I often need configuration files in the software I develop. In principle, I can think of two ways to deal with configuration files:
- Complete: The configuration file has to have all values which will later be accessed by the application
- Partial: The configuration file might only define some values. In case the application needs a value which is not in the user defined configuration file, a default value is used.
The complete approach has the major drawback of making updates difficult. The user(s) might have different configuration files for different usage scenarios. In the worst case the user has to update his files manually, just because the developer added a couple of possibilities to customize the application.
Hence I prefer the partial approach where a default configuration file is part of the application. This default config file will not be overwritten. It contains all values necessary for the user. But the user may define a user config file which he may adjust. The user can peek at the default file to see what he can customize, but he can keep his config file clean.
Here is a small example how you can do this with Python:
#!/usr/bin/env python # -*- coding: utf-8 -*- """Example how to load config file with defaults.""" import json def load_config(cfg_filename): """Load a configuration file.""" with open(cfg_filename) as data_file: data_loaded = json.load(data_file) return data_loaded def merge_dicts(cfg_defaults, cfg_user): """ Merge two dictionaries. Parameters ---------- cfg_defaults : dict Iterate through this dict cfg_user : dict Update this dict so that it has all keys which the other file has. """ for k, v in cfg_defaults.iteritems(): if k not in cfg_user: cfg_user[k] = v elif isinstance(v, dict): merge_dicts(v, cfg_user[k]) def load_config_defaults(cfg_filename, cfg_default_filename): """Load a configuration file with defaults.""" cfg_defaults = load_config(cfg_default_filename) cfg_user = load_config(cfg_filename) # Idea: Take the user config. If anything is missing, add it from the # defaults. # So iterate through the default dict and check if it is in the user dict, # too. Add it if not. cfg = cfg_user merge_dicts(cfg_defaults, cfg) return cfg print(load_config_defaults("user_cfg.json", "default_cfg.json"))