Dotkit Commands

Commands for Interactive or Shell Scripts | Basic Functions for Use in Dotkits
Advanced Functions for Use in Dotkits | Special Variables for Use in Dotkits
Environment Variables | Bugs

Dotkit Overview | Using Dotkit | Creating Dotkit Packages | Dotkit Commands | How Dotkit Works

Commands for Interactive or Shell Scripts

use [-alqv] [pkg ...]
unuse [-alqv] [pkg ...]

Read the dotkits named as arguments, and interpret their contents in the current shell process. If no arguments are given, run the program $DK_ROOT/etc/use-usage, which normally provides a view of the current state of your environment and a list of available packages.

The -a "append" option causes any components added to environment variables by pkg to be appended instead of prepended. If -a is given with no package arguments, it causes use-usage to list all packages, including any whose name begins with "." (dot).

The -l "long listing" option turns off the interpretation (sourcing) of any pkg arguments that follow. With no other arguments, this option produces a summary of available dotkits. If a pkg argument follows, the descriptive text and any help text for that pkg is printed to the screen. The -l option can be combined with -v to produce more verbose output. With no arguments, -lv prints a usage message, a list of packages currently in use, a summary of available packages, and a list of all nodes in the Dotkit search path. With a pkg argument, -lv prints the entire contents of the pkg. The -l option is quietly ignored by unuse.

The -q "quiet" option causes use or unuse to be entirely quiet in operation. It is commonly used inside dotfiles or inside nested (recursive) dotkits. A special dotkit called "bequiet" is available to make the -q option persistent.

Output behavior similar to -q, but allowing notice of particular errors, can be achieved by setting the dk_taciturn environment variable to a non-zero value. A special "taciturn" dotkit is available to make this mode persistent. Precise control over the warnings printed in taciturn mode is achieved by setting the dk_smask environment variable, which has a default value of 4094. Dk_smask is a bitmask applied to the return status of use or unuse, detailed below. Each bit set in dk_smask allows a warning for that particular error status, if in taciturn mode.

The -v "verbose" option causes use or unuse to print the full path name of each pkg argument as it is found and sourced. This option overrides -q and taciturn mode. Note that Dotkit also checks whether stdin appears to be a tty. If not, output messages are turned off for any option except -v.

Unuse normally reverses the action of use. It finds and reads the pkg argument files but causes their actions to be undone relative to use.

Return status: 0 if a dotkit is found and read without apparent error. 1 means the dotkit was found, but ignored (previously read), and 2 means that _dk_err was set during package execution, indicating a package error. 4 indicates a dotkit was not found at the initial (zeroth) recursion level. 8 indicates a dotkit was not found at the second recursion level, and so on, up to recursion level nine. If more than one argument is given, use and unuse return the status of their last operation.


reuse [-alqv] [pkg ...]

This command is shorthand for the pair of operations:

unuse pkg
use pkg

It has the effect of re-reading pkg and moving it to the front of the list of packages in use.


Add (alter) or remove (unalter) one component to or from the named VARIABLE, a list of zero or more components delimited by SEPARATOR, which defaults to the value of DK_IFS, or colon if that is not set. These commands provide interactive or shell script access to the machinery of the dk_alter function. Inside a dotkit, you should generally choose dk_alter instead, as it utilizes its calling context (use or unuse) to add or remove the COMPONENT, respectively.

Alter prepends COMPONENT to VARIABLE, unless the -a (append) option is given. Unalter removes the COMPONENT, whatever its location.


WORDLIST_VALUE is a list of components separated by SEPARATOR, which defaults to the value of DK_IFS, or colon if that is not set. (The value of $PATH is one example.) Car returns (echoes) the NTH component of the list, where NTH defaults to 0, the index of the first component. Cdr echoes all components remaining after the NTH, with NTH defaulting to 1 in this case. Some examples are:

car a:b:c 0 :       # => a, equivalent to car a:b:c
car a:b:c 1 :   # => b
car a:b:c 3 :   # => (nil), the empty list
cdr a:b:c 0 :   # => a:b:c, the entire list
cdr a:b:c 1 :   # => b:c, equivalent to cdr a:b:c
cdr a:b:c 3 :   # => (nil), the empty list

If WORDLIST_VALUE contains white space, it should generally be surrounded by quotes.


Basic Functions for Use in Dotkits

Note: These functions should be accessed only from within a dotkit or package context. Calling them directly from the command line or from within a personal script will yield incorrect results.


Dk_alter adds to, in the case of use, or deletes from, in the case of unuse, the given component for the given VARIABLE. VARIABLE is a list of zero or more components, separated by SEPARATOR, such as the PATH environment variable. The default SEPARATOR is the value of DK_IFS, or colon (:) if that is not set. In particular, SEPARATOR can be a single space or tab character, generally given inside single quotes. If a (properly quoted) COMPONENT itself contains space characters, the SEPARATOR cannot also be space. For any given VARIABLE, SEPARATOR is a constant value. The [t]csh implementation of dk_alter may temporarily modify the contents of VARIABLE, converting space characters to ^B (Control-B).

dk_setenv VARIABLE [VALUE]

In the case of use, set VARIABLE to VALUE. In the case of unuse, unset the given environment variable.

To be more precise, in the case of use, dk_setenv checks the variable about to be set, and if it already has a non-null value, saves the old value before setting the new. In the case of unuse, dk_setenv re-installs the value for the duration of the package read but places a deferred restore or unsetenv command onto a list to be executed when the package read is complete.

Thus, subsequent dk_alter or dk_setenv commands in the same dotkit that use the variable in question will operate as expected. Moreover, if variables in your environment are reset by a given package, they will normally be restored to their original value when the package is unused.

Otherwise, dk_alter and dk_setenv take immediate effect, so the following sequence in a package file has the manifest outcome:

dk_setenv ABC_HOME /usr/abc
dk_alter PATH $ABC_HOME/bin
dk_alter MANPATH $ABC_HOME/man

For example, if ABC_HOME has a pre-existing value, it is first saved by dk_setenv, then ABC_HOME is set to the value /usr/abc. A new component is added to PATH with value /usr/abc/bin, and a new component to MANPATH with value /usr/abc/man. Unusing the package will remove those components from PATH and MANPATH, and will restore ABC_HOME to the value (if any) it had before the package was used in the first place.

Return status: 1 if the second argument is null, otherwise 0.

dk_setdef VARIABLE [VALUE]

This is a variant of dk_setenv that sets VARIABLE to VALUE only if VARIABLE is currently unset or has the null (empty string) value. It is otherwise the same as dk_setenv.

For the unuse operation, dk_setdef unsets VARIABLE only if the prior use set it to the the given default VALUE, (or if the variable's previous value was identically VALUE.)


Advanced Functions for Use in Dotkits

Note: These functions should be accessed only from within a dotkit or package context. Calling them directly from the command line or from within a personal script will yield incorrect results.


Create (or remove, in the case of unuse), the alias ALIAS_NAME with the given definition. The syntax of dk_alias is essentially identical to that of the csh or tcsh alias command, except that alias arguments are not allowed. (To be precise, arguments can be given, but such syntax cannot, at present, be part of a shell-independent dotkit.)

Dotkits containing the dk_alias command normally should be marked as idempotent by appending '++' to the dotkit name (e.g., This allows Dotkit to read the package more than once, a requirement if subshells are to receive proper alias definitions.


Print the value 1 if you can safely evaluate VARIABLE, or 0 otherwise. Typical usage:

dk_test `dk_cev FOO` -eq 1 && dk_setenv BAR $FOO

This provides shell-independent code equivalent to the csh test:

if ($?FOO) then
  dk_setenv BAR $FOO

Dk_cev always prints 1 for bash or ksh, as those shells traditionally do not distinguish between unset variables and variables that are set, but whose value is the empty string.

Return status for this function is always 0. The relevant value is the one that it prints.

dk_op [-alqv] pkg [...]

Use or unuse the pkg, depending on the context in which dk_op occurs. This command is used inside recursive or nested dotkits, to read and source sub-packages. If the parent dotkit was used, then dk_op also means use. If the parent dotkit was unused, then dk_op unuses its argument list. Options, usage, and return values are otherwise identical to use and unuse. However, the -l option should never be used with this command.

dk_rep 'PATTERN' ['PATTERN' ...]

Print the names, if any, of dotkits presently in use whose name matches PATTERN, in the sense of shell pattern matching. If no names match, the token "__NIL__" is printed. One or more patterns can be given and can include the usual shell meta-characters. Single quotes around the pattern are generally required. The dk_rep function is commonly used in the case of mutex (mutually exclusive) dotkits.

Return status: 0 if at least one dotkit currently in use matches the given pattern(s); otherwise 1.

dk_source FILE

This command is equivalent to source for csh or tcsh, or "." for bash and ksh, with the same return values as those commands. It allows you to read the contents of another file in your current shell from within a package file. This is occasionally useful. If FILE is itself a dotkit, use dk_op instead.


Apply the standard UNIX test(1) command to EXPRESSION. Dk_test takes the same expressions as that program, with the same return values, and can be used to construct simple if-else tests in your dotkits, in shell-independent fashion:

dk_test -d /usr/local/gribble && dk_setenv GRIBBLE YES

sets GRIBBLE to YES if /usr/local/gribble is a directory. See the test(1) man page for more information on that command.


Print the full path of PROGRAM_NAME if found, returning status 0, or be silent, with return status 1. Dk_where searches first in the current PATH, then searches the in order /bin, /usr/bin, /sbin, /usr/sbin, /usr/ucb, /usr/bsd, /usr/local/bin for PROGRAM_NAME. Dk_where is implemented as an external script, located at $DK_ROOT/etc/where.


Special Variables for Use in Dotkits

Note: These variables should be accessed only from within a dotkit or package context. Calling them directly from the command line or from within a personal script will yield incorrect results.

Also note the leading underscore in the names of these variables and that their value is properly set using setenv, not dk_setenv. They are reset automatically by Dotkit before the next operation.

setenv _dk_err "<error message>"

The _dk_err variable is used to indicate that something went wrong while reading a package file. Set it to a string value, which will be printed in place of the usual "(ok)" when Dotkit returns after reading the package file. After _dk_err is set in a package file, subsequent dk_alter, dk_setenv, use, unuse, or dk_op commands inside that file are ignored, and the package name is not added to the list of current packages in use.

setenv _dk_ok "<custom reply>"

The _dk_ok variable allows a package author to customize the reply message from Dotkit after attempting to read a package. By default, if the package is found and read successfully, the reply is "(ok)". If _dk_ok is set, its value is substituted for the default text. Setting _dk_ok does not affect return status. If _dk_err is also set, its value will dominate _dk_ok.

setenv _dk_hide 0|1

_Dk_hide is a boolean variable whose value is normally 0 (FALSE). Set it to 1 (TRUE) if you wish to hide (not include) the current package in the list of packages in use. This is occasionally useful in a "worker" package that is called from various places but which should not show up itself as in use. Obviously, such a package needs to be written with reuse in mind, since hiding it also prevents Dotkit from ignoring it in any future use request.

setenv _dk_pream "PREFIX"

The _dk_pream variable allows a package author to overrule the -a flag if necessary, or conversely, to force an append operation even if the user does not provide -a. Typical use is as follows:

# Force prepend "bar" to "foo".
dk_test "$_dk_pream" = "Appending" && \
  setenv _dk_pream "Prepending"
dk_alter foo bar


Environment Variables


Path to the root of a Dotkit installation. The code implementing Dotkit is stored in the various *sh subdirectories of $DK_ROOT, and at $DK_ROOT/etc. DK_ROOT is also the root node on the tree of directories searched for package files.


Optional colon-separated list of directories added to the path searched by Dotkit. This is often used to add site-specific dotkits to an installation.


A string identifying the current architecture. SYS_TYPE may be pre-set for you by the network administrators. If not, a script is provided at $DK_ROOT/etc/systype to compute some common values of SYS_TYPE.


Optional path name to a replacement for the $DK_ROOT/etc/use-usage program.


The base name of your shell interpreter program: bash, csh, ksh, or tcsh.


A colon-separated list of directories searched for package files within each node of the package file tree. The default value for DK_SUBNODE has four components:


It can be useful to change or add to this list in certain special circumstances.


A space-separated list of package names currently in use. A trailing digit identifies the recursion level at which the package was loaded, with 0 being the top (command line) level and 9 the deepest (maximum) level.


The "recursion level" for Dotkit: An integer variable with legal values in the range -1, 0, 1, ..., 9. When not actually processing a use or unuse command, the correct value for _dk_rl is -1.


Dotkit is implemented primarily using shell functions for bash and ksh. By default, those functions are not exported to the environment for bash users. Bash users can choose to export the Dotkit shell functions by defining this environment variable to YES (or any other non-null string) before executing the eval `.../dotkit/init` initialization command.


Defines the character used to separate components of wordlist variables. If unset, the default is ':' (colon).


If this variable is set to a non-null value, the use command behaves as a reuse. That is, any package arguments are first (quietly) unused, then re-read. This can occasionally be helpful if processes other than Dotkit are changing the environment. A reuse dotkit is available to conveniently set or unset this variable.



It would be nice if the dk_alias command would save and restore alias definitions, like dk_setenv does for environment variables. It would be nice if dk_alias accepted arguments for all shells and wrote an appropriate shell function in the case of bash or ksh.

Handling of null (empty) components in dk_alter, alter, unalter is inconsistent and sometimes incorrect. Adding a null component to an empty word list produces a double null; removing one null component then removes them both. Once added, a null component is difficult to remove for the [t]csh version. Null components in a context where the SEPARATOR character is white space will often produce incorrect results.