Features requiring no modifications

These features are provided “for free” to a cmd-based application simply by replacing import cmd with import cmd2 as cmd.

Script files

Text files can serve as scripts for your cmd2-based application, with the run_script, _relative_run_script, and edit commands.

Both ASCII and UTF-8 encoded unicode text files are supported.

Simply include one command per line, typed exactly as you would inside a cmd2 application.

Cmd.do_run_script(args: argparse.Namespace) → Optional[bool]

Run commands in script file that is encoded as either ASCII or UTF-8 text

Script should contain one command per line, just like the command would be typed in the console.

If the -r/–record_transcript flag is used, this command instead records the output of the script commands to a transcript for testing purposes.

Cmd.do__relative_run_script(args: argparse.Namespace) → Optional[bool]

Run commands in script file that is encoded as either ASCII or UTF-8 text

Script should contain one command per line, just like the command would be typed in the console.

If the -r/–record_transcript flag is used, this command instead records the output of the script commands to a transcript for testing purposes.

If this is called from within an already-running script, the filename will be interpreted relative to the already-running script’s directory.

Cmd.do_edit(args: argparse.Namespace) → None

Edit a file in a text editor

The editor used is determined by a settable parameter. To set it:

set editor (program-name)


Any command line input where the first non-whitespace character is a # will be treated as a comment. This means any # character appearing later in the command will be treated as a literal. The same applies to a # in the middle of a multiline command, even if it is the first character on a line.

Comments can be useful in Script files, but would be pointless within an interactive session.

(Cmd) # this is a comment
(Cmd) this # is not a comment

Startup Initialization Script

You can execute commands from a startup initialization script by passing a file path to the startup_script argument to the cmd2.Cmd.__init__() method like so:

class StartupApp(cmd2.Cmd):
    def __init__(self):
        cmd2.Cmd.__init__(self, startup_script='.cmd2rc')

See the AliasStartup example for a demonstration.

Commands at invocation

You can send commands to your app as you invoke it by including them as extra arguments to the program. cmd2 interprets each argument as a separate command, so you should enclose each command in quotation marks if it is more than a one-word command.

cat@eee:~/proj/cmd2/example$ python example.py "say hello" "say Gracie" quit


If you wish to disable cmd2’s consumption of command-line arguments, you can do so by setting the allow_cli_args argument of your cmd2.Cmd class instance to False. This would be useful, for example, if you wish to use something like Argparse to parse the overall command line arguments for your application:

from cmd2 import Cmd
class App(Cmd):
    def __init__(self):

Output redirection

As in a Unix shell, output of a command can be redirected:

  • sent to a file with >, as in mycommand args > filename.txt
  • appended to a file with >>, as in mycommand args >> filename.txt
  • piped (|) as input to operating-system commands, as in mycommand args | wc
  • sent to the operating system paste buffer, by ending with a bare >, as in mycommand args >. You can even append output to the current contents of the paste buffer by ending your command with >>.


If you wish to disable cmd2’s output redirection and pipes features, you can do so by setting the allow_redirection attribute of your cmd2.Cmd class instance to False. This would be useful, for example, if you want to restrict the ability for an end user to write to disk or interact with shell commands for security reasons:

from cmd2 import Cmd
class App(Cmd):
    def __init__(self):
        self.allow_redirection = False

cmd2’s parser will still treat the >, >>, and | symbols as output redirection and pipe symbols and will strip arguments after them from the command line arguments accordingly. But output from a command will not be redirected to a file or piped to a shell command.

If you need to include any of these redirection characters in your command, you can enclose them in quotation marks, mycommand 'with > in the argument'.


The py command will run its arguments as a Python command. Entered without arguments, it enters an interactive Python session. The session can call “back” to your application through the name defined in self.pyscript_name (defaults to app). This wrapper provides access to execute commands in your cmd2 application while maintaining isolation.

You may optionally enable full access to to your application by setting locals_in_py to True. Enabling this flag adds self to the python session, which is a reference to your Cmd2 application. This can be useful for debugging your application. To prevent users from enabling this ability manually you’ll need to remove locals_in_py from the settable dictionary.

The app object (or your custom name) provides access to application commands through raw commands. For example, any application command call be called with app("<command>").

>>> app('say --piglatin Blah')

More Python examples:

(Cmd) py print("-".join("spelling"))
(Cmd) py
Python 3.5.3 (default, Jan 19 2017, 14:11:04)
[GCC 6.3.0 20170118] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

End with `Ctrl-D` (Unix) / `Ctrl-Z` (Windows), `quit()`, `exit()`.
Non-python commands can be issued with: app("your command")
Run python code from external script files with: run("script.py")

>>> import os
>>> os.uname()
('Linux', 'eee', '2.6.31-19-generic', '#56-Ubuntu SMP Thu Jan 28 01:26:53 UTC 2010', 'i686')
>>> app("say --piglatin {os}".format(os=os.uname()[0]))
>>> self.prompt
'(Cmd) '
>>> self.prompt = 'Python was here > '
>>> quit()
Python was here >

Using the py command is tightly integrated with your main cmd2 application and any variables created or changed will persist for the life of the application:

(Cmd) py x = 5
(Cmd) py print(x)

The py command also allows you to run Python scripts via py run('myscript.py'). This provides a more complicated and more powerful scripting capability than that provided by the simple text file scripts discussed in Script files. Python scripts can include conditional control flow logic. See the python_scripting.py cmd2 application and the script_conditional.py script in the examples source code directory for an example of how to achieve this in your own applications.

Using py to run scripts directly is considered deprecated. The newer run_pyscript command is superior for doing this in two primary ways:

  • it supports tab-completion of file system paths
  • it has the ability to pass command-line arguments to the scripts invoked

There are no disadvantages to using run_pyscript as opposed to py run(). A simple example of using run_pyscript is shown below along with the arg_printer script:

(Cmd) run_pyscript examples/scripts/arg_printer.py foo bar baz
Running Python script 'arg_printer.py' which was called with 3 arguments
arg 1: 'foo'
arg 2: 'bar'
arg 3: 'baz'


If you want to be able to pass arguments with spaces to commands, then we strongly recommend using one of the decorators, such as with_argument_list. cmd2 will pass your do_* methods a list of arguments in this case.

When using this decorator, you can then put arguments in quotes like so:

$ examples/arg_print.py
(Cmd) lprint foo "bar baz"
lprint was called with the following list of arguments: ['foo', 'bar baz']

IPython (optional)

If IPython is installed on the system and the cmd2.Cmd class is instantiated with use_ipython=True, then the optional ipy command will be present:

from cmd2 import Cmd
class App(Cmd):
    def __init__(self):
        Cmd.__init__(self, use_ipython=True)

The ipy command enters an interactive IPython session. Similar to an interactive Python session, this shell can access your application instance via self and any changes to your application made via self will persist. However, any local or global variable created within the ipy shell will not persist. Within the ipy shell, you cannot call “back” to your application with cmd(""), however you can run commands directly like so:


IPython provides many advantages, including:

  • Comprehensive object introspection
  • Get help on objects with ?
  • Extensible tab completion, with support by default for completion of python variables and keywords

The object introspection and tab completion make IPython particularly efficient for debugging as well as for interactive experimentation and data analysis.

Searchable command history

All cmd-based applications have access to previous commands with the up- and down- arrow keys.

All cmd-based applications on systems with the readline module also provide Readline Emacs editing mode. With this you can, for example, use Ctrl-r to search backward through the readline history.

cmd2 adds the option of making this history persistent via optional arguments to cmd2.Cmd.__init__():

Cmd.__init__(completekey: str = 'tab', stdin=None, stdout=None, *, persistent_history_file: str = '', persistent_history_length: int = 1000, startup_script: Optional[str] = None, use_ipython: bool = False, allow_cli_args: bool = True, transcript_files: Optional[List[str]] = None, allow_redirection: bool = True, multiline_commands: Optional[List[str]] = None, terminators: Optional[List[str]] = None, shortcuts: Optional[Dict[str, str]] = None) → None

An easy but powerful framework for writing line-oriented command interpreters, extends Python’s cmd package.

  • completekey – (optional) readline name of a completion key, default to Tab
  • stdin – (optional) alternate input file object, if not specified, sys.stdin is used
  • stdout – (optional) alternate output file object, if not specified, sys.stdout is used
  • persistent_history_file – (optional) file path to load a persistent cmd2 command history from
  • persistent_history_length – (optional) max number of history items to write to the persistent history file
  • startup_script – (optional) file path to a script to execute at startup
  • use_ipython – (optional) should the “ipy” command be included for an embedded IPython shell
  • allow_cli_args – (optional) if True, then cmd2 will process command line arguments as either commands to be run or, if -t is specified, transcript files to run. This should be set to False if your application parses its own arguments.
  • transcript_files – (optional) allows running transcript tests when allow_cli_args is False
  • allow_redirection – (optional) should output redirection and pipes be allowed
  • multiline_commands – (optional) list of commands allowed to accept multi-line input
  • shortcuts – (optional) dictionary containing shortcuts for commands

cmd2 makes a third type of history access available with the history command. Each time the user enters a command, cmd2 saves the input. The history command lets you do interesting things with that saved input. The examples to follow all assume that you have entered the following commands:

(Cmd) alias create one !echo one
Alias 'one' created
(Cmd) alias create two !echo two
Alias 'two' created
(Cmd) alias create three !echo three
Alias 'three' created
(Cmd) alias create four !echo four
Alias 'four' created

In it’s simplest form, the history command displays previously entered commands. With no additional arguments, it displays all previously entered commands:

(Cmd) history
    1  alias create one !echo one
    2  alias create two !echo two
    3  alias create three !echo three
    4  alias create four !echo four

If you give a positive integer as an argument, then it only displays the specified command:

(Cmd) history 4
    4  alias create four !echo four

If you give a negative integer N as an argument, then it display the Nth last command. For example, if you give -1 it will display the last command you entered. If you give -2 it will display the next to last command you entered, and so forth:

(Cmd) history -2
    3  alias create three !echo three

You can use a similar mechanism to display a range of commands. Simply give two command numbers separated by .. or :, and you will see all commands between, and including, those two numbers:

(Cmd) history 1:3
    1  alias create one !echo one
    2  alias create two !echo two
    3  alias create three !echo three

If you omit the first number, it will start at the beginning. If you omit the last number, it will continue to the end:

(Cmd) history :2
    1  alias create one !echo one
    2  alias create two !echo two
(Cmd) history 2:
    2  alias create two !echo two
    3  alias create three !echo three
    4  alias create four !echo four

If you want to display the last three commands entered:

(Cmd) history -- -3:
    2  alias create two !echo two
    3  alias create three !echo three
    4  alias create four !echo four

Notice the double dashes. These are required because the history command uses argparse to parse the command line arguments. As described in the argparse documentation , -3: is an option, not an argument:

If you have positional arguments that must begin with - and don’t look like negative numbers, you can insert the pseudo-argument ‘–’ which tells parse_args() that everything after that is a positional argument:

There is no zeroth command, so don’t ask for it. If you are a python programmer, you’ve probably noticed this looks a lot like the slice syntax for lists and arrays. It is, with the exception that the first history command is 1, where the first element in a python array is 0.

Besides selecting previous commands by number, you can also search for them. You can use a simple string search:

(Cmd) history two
    2  alias create two !echo two

Or a regular expression search by enclosing your regex in slashes:

(Cmd) history '/te\ +th/'
    3  alias create three !echo three

If your regular expression contains any characters that argparse finds interesting, like dash or plus, you also need to enclose your regular expression in quotation marks.

This all sounds great, but doesn’t it seem like a bit of overkill to have all these ways to select commands if all we can do is display them? Turns out, displaying history commands is just the beginning. The history command can perform many other actions:

  • running previously entered commands
  • saving previously entered commands to a text file
  • opening previously entered commands in your favorite text editor
  • running previously entered commands, saving the commands and their output to a text file
  • clearing the history of entered commands

Each of these actions is invoked using a command line option. The -r or --run option runs one or more previously entered commands. To run command number 1:

(Cmd) history --run 1

To rerun the last two commands (there’s that double dash again to make argparse stop looking for options):

(Cmd) history -r -- -2:

Say you want to re-run some previously entered commands, but you would really like to make a few changes to them before doing so. When you use the -e or --edit option, history will write the selected commands out to a text file, and open that file with a text editor. You make whatever changes, additions, or deletions, you want. When you leave the text editor, all the commands in the file are executed. To edit and then re-run commands 2-4 you would:

(Cmd) history --edit 2:4

If you want to save the commands to a text file, but not edit and re-run them, use the -o or --output-file option. This is a great way to create Script files, which can be executed using the run_script command. To save the first 5 commands entered in this session to a text file:

(Cmd) history :5 -o history.txt

The history command can also save both the commands and their output to a text file. This is called a transcript. See Transcript based testing for more information on how transcripts work, and what you can use them for. To create a transcript use the -t or --transcription option:

(Cmd) history 2:3 --transcript transcript.txt

The --transcript option implies --run: the commands must be re-run in order to capture their output to the transcript file.

The last action the history command can perform is to clear the command history using -c or --clear:

(Cmd) history -c

In addition to these five actions, the history command also has some options to control how the output is formatted. With no arguments, the history command displays the command number before each command. This is great when displaying history to the screen because it gives you an easy reference to identify previously entered commands. However, when creating a script or a transcript, the command numbers would prevent the script from loading properly. The -s or --script option instructs the history command to suppress the line numbers. This option is automatically set by the --output-file, --transcript, and --edit options. If you want to output the history commands with line numbers to a file, you can do it with output redirection:

(Cmd) history 1:4 > history.txt

You might use -s or --script on it’s own if you want to display history commands to the screen without line numbers, so you can copy them to the clipboard:

(Cmd) history -s 1:3

cmd2 supports both aliases and macros, which allow you to substitute a short, more convenient input string with a longer replacement string. Say we create an alias like this, and then use it:

(Cmd) alias create ls shell ls -aF
Alias 'ls' created
(Cmd) ls -d h*
history.txt     htmlcov/

By default, the history command shows exactly what we typed:

(Cmd) history
    1  alias create ls shell ls -aF
    2  ls -d h*

There are two ways to modify that display so you can see what aliases and macros were expanded to. The first is to use -x or --expanded. These options show the expanded command instead of the entered command:

(Cmd) history -x
    1  alias create ls shell ls -aF
    2  shell ls -aF -d h*

If you want to see both the entered command and the expanded command, use the -v or --verbose option:

(Cmd) history -v
    1  alias create ls shell ls -aF
    2  ls -d h*
    2x shell ls -aF -d h*

If the entered command had no expansion, it is displayed as usual. However, if there is some change as the result of expanding macros and aliases, then the entered command is displayed with the number, and the expanded command is displayed with the number followed by an x.

Quitting the application

cmd2 pre-defines a quit command for you. It’s trivial, but it’s one less thing for you to remember.

Misc. pre-defined commands

Several generically useful commands are defined with automatically included do_ methods.

Cmd.do_quit(_: argparse.Namespace) → bool

Exit this application

Cmd.do_shell(args: argparse.Namespace) → None

Execute a command as if at the OS prompt

( ! is a shortcut for shell; thus !ls is equivalent to shell ls.)

Transcript-based testing

A transcript is both the input and output of a successful session of a cmd2-based app which is saved to a text file. The transcript can be played back into the app as a unit test.

$ python example.py --test transcript_regex.txt
Ran 1 test in 0.013s


See Transcript based testing for more details.


cmd2 adds tab-completion of file system paths for all built-in commands where it makes sense, including:

  • edit
  • run_pyscript
  • run_script
  • shell

cmd2 also adds tab-completion of shell commands to the shell command.

Additionally, it is trivial to add identical file system path completion to your own custom commands. Suppose you have defined a custom command foo by implementing the do_foo method. To enable path completion for the foo command, then add a line of code similar to the following to your class which inherits from cmd2.Cmd:

complete_foo = self.path_complete

This will effectively define the complete_foo readline completer method in your class and make it utilize the same path completion logic as the built-in commands.

The built-in logic allows for a few more advanced path completion capabilities, such as cases where you only want to match directories. Suppose you have a custom command bar implemented by the do_bar method. You can enable path completion of directories only for this command by adding a line of code similar to the following to your class which inherits from cmd2.Cmd:

# Make sure you have an "import functools" somewhere at the top
complete_bar = functools.partialmethod(cmd2.Cmd.path_complete, path_filter=os.path.isdir)