Working with Template Files in Ansible

Template files are a powerful feature in Ansible that allow you to generate dynamic content based on variables and logic. With template files, you can easily create configuration files, scripts, and other text-based files that are tailored to your specific infrastructure requirements. In this tutorial, we will explore how to work with template files in Ansible.

Introduction to Template Files

Template files in Ansible combine static text with dynamic content using Jinja2 templating syntax. They enable you to create files that are customized for each host or group of hosts in your inventory. Template files support variables, conditionals, loops, and filters, providing flexibility in generating dynamic content.

Let's take a look at an example of using template files:

- 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 destination path on the target servers. The template file contains a combination of static configuration directives and Jinja2 tags that reference variables to dynamically generate the configuration based on the target server's specific requirements.

Working with Template Files

Here are the steps to work with template files in Ansible:

1. Create the Template File

Create a template file with the extension .j2. Inside the template file, you can use Jinja2 tags to include variables, conditionals, loops, and filters. The Jinja2 tags are enclosed in {{ }} for variables and {% %} for control structures.

2. Define Variables

Declare the necessary variables in your playbook or inventory file. Variables can be defined at different levels, such as playbook level, host level, or group level. These variables will be used to populate the template file with dynamic content.

3. Load and Render the Template

Use the template module in your playbook to load the template file and render it with the specified variables. Specify the source template file path and the destination file path where the rendered file will be copied or created. The template module automatically applies the Jinja2 rendering process.

4. Notify Changes (Optional)

If the rendered template file triggers a configuration change that requires a service restart or any other action, you can use the notify directive to trigger a handler or task upon changes.

Common Mistakes when Working with Template Files

  • Not properly configuring the Jinja2 tags or syntax within the template file.
  • Forgetting to define the necessary variables or using incorrect variable names.
  • Using incorrect file extensions for template files, such as using .yaml instead of .j2.
  • Not escaping special characters within the template file, leading to syntax errors or unexpected rendering results.
  • Overcomplicating the template file with excessive logic and calculations, making it harder to maintain and troubleshoot.

FAQs about Working with Template Files in Ansible

  1. Q: Can I include other template files within a template?

    A: Yes, you can include other template files within a template using the Jinja2 include statement. This allows you to modularize your templates and reuse common parts across multiple files.

  2. Q: Can I use conditions and loops in template files?

    A: Yes, Jinja2 supports conditionals and loops. You can use control structures like {% if %} and {% for %} to conditionally render content or iterate over a list of items.

  3. Q: How can I debug template rendering issues?

    A: You can enable verbose output during playbook execution using the -vvv option. This will provide more detailed information about the template rendering process, including any errors or issues encountered.


Working with template files in Ansible enables you to generate dynamic content based on variables and logic. By following the steps and best practices outlined in this tutorial, you can leverage the power of Jinja2 templating to create customized files tailored to your infrastructure. Template files eliminate the need for manual file management and ensure consistency across your systems, making your Ansible playbooks more versatile and efficient.