What You Need to Know About Configuration Files

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Configuration files are the primary way of configuring settings and parameters for any computer program. A configuration file is structured in such a way to help successful operations of a computer program. These files are stored in plain text formats as they are user-configured and not at all coded in the programs. It is required from time to time to not only create but also modify and verify configuration files. We require editors that can work with configuration files and have a graphical interface for ease of use and additional functionalities.

Editing a Configuration File

Configuration files are sensitive and must be in plain text. This necessitates the use of a ‘Text editor’ whenever we require any change to be made to a configuration file. Care must be taken not to use a word processor software as they add formatting which will prevent programs from reading the configuration file when required. This may lead to runtime errors.

To start with – if you are using a Windows system, you can use a text editor like Notepad++, ‘Sublime Text Editor’ or ‘Atom’. These are 3rd-party text editors and are easily available. For editing a configuration file in the Linux world, you can use an editor called ‘Gedit’ or the ever-present option of the command-line text editors namely ‘Vim’ or ‘Nano’. When it comes to popularity – ‘Vim’ is the preferred choice. This is because it helps to jump easily from one place to any other positions present within the configuration file by using key combinations which are easy to use.

For configuration file editing on the Mac Operating System, there are a few text editors already present within the OS – Namely ‘TextMate’. Standard command line text editors like ‘Nano’ or ‘Vim’ are also included in this environment. Any editing that is done in a configuration file must follow all the conventions and guidelines provided in the application documentation. Configured files that are edited are mainly structured in the XML or the JSON format. In case, the user needs a powerful text editor then one can use ‘Atom’. This editor improves the editing accuracy and shows a user any mistakes that may happen due to oversight or other reasons.

Notes to Keep in Mind for JSON Config File

  • The comments must be written in their own lines and allow preceding whitespaces.
  • The ‘Lines’ that are starting with “//” are the comments and will be ignored while processing
  • Any Blank Lines will also be ignored.
  • ‘Block Comments’ that are written in ‘JavaScript Style i.e. (/*. . . */) are ‘Not’ allowed here.
  • ‘Indentations’ used in this format will also be ignored.
  • If the user is using the ‘Entities’, then they can be set up only by including the ‘configEntities’ in the “.json file” format.

Some things to keep in mind while working with configuration files – always save the original so that is anything goes wrong the system can be recovered using the restored copy. We should use a compatible text editor as against a word processor when working on configuration files no matter which operating environment we are working on.

Config is a highly-secured platform for your configuration settings and if you want to take that extra step in security, here’s how you can set up your configuration files without giving out any of your sensitive data.

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