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Configuring proxies is a mess. Not anymore

So you are a college student and you realize that your entire college network is behind a proxy. So every single tool that you use need to be configured to use that proxy. Must be a mess if you are a developer, right?

Now, as a developer, you use a variety of softwares that interact with the network. Everything is fine when you are on a network which does not require any fancy proxy configurations. All your applications play well and you have a carefree life.

So here is the thing about softwares. Many of them can be configured to use a proxy server. (Yeah, there are some softwares which donot work under a proxy at all).

Now things are not uniform here. For some softwares (like git and npm) you can set a proxy server in the software config itself. Whereas for some other softwares (like Chrome or Prisma) you need to set the environment variables.

For npm and git, there are basically 4 places where npm looks for a proxy config (in that order):

  1. CLI flag
  2. Local Config
  3. Global Config
  4. Environment Variables

First, it will see if there is a CLI flag for proxy. If there is, it will use that proxy. Else it will see the Local Config to find a proxy config and so on.

If you set an environment variable to use the proxy http://proxy1:8000 and use the local config to set the proxy http://proxy2:8080 Then git/npm is going the use the local config proxy (http://proxy2:8080). Priority wise:

CLI Flag > Local Config > Global Config > Env Vars

CLI Flag

# Use the proxy http://host:port
npm --proxy "http://host:port" <rest of the command>
# Donot use any proxy
npm --no-proxy <rest of the command>

# Use the proxy http://host:port
git -c "http.proxy=http://host:port" <rest of the command>
# Donot use any proxy
git -c "http.proxy=" <rest of the command>

Local Config


In your project root directory(the directory having the package.json file), create a .npmrc file with the following contents:

# .npmrc file
# Use the proxy http://host:port
# Donot use any proxy


In your project root directory(the directory having the .git directory), create a .git/config file with the following contents:


Global Config

To set the proxy config globally, run the following npm/git command:

# Use the proxy http://host:port
npm config set proxy http://host:port
git config --global http.proxy "http://host:port"
git config --global https.proxy "http://host:port"

To remove the proxy,

npm config rm proxy
git config --global --unset http.proxy
git config --global --unset https.proxy

Environment Variables

Environment varibles are kind of a mystery for some. Basically, these are key-value pairs that are loaded when the OS loads the shell. Its a big enough topic and is outside the scope of this blog so I will leave it upon the reader to research more on this.

As a standard, there are 2 variables that you need to configure: http_proxy and https_proxy

Now setting this variable is actually dependent on which shell you are using.

Using a POSIX shell (bash, zsh, csh etc):

export http_proxy="http://host:port/"
export https_proxy="http://host:port/"

To load these variables whenever you spawn a new shell, put the above commands in ~/.profile or ~/.bashrc(if using bash) or ~/.zshrc(if using zsh).

Using a non-POSIX shell (fish, powershell etc):

In this scenario, you simply got to look up the docs for setting env vars in those shells since there is no proper standard.

# For fish, set a proxy
set http_proxy "http://host:port"
set https_proxy "http://host:port"
# For fish, remove proxy
set -e http_proxy
set -e https_proxy

For Unix based OS, there is universal way of setting environment variables throughout the system (across all users and across all shells). Simply put the variables in /etc/environment

# File: /etc/environment

Now here is the thing, we come across many tools and each of them has their own commands of configuring the proxies. Often it becomes confusing and most of times we just forget it.

Why don't we just write a script for it? It would be a massive time saver for the developer.

Sure, you can do it on your own. But others have already done it so why not save some more time and use their script?

Personally, For Unix systems (with POSIX shell) I prefer : Proxyman

For Windows, I tried finding some script but didn't find any so decided to write my own: SetProxy Later ended up writing a GUI client for it which is by far the most convenient method of changing proxyies. Check it out here. Its still an alpha release as of 3rd November 2023 so expect some bugs.