Including and Importing

Includes vs. Imports

As noted in Creating Reusable Playbooks, include and import statements are very similar, however the Ansible executor engine treats them very differently.

  • All import* statements are pre-processed at the time playbooks are parsed.
  • All include* statements are processed as they are encountered during the execution of the playbook.

Please refer to Creating Reusable Playbooks for documentation concerning the trade-offs one may encounter when using each type.

Also be aware that this behaviour changed in 2.4. Prior to Ansible 2.4, only include was available and it behaved differently depending on context.

New in version 2.4.

Importing Playbooks

It is possible to include playbooks inside a master playbook. For example:

- import_playbook: webservers.yml
- import_playbook: databases.yml

The plays and tasks in each playbook listed will be run in the order they are listed, just as if they had been defined here directly.

Prior to 2.4 only include was available and worked for both playbooks and tasks as both import and include.

New in version 2.4.

Including and Importing Task Files

Breaking tasks up into different files is an excellent way to organize complex sets of tasks or reuse them. A task file simply contains a flat list of tasks:

# common_tasks.yml
- name: placeholder foo
  command: /bin/foo
- name: placeholder bar
  command: /bin/bar

You can then use import_tasks or include_tasks to execute the tasks in a file in the main task list:

- import_tasks: common_tasks.yml
# or
- include_tasks: common_tasks.yml

You can also pass variables into imports and includes:

- import_tasks: wordpress.yml
    wp_user: timmy
- import_tasks: wordpress.yml
    wp_user: alice
- import_tasks: wordpress.yml
    wp_user: bob

See Variable precedence: Where should I put a variable? for more details on variable inheritance and precedence.

Task include and import statements can be used at arbitrary depth.


  • Static and dynamic can be mixed, however this is not recommended as it may lead to difficult-to-diagnose bugs in your playbooks.
  • The key=value syntax for passing variables to import and include is deprecated. Use YAML vars: instead.

Includes and imports can also be used in the handlers: section. For instance, if you want to define how to restart Apache, you only have to do that once for all of your playbooks. You might make a handlers.yml that looks like:

# more_handlers.yml
- name: restart apache
  service: name=apache state=restarted

And in your main playbook file:

- include_tasks: more_handlers.yml
# or
- import_tasks: more_handlers.yml


Be sure to refer to the limitations/trade-offs for handlers noted in Creating Reusable Playbooks.

You can mix in includes along with your regular non-included tasks and handlers.

Including and Importing Roles

Please refer to Roles for details on including and importing roles.

See also

YAML Syntax
Learn about YAML syntax
Working With Playbooks
Review the basic Playbook language features
Best Practices
Various tips about managing playbooks in the real world
Using Variables
All about variables in playbooks
Conditionals in playbooks
Loops in playbooks
All modules
Learn about available modules
Should you develop a module?
Learn how to extend Ansible by writing your own modules
GitHub Ansible examples
Complete playbook files from the GitHub project source
Mailing List
Questions? Help? Ideas? Stop by the list on Google Groups