Language: Functions

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Functions are pre-defined chunks of Ruby code which run during compilation. Most functions either return values or modify the catalog.

Puppet includes several built-in functions, and more are available in modules on the Puppet Forge, particularly the puppetlabs-stdlib module. You can also write custom functions and put them in your own modules.


    file {'/etc/ntp.conf':
      ensure  => file,
      content => template('ntp/ntp.conf'),

    include apache2

    if str2bool($is_virtual) {
      include ntp::disabled
    else {
      include ntp
    # str2bool is part of the puppetlabs-stdlib module; install it with
    # sudo puppet module install puppetlabs-stdlib

In the examples above, template, include, and str2bool are all functions. template and str2bool return values, and include modifies the catalog by causing a class to be applied.

The general form of a function call is:

  • The name of the function, as a bare word
  • An opening parenthesis, which is optional for statements but mandatory for rvalues
  • Any number of arguments, separated with commas; the number and type of arguments are controlled by the function
  • A closing parenthesis, if an open parenthesis was used


There are two types of Puppet functions:

  • Rvalues return values and can be used anywhere a normal value is expected. (This includes resource attributes, variable assignments, conditions, selector values, the arguments of other functions, etc.) These values can come from a variety of places; the template function reads and evaluates a template to return a string, and stdlib’s str2bool and num2bool functions convert values from one data type to another.
  • Statements should stand alone and do some form of work, which can be anything from logging a message (like notice), to modifying the catalog in progress (like include), to causing the entire compilation to fail (fail). Statements do not return usable values.

All functions run during compilation, which means they can only access the commands and data available on the Puppet master. To perform tasks on, or collect data from, an agent node, you must use a resource or a custom fact.


Each function defines how many arguments it takes and what data types it expects those arguments to be. These should be documented in the function’s :doc string, which can be extracted and included in the function reference.

Functions may accept any of Puppet’s standard data types. The values passed to the function’s Ruby code will be converted to Ruby objects as follows:

Puppet type Ruby type
boolean boolean
undef the empty string
string string
resource reference Puppet::Resource
number string
array array
hash hash
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