I have personal preferences for how I author code. Like anyone, I’m opinionated my coding experience. I prefer using ligatures, cursive fonts for comments, VSCode themes, and more.

The problem is that I am always switching between personal/client projects and recording tutorials on my YouTube channel. I don’t want to have to change my VSCode settings every time I switch between projects, so it’s mostly been an unhappy compromise where neither my personal coding environment nor my tutorial coding environment is ideal.


  1. Create a settings.json file for each non-default profile in a data/User directory.
  2. Open a directory with VSCode CLI (with the --user-data-dir flag pointing to your profile’s data directory).

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How to create a VSCode profile

For each VSCode profile, you’ll create a unique VSCode settings.json config file.

1. Create a directory to hold your profiles.

I like to keep my profiles in a directory called vscode-profiles in my home directory. You can put it wherever you want, but I recommend keeping it in a place that is easy to find and won’t get accidentally deleted.

Type the following from any open terminal.

mkdir ~/vscode-profiles

Change to that directory.

cd ~/vscode-profiles

Note: If you’re an ohmyzsh user, you can use take in the place of mkdir to create and cd into the newly-created directory at the same time.

2. Create a subdirectory for each profile.

For each profile, create a subdirectory with the name of the profile. I name mine screenrecording but you can replace that title with your preference.

Type the following:

mkdir screenrecording

Then cd into that directory.

cd screenrecording

3. Create data and User subdirectories

When VSCode looks into your directory, it expects a data subdirectory with its own User subdirectory, so start by creating those two nested directories.

mkdir data/User`

Your folder structure should look like this (obviously with your own profile name in place of screenrecording).

└── screenrecording
    └── data
        └── User

cd into the User directory.

cd data/User

4. Create a settings.json file in the User subdirectory.

Make sure you’re in the User subdirectory and then create a settings.json file.

touch settings.json

5. Add your settings to the settings.json file.

Open your settings.json file in VSCode with the following command:

code settings.json

Note: If you’re on macOS and haven’t first enabled launching VSCode from the command line, the command above will not work. See below for instructions.

Add your desired settings to the file. Here’s an example I found from @avanslaars available here:

  "editor.fontFamily": "JetBrains Mono, Dank Mono, Operator Mono",
  "editor.tabSize": 2,
  "editor.quickSuggestions": false,
  "editor.suggestOnTriggerCharacters": false,
  "editor.fontSize": 16,
  "editor.fontLigatures": false,
  "editor.multiCursorModifier": "ctrlCmd",
  "editor.formatOnPaste": false,
  "editor.formatOnSave": true,
  "editor.tabCompletion": true,
  "prettier.singleQuote": true,
  "prettier.semi": false,
  "prettier.trailingComma": "none",
  "prettier.arrowParens": "avoid",
  "workbench.colorTheme": "Night Owl",
  "javascript.validate.enable": false,
  "window.zoomLevel": 1.25,
  "editor.cursorBlinking": "solid",
  "editor.cursorStyle": "line",
  "editor.minimap.renderCharacters": false,
  "terminal.integrated.fontSize": 14,
  "explorer.openEditors.visible": 0,
  "workbench.settings.useSplitJSON": false,
  "workbench.settings.editor": "json",
  "workbench.sideBar.location": "right"

How to use a VSCode profile

When I open VSCode normally, it uses my default personal profile. To use a different profile, you can open VSCode from the command line with the --user-data-dir flag pointing to the profile’s data directory.

For me that looks like this:

code --user-data-dir ~/vscode-profiles/screenrecording/data

VSCode should open your desired directory with the settings from your profile’s settings.json file.

Note: If you’re on macOS and haven’t first enabled launching VSCode from the command line, the command above will not work. See below for instructions.

Set up an alias for your profile

If you’re going to be using a profile often, you can set up an alias to make it easier to open. I’ve set up an alias for my screenrecording profile in my .zshrc file.

  1. Open your .zshrc file.
code ~/.zshrc

Note: I’m assuming you’re using zsh as your shell. If that’s not the case, your alias setup may look different than shown here.

  1. Add the following to the file.
# alias NAME_OF_ALIAS="code --user-data-dir PROFILE_DIRECTORY"
alias screenrecording='code --user-data-dir ~/vscode-profiles/screenrecording/data'
  1. Save the file and restart your terminal (or source the file with source ~/.zshrc).

Now, you can use your alias to open VSCode with your profile’s settings.

screenrecording .

Enable the VSCode CLI

If you haven’t yet enabled launching VSCode from the command line:

  1. Open VSCode.
  2. Open the Command Palette (Cmd+Shift+P) and type shell command to find the Shell Command: Install 'code' command in PATH command.

Note: See this VSCode support article for more help.