Often there is more to set up once your dotfiles repository has been cloned. For example, if your repository has submodules, you may wish to initialize them. On MacOS, you may wish to install Homebrew and process a .Brewfile. These types of additional steps are generally referred to as “bootstrapping”.

Though everyone may have a different set of bootstrap operations they need to perform, yadm has a standard command for executing them.

yadm bootstrap

This command will execute the program named $HOME/.config/yadm/bootstrap. You must provide this program yourself, and it must be made executable. But those are the only constraints.

After yadm successfully clones a repository, if there is a bootstrap program available, it will offer to run it for you.

Found .config/yadm/bootstrap
It appears that a bootstrap program exists.
Would you like to execute it now? (y/n)

You can prevent this prompting by using the --bootstrap or --no-bootstrap options when cloning.

It is best to make the logic of your bootstrap idempotent—allowing it to be re-run in the future when you merge changes made on other hosts.


Curious about the possibilities? See some examples below. These are all written in Bash, but you can use any executable file as a bootstrap.

Initialize submodules

If you’ve added repositories as submodules for the yadm repository, you can initialize them after a successful clone.


# Because Git submodule commands cannot operate without a work tree, they must
# be run from within $HOME (assuming this is the root of your dotfiles)
cd "$HOME"

echo "Init submodules"
yadm submodule update --recursive --init

Install Homebrew and a bundle of recipes


system_type=$(uname -s)

if [ "$system_type" = "Darwin" ]; then

  # install homebrew if it's missing
  if ! command -v brew >/dev/null 2>&1; then
    echo "Installing homebrew"
    /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

  if [ -f "$HOME/.Brewfile" ]; then
    echo "Updating homebrew bundle"
    brew bundle --global


Configure iTerm2 to use your configuration


system_type=$(uname -s)

if [ "$system_type" = "Darwin" ]; then

  # possibly add something here to ensure iTerm2 is installed using Homebrew
  # cask like in the previous example

  if [ -d "$HOME/.iterm2" ]; then
    echo "Setting iTerm preference folder"
    defaults write com.googlecode.iterm2 PrefsCustomFolder "$HOME/.iterm2"


Compile a custom terminfo file


if [ -f "$HOME/.terminfo/custom.terminfo" ]; then
  echo "Updating terminfo"
  tic "$HOME/.terminfo/custom.terminfo"

Update the yadm repo origin URL

You might initially clone your repo using https, but ssh configurations may be available after cloning. If so, you could update the yadm repo origin to use ssh instead.


echo "Updating the yadm repo origin URL"
yadm remote set-url origin ""

Install vim plugins managed with vim-plug

vim-plug can be used in your .vimrc to enable plugins. The example here will automatically download vim-plug and run the :PlugInstall command if vim-plug is missing when vim starts.

" download vim-plug if missing
if empty(glob("~/.vim/autoload/plug.vim"))
  silent! execute '!curl --create-dirs -fsSLo ~/.vim/autoload/plug.vim'
  autocmd VimEnter * silent! PlugInstall

" declare plugins
silent! if plug#begin()

  Plug 'airblade/vim-gitgutter'
  Plug 'c9s/perlomni.vim', { 'for': 'perl' }
  Plug 'ctrlpvim/ctrlp.vim'
  Plug 'vim-syntastic/syntastic'
  Plug 'yggdroot/indentLine'

  " ignore these on older versions of vim
  if v:version >= 703
    Plug 'gorodinskiy/vim-coloresque'
    Plug 'jamessan/vim-gnupg'
  if v:version >= 704
    Plug 'vim-pandoc/vim-pandoc-syntax'

  call plug#end()

You can enhance this scheme by having your bootstrap program initialize vim-plug when you clone, instead of when you first run vim. This example will install any new plugins, and also remove any plugins now deleted from your .vimrc.


if command -v vim >/dev/null 2>&1; then
  echo "Bootstraping Vim"
  vim '+PlugUpdate' '+PlugClean!' '+PlugUpdate' '+qall'

Bootstrap directory

By installing this contributed bootstrap script as the bootstrap program, it is possible to split the bootstrap process into separate scripts. Each script is placed in $HOME/.config/yadm/bootstrap.d and it is possible to use the alternate files system to control which systems that a specific bootstrap step is executed on.

If you have suggestions for useful bootstrapping logic, let me know…