Mastering Jenkins: How to Manipulate Environmental Variables for Efficient Builds

The Importance of Environmental Variable Manipulation in Jenkins

Jenkins is an open-source automation server that is widely used in software development. It plays a crucial role in the software development lifecycle, as it automates tasks such as building, testing, and deploying code. As an automation server, Jenkins helps developers to streamline their workflows and reduce errors that may arise during the development process.

In Jenkins, environmental variables play a critical role in builds. These variables are values that are set outside of a program or script but are required for the program or script to run correctly.

In other words, environmental variables provide information about the environment in which the build is taking place. For example, you might have an environmental variable that specifies the location of your JDK installation on your machine.

This variable is necessary for a build process that requires Java to operate correctly. Without this variable set correctly, your build would likely fail.

Understanding Environmental Variables in Jenkins

Before we can dive into how to manipulate environmental variables for efficient builds in Jenkins, it’s critical to understand what these variables are and how they work within Jenkins. In Jenkins, there are three main types of environmental variables: system environment variables, user-defined environment variables and build-specific environment variables. System environment variables are global values that apply across all builds on a specific machine or server.

These can be used to specify things like the path where certain executables reside or which version of Java should be used by default. User-defined environment variables allow you to define custom values that can be referenced within your builds across multiple machines or servers.

These could be things like project-specific paths or email addresses defined by your team. Build-specific environment variables apply only to a specific job run and are commonly used if you need specific information for just one job run such as git commit hash or build version.

Why Environmental Variable Manipulation is Important for Efficient Builds

As mentioned earlier, environmental variables provide information about the environment in which a build is taking place. By manipulating these variables correctly, you can significantly improve the performance of your builds.

For example, properly configuring environmental variables can eliminate the need to hardcode values into your scripts or pipelines. This means that changes to things like version numbers or file paths can be made once in your environment configuration, rather than having to hunt down every instance of those values in your code and update them manually.

In addition, using environmental variables also makes it easier to reuse code across different environments. By setting up your scripts and pipelines to rely on environmental variables instead of hardcoded values, you can quickly move builds from one environment to another without changes or updates.

Overall, understanding how to manipulate environmental variables in Jenkins is essential for anyone looking to optimize their development workflows and build processes. In the next sections, we’ll dive into some specific techniques for improving efficiency by mastering environmental variable manipulation.

Understanding Environmental Variables in Jenkins

Definition and Explanation of Environmental Variables

Environmental variables are a fundamental concept in Jenkins that allow you to configure and customize builds. They are essentially key-value pairs that contain information about the system or process being executed. This information can range from simple strings to complex data structures.

In Jenkins, environmental variables play a crucial role in defining the environment within which builds are executed. By specifying and manipulating these variables, you can control various aspects of the build process, such as the operating system, JDK version, and location of various tools and libraries.

Types of Environmental Variables in Jenkins

There are three types of environmental variables in Jenkins:

System Environment Variables

System environment variables are defined at the operating system level and can be accessed by any program or process running on that system. These variables can be set globally for all users or on a per-user basis. Examples include PATH, JAVA_HOME, and HOME.

In Jenkins, you can access these variables using the syntax ${ENV_VAR_NAME}. For example, ${PATH} would return the value of the PATH variable defined on your system.

User-defined Environment Variables

User-defined environment variables are specific to a particular user account and can be used to override system-level settings or provide additional configuration options for specific users. These variables are defined within Jenkins itself using the Manage Jenkins -> Configure System menu option.

In Jenkins, you can access these variables using the syntax ${USER_VAR_NAME}. For example, if you define a variable named “MY_VAR” with a value of “hello”, you could reference its value from within a build script using ${MY_VAR}.

Build-specific Environment Variables

Build-specific environment variables are created dynamically during each build run based on user-defined criteria such as build parameters or SCM commit messages. These variables are typically used to pass information between different build steps or to customize the build process based on user input.

In Jenkins, you can access these variables using the syntax ${BUILD_VAR_NAME}. For example, if you define a parameter named “ENVIRONMENT” with a value of “prod”, you could reference its value from within a build script using ${ENVIRONMENT}.

Overall, mastering environmental variables in Jenkins is essential for effective and efficient build management. By understanding the different types of environmental variables and how they can be manipulated, you can significantly streamline your development process while also maintaining greater control over your builds.

Manipulating Environmental Variables for Efficient Builds

Setting up Global Environment Variables

Global environment variables are variables that are available to all builds in Jenkins. They are very useful when you want to set up a common configuration across multiple builds. When global environment variables are used, it will save time on the configuration process for future builds, which will ultimately result in quicker and more efficient builds.

To set up global environment variables in Jenkins, you need to go the Jenkins dashboard and select “Manage Jenkins”. From there, click “Configure System” and scroll down until you see the “Global Properties” section.

In this section, click on “Environment Variables” and add your desired key-value pairs in the format of KEY=VALUE. Once saved, these global environment variables will be available for all builds.

Using User-Defined Environment Variables to Simplify Build Configurations

User-defined environment variables are specific to each build and can be used to simplify build configurations. Instead of hardcoding values throughout the build process, user-defined variables can be created with certain values that can be easily changed with each new build. To create a user-defined variable, navigate to your desired job in Jenkins and click on “Configure”.

Scroll down until you see the “Build Environment” section and check off “Use secret text(s) or file(s)”. Here you can input your desired key-value pair under either “Secret text” or “Secret file”.

Once added, these user-defined environment variables will be available during each subsequent build. Advantages of using user-defined environmental variables include making it easier for a new team member unfamiliar with the project’s codebase to execute a successful build.

Advanced Techniques for Manipulating Environmental Variables

Using EnvInject Plugin to Manipulate Build-Specific Environmental Variable Values

The EnvInject Plugin allows you to manipulate build-specific environmental variable values. This plugin can be used to store sensitive information like passwords or API keys that need to be accessed during the build process. To use the EnvInject Plugin, first, navigate to the Jenkins dashboard and click on “Manage Jenkins”.

From there, select “Manage Plugins” and search for “EnvInject Plugin” in the “Available” tab. Once installed, go back to your desired job in Jenkins and click on “Configure”.

In the “Build Environment” section, check off “Inject environment variables”. To configure the environmental variables that this plugin will manage for a specific build job:

1. Access your Jenkins instance. 2. Navigate to your desired job in Jenkins.

3. Click on ‘Configure’. 4. Scroll down until you see the ‘Build Environment’ section.

5. Check off ‘Inject environment variables’. 6. Add desired key-value pairs in either ‘Properties File Path’ or ‘Properties Content’.

Best Practices for Mastering Environmental Variable Manipulation

– Use descriptive naming conventions when creating environment variables – Store sensitive information like passwords and API keys using user-defined environment variables as opposed to global ones

– Regularly audit your environmental variable configuration to ensure accuracy – Document all changes made to environmental variable configurations


By mastering environmental variable manipulation techniques in Jenkins, developers can drastically improve their build processes. Whether it be setting up global environment variables or utilizing user-defined ones for simplification of configurations, it is critical that developers actively seek ways of refining their processes within Jenkins’ ecosystem as they strive towards increasing efficiency.Learn how best practices such as descriptive naming conventions coupled with routine audits can aid in sustainable code design while also providing greater clarity across projects involving multiple developers.The EnvInject Plugin builds upon these concepts by allowing programmers greater flexibility with regards to how they manipulate their builds at runtime – all while ensuring that sensitive data remains safeguarded from prying eyes.


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