I want to specify an Environment systemd directive containing =, e.g.

Environment=CATALINA_OPTS=-Dappserver.home=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current -Dappserver.base=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current

and get the error

[/lib/systemd/system/archiva.service:10] Invalid environment assignment, ignoring: CATALINA_OPTS=-Dappserver.home\=/var/lib/archiva/apache

in journalctl -xe. I tried to quote with " and ' and to escape = with \ without success. This seems undocumented.


I think your problem is due the space in the environment variable's contents. Looking at the examples from the systemd docs, an assignment should be a single string:


Environment="ONE=one" 'TWO=two two'
ExecStart=/bin/echo $ONE $TWO ${TWO}

This will execute /bin/echo with four arguments: one, two, two, and two two.


Environment=ONE='one' "TWO='two two' too" THREE=
ExecStart=/bin/echo ${ONE} ${TWO} ${THREE}
ExecStart=/bin/echo $ONE $TWO $THREE

This results in echo being called twice, the first time with arguments 'one', 'two two' too, , and the second time with arguments one, two two, too.

I tested this with the following service (note the quotes around the entire assignment):

Description=My Daemon

Environment='CATALINA_OPTS=-Dappserver.home=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current -Dappserver.base=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current'
ExecStart=/bin/echo ${CATALINA_OPTS}


And got the desired output in journalctl:

Apr 26 08:19:29 laptop echo[28439]: -Dappserver.home=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current -Dappserver.base=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current

Of course, it would be simpler to use EnvironmentFile instead. Replacing the Environment with the following gave the same desired result:


Where /tmp/foo contained (note the lack of quotes):

CATALINA_OPTS=-Dappserver.home=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current -Dappserver.base=/var/lib/archiva/apache-tomcat-current
  • When it comes to quoting quotes (e.g. by using CATALINA_OPTS in systemd environment for Apache tomcat 7.0.61) using EnvironmentFile really is the way to go. Thanks! – Karl Richter Apr 26 '15 at 17:11
  • What is the standard/ convention directory for keeping an EnvironmentFile on Ubuntu? On other systems I've seen /etc/sysconfig/ – Davos Aug 29 '17 at 1:20
  • 1
    @Davos a reasonable place would be /etc/default. Files there have been historically used for placing environment variables for corresponding init scripts. – muru Aug 29 '17 at 1:21
  • I have this file already on my system /etc/environment which contains a PATH variable, would appending to that be sensible? – Davos Aug 29 '17 at 1:22
  • 1
    @Davos that's systemwide. If there's no problem with the variable being set for practically every process, sure. Note that /etc/environment is not processed by a shell; aside from simple variable assignment, its syntax is very different from the systemd syntax noted above or general shell syntax. – muru Aug 29 '17 at 1:25

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