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May 3, 2014 - 3 minute read - Comments - technical chef cookiecutter python template

Chef cookbook templating with cookiecutter

One of the challenges in chef cookbook development - create a comprehensive cookbook template.

Good cookbook template might:

  • standartize your cookbooks
  • fill them with convenient predefinitions
  • save your time.

If you are not python averse, you could find that cookiecutter pretty useful tool for creating your cookbooks templates. This article describes my experience in creating chef cookbook template with cookiecutter.

Cookiecutter in nutshell

  • cookiecutter is a python based software.
  • it uses Jinja templating engine
  • To install cookiecutter read: Installing Cookiecutter.
  • On my Ubuntu 12.04 workstation I used pip cookiecutter to install it.
  • variables defined in cookiecutter.json file in the root of template directories hierarchy
  • these variables might be used inside files by specifing {% codeblock %} {% raw %}{{cookiecutter.variable_name}}{% endraw %} {% endcodeblock %}
  • these variables might be used as a file or directory names, if you call file or directory like: {% codeblock %} {% raw %}{{cookiecutter.variable_name}}{% endraw %} {% endcodeblock %}
  • cookiecutter supports pre and post generate hooks.
  • hooks might be shell or python scripts, have names pre_gen_project.[sh,py] or post_gen_project.[sh,py], and should be in hooks dir.

Chef cookbook templating with cookiecutter

Create a directory for template

mkdir chef-cookbook-template
cd chef-cookbook-template

Create a file with template variables

emacs cookiecutter.json
     "author": "John Smith",
     "email": "",
     "cookbook_name": "",
     "company_name": "Example Ltd",
     "release_date": "2014-04-17",
     "year": "2014",
     "version": "0.0.1"

Value that specified in this file, will be suggested as a default one.

As you see there’s no value for “cookbook_name”. So there will be no default value, you need to specify it every time you create new cookbook from this template.

Create a templated directory for cookbook

{% codeblock %} {% raw %} mkdir “chef-{{cookiecutter.cookbook_name}}” {% endraw %} {% endcodeblock %}

Create files for your cookbook.

On this stage you should fill your cookbooks with files that you need in your cookbook template. Use variables when it’s suitable.

In my cookbook template I added variables to files:

  • attributes/default.rb
  • spec/default_spec.rb
  • metadata.rb
  • {% raw %}{{cookiecutter.cookbook_name}}.packer{% endraw %}
  • Vagrantfile
  • .kitchen.yml
  • test/integration/default/serverspec/localhost/default_spec.rb
  • recipes/default.rb

Post-create hooks

It could be anything you want. For example I initialize my cookbook template with git.

In root directory of cookiecutter template add hooks directory.

mkdir hooks
cd hooks
command -v git >/dev/null 2>&1 && git init || { echo >&2 "git init is failed. Probably git is not installed. Install git if it's not installed."; exit 1; }


I presume that:

  • you finished your template
  • and uploaded it to github

Use template from github git repository


Use it again.

  • After first usage template will be copied to ~/.cookiecutter directory.
  • So to use it again you need to specify template name only:

    cookiecutter my-chef-cookbook-template

Update template

cd ~/.cookiecutter/my-chef-cookbook-template
git pull

Use template from local dir

  • You can just store template in current directory and use it.
  • Let’s presume that you have template in my-chef-cookbook-template dir.
  • Then to use template you just need to execute command:

    cookiecutter my-chef-cookbook-template

Tips and tricks

  • If you want to include in resulting file {% raw %}{{ or/and }}{% endraw %}, you can specify them like {% codeblock %} {% raw %}{{‘{{’}}{% endraw %} {% endcodeblock %} or/and {% codeblock %} {% raw %}{{‘}}’}}{% endraw %} {% endcodeblock %}