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Last active Feb 23, 2021
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Run Script, with dev docker image

One of the biggest barriers to starting in an unfamiliar repo is understanding how to start up the development environment, build the code, and other common tasks. Once a developer is established in a codebase, it's important to minimize development friction with common tasks.

The run script here is a very minimal script that makes it easy to see how to get started, what common tasks are available, and automates those tasks, no matter how trivial. Importantly for long-term maintainability, it allows the "repo maintainers" to change details about, say, starting a dev database, without most other engineers needing to care how that gets done (maybe we use docker-compose, maybe we use raw docker, maybe vagrant). And if they do care, they can just read the script or watch its output.

Importantly, the script is just plain old bash. Most developers are probably familiar with the syntax, and it's ubiquitous, meaning there's no dependencies to install and no esoteric shell-like syntaxes (like make) or libraries (like rake) to learn. So long as conventions around declaring commands, variables, and help text are conformed to, the file should be relatively self-documenting and easy to contribute to.

It's important to note that run scripts are not a build system. They're a task-automation system. You should still rely on make or similar tools to actually build your code.

The run-in-docker function provided here is a simple trick to automatically and transparently run the requested command inside a development docker image. This gives you the ability to create hermetic environments for running your commands, to drastically cut down on "works-on-my-machine" issues. You should probably use something like the golang container, or your own custom image, and make sure to mount in any build caches, dependency folders, ssh agents, etc, so that dockerized commands provide a near-native and transparent experience.

$ ./run help
  some-task: some help text for the task
  some-dockerized-task: runs in docker if it's not already
  bash: opens bash in the docker container

Environment Variables:
  SOME_VARIABLE=foo	 some help text for the variable
  USE_DEV_DOCKER=yes	 whether or not to run enabled commmands in the docker dev environment

$ ./run help some-task
some-task is a function
some-task ()
  echo "hello $1"

$ ./run some-task world
hello world

$ ./run some-dockerized-task
Running './run some-dockerized-task' in development container

$ USE_DEV_DOCKER=no ./run some-dockerized-task

$ ./run bash
Running './run bash' in development container

You can see a real example of this here:

set -e -o pipefail
cd "$( dirname "${BASH_SOURCE[0]}" )" >/dev/null 2>&1
: "${SOME_VARIABLE:=foo}" # some help text for the variable
function some-task { #: some help text for the task
echo "hello $1"
function some-dockerized-task { #: runs in docker if it's not already
function bash { #: opens bash in the docker container
run-in-docker -it
exec bash
: "${USE_DEV_DOCKER:=yes}" # whether or not to run enabled commmands in the docker dev environment
function run-in-docker {
if [[ $USE_DEV_DOCKER == "yes" ]]; then
script="$(basename "${BASH_SOURCE[0]}")"
echo "Running './$script ${orig_args[*]}' in development container"
docker_img="ubuntu:18.04" # or whatever you want
--network host
-w /home/dev
-v "$(pwd):/home/dev"
exec docker run "${docker_args[@]}" "$@" "$docker_img" "./$script" "${orig_args[@]}"
if [[ $# -eq 0 || "$1" == "help" || "$1" == "--help" ]]; then
this_script="$(basename "$0")"
if [[ "$(type -t "$2")" == "function" ]]; then
type "$2"
echo "Commands:"
sed -En 's/^function (.*) \{ #/ \1/p' "$this_script"
echo "Environment Variables:"
sed -En 's/^: "\$\{(.+):=(.+)\}"( #)?/ \1=\2\t/p' "$this_script"
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