env_hooker, a tiny shell environment switcher

News! I’ve released a thing that, god willing, no-one will ever use.

It’s an environment switcher called env_hooker, along the lines of direnv and autoenv, i.e. something that solves problems of the following sort:

I’ve cd’d to a directory containing a node project. I’d like to add node_modules/.bin to my PATH.


I’ve cd’d to a directory containing a ruby project. I’d like to switch to the correct ruby version for the project, and set up gems to install and run from a project-specific location.

This seemed to be a recurrent class of problem I ran into while working on multiple ruby, JS and go projects, so I wrote the thing, and am now inflicting the thing upon you.

How do I use it?

env_hooker lets you register hooks: shell functions that will run when you enter or exit a directory containing a file with a specific name. For example, to solve the above node project requirement, I might do this (assuming I’ve already defined prepend_path and remove_from_path functions):

# ~/.bashrc

. /usr/local/share/env_hooker/env_hooker.sh

# This runs when you enter a directory containing a .nodeproject
function enter_node_project() {
  local -r project_dir=${1}

  prepend_path "${project_dir}/node_modules/.bin"

# This runs when you leave a directory containing a .nodeproject
function exit_node_project() {
  remove_from_path "${project_dir}/node_modules/.bin"

# This specifies the file to look for (.nodeproject) and the
# suffix for the hook functions to run on entry and exit
register_env_hook .nodeproject node_project

Then, to designate a directory as a node project, I just have to ensure that a .nodeproject file is present:

$ cd /path/to/my_node_project
$ echo $PATH
$ touch .nodeproject
$ echo $PATH
$ cd /
$ echo $PATH

For a more complex example setting up chruby and gemsets for a ruby project, you can have a look here.

Note: while I’ve used the node_modules/.bin example above because it’s simple, there are security considerations you should be aware of before adding project-local directories to your $PATH in an environment hook.

Why did you do this when those other things?

Excellent question.

Normally at this point it would be traditional to say something like my solution is “lightweight” or “minimal” or “unopinionated” or “100% written in bash”1, but the honest truth is that while it is pretty tiny, this started as a hacky ruby-specific script derived from chruby’s auto-switching, and got out of hand before I even knew direnv existed.

Along the way I learned a ton of bash (probably enough to convince me that I’d like to avoid bash as much as possible from now on). I learned that you can lint bash, and even test bash. Who knew?

Why should I use this when those other things?

Excellent question.

You should probably use direnv to be quite honest. (I’m sure autoenv is fine too, but it doesn’t support teardown which is really nice to have IMO.)

Reasons you might prefer direnv:

Reasons you might prefer env_hooker:

To sum up then

I reinvented a wheel and it only slightly goes clonk. Behold my clonky wheel.

  1. It is 100% written in bash though. 

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