UPDATE: I no longer source my .env like described in this post. I now use direnv to setup per-project local environment, including sourcing .env. The described approach here could be exploited to do bad things to your system. Example attack: You clone a repo that includes a .env file, when you cd into the project, it changes your PATH to directory you’ve just cloned. That overrides ls or some other unix utility, which now takes over your system.

I wrote before about using foreman to manage you app’s processes. An additional feature is that it enables you to configure your unix environment when starting an app, by reading environment variables located in a .env file at the root of your project, that looks something like this:


It is certainly a great feature for setting an common environment for processes that your start with foreman. However, processes that are started manually, like for example a rails console, don’t have this environment setup. Of course, you can always set them manually in your shell profile, but now they need to be maintained in two different places.

Adding to that problem, I have recently started working on a project that is split up into smaller sub-projects that are in different stages of development. They share some environment variables, which are common to the whole application, but vary during development between sub-projects. Since, I can’t be bothered to remember to change the variables each time I am about to work on a sub-project, I came up with a way to solve all my problems at once:

# Overriding cd function. Looking for .env and sourcing it if found
function cd {
 	builtin cd "$@"
  if [[ -f .env ]]; then
    echo "### Setting up environment variables from .env"
    cat .env | grep -v '#' | while read line; do
      echo $line
      export $line

The code above lives inside my shell profile and basically overrides built-in cd function to source each non-comment line from the .env file (if found) after changing directories. This way, when I change into a sub-project directory my environment is setup for me, and variables are available to foreman and non-foreman processes alike.

Gotcha: Since it’s unlikely that you want to share the .env variables with other members of your team, I suggest adding an entry to your global gitignore file.