Documentation

Advanced Syntax

The advanced YAML syntax examples on this page give you more control over the data placed in YAML files used by Ansible. You can find additional information about Python-specific YAML in the official PyYAML Documentation.

Unsafe or Raw Strings

Ansible provides an internal data type for declaring variable values as “unsafe”. This means that the data held within the variables value should be treated as unsafe preventing unsafe character substitution and information disclosure.

Jinja2 contains functionality for escaping, or telling Jinja2 to not template data by means of functionality such as {% raw %} ... {% endraw %}, however this uses a more comprehensive implementation to ensure that the value is never templated.

Using YAML tags, you can also mark a value as “unsafe” by using the !unsafe tag such as:

---
my_unsafe_variable: !unsafe 'this variable has {{ characters that should not be treated as a jinja2 template'

In a playbook, this may look like:

---
hosts: all
vars:
    my_unsafe_variable: !unsafe 'unsafe value'
tasks:
    ...

For complex variables such as hashes or arrays, !unsafe should be used on the individual elements such as:

---
my_unsafe_array:
    - !unsafe 'unsafe element'
    - 'safe element'

my_unsafe_hash:
    unsafe_key: !unsafe 'unsafe value'

YAML anchors and aliases: sharing variable values

YAML anchors and aliases help you define, maintain, and use shared variable values in a flexible way. You define an anchor with &, then refer to it using an alias, denoted with *. Here’s an example that sets three values with an anchor, uses two of those values with an alias, and overrides the third value:

---
...
vars:
    app1:
        jvm: &jvm_opts
            opts: '-Xms1G -Xmx2G'
            port: 1000
            path: /usr/lib/app1
    app2:
        jvm:
            <<: *jvm_opts
            path: /usr/lib/app2
...

Here, app1 and app2 share the values for opts and port using the anchor &jvm_opts and the alias *jvm_opts. The value for path is merged by << or merge operator.

Anchors and aliases also let you share complex sets of variable values, including nested variables. If you have one variable value that includes another variable value, you can define them separately:

vars:
  webapp_version: 1.0
  webapp_custom_name: ToDo_App-1.0

This is inefficient and, at scale, means more maintenance. To incorporate the version value in the name, you can use an anchor in app_version and an alias in custom_name:

vars:
  webapp:
      version: &my_version 1.0
      custom_name:
          - "ToDo_App"
          - *my_version

Now, you can re-use the value of app_version within the value of custom_name and use the output in a template:

---
- name: Using values nested inside dictionary
  hosts: localhost
  vars:
    webapp:
        version: &my_version 1.0
        custom_name:
            - "ToDo_App"
            - *my_version
  tasks:
  - name: Using Anchor value
    debug:
        msg: My app is called "{{ webapp.custom_name | join('-') }}".

You’ve anchored the value of version with the &my_version anchor, and re-used it with the *my_version alias. Anchors and aliases let you access nested values inside dictionaries.

See also

Using Variables
All about variables
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