Language: Data types: Resource and class references

Resource references identify a specific Puppet resource by its type and title. Several attributes, such as the relationship metaparameters, require resource references.


# A reference to a file resource:
subscribe => File['/etc/ntp.conf'],
# A type with a multi-segment name:
before => Concat::Fragment['apache_port_header'],

The general form of a resource reference is:

  • The resource type, capitalized (every segment must be capitalized if the resource type includes a namespace separator [::])
  • An opening square bracket
  • The title of the resource as a string, or a comma-separated list of titles
  • A closing square bracket

Unlike variables, resource references are not evaluation-order dependent, and can be used before the resource itself is declared.

Class references

Class references work identically to resource references, but use the pseudo-resource type Class instead of some other resource type name.

require => Class['ntp::install'],

Multi-resource references

Resource reference expressions with an array of titles or comma-separated list of titles refer to multiple resources of the same type. They evaluate to an array of single-title resource references.

# A multi-resource reference:
require => File['/etc/apache2/httpd.conf', '/etc/apache2/magic', '/etc/apache2/mime.types'],
# An equivalent multi-resource reference:
$my_files = ['/etc/apache2/httpd.conf', '/etc/apache2/magic', '/etc/apache2/mime.types']
require => File[$my_files]

They can be used wherever an array of references might be used. They can also go on either side of a chaining arrow or receive a block of additional attributes.

Accessing attribute values

You can use a resource reference to access the values of a resource’s attributes. To access a value, use square brackets and the name of an attribute (as a string). This works much like accessing hash values.

file { "/etc/first.conf":
  ensure => file,
  mode   => "0644",
  owner  => "root",

file { "/etc/second.conf":
  ensure => file,
  mode   => File["/etc/first.conf"]["mode"],
  owner  => File["/etc/first.conf"]["owner"],
  • The resource whose values you’re accessing must exist.
  • Like referencing variables, attribute access depends on evaluation order: Puppet must evaluate the resource you’re accessing before you try to access it. If it hasn’t been evaluated yet, Puppet will raise an evaluation error.
  • You can only access attributes that are valid for that resource type. If you try to access a nonexistent attribute, Puppet will raise an evaluation error.
  • Puppet can only read the values of attributes that are explicitly set in the resource’s declaration.
    • It can’t read the values of properties that would have to be read from the target system.
    • It also can’t read the values of attributes that default to some predictable value; for example, in the code above, you wouldn’t be able to access the value of the path attribute, even though it defaults to the resource’s title.
  • Like with hash access, the value of an attribute whose value was never set is undef.

Resource references as data types

If you’ve read the Data Type Syntax page, or perused the lower sections of the other data type pages, you might have noticed that resource references use the same syntax as values that represent data types.

Internally, they’re implemented the same way, and each resource reference is actually a data type.

For most users, this doesn’t matter at all. You should treat resource references as a special case with a coincidentally similar syntax, and it’ll make your life generally easier.

But if you’re interested in the meta-details, please see the page about resource types as data types.

The short version

If you just need to restrict values for a class or defined type parameter so that users must provide your code a resource reference, do one of the following.

To allow a resource reference of any resource type, use a data type of:


To allow resource references and class references, use a data type of:


To allow a resource reference of a specific resource type — in this example, file — use one of the following:

Type[File]              # Capitalized resource type name
Type[Resource["file"]]  # `Resource` data type, with type name in parameter as a string
Type[Resource[File]]    # `Resource` data type, with capitalized resource type name

Any of these three options will allow any File['<TITLE>'] resource reference, while rejecting, e.g., Service[<TITLE>].