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direnv -- unclutter your .profile

Built with Nix Packaging status latest packaged version(s) Support room on Matrix

is an extension for your shell. It augments existing shells with a new feature that can load and unload environment variables depending on the current directory.

Use cases

  • Load 12factor apps environment variables
  • Create per-project isolated development environments
  • Load secrets for deployment

How it works

Before each prompt, direnv checks for the existence of a

file in the current and parent directories. If the file exists (and is authorized), it is loaded into a bash sub-shell and all exported variables are then captured by direnv and then made available to the current shell.

It supports hooks for all the common shells like bash, zsh, tcsh and fish. This allows project-specific environment variables without cluttering the


Because direnv is compiled into a single static executable, it is fast enough to be unnoticeable on each prompt. It is also language-agnostic and can be used to build solutions similar to rbenv, pyenv and phpenv.

Getting Started


  • Unix-like operating system (macOS, Linux, ...)
  • A supported shell (bash, zsh, tcsh, fish, elvish)

Basic Installation

  1. direnv is packaged in most distributions already. See the installation documentation for details.
  2. hook direnv into your shell.

Now restart your shell.

Quick demo

To follow along in your shell once direnv is installed.

# Create a new folder for demo purposes.
$ mkdir ~/my-project
$ cd ~/my-project

Show that the FOO environment variable is not loaded.

$ echo ${FOO-nope} nope

Create a new .envrc. This file is bash code that is going to be loaded by


$ echo export FOO=foo > .envrc .envrc is not allowed

The security mechanism didn't allow to load the .envrc. Since we trust it,

let's allow its execution.

$ direnv allow . direnv: reloading direnv: loading .envrc direnv export: +FOO

Show that the FOO environment variable is loaded.

$ echo ${FOO-nope} foo

Exit the project

$ cd .. direnv: unloading

And now FOO is unset again

$ echo ${FOO-nope} nope

The stdlib

Exporting variables by hand is a bit repetitive so direnv provides a set of utility functions that are made available in the context of the


As an example, the

function is used to expand and prepend a path to the $PATH environment variable. Instead of
export PATH=$PWD/bin:$PATH
you can write
PATH_add bin
. It's shorter and avoids a common mistake where

To find the documentation for all available functions check the direnv-stdlib(1) man page.

It's also possible to create your own extensions by creating a bash file at

. This file is loaded before your
and thus allows you to make your own extensions to direnv.


Make sure to take a look at the wiki! It contains all sorts of useful information such as common recipes, editor integration, tips-and-tricks.

Man pages


Based on GitHub issues interactions, here are the top things that have been confusing for users:

  1. direnv has a standard library of functions, a collection of utilities that I found useful to have and accumulated over the years. You can find it here:

  2. It's possible to override the stdlib with your own set of function by adding a bash file to

    . This file is loaded and it's content made available to any
  3. direnv is not loading the

    into the current shell. It's creating a new bash sub-process to load the stdlib, direnvrc and
    , and only exports the environment diff back to the original shell. This allows direnv to record the environment changes accurately and also work with all sorts of shells. It also means that aliases and functions are not exportable right now.


Bug reports, contributions and forks are welcome. All bugs or other forms of discussion happen on .

Or drop by on Matrix to have a chat. If you ask a question make sure to stay around as not everyone is active all day.

Complementary projects

Here is a list of projects you might want to look into if you are using direnv.

Related projects

Here is a list of other projects found in the same design space. Feel free to submit new ones.

  • Environment Modules - one of the oldest (in a good way) environment-loading systems
  • autoenv - lightweight; doesn't support unloads
  • zsh-autoenv - a feature-rich mixture of autoenv and smartcd: enter/leave events, nesting, stashing (Zsh-only).
  • asdf - a pure bash solution that has a plugin system. The asdf-direnv plugin allows using asdf managed tools with direnv.
  • ondir - OnDir is a small program to automate tasks specific to certain directories
  • shadowenv - uses an s-expression format to define environment changes that should be executed


MIT licence - Copyright (C) 2019 @zimbatm and contributors

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