Getting Started

To get started, install environ-config using pip from PyPI into your project’s virtual environment:

$ python -m pip install environ-config

Let’s start with a very simple configuration and pick up advanced features iteratively:

>>> import environ
>>> @environ.config
... class AppConfig:
...     value = environ.var(help="This is a value.")
...     flag = environ.bool_var(help="This is a boolean flag.")

Now you can try loading this configuration either using the function environ.to_config (mnemonic: “environment to configuration”) or using the class method AppConfig.from_environ() that has been automatically attached to the AppConfig class. Both methods are equivalent and we will use them in this tutorial interchangeably.

To do that, environ-config will concatenate a common prefix (APP by default, but can be changed) and the attribute names with underscores as separators. Then it tries to load those values from the process environment (os.environ) – or a dictionary that you can pass to environ.to_config/AppConfig.from_environ() instead. This is what we will do in this tutorial to make things more transparent.


The class and the configuration attributes can have any valid Python name. The fact that all our configurations are called AppConfig is just our naming convention.

If you want to use an invalid name for the environment variable, you can overwrite the attribute name using the name argument to environ.to_config.

So in this case, environ-config will look for two environment variables: APP_VALUE and APP_FLAG. Let’s pass a dictionary to it that contains them:

>>> AppConfig.from_environ(environ={
...     "APP_VALUE": "42",
...     "APP_FLAG": "yes",
... })
AppConfig(value='42', flag=True)

As you can see, since we used environ.bool_var, the "yes" string has been converted to a bool.


Now let’s assume you want to keep AppConfig.value on 42, but have an option to overwrite it when needed. Assign a default value for it and that will be used if the variable in question is not present:

>>> @environ.config
... class AppConfig:
...     value = environ.var(default="42")
...     flag = environ.bool_var()
>>> environ.to_config(AppConfig, environ={
...     "APP_FLAG": "yes",
... })
AppConfig(value='42', flag=True)

But you can still overwrite it if needed:

>>> environ.to_config(AppConfig, environ={
...     "APP_VALUE": "23",
...     "APP_FLAG": "yes",
... })
AppConfig(value='23', flag=True)


As a general advice: don’t set your defaults to dangerous values. For example if your web application has some kind of development mode that activates a debugger view on exceptions, that should be strictly opt-in.

Otherwise one forgotten or mistyped option name can fully expose your application.


Sometimes it makes sense to give your configuration more structure than a flat class. For that environ-config comes with the concept of groups; implemented using environ.group:

>>> @environ.config
... class AppConfig:
...     @environ.config
...     class SomeService:
...         host = environ.var()
...         port = environ.var()
...     svc = environ.group(SomeService)
>>> AppConfig.from_environ(environ={
...     "APP_SVC_HOST": "localhost",
...     "APP_SVC_PORT": "5555",
... })
AppConfig(svc=AppConfig.SomeService(host='localhost', port='5555'))


It’s usually better to store access information to servers in URLs in use cases like this. Python has great libraries for creating and parsing them (e.g. yarl) and they allow you to keep all information needed to connect to a service serialized into a single string.

Some libraries like SQLAlchemy or the Redis package allow you to pass URL strings directly into them.


environ-config also inherited attrs’s converters. They are especially useful with integers or enum s:

>>> import enum
>>> class Env(enum.Enum):
...     PROD = "prod"
...     DEV = "DEV"
...     STAGING = "staging"
>>> @environ.config
... class AppConfig:
...     port = environ.var(converter=int)
...     env = environ.var(converter=Env)
>>> environ.to_config(AppConfig, environ={
...     "APP_PORT": "8080",
...     "APP_ENV": "prod",
... })
AppConfig(port=8080, env=<Env.PROD: 'prod'>)

As an added benefit, they also validate the values for you.


You can take validation much further thanks to attrs’s validation system:

>>> from pathlib import Path
>>> @environ.config
... class AppConfig:
...     path = environ.var(converter=Path)
...     @path.validator
...     def _ensure_path_exists(self, var, path):
...         if not path.exists():
...             raise ValueError("Path not found.")
>>> AppConfig.from_environ(environ={"APP_PATH": "pyproject.toml"})
>>> AppConfig.from_environ(environ={"APP_PATH": "foo"})
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValueError: Path not found.

Check out attrs’s documentation for more details.


Secrets should be stored in specialized systems and not passed as environment variables . The 12 Factor App manifesto is plain wrong here.

Therefore environ-config comes with support for getting secrets from somewhere else. The simplest way is to safe them into an INI file and tell environ-config to load that file on startup, based on an environment variable.

For example this is a common pattern:

ini_file = environ.secrets.INISecrets.from_path_in_env(
    "APP_SECRETS_INI", "/secrets/secrets.ini"

class AppConfig:
    db_url = ini_file.secret()

It looks at the environment variable APP_SECRETS_INI and loads the file that is specified there. If the variable is not set, it falls back to reading the secrets from /secrets/secrets.ini.

This allows you in development to set the environment variable APP_SECRETS_INI to something like dev-secrets.ini and put the secret in there:


And in production it will just work without any further work.


environ-config comes with two tools to help you to debug your configuration. Firstly, you can tell it to generate a help string using environ.generate_help/AppConfig.generate_help():

>>> import environ
>>> @environ.config(prefix="APP")
... class AppConfig:
...     @environ.config
...     class SubConfig:
...         sit = environ.var(help="Another example message.")
...         amet = environ.var()
...     lorem = environ.var('ipsum')
...     dolor = environ.bool_var(True, help="An example message.")
...     subconfig = environ.group(SubConfig)
>>> print(environ.generate_help(AppConfig))
APP_LOREM (Optional)
APP_DOLOR (Optional): An example message.
APP_SUBCONFIG_SIT (Required): Another example message.
>>> print(environ.generate_help(AppConfig, display_defaults=True))
APP_LOREM (Optional, Default=ipsum)
APP_DOLOR (Optional, Default=True): An example message.
APP_SUBCONFIG_SIT (Required): Another example message.

The other option is to activate debug-level logging for the environ_config logger by setting its level to logging.WARNING. environ-config will tell you what its looking for in real time.