Multiple .gitconfig files

January 20, 2021

What .gitconfig is for?

When you set up a new code and uses Git to manage your version control, unless you are only reading a code of a repository that you cloned, you will have to add some configuration to start interacting with Git, which is mainly to tell Git “who you are” since Git’s configurations are per-user.

For this post, let’s use the infamous John Doe as an example. I believe would be easier if we do some role play/story tell this because we will be discussing emails, directory names, company names and I’d like to avoid any situation where could lead you – the reader – to trouble (i.e. wrong filename, etc).

Say John Doe wants to set up Git and have more than one email (personal and work) and John Doe wants to make sure that the commits are being referenced properly so that other people might reach out to him directly in case of questions with changes and all. The challenge is that the company that John Doe works for requires every employee to use their work-email so John Doe needs to pay attention to his commits.

Getting started

For a complete guide on how to setup Git, I’d recommend the official guide, but to summarise, running the following commands will get you ready to go:

$ git config --global "John Doe"
$ git config --global

The command above tells Git about your identity which is represented by your name and your email. This is important because every Git commit uses this information.

The --global flag means that these configurations will be stored in your system which will be placed in a file located at ~/.gitconfig.

NOTE: without the flag --global, the configuration provided will only be applied to the current directory.

Checking Your Settings

You can check your current Git settings by typing git config:

$ git config --list Doe

You also can verify the ~/.gitconfig file:

$ cat ~/.gitconfig

  name = John Doe
  email =

Dealing with multiple configurations

Git’s API is big so I might not cover all options here, meaning there might be other ways to achieve the same thing wich is: be able to commit code using appropriate identifications without the hassle of manually change/check them.

The approach I’d like to share is to use includeIf. What includeIf does is to append a new peace of config from a different path conditionally so that way, if the conditions are met, an addition to the existing Git config will be considered when interacting with Git. This is based on which directory you’re on so in order to make the most use of includeIf it is recommended to keep all repositories within a single folder. For example:

- my-workspace/
  - xyz/
    - repository-1/
    - repository-2/

Considering John Doe works at the company xyz and his email is, let’s create a new file containing the additional info that should only be used for work-related repositories:

1. Create a new file:

$ touch ~/my-workspace/xyz/.gitconfig-work

2. Add the work-related info to the newly created file:

  name = John Doe
  email =

3. Add conditional config to the global Git config

Now we need to tell Git that, if John Doe is within the work-specific directory (~/my-workspace/xyz/ on this case), Git should use a different configuration instead.

To make that happen, let’s change the system Git config file located on ~/.gitconfig and edit it with the following code:

  name = John Doe
  email =
[includeIf "gitdir:~/my-workspace/xyz/"]
  path = ~/my-workspace/xyz/.gitconfig-work

Dealing with different signature keys

Git is cryptographically secure and John Doe does not mess around, he wants to make sure that every commit is from a trusted source. Git provides a mechanism where you can sign your commits but now that John Doe has different Git configurations, we need to find a way to also setup different signatures depending on the identification (i.e. one signature for his personal email, another signature for his work’s email).

If you’re curious to know how to set up a GPG key with git, please read the official Git Tools documentation. Additionally, I’d recommend the following this tutorial published by GitHub.

Similarly to the steps, we followed to set up different configs based on the directory, let’s start:

1. Create a new file with “personal” config:

$ touch ~/my-workspace/side-projects/.gitconfig-personal

2. Add the signature (i.e. in our case, the signature is SECRET) to the newly created file:

  signingkey = SECRET

3. Add your work-related signature (i.e. SECRETWORK on this case) to your the work-related Git config

  name = John Doe
  email =
  signingkey = SECRETWORK

4. Now let’s configure our global ~/.gitconfig with the following:

[includeIf "gitdir:~/my-workspace/xyz/"]
  path = ~/my-workspace/.gitconfig-work"
[includeIf "gitdir:~/my-workspace/side-projects/"]
  path = ~/my-workspace/side-projects/.gitconfig-personal

5. All set!

Now, John Doe can commit freely between personal/work-related with ease!

Thank you for reading

I hope you enjoy this post, if you have any feedback or questions, hit me up on, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and be better next time!