Tip of the day: how to edit Ansible Jinja2 templates in JetBrains IDEs

Submitted by Frederic Marand on

One annoying missing feature in most JetBrains IDEs is the lack of builtin support for Jinja2 templates, used notably as the Ansible template engine.

One paid solution exists, the OrchidE plugin, but there is a free workaround. Can you guess which one ?

One template engine which originally got a lot of inspiration from Jinja is the PHP Twig engine made popular by Symfony.

Even today, in spite of the divergent evolutions of Jinja 3 and Twig 3, it is close enough in basic syntax for the Twig plugin to be used to edit Ansible Jinja templates. And the JetBrains Twig plugin has a very useful feature in the form of "sub-templates". That is, providing syntax support for both the template engine itself (the braces content) and the template destination (YAML, INI, Apache Config, etc).

This relies on having template files named (file).(target type).twig : on such files the Twig plugin applies Twig (Jinja) syntax to the braces content and target type syntax to the rest of the file. For example, we could create a myvhost.apacheconf.twig file and have it be edited as a "Jinja" template targeting an Apache config file, with the following steps:

  1. Go to Preferences / Editor / File Types, add *.apacheconf to the Apache config type; validate.
  2. Create your Apache vhost template as my_vhost.j2.
  3. Symlink it to my_vhost.apacheconf.twig.
  4. Enjoy !

If you don't mind going for a more unusual, but even simpler approach, you can even forego the *.j2 extension altogether, and name your templates that way, also when referencing them as template.src arguments: no symlinks, no problems.

Ansible does not actually care about the template extensions to try to infer an engine, so a *.twig works just as well as a *.j2.
Just don't forget to document why your templates are named that way in your project README file: other devs could be surprised to see that unusual extension.