApp.Config.my_port()
{:error, "Variable port in app myapp is undefined"}

The module will also provide validate and validate! functions that can be used in your application startup phase to verify that all required variables are present e.g:

iex(1)> System.get_env("MYAPP_PORT")
nil
iex(2)> Application.get_env(:myapp, :port)
nil
iex(3)> MyApp.Config.validate!()
** (RuntimeError) Variable port in app myapp is undefined

Handling different environments

If it's necessary to keep several environments, it's possible to use a namespace e.g. given the following variable:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My port"
  app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
    default: 4000
end

Calling MyApp.Config.my_port(Test) will retrieve the value for the hostname in the following order:

  1. From the OS environment variable $TEST_MYAPP_PORT.
  2. From the configuration file e.g:
     config :myapp, Test,
       port: 4001
  3. From the OS environment variable $MYAPP_PORT.
  4. From the configuraton file e.g:
     config :myapp,
       port: 80
  5. From the default value if it exists. In our example, 4000.

The ability of loading different environments allows us to do the following with our configuration file:

# file: config/config.exs
use Mix.Config

config :myapp, Prod
  port: 80

config :myapp, Test,
  port: 4001

config :myapp,
  port: 4000

While our Skogsrå module would look like:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "Application environment"
  app_env :env, :myapp, :environment,
    type: :unsafe_module

  @envdoc "Application port"
  app_env :port, :myapp, :port,
    default: 4000
end

The we can retrieve the values depending on the value of the OS environment variable $MYAPP_ENVIRONMENT:

...
with {:ok, env} <- MyApp.Config.env(),
     {:ok, port} <- Myapp.Config.port(env) do
  ... do something with the port ...
end
...

Overriding Elixir Configuration

Not all the libraries will use Skogsrå and, though is a shame, we can always override a config value using the function preload/0 e.g.

Let's say we have a Phoenix application and we want to configure our endpoint with the following variables.

  • The OS environment variable PORT for our app's HTTP port.
  • The OS environment variable SECRET_KEY_BASE for our secret key base.

A regular Phoenix configuration will look like the following:

use Mix.Config

secret_key_base =
  System.get_env("SECRET_KEY_BASE") ||
    raise """
    environment variable SECRET_KEY_BASE is missing.
    You can generate one by calling: mix phx.gen.secret
    """


config :myapp_web, MyappWeb.Endpoint,
  http: [
    port: String.to_integer(System.get_env("PORT") || "4000"),
    transport_options: [socket_opts: [:inet6]]
  ],
  secret_key_base: secret_key_base

With Skogsrå, we can reduce the config to the following:

use Mix.Config

config :myapp_web, Myapp.Endpoint,
  http: [
    transport_options: [socket_opts: [:inet6]]
  ]

Then, handle our variables in our Skogsrå config module:

defmodule MyappWeb.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc """
  App port.
  """
  app_env :port, :myapp, [:http, :port],
    os_env: "PORT",
    default: 4000

  @envdoc """
  Secret key base.
  """
  app_env :secret_key_base, :myapp, :secret_key_base,
    os_env: "SECRET_KEY_BASE",
    default: "+/JwMGGtsTVOoX5gQrCMn8aHKfKDdUK8GeAKJ2fIUabUnmWTwg+zsCy4pAOmOdTs"
end

And finally calling the preload function in our application init:

defmodule MyappWeb.Application do
  use Application

  def start(_type, _args) do
    MyappWeb.Config.preload(MyappWeb.Endpoint)

    children = [
      MyappWeb.Endpoint
    ]

    ...
  end
end

The function MyappWeb.Config.preload/1 will override any configuration for MyappWeb.Endpoint as long as is a runtime config.

Our app now will try to get the port and secret key from the OS environment variables first and it will fallback to the defaults.

Caching variables

By default, Skogsrå caches the values of the variables using :persistent_term Erlang module. This makes reads very fast, but writes are very slow.

So avoid setting or reloading values to avoid performance issues (see Setting and reloading variables).

If you don't want to cache the values, you can set it to false:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  app_env :value, :myapp, :value,
    cached: false
end

Setting and reloading variables

Every variable definition will generate two additional functions for setting and reloading the values e.g:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My port"
  app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
    default: 4000
end

will have the functions:

  • MyApp.Config.put_my_port/1 for setting the value of the variable at runtime.
  • MyApp.Config.reload_my_port/ for reloading the value of the variable at runtime.

Automatic docs generation

It's possible to document a configuration variables using the module attribute @envdoc e.g:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My port"
  app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
    default: 4000
end

Skogsra then will automatically generate instructions on how to use the variable. This extra documentation can be disable with the following:

config :skogsra,
  generate_docs: false

Note: for "private" configuration variables you can use @envdoc false.

Automatic spec generation

Skogsra will try to generate the appropriate spec for every function generated. In our example, given the default value is an integer, the function spec will be the following:

@spec my_port() :: {:ok, integer()} | {:error, binary()}
@spec my_port(Skogsra.Env.namespace()) ::
        {:ok, integer()} | {:error, binary()}

Note: The same applies for my_port!/0, reload_my_port/0 and put_my_port/1.

Specs are generated following the following table:

Assuming the type is set to :integer explicitly (type: :integer) or implicitly (default: 4000), the specs should follow the following table:

RequiredHas defaultSpec
truetrue@spec my_port() :: {:ok, integer()} | {:error, binary()}
truefalse@spec my_port() :: {:ok, integer()} | {:error, binary()}
falsetrue@spec my_port() :: {:ok, integer()} | {:error, binary()}
falsefalse@spec my_port() :: {:ok, nil | integer()} | {:error, binary()}

Automatic template generation

Every Skogsra module includes the functions template/1 and template/2 for generating OS environment variable files e.g. continuing our example:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My port"
  app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
    default: 4000
end
  • For Elixir releases:

    iex(1)> Myapp.Config.template("env")
    :ok

    will generate the file env with the following contents:

    # DOCS My port
    # TYPE integer
    MYAPP_PORT="Elixir.Application"
  • For Unix:

    iex(1)> Myapp.Config.template("env", type: :unix)
    :ok

    will generate the file env with the following contents:

    # DOCS My port
    # TYPE integer
    export MYAPP_PORT='Elixir.Application'
  • For Windows:

    iex(1)> Myapp.Config.template("env.bat", type: :windows)
    :ok

    will generate the file env.bat with the following contents:

    :: DOCS My port
    :: TYPE integer
    SET MYAPP_PORT="Elixir.Application"

Custom variable bindings

By default, Skogsrå loads variables in the following order:

  • OS environment variables or :system.
  • Application configuratuon or :config.

This means that every variable has the following defaults:

  • For binding_order is [:system, :config].
  • For binding_skip is [].

These two values can be modified globally via configuration e.g:

  • For globally changing the variable binding order:

     config :skogsra,
       binding_order: [:config, :system]
  • For globally skipping :system:

     config :skogsra,
       binding_skip: [:system]

Or be modified per app_env e.g:

  • For changing MyApp.Config.my_port/0 binding order:

     defmodule MyApp.Config do
       use Skogsra
       @envdoc "My port"
       app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
         binding_order: [:config, :system]
     end
  • For skipping :system in MyApp.Config.my_port/0:

     defmodule MyApp.Config do
       use Skogsra
       @envdoc "My port"
       app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
         binding_skip: [:system]
     end

Additionally, we can create new variable bindings by implementing Skogsra.Binding behaviour e.g. an implementation for loading JSON configuration files would be:

defmodule MyApp.Json do
  use Skogsra.Binding

  alias Skogsra.Env

  @impl true
  def init(%Env{} = env) do
    options = Env.extra_options(env)

    case options[:config_path] do
      nil ->
        {:error, "JSON config path not specified"}

      path ->
        load(path)
    end
  end

  @impl true
  def get_env(%Env{} = env, config) when is_map(config) do
    name = Env.os_env(env)
    value = config[name]

    {:ok, value}
  end

  # Helpers

  # Loads JSON once and caches it in a :persistent_term using the path
  # as the key.
  @spec load(binary()) :: {:ok, map()} | {:error, term()}
  defp load(path) do
    with nil <- :persistent_term.get(path, nil),
         {:ok, contents} <- File.read(path),
         {:ok, config} <- Jason.decode(contents),
         :ok <- :persistent_term.put(path, config) do
      {:ok, config}
    else
      {:error, reason} ->
        {:error, "Cannot load #{path} due to #{inspect(reason)}"}

      config ->
        {:ok, config}
    end
  end
end

The previous implementation expects variables to be named the same as the OS environment variables e.g:

{
  "MYAPP_PORT": 5000
}

Then our variable declaration would look something like the following:

defmodule MyApp.Config do
  use Skogsra

  @envdoc "My port"
  app_env :my_port, :myapp, :port,
    binding_order: [:system, :config, MyApp.Json],
    config_path: "#{Path.cwd!()}/priv/config.json",
    default: 4000
end

If no :system or :config is found, it will try to load the variable from the JSON file e.g:

iex> MyApp.Config.port()
{:ok, 5000}

Note: The same casting rules apply for all bindings.

Elixir release YAML and JSON config providers

Skogsrå includes two simple configuration providers compatible with mix release for Elixir ≥ 1.9:

  • YAML configuration provider:

     - app: "my_app"              # Name of the application.
       module: "MyApp.Repo"       # Optional module/namespace.
       config:                    # Actual configuration.
         database: "my_app_db"
         username: "postgres"
         password: "postgres"
         hostname: "localhost"
         port: 5432
  • JSON configuration provider:

     [
       {
         "app": "my_app",
         "module": "MyApp.Repo",
         "config": {
           "database": "my_app_db",
           "username": "postgres",
           "password": "postgres",
           "hostname": "localhost",
           "port": 5432
         }
       }
     ]

Both configurations would be equivalent to:

config :my_app, MyApp.Repo,
  database: "my_App_db",
  username: "postgres"
  password: "postgres"
  hostname: "localhost"
  port: 5432

For using these config providers, just add the following to your release configuration:

  • For YAML configurations:

     config_providers: [{Skogsra.Provider.Yaml, ["/path/to/config/file.yml"]}]
  • For JSON configurations:

     config_providers: [{Skogsra.Provider.Json, ["/path/to/config/file.json"]}]

Note: If the module you're using in you're config does not exist, then change it to namespace e.g: namespace: "MyApp.Repo". Otherwise, it will fail loading it.

Using with Hab

Hab is an Oh My ZSH plugin for loading OS environment variables automatically.

By default, Hab will try to load .envrc file, but it's possible to have several of those files for different purposes e.g:

  • .envrc.prod for production OS variables.
  • .envrc.test for testing OS variables.
  • .envrc for development variables.

Hab will load the development variables by default, but it can load the other files using the command hab_load <extension> e.g. loading .envrc.prod would be as follows:

~/my_project $ hab_load prod
[SUCCESS]  Loaded hab [/home/user/my_project/.envrc.prod]

Installation

The package can be installed by adding skogsra to your list of dependencies in mix.exs (Elixir ≥ 1.9 and Erlang ≥ 22):

def deps do
  [
    {:skogsra, "~> 2.3"}
  ]
end

If you need YAML config provider support, add the following:

def deps do
  [
    {:skogsra, "~> 2.3"},
    {:yamerl, "~> 0.8"}
  ]
end

If you need JSON config provider support, add the following:

def deps do
  [
    {:skogsra, "~> 2.3"},
    {:jason, "~> 1.2"}
  ]
end

Author

Alexander de Sousa.

License

Skogsrå is released under the MIT License. See the LICENSE file for further details.