MarcinOrlowski / process-dotenv by MarcinOrlowski

Little tool to help build DotEnv (.env) files from templates
Package Data
Maintainer Username: MarcinOrlowski
Package Create Date: 2016-04-14
Package Last Update: 2018-05-03
Home Page:
Language: PHP
License: MIT
Last Refreshed: 2019-12-03 03:22:43
Package Statistics
Total Downloads: 5,110
Monthly Downloads: 152
Daily Downloads: 4
Total Stars: 4
Total Watchers: 1
Total Forks: 0
Total Open Issues: 0

Process DotEnv - .env building helper tool

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DotEnv file (.env) are often used as runtime configuration files (i.e. Laravel based PHP projects) and are not stored in your repository, so if you use Continuous Integration (CI) tools like TeamCity or Travis-CI, you need to create that .env file before tests can be started. Process-DotEnv is a tool wass created to help you with this task.

NOTE: Whenever I say .env or .env.dist I only mean file format, not file name. Your file names can be anything you like as long its content follows dot-env file format!

The main assumption is that you usually have file name .env.dist in your repository so people using your code can easily figure out how to create production ready .env file. So if we'd tread your .env.dist as template, then with the right tool you'd be able to easily create production ready .env file. and this is where process-dotenv steps in. The goal (and code :) is pretty simple - generate .env file based on the template .env.dist but with all neccessary changes applied. So ths tool reads your .env.dist file and spits it out replacing all values that you wanted it to change either by setting enviromental variables or as command line arguments.

NOTE: To avoid accidental overwrites process-dotenv does not create any files but echoes the final content, so to create physical .env file for your code you need to redirect output to file with regular redirection: ... > .env.

Env variable subsitution

Let's assume our .env.dist file looks like this:


Now, knowing your app requires KEY to be valid i.e. API key for tests to pass we can have it replaced with process-dotenv (sample mimics shell session, for scripts get rid of $):

$ KEY=barbar
$ vendor/bin/process-dotenv .env.dist > .env

which shall produce .env file with the following content:


As you noticed, original value of KEY is replaced with what we provided via enviromental variable, while BAR and FOO, for which we did not provide replacements, were copied unaltered.

Argument subsitution

Aside of env variables you can also pass key=val pairs as process-dotenv invocation arguments to achieve the same results:

$ vendor/bin/process-dotenv .env.dist KEY=barbar > .env

IMPORTANT: first argument always refers to source dot-env file, followed by (optional) KEY=VAL pairs. You can pass as many pairs as you need and file names can be whatever you like.

Combined substitution

Both substitution methods can be used together. When key is provided as argument and also exists as enviromental variable, then command line provided value takes precedence:

$ KEY=barbar
$ vendor/bin/process-dotenv .env.dist KEY=value > .env

would produce:



  • PHP 5+ (cli)


Use composer to install this package as your dependency:

$ composer require marcin-orlowski/process-dotenv

It will install process-dotenv script in usual vendor/bin folder.


Please remember that certain, especially generic key names can already be set up by your shell or system. For example USER is usually present and holds id of currently logged in user,HOME points to home directory of said user are variables already set, etc. You can list all of them with printenv or export to ensure none of your keys matches, but it is good habit to be more creative and avoid such short and potentially conflicting names.

Simple test to see if your .env.dist uses such "risky" keys is to run process-dotenv without any own substitution provided and diff result file with dist file:

$ vendor/bin/process-dotenv .env.dist | diff .env.dist

If you got conflicts then you can either change your keys or at least substitute that key via command line arguments to ensure system's values won't pollute your resulting .env:

$ vendor/bin/process-dotenv .env.dist USER= HOME= > .env

but this is pretty error prone and is not recommended.

NOTE: in case you use conflicting key (i.e. USER) but you want it to keep the value set in .env.dist you currently must pass it as command like pair. process-dotenv cannot tell which env variables is "good" and which is "bad", so as soon as it find one exists, it will simply use its value. That's why you must override it via command line pair.


  • Copyright © 2016-2018 by Marcin Orlowski
  • Process Dotenv tool is open-sourced software licensed under the MIT license