Template Syntax and Variables in Ansible

Template syntax and variables play a crucial role in Ansible when using templates to generate dynamic content. Understanding the syntax and how to work with variables is essential for creating powerful and flexible templates. In this tutorial, we will explore the template syntax and variables in Ansible.

Introduction to Template Syntax and Variables

Template syntax in Ansible is based on the Jinja2 templating engine. Jinja2 provides a rich set of features and constructs that allow you to manipulate data, perform calculations, and control the flow of your templates. Variables, on the other hand, allow you to introduce dynamic values into your templates and make them adaptable to different environments.

Let's take a look at an example of using template syntax and variables:

- name: Generate Nginx configuration
  hosts: webservers
    - name: Copy Nginx configuration template
        src: nginx.conf.j2
        dest: /etc/nginx/nginx.conf
      notify: Restart Nginx

In this example, the playbook task copies an Nginx configuration template file (nginx.conf.j2) to the target server's destination path. The template file contains template syntax and variables that will be rendered with actual values before being copied.

Using Template Syntax and Variables

Here are the steps to use template syntax and variables in Ansible:

1. Create a Template File

Create a template file with the extension .j2 and use Jinja2 tags to introduce template syntax. Jinja2 tags are enclosed in {{ }} for variables and {% %} for control structures like conditionals and loops.

2. Define Variables

Declare the variables in your playbook or inventory file that will be used in the template. Variables can be defined at different levels, such as playbook level, host level, or group level, depending on your requirements.

3. Access Variables in Templates

Access variables in your template using the {{ }} syntax. Variables can be used in expressions, conditionals, loops, and other template constructs. You can also apply filters to modify the values of variables within the template.

4. Render the Template

Use the template module in your playbook to load the template file and render it with the defined variables. Specify the source template file path and the destination file path where the rendered file will be copied or created.

Common Mistakes with Template Syntax and Variables

  • Forgetting to enclose variables within {{ }} tags, resulting in them not being rendered correctly.
  • Using incorrect variable names or misspelling variable names, leading to undefined variable errors.
  • Not properly handling undefined variables or using default values when accessing variables in templates, causing errors or unexpected behavior.
  • Overcomplicating templates with excessive logic and calculations, making them harder to understand and maintain.
  • Using incorrect syntax for control structures such as conditionals and loops, resulting in syntax errors.

FAQs about Template Syntax and Variables in Ansible

  1. Q: Can I use expressions within Jinja2 templates?

    A: Yes, Jinja2 templates support a wide range of expressions, including arithmetic operations, string concatenation, and logical operators.

  2. Q: Can I access nested variables within templates?

    A: Yes, you can access nested variables by using dot notation. For example, if you have a variable named my_var that contains a nested dictionary, you can access its values using {{ my_var.nested_key }}.

  3. Q: How can I assign default values to variables in templates?

    A: You can use the default filter to assign default values to variables in templates. For example, {{ my_var | default('default_value') }}.


Understanding template syntax and variables is essential for working effectively with Ansible templates. By following the steps and best practices outlined in this tutorial, you can leverage the power of Jinja2 templating to create dynamic and adaptable templates. Templates allow you to generate configuration files, scripts, and other text-based files with ease, making your infrastructure provisioning and management tasks more flexible and automated.