Command-Line Interface (CLI)¶
The other side of executing programs with ease is writing CLI programs with ease.
Python scripts normally use
optparse or the more recent
argparse, and their
derivatives; but all of these are somewhat
limited in their expressive power, and are quite unintuitive (and even unpythonic).
Plumbum’s CLI toolkit offers a programmatic approach to building command-line applications;
instead of creating a parser object and populating it with a series of “options”, the CLI toolkit
translates these primitives into Pythonic constructs and relies on introspection.
From a bird’s eye view, CLI applications are classes that extend
They define a
main() method and optionally expose methods and attributes as command-line
switches. Switches may take arguments, and any remaining positional
arguments are given to the
main method, according to its signature. A simple CLI application
might look like this:
from plumbum import cli class MyApp(cli.Application): verbose = cli.Flag(["v", "verbose"], help = "If given, I will be very talkative") def main(self, filename): print "I will now read", filename if self.verbose: print "Yadda " * 200 if __name__ == "__main__": MyApp.run()
And you can run it:
$ python example.py foo I will now read foo $ python example.py --help example.py v1.0 Usage: example.py [SWITCHES] filename Meta-switches: -h, --help Prints this help message and quits --version Prints the program's version and quits Switches: -v, --verbose If given, I will be very talkative
So far you’ve only seen the very basic usage. We’ll now start to explore the library.
Application class is the “container” of your application.
It consists of the
main() method, which you should implement, and any number of CLI-exposed
switch functions or attributes. The entry-point for your application is the classmethod
which instantiates your class, parses the arguments, invokes all switch functions, and then
main() with the given positional arguments. In order to run your application from the
command-line, all you have to do is
if __name__ == "__main__": MyApp.run()
Application class exposes two built-in switch
version() which take care of displaying the help and program’s
version, respectively. By default,
version(); if any of these functions is called, the application will display
the message and quit (without processing any other switch).
You can customize the information displayed by
version by defining
class-level attributes, such as
DESCRIPTION. For instance,
class MyApp(cli.Application): PROGNAME = "Foobar" VERSION = "7.3"
Colors are supported through the class level attributes
which should contain Style objects. The dictionaries support custom colors
for named groups. The default is
colors.do_nothing, but if you just want more
colorful defaults, subclass
New in version 1.5.
switch can be seen as the “heart and soul” of the
CLI toolkit; it exposes methods of your CLI application as CLI-switches, allowing them to be
invoked from the command line. Let’s examine the following toy application:
class MyApp(cli.Application): _allow_root = False # provide a default @cli.switch("--log-to-file", str) def log_to_file(self, filename): """Sets the file into which logs will be emitted""" logger.addHandler(FileHandle(filename)) @cli.switch(["-r", "--root"]) def allow_as_root(self): """If given, allow running as root""" self._allow_root = True def main(self): if os.geteuid() == 0 and not self._allow_root: raise ValueError("cannot run as root")
When the program is run, the switch functions are invoked with their appropriate arguments;
$ ./myapp.py --log-to-file=/tmp/log would translate to a call to
app.log_to_file("/tmp/log"). After all switches were processed, control passes to
Methods’ docstrings and argument names will be used to render the help message, keeping your code as DRY as possible.
autoswitch, which infers the name of the switch
from the function’s name, e.g.
@cli.autoswitch(str) def log_to_file(self, filename): pass
Will bind the switch function to
As demonstrated in the example above, switch functions may take no arguments (not counting
self) or a single argument argument. If a switch function accepts an argument, it must
specify the argument’s type. If you require no special validation, simply pass
otherwise, you may pass any type (or any callable, in fact) that will take a string and convert
it to a meaningful object. If conversion is not possible, the type (or callable) is expected to
class MyApp(cli.Application): _port = 8080 @cli.switch(["-p"], int) def server_port(self, port): self._port = port def main(self): print self._port
$ ./example.py -p 17 17 $ ./example.py -p foo Argument of -p expected to be <type 'int'>, not 'foo': ValueError("invalid literal for int() with base 10: 'foo'",)
The toolkit includes two additional “types” (or rather, validators):
Range takes a minimal value and a maximal value and expects an integer in that range
Set takes a set of allowed values, and expects the argument to match one of
these values. Here’s an example
class MyApp(cli.Application): _port = 8080 _mode = "TCP" @cli.switch("-p", cli.Range(1024,65535)) def server_port(self, port): self._port = port @cli.switch("-m", cli.Set("TCP", "UDP", case_sensitive = False)) def server_mode(self, mode): self._mode = mode def main(self): print self._port, self._mode
$ ./example.py -p 17 Argument of -p expected to be [1024..65535], not '17': ValueError('Not in range [1024..65535]',) $ ./example.py -m foo Argument of -m expected to be Set('udp', 'tcp'), not 'foo': ValueError("Expected one of ['UDP', 'TCP']",)
The toolkit also provides some other useful validators: ExistingFile (ensures the given argument is an existing file), ExistingDirectory (ensures the given argument is an existing directory), and NonexistentPath (ensures the given argument is not an existing path). All of these convert the argument to a local path.
Many times, you would like to allow a certain switch to be given multiple times. For instance,
gcc, you may give several include directories using
-I. By default, switches may
only be given once, unless you allow multiple occurrences by passing
list = True to the
class MyApp(cli.Application): _dirs =  @cli.switch("-I", str, list = True) def include_dirs(self, dirs): self._dirs = dirs def main(self): print self._dirs
$ ./example.py -I/foo/bar -I/usr/include ['/foo/bar', '/usr/include']
The switch function will be called only once, and its argument will be a list of items
If a certain switch is required, you can specify this by passing
mandatory = True to the
switch decorator. The user will not be able to run the program without specifying a value
for this switch.
Many time, the occurrence of a certain switch depends on the occurrence of another, e..g, it
may not be possible to give
-x without also giving
-y. This constraint can be achieved
by specifying the
requires keyword argument to the
switch decorator; it is a list
of switch names that this switch depends on. If the required switches are missing, the user
will not be able to run the program.
class MyApp(cli.Application): @cli.switch("--log-to-file", str) def log_to_file(self, filename): logger.addHandler(logging.FileHandler(filename)) @cli.switch("--verbose", requires = ["--log-to-file"]) def verbose(self): logger.setLevel(logging.DEBUG)
$ ./example --verbose Given --verbose, the following are missing ['log-to-file']
The toolkit invokes the switch functions in the same order in which the switches were given on the command line. It doesn’t go as far as computing a topological order on the fly, but this will change in the future.
Just as some switches may depend on others, some switches mutually-exclude others. For instance,
it does not make sense to allow
--terse. For this purpose, you can set the
excludes list in the
class MyApp(cli.Application): @cli.switch("--log-to-file", str) def log_to_file(self, filename): logger.addHandler(logging.FileHandler(filename)) @cli.switch("--verbose", requires = ["--log-to-file"], excludes = ["--terse"]) def verbose(self): logger.setLevel(logging.DEBUG) @cli.switch("--terse", requires = ["--log-to-file"], excludes = ["--verbose"]) def terse(self): logger.setLevel(logging.WARNING)
$ ./example --log-to-file=log.txt --verbose --terse Given --verbose, the following are invalid ['--terse']
If you wish to group certain switches together in the help message, you can specify
group = "Group Name", where
Group Name is any string. When the help message is rendered,
all the switches that belong to the same group will be grouped together. Note that grouping has
no other effects on the way switches are processed, but it can help improve the readability of
the help message.
Many times it’s desired to simply store a switch’s argument in an attribute, or set a flag if
a certain switch is given. For this purpose, the toolkit provides
SwitchAttr, which is data descriptor that stores the argument in an instance attribute.
There are two additional “flavors” of
Flag (which toggles its default value
if the switch is given) and
CountingAttr (which counts the number of occurrences of the switch)
class MyApp(cli.Application): log_file = cli.SwitchAttr("--log-file", str, default = None) enable_logging = cli.Flag("--no-log", default = True) verbosity_level = cli.CountingAttr("-v") def main(self): print self.log_file, self.enable_logging, self.verbosity_level
$ ./example.py -v --log-file=log.txt -v --no-log -vvv log.txt False 5
main() method takes control once all the command-line switches have been processed.
It may take any number of positional argument; for instance, in
cp -r /foo /bar,
/bar are the positional arguments. The number of positional arguments
that the program would accept depends on the signature of the method: if the method takes 5
arguments, 2 of which have default values, then at least 3 positional arguments must be supplied
by the user and at most 5. If the method also takes varargs (
*args), the number of
arguments that may be given is unbound
class MyApp(cli.Application): def main(self, src, dst, mode = "normal"): print src, dst, mode
$ ./example.py /foo /bar /foo /bar normal $ ./example.py /foo /bar spam /foo /bar spam $ ./example.py /foo Expected at least 2 positional arguments, got ['/foo'] $ ./example.py /foo /bar spam bacon Expected at most 3 positional arguments, got ['/foo', '/bar', 'spam', 'bacon']
The method’s signature is also used to generate the help message, e.g.
Usage: [SWITCHES] src dst [mode='normal']
class MyApp(cli.Application): def main(self, src, dst, *eggs): print src, dst, eggs
$ ./example.py a b c d a b ('c', 'd') $ ./example.py --help Usage: [SWITCHES] src dst eggs... Meta-switches: -h, --help Prints this help message and quits -v, --version Prints the program's version and quits
New in version 1.1.
A common practice of CLI applications, as they span out and get larger, is to split their
logic into multiple, pluggable sub-applications (or sub-commands). A classic example is version
control systems, such as git, where
git is the root command,
under which sub-commands such as
push are nested. Git even supports
which creates allows users to create custom sub-commands. Plumbum makes writing such applications
Before we get to the code, it is important to stress out two things:
- Under Plumbum, each sub-command is a full-fledged
cli.Applicationon its own; if you wish, you can execute it separately, detached from its so-called root application. When an application is run independently, its
None; when it is run as a sub-command, its
parentattribute points to its parent application. Likewise, when an parent application is executed with a sub-command, its
nested_commandis set to the nested application; otherwise it’s
- Each sub-command is responsible of all arguments that follow it (up to the next sub-command).
This allows applications to process their own switches and positional arguments before the nested
application is invoked. Take, for instance,
git --foo=bar spam push origin --tags: the root application,
git, is in charge of the switch
--fooand the positional argument
spam, and the nested application
pushis in charge of the arguments that follow it. In theory, you can nest several sub-applications one into the other; in practice, only a single level is normally used.
Here is an example of a mock version control system, called
geet. We’re going to have a root
Geet, which has two sub-commands -
GeetPush: these are
attached to the root application using the
class Geet(cli.Application): """The l33t version control""" VERSION = "1.7.2" def main(self, *args): if args: print "Unknown command %r" % (args,) return 1 # error exit code if not self.nested_command: # will be ``None`` if no sub-command follows print "No command given" return 1 # error exit code @Geet.subcommand("commit") # attach 'geet commit' class GeetCommit(cli.Application): """creates a new commit in the current branch""" auto_add = cli.Flag("-a", help = "automatically add changed files") message = cli.SwitchAttr("-m", str, mandatory = True, help = "sets the commit message") def main(self): print "doing the commit..." @Geet.subcommand("push") # attach 'geet push' class GeetPush(cli.Application): """pushes the current local branch to the remote one""" def main(self, remote, branch = None): print "doing the push..." if __name__ == "__main__": Geet.run()
cli.Applicationon its own right, you may invoke
GeetCommit.run()directly (should that make sense in the context of your application)
- You can also attach sub-commands “imperatively”, using
subcommandas a method instead of a decorator:
Here’s an example of running this application:
$ python geet.py --help geet v1.7.2 The l33t version control Usage: geet.py [SWITCHES] [SUBCOMMAND [SWITCHES]] args... Meta-switches: -h, --help Prints this help message and quits -v, --version Prints the program's version and quits Subcommands: commit creates a new commit in the current branch; see 'geet commit --help' for more info push pushes the current local branch to the remote one; see 'geet push --help' for more info $ python geet.py commit --help geet commit v1.7.2 creates a new commit in the current branch Usage: geet commit [SWITCHES] Meta-switches: -h, --help Prints this help message and quits -v, --version Prints the program's version and quits Switches: -a automatically add changed files -m VALUE:str sets the commit message; required $ python geet.py commit -m "foo" committing...