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There is already a question "What should/shouldn't go in .zshenv, .zshrc, .zlogin, .zprofile, .zlogout?".

I'm wondering why anyone ever puts anything in /etc/zshenv or ~/.zshenv. For those who are unfamiliar, these files are generally sourced on every zsh invocation, even when it is executing a script file. Sourcing of the global file cannot be overridden; sourcing the local file can be prevented by executing zsh as zsh -f.

It just seems like a bad idea to have configuration files which change the behavior of all my Zsh scripts. Doesn't even the existence of this feature make Zsh scripts highly non-portable? I remember experiencing problems where system administrators put things in /etc/zshenv which break my scripts or severely slow them.

And let's suppose that I only use ~/.zshenv to export environment variables - why should it be that I can temporarily override one of these variables when executing a Bash script, or a Perl script, but not a Zsh script? And why not simply configure these variables in ~/.zprofile, which is sourced with every login shell? The nature of environment variables is that they are inherited, so this would seem to be enough. If I need these variables in a cron job, I can execute it with zsh -cl...

closed as primarily opinion-based by Kiwy, Jeff Schaller, countermode, schily, msp9011 Aug 29 '18 at 13:05

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Maybe you need to share a same variable or want everyone to have the same profile, there's hundred reason why anyone would do anything. Your question is opinion base though. – Kiwy Aug 29 '18 at 8:01
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    ~/.zprofile is not sourced for commands executed over rshd/sshd, or cron jobs... ~/.zshenv can be used to fix wrong system defaults as a user for instance. It can be used to implement some debugging or any time you'd need something to be run for every zsh invocation. Most shells have an equivalent like bash's $BASH_ENV. All csh invocations read ~/.cshrc (which is why you see #! /bin/csh -f in she-bangs). – Stéphane Chazelas Aug 29 '18 at 16:11
  • Thanks for the list of possibilities. FWIW I realize that I'm using ~/.zshenv to make sure that ~/.zprofile gets sourced for ssh commands. if [ -z "$SOURCED_ZPROFILE" ]; then . ${ZDOTDIR:-$HOME}/.zprofile; fi (then that variable is set at the end of .zprofile). But there is nothing else in there. Seems a bit powerful for debugging but that is an interesting thought. – Metamorphic Aug 29 '18 at 21:12