Utilities for consistent command line tools

pip install cmdline==0.2.0



The cmdline package provides a standard way to specify and override command settings and logging configuration. Using cmdline setttings is as simple as creating a settings.yml:

  default: 'https://example.com/'
  help: the remote address

and compiling the settings in your main program:

from cmdline import SettingsParser, settings

def main():

    remote = settings.REMOTE_ADDR

    print('remote addr:', remote)

if __name__ == '__main__':

Your program can then be called in any of the following ways:

$ remote
remote addr: https://example.com/
$ export REMOTE_ADDR=https://env.example.com/
$ remote
remote addr: https://env.example.com/
$ remote --remote-addr=https://arg-takes-precedence.example.com/
remote addr: https://arg-takes-precedence.example.com/


pip install cmdline


Settings are configured in an overlaid fashion starting with a root configuration packaged with the application. Standard argparse options are used to configure settings.

Override defaults

The packaged settings can be overridden by additional settings files on the filesystem, environment variables, and finally command line arguments. For a command named remote order in which they are applied are:

  • packaged settings
  • <sys.prefix>/etc/remote/settings.yml
  • ~/.remote/settings.yml
  • environment variables
  • command line arguments

Environment variables map exactly to the name of the setting, i.e. the environment variable REMOTE_ADDR configures the REMOTE_ADDR setting.

Command line arguments are lowercase-dashed versions of the setting, for instance, the command line argument --remote-addr configures the REMOTE_ADDR setting.


The settings parser supports argparse subcommands. A setting can be configured to be for a subcommand by adding a _subcommand key to the setting's options. For example:

  default: no
  _subcommand: copy

The _SUBCOMMAND setting contains the name of the subcommand the command was run with.


Command descriptions and help text can be added in a _COMMANDS section. The _main will set the description for the main program. Any other keys will correspond to a subcommand by the same name. For example, below sets the description for the main program and the description and help text for the copy subcommand:

    description: >
      this is main description and can be a very long string
      that covers multiple lines
    description: >
      this is copy subcommand description and can be a very long string
      that covers multiple lines
    help: copy files

Type conversion

Settings can be converted to a particular type using argparse's type setting. For example setting type: int will convert the setting into an integer. This is done by using Python's built-in int() function.

When type is a dotted string, the given function will be imported and used. For example, setting type: convesion.convert_bool will call the convert_bool() function in the conversion package.


Similarly, logging is configured through Python's logging.config.dictConfig() function. More info on dictconfig is at docs.python.org; an example is below. This configuration sets a console handler that sends logs to stdout and a null handler that throws away logs. The default logging configuration is to log WARN level and higher messages to the console, which is setup by the root logger, and two additional loggers are configured for the mypkg.foo and mypkg.bar loggers, where the loglevel for mypkg.foo is set to DEBUG and mypkg.bar is thrown out altogether.

version: 1
disable_existing_loggers: False

    format: "%(asctime)s %(name)s:%(lineno)d %(levelname)s %(message)s"

    class: logging.StreamHandler
    level: WARN
    formatter: simple
    stream: ext://sys.stdout

    class: logging.NullHandler

    level: DEBUG
    handlers: [console]
    propagate: no

    handlers: ["null"]
    propagate: no

  level: WARN
  handlers: [console]

Once the configuration is written, logging is configured by calling the setup_logging() function:

import logging
from cmdline import setup_logging

def main():


if __name__ == '__main__':

Log level environment

The only logging configuration that can be updated outside the configuration file is the default log level, which can be changed with the environment variable LOG_LEVEL; for example, LOG_LEVEL=debug remote.

File location

Create a directory named config. In that directory, create the files logconfig.yml and settings.yml. A bare-bones setup.py that installs these files correctly is below:

#!/usr/bin/env python 
import os

from setuptools import setup

def get_data_files(base):
    for dirpath, dirnames, filenames in os.walk(base):
        for filename in filenames:
            yield os.path.join(dirpath, filename)

data_files = [
    ('config', list(get_data_files('config'))),

      entry_points = {
          'console_scripts': [
              'remote = remote.command:main',

The file structure for the setup.py above looks like:

+- remote/
|  +- __init__.py
|  +- command.py
+- config/
|  +- logconfig.yml
|  +- settings.yml
+- setup.py

Config root environment variable

Setting the environment variable CMDLINE_CONFIG_ROOT will make the given path the primary config location for settings and logging.