Environment Variables

5 minute read

This article is about using environment variables with CloudBees CodeShip Pro. If you are unfamiliar with CloudBees CodeShip Pro, we recommend our getting started guide or the features overview page. Note that you will also need to use the CodeShip Pro local CLI tool to encrypt your environment variables.

Using CloudBees CodeShip Pro, you can set environment variables in two formats: Encrypted and unsecured.

This is important because some environment variables may not need to be securely stored, but some may relate to authentication or deployment access and therefore need to be secured and never visible in your repo or configuration files.

Unsecured Environment Variables

You can set your environment variables directly in your Services file, or via your Dockerfile.

Via Services File

To set unsecured environment variables via your Services file, you will use the environment specification. For example:

app: build: image: myorg/appname dockerfile_path: Dockerfile environment: - NAME=CodeShip - URL=www.codeship.com

Via Dockerfile

To set unsecured environment variables via your Dockerfile, you will use the ENV directive. For example:

FROM ubuntu:latest ENV URL=www.codeship.com

Encrypted Environment Variables

The most common way to use environment variables on CloudBees CodeShip Pro is by using our encrypted_env_file option. This lets you keep all environment variables securely encrypted, via a project-specific AES key, and therefore never explicitly visible in your repo.

By doing this, you never have to worry about using environment variables for passing your secrets to your CI/CD pipeline and to your builds. CloudBees CodeShip Pro uses AES-256 bit encryption.

Downloading Your AES Key

Navigate to Project Settings > General and you’ll find a section labeled AES Key which allows you to either copy or download the key.

AES key

Save that file as codeship.aes in your repository root. You can add the key to your .gitignore file so you don’t accidentally commit it to your repository.

The GitHub token scanning feature looks for token names that match regular expressions. Learn more about GitHub’s secret scanning program for more information.

The regular expressions are:

Token Regular Expression

CodeShip generic


If you need to reset your AES key you can do so by visiting Project Settings > General and clicking Reset project AES key.

Encrypting Your Environment Variables

To encrypt your environment variables, first create a new text file with your variables defined in it. In this case, let’s call the file env and add some example environment variables:


Once you create this file and save it in your project directory, we’ll encrypt it. This will require that you have installed the Jet CLI and that you have downloaded your AES key to your project root, as well.

From your terminal, you will run:

jet encrypt env env.encrypted

In this example env is the name of the text file containing your environment variables, and env.encrypted is the name of the encrypted file.

Note that both names are customizable and up to you. Once encrypted, you also want to make sure to add your origin, plain-text env file to your .gitignore, or to delete it altogether.

Using Your Encrypted Environment Variables

Now that you have created your encrypted environment variables file (and added the plain-text version to your .gitignore), you will want to use the encrypted file in your Services file. You do this using the encrypted_env_file directive. For example:

app: build: image: myorg/appname dockerfile_path: Dockerfile encrypted_env_file: - env.encrypted # one or many environment files can be defined within a service


If you need to decrypt the encrypted file run the following command instead:

jet decrypt env.encrypted env

Just like when encrypting but in reverse, env.encrypted is the name of the file you want to decrypt and env is the name you give to the decrypted file.

Priority Of Variable Inheritance

In some cases, you may have explicitly declared variables through the environment directive as well as unencrypted or encrypted variables through the file directives.

In these cases, we will parse the variables in the following order:

  1. environment directive

  2. Unencrypted env_file files

  3. encrypted_env_file files

So, if the same variable is present in multiple declarations, it will overwrite in the above order.

Default Environment Variables

By default, CodeShip populates a list of CI/CD related environment variables, such as the branch and the commit ID.

The environment variables CodeShip populates are:

CI_BRANCH               # The Branch name of the triggered build. Ex: master
CI_BUILD_APPROVED       # Build trigger on manual approval
CI_BUILD_ID             # ID of the build
CI_COMMITTER_EMAIL      # The committer's email address as set in the git commit
CI_COMMITTER_NAME       # The committer's name as set in the git commit.
CI_COMMITTER_USERNAME   # The committer's SCM username. NOTE: For BitBucket users this is the nickname field.
CI_COMMIT_DESCRIPTION   # The description of the commit message
CI_COMMIT_ID            # The HEAD commit ID of the triggered build.
CI_COMMIT_MESSAGE       # The commit message
CI_NAME                 # Always codeship
CI_PROJECT_ID           # The CodeShip project ID
CI_REPO_NAME            # The name of the repo
CI_STRING_TIME          # The timestamp of the build as a string
CI_TIMESTAMP            # The timestamp of the build in time format
CI_PR_NUMBER            # The pull request number associated with the build. This value is blank if the build was triggered on a commit, merge, or tag.
CI_PULL_REQUEST         # The URL of the pull request associated with the build. The value is false if the build was triggered on a commit, merge, or tag.

Service-defined Environment Variables

Additionally, environment variables are populated based on services defined in your codeship-services.yml, as defined by the images used.

For instance, building a redis service would provide the environment variables:


Note that this is an incomplete list of the variables provided by redis, and that all images define their own environment variables to be exported by default during build time.

Notes and Common Questions

Build Arguments

If you want to set environment variables just for the purpose of using secrets in your Dockerfile, you will want to use build arguments. Build arguments are build time only variables populated just for the purposes of being used in your Dockerfiles.

We do not recommend doing this as it will leave the secret "baked" into the image in a layer. While this might be acceptable for an ephemeral image, these images may be cached, or distributed unexpectedly.

Image Push Registry Authentication

See the tutorials on Docker Push and Private Base Images for the exact steps required to encrypt the Docker configuration.

Managing Local Credential Differences

In some situations, you may find that you want to run one set of credentials locally and a different set during your CodeShip builds. Or, some developers on your team may need to use different sets of credentials. There is no ideal way to resolve this issue, at the moment, although we hope to solve for it better in the future.

For the time being, there are several workarounds that may be worth investigating for your team if you have this need:

  • You can create another, separate version of your service in your Services file, such as services_local , that would use a different encrypted env file. Your team would keep this alternative file locally, with their personal credentials, and it would be added to .gitignore so that it is not committed. Your Steps file would only reference your main service definition, which would use the encrypted env file that you commit. Locally with the Jet CLI, you would run jet run service_name command rather than just jet steps.

  • You could keep a different encrypted env file on hand locally. From there, you would maintain local .gitignore files so that the local credential files are not committed by individual developers and only the canonical, production encrypted environment file would be in the repo. The developers would then need to override the pulled encrypted environment variables file with their own, but it would be ignored on all commits back to the repo because of the .gitignore.

  • Your team could also maintain branches just for local development, and these branches would not have any environment variables file committed on them. Developers could then maintain a local env file that is never committed, with the main branches continuing to host a primary, encrypted environment variables file.

Error: "docker: no decryptor available"

This error means that the encrypted file was unable to be decrypted locally. This is because the AES key is missing.

See the instructions above for downloading your AES key locally to address this issue.