argp

Command-line option parser

npm install argp
3 downloads in the last day
8 downloads in the last week
117 downloads in the last month

argp

Command-line option parser

NPM version Build Status

NPM installation

Inspired by the extremly well-known argp C library, this module parses GNU-style command-line options. Help, usage and version messages are automatically generated and line-wrapped at 80 columns. The module checks for errors, can be easily adapted to your needs thanks to its evented system and it also works when Node.js is in debug mode. The module is uncached and each property is deleted once all the input parameters have been parsed, so there's no memory footprint.

This module it's made for you if you want:

  • Robust solution that reads GNU-style options.
  • Command configuration.
  • Basic error checking.
  • Nice help messages without caring about indentation, multilines, etc.
  • Zero memory footprint.

A common configuration looks like this:

//If you're not going to use multiple parser instances or you don't need to
//reuse a parser, don't cache the module, this will guarantee a zero memory
//footprint
var argv = require ("argp").createParser ({ once: true })
    .description ("Sample app.")
    .email ("a@b.c")
    .body ()
        //The object and argument definitions and the text of the --help message
        //are configured at the same time
        .text (" Arguments:")
        .argument ("arg", { description: "Sample argument" })
        .text ("\n Options:")
        .option ({ short: "o", long: "opt", description: "Sample option" })
        .help ()
        .version ("v1.2.3")
    .argv ();

console.log (argv);

/*
$ node script.js

{
  opt: false,
  help: false,
  version: false,
  arg: false
}

$ node script.js --help

Usage: script [options] [arguments]

Sample app.

 Arguments:
  arg                         Sample argument

 Options:
  -o, --opt                   Sample option
  -h, --help                  Display this help message and exit
  -v, --version               Output version information and exit

Report bugs to <a@b.c>.
*/

If you have a package.json file you can take from it the description, email and version using the readPackage() function. Take into account that this function calls a synchronous fs operation. Doesn't really matter because this module is one of the first things you're going to execute in your program.

var argv = require ("argp")
    //If no path is provided, it tries to read the "./package.json" file
    .readPackage ("path/to/package.json")
    .body ()
        .text (" Arguments:")
        .argument ("arg", { description: "Sample argument" })
        .text ("\n Options:")
        .option ({ short: "o", long: "opt", description: "Sample option" })
        .help ()
    .argv ();

Documentation

Functions

Objects


What's new in v1?

Two things will break your code:

  • Parser instances are introduced. To create one you need to call to createParser(). In most cases you only need to append .createParser ({ once: true }), for example:

    var argv = require ("argp").createParser ({ once: true })
        ...
        argv ();
    

    The once option will uncache the module when argv() is called.

  • The second argument from the end event is removed.

    Before:

    .on ("end", function (argv, fns){
      /*
      fns.printHelp ();
      fns.printUsage ();
      fns.printVersion ();
      fns.fail ();
      */
    })
    

    After:

    .on ("end", function (argv){
      /*
      this.printHelp ();
      this.printUsage ();
      this.printVersion ();
      this.fail ();
      */
    })
    

Quick examples with no configuration

If an option has not been defined the type of the value is converted automatically from a string to a number, boolean, null or undefined.

By default the parser doesn't allow undefined arguments and options because you typically want to have an absolute control over the calls to your program in order to avoid unexpected behaviours. Allowing undefined arguments and options is as simple as this:

var argv = require ("argp").createParser ({ once: true })
    .allowUndefinedArguments ()
    .allowUndefinedOptions ()
    .argv ();
$ node script.js -a -b -c
{ a: true, b: true, c: true }

$ node script.js a b c
{ a: true, b: true, c: true }

$ node script.js -abc null
{ a: true, b: true, c: null }

$ node script.js --a --b 1 --d=e
{ a: true, b: 1, d: "e" }

$ node script.js --no-a b
{ a: false, b: true }

$ node script.js --a -- -b --c d
{ a: true, "-b": true, "--c": true, d: true }

Configuring options

Example: options.js.

Considerations:

  1. By default the options are flags. If the option requires a value, the metavar property must be defined. This property is a string and can be seen when the --help and --usage messages are printed.

    $ node script.js --help
    ...
     o, --opt=STR               Sample option
    ...
    

    Where STR is the metavar property.

  2. By default, the value of the options is a string. Configure the type property if the value is a number, boolean (rarely used, use a flag instead) or array (comma-separated values and multiple assignments).

  3. Each option has an id which is used to store the value in the final object. This id is the long name. If the long name has not been defined then the id is the short name.

    .option ({ short: "a", long: "aa" })
    //{ aa: false }
    .option ({ long: "aa" })
    //{ aa: false }
    .option ({ short: "a" })
    //{ a: false }
    
  4. Mandatory options (aka required) are not implemented because options are optional. Use a command if you need mandatory parameters.

Common properties between flags and options with a value:

  • description - String
    The description.
  • hidden - Boolean
    If true, the option is not displayed in the --help and --usage messages. Default is false.
  • long - String
    The long name. Cannot contain white spaces.
  • short - String
    The short name. It must be an alphanumeric character.

Flags:

  • negate - Boolean
    If true, the flag is negated. The default value is true and it becomes false when the short name or the negated long name (eg. --no-flag) is present.

    .option ({ short: "a", long: "aaa" })
    .option ({ short: "b", long: "bbb", negate: true })
    
    $ node script.js
    { aaa: false, bbb: true }
    
    $ node script.js -a -b
    { aaa: true, bbb: false }
    
    $ node script.js --aaa --bbb
    { aaa: true, bbb: true }
    
    $ node script.js --no-aaa --no-bbb
    { aaa: false, bbb: false }
    

Options with a value:

  • aliases - Array
    An alias it's a long-name option that points to another option.

    .body ()
        .option ({ long: "name", aliases: ["foo", "bar"] })
        .help ()
        .usage ()
    
    $ node script.js --foo
    { name: true }
    
    $ node script.js --usage
    Usage: script [--name|--foo|--bar] [-h|--help] [--usage]
    
    $ node script.js --help
    Usage: script [options]
    
          --name, --foo, --bar
      -h, --help                  Display this help message and exit
          --usage                 Display a short usage message and exit
    

    The options() function returns an object with all the configured options:

    {
      name: { ... },
      foo: { ... },
      bar: { ... },
      help: { ... },
      usage: { ... }
    }
    

    Where name, foo and bar point to the same object:

    .on ("start", function (){
      var options = this.options ();
      assert.ok (options.name === options.foo && options.name === options.bar);
    })
    
  • choices - Array
    The input value must be one of these choices. If the option is optional, the choices property is ignored.

    .option ({ long: "opt", metavar: "NUM", type: Number, choices: [1, 2, 3] })
    
    $ node script.js --opt=1
    { opt: 1 }
    
    $ node script.js --opt=7 # Error!
    

    When default and choices are defined in the same option the default value doesn't need to match any choice:

    .option ({ long: "opt", metavar: "STR", default: "d", choices: ["a", "b", "c"] })
    
    $ node script.js
    { opt: "d" }
    
  • default - Object
    The default value.

    .option ({ long: "name", metavar: "STR", default: "bar", optional: true })
    
    $ node script.js
    { name: "bar" }
    
    $ node script.js --name
    { name: "bar" }
    
    $ node script.js --name foo
    { name: "foo" }
    
  • metavar - String
    Must be defined if the option requires a value. If metavar is not defined, the option is a flag. The string is used when the --help and --usage messages are printed.

    .option ({ long: "name", metavar: "STR" })
    
    $ node script.js --help
    ...
         --name=STR
    ...
    
  • optional - Boolean
    If true, the value is optional. Default is false. If the option doesn't receive any value the default value is set and it depends on the default and type properties.

    Types and default values:

    • String: null
    • Number: 0
    • Array: []
    • Boolean: false
    .option ({ long: "name1", metavar: "STR", optional: true })
    .option ({ long: "name2", metavar: "STR", optional: true, type: String })
    .option ({ long: "name3", metavar: "NUM", optional: true, type: Number })
    .option ({ long: "name4", metavar: "ARR", optional: true, type: Array })
    //Boolean type is rarely used, use a flag instead
    .option ({ long: "name5", metavar: "BOOL", optional: true, type: Boolean })
    
    $ node script.js --name1 --name2 --name3 --name4 --name5
    { name1: null, name2: null, name3: 0, name4: [], name5: false }
    
    $ node script.js --name1 foo --name2 bar --name3 12 --name4 -12.34,foo,true --name4 false --name5 true
    { name1: "foo", ame2: "bar", name3: 12, name4: [-12.34, "foo", true, false], name5: true }
    
  • reviver - Function
    The function is executed when the option is parsed. It is similar to the reviver parameter of the JSON.parse() function. This is the right place where you can validate the input data and fail() if it's not valid. For example, if the option requires a number you can validate the range here.

    .option ({ long: "name", metavar: "STR", reviver: function (value){
      return value + "bar";
    }})
    
    $ node script.js --name foo
    { name: "foobar" }
    
    .option ({ long: "opt", metavar: "NUM", type: Number,
        reviver: function (value){
      //The "value" parameter is already a number
      if (value < 1 || value > 3){
        this.fail ("Option 'opt': Invalid range.");
      }
      return value;
    }})
    
  • type - String | Number | Boolean | Array
    The type of the value. Default is String.

    If the type is an Array, comma-separated values are automatically stored in an array and each element is converted to the type it represents. Multiple assignments are also supported.

    .option ({ long: "name", metavar: "ARR", type: Array })
    
    $ node script.js --name 1,true,foo
    { name: [1, true, "foo"] }
    
    $ node script.js --name 1 --name true --name foo
    { name: [1, true, "foo"] }
    
    $ node script.js --name 1,2 --name true,false --name foo,bar
    { name: [1, 2, true, false, "foo", "bar"] }
    

Configuring arguments

Example: arguments.js.

An argument is an individual name like login, reset, build, etc. They are basically flags.

Properties:

  • description - String
    The description.
  • hidden - Boolean
    If true, the option is not displayed in the --help and --usage messages. Default is false.

Note: synopsis and trailing properties can be also configured but they have meaning only with commands.

.argument ("arg1")
.argument ("arg2", { description: "foo" })
.argument ("arg3", { description: "bar", hidden: true })
$ node script.js arg1
{ arg1: true, arg2: false, arg3: false }

$ node script.js --help
...
  arg1                        foo
  arg2                        bar
...

Note that an argument is just a flag but it can be present without any prefixed hyphen. It is a flag with more weight, it is used to denote important actions.

As you can see, the arguments are also stored in a hash like regular options, undefined arguments inclusive. For example:

var argv = require ("argp").createParser ({ once: true })
    .allowUndefinedArguments ()
    .allowUndefinedOptions ()
    .argv ();

console.log (argv);
$ node script.js a b c
{ a: true, b: true, c: true }

This feature is different from other cli parsers that store the arguments in an array. If you need to read undefined arguments and save them in an array you can use the events. For more details: to-upper-case.js


Configuring commands

A command is an argument followed by other arguments and options. NPM is an example:

npm config set <key> [<value>]
npm install [<package>...] -g

config is a command and set an argument with 2 trailing arguments: minimum 1, maximum 2.
install is a command with infinite trailing arguments: minimum 0, maximum Infinity. -g is an option which only applies to the install command.

If you have a very few commands you can configure them in the same file (commands.js example), but you typically want to modularize them, one command per file. Then you should check the npm.js example.

The commands are configured exactly the same way as the Argp instance with only one difference: argument() accepts 2 new properties:

  • synopsis - String
    The string replaces the argument name in the --help and --usage messages.

    .argument ("set", { description: "Sample argument" });
    /*
    ...
        set                         Sample argument
    ...
    */
    
    .argument ("set", { synopsis: "set <key> [<value>]", description: "Sample argument" });
    /*
    ...
        set <key> [<value>]         Sample argument
    ...
    */
    
  • trailing - Object
    Configures how many trailing arguments must follow this argument.

    There are 3 properties: eq, min and max. eq cannot be used with min or max. If min and max are used, by default min is 0 and max is Infinity. A trailing object without any of these 3 properties defaults to min 0 and max Infinity.

    Some examples:

    • 2 trailing arguments required: cmd arg <x> <x>.

        .argument ("arg", { trailing: { eq: 2 } })
      
    • 1 required, 1 optional: cmd arg <x> [<x>].

        .argument ("arg", { trailing: { min 1, max: 2 } })
      
    • 1 optional: cmd arg [<x>].

        .argument ("arg", { trailing: { max: 1 } })
      
    • 1 required, infinite optional: cmd arg <x> [<x>...].

        .argument ("arg", { trailing: { min: 1 } })
      
    • Infinite: cmd arg [<x>...].

        .argument ("arg", { trailing: {} })
        //Same as trailing: { min: 0, max: Infinity }
      
    • No trailing arguments: cmd arg.

        .argument ("arg")
      
    • Multiple arguments with trailing in the same line. Argument arg1 with 1 required, and argument arg2 with infinite trailing arguments: cmd arg1 <x> arg2 [<y>...]. Note that writing cmd arg1 <x> arg2 [<y>...] is not the same as cmd arg2 [<y>...] arg1 <x>. In the latter case, arg1 <x> will be eaten by the trailing arguments of arg2.

         .argument ("arg1", { trailing: { eq: 1 } })
         .argument ("arg2", { trailing: {} })
      

Real examples

  • brainfuck: Interpreter for the Brainfuck esoteric language.
  • ntftp: Streaming TFTP client and server.

module.createParser([options]) : Argp

Returns a new Argp instance.

Options:

  • once - Boolean
    Set it to true if you want to uncache the whole module when argv() finishes. This will guarantee a zero memory footprint. Default is false.

Argp

The module returns an instance of Argp. It inherits from an EventEmitter.

The parser follows the GNU-style rules: -a, -abc, --a, --no-a, --a=b, --, etc. Long-option abbreviation is also supported.

If you don't want to configure anything simply require the module, allow undefined arguments and options and call to argv().

var argv = require ("argp").createParser ({ once: true })
    .allowUndefinedArguments ()
    .allowUndefinedOptions ()
    .argv ();

Note: If no configuration is provided you cannot join a short name with its value in the same token, eg: -Dvalue, all the characters following a hyhen are interpreted as individual flags.

Events

With the event system you can fully adapt this module to yours needs. Examples: to-upper-case.js, mkdir.js.

Methods

Objects


argument

Emitted when an argument is found.

Parameters:

  • argv - Object
    The final object.
  • argument - String
    The name of the argument.
  • ignore - Function
    When the function is called the parser ignores the argument, hence it isn't stored in the final object.

end

Emitted when all the options and arguments have been parsed.

Parameters:

  • argv - Object
    The final object.

error

Emitted when an error occurs. If you don't listen for error events, the message will be printed to stderr and the process will exit. If you attach an error handler and an error occurs, argv() returns null.

You typically want to listen for error events when you need to do something with the error and then quit the process, or simply because you want to continue executing the process (maybe because you are executing a shell prompt) and display the error in the console.

.on ("error", function (error){
  doSomethingWith (error);
  //This will end the process
  this.fail (error);
})

For example, the ntftp module uses two parsers. One is the main parser. If something is not correct, it prints the error to stderr and finishes. The second parser is used when the program is executing a shell prompt. It is being reused and the errors are simply printed to console.

option

Emitted when an option is found.

Parameters:

  • argv - Object
    The final object.
  • option - String
    The name of the option.
  • value - String
    The value of the option after calling the reviver, if any.
  • long - Boolean
    True if the option is a long name, otherwise false.
  • ignore - Function
    When the function is called the parser ignores the argument, hence it isn't stored in the final object.

start

Emitted just before the parser begins to read the cli parameters.

Parameters:

  • argv - Object
    The final object. The default values are already set.

Argp#allowUndefinedArguments() : Argp

Allows undefined arguments.

Argp#allowUndefinedOptions() : Argp

Allows undefined options.

Argp#arguments() : Object

Returns the configured arguments. Look at the internal-data.js example for further details.

Argp#argv([input]) : Object | null

Parses the process.argv array or the given input array.

If you don't need to reuse the parser and want a zero memory footprint, you shouldn't cache the module and the parser instance. Remember to also set once to true.

var argv = require ("argp").createParser ({ once: true })
    ...
    argv ();

If you need to reuse a parser, you probably want to listen for error events. If an error occurs, argv() returns null.

var argp = require ("argp");

//Configuration
var parser = argp.createParser ()
    .on ("error", ...)
    ...;

var argv;
argv = parser.argv (["-a", "--b", ...]);
argv = parser.argv (["c", "d", ...]);

If you pass an input array, then the functions printHelp(), printUsage() and printVersion() will print the message but won't terminate the process.

Argp#body() : Argp

Returns a Body instance.

Argp#columns(columns) : Argp

Sets the maximum line length. By default lines are wrapped at 80 columns.

Argp#command(name[, configuration]) : Command

Configures a command. A command it's like a new fresh cli program. It behaves exactly like an Argp. See Configuring commands.

Argp#commands() : Object

Returns the configured commands.

Look at the internal-data.js example for further details.

Argp#description(str) : Argp

Sets a description. The description is printed at the start of the --help message, after the "Usage" lines.

Argp#email(str) : Argp

Sets a contact email. The email is printed at the end of the --help message.

Argp#exitStatus(code) : Argp

Sets the exit code that will be used is some methods. Default is 1.

Argp#fail(str[, code]) : undefined

Prints a message to the stderr and exits with the given code number or if not given, uses the code configured with exitStatus() or if not configured, exits with code 1.

Argp#main() : Argp

Returns de main Argp instance. It's a no-op function, just for a better visual organization when configuring commands.

Look at the npm.js example for further details.

Argp#options([filter]) : Object

Returns the configured options. filter is an object which can be used to return the options that have a short name or a long name.

.options ()
.options ({ short: true })
.options ({ long: true })

Look at the internal-data.js example for further details.

Argp#printHelp([code]) : undefined

Prints the help message and exits with the given code number or if not given, uses the code configured with exitStatus() or if not configured, exits with code 0.

If argv() is called with an input array, the process doesn't exit.

Argp#printUsage([code]) : undefined

Prints the usage message and exits with the given code number or if not given, uses the code configured with exitStatus() or if not configured, exits with code 0.

If argv() is called with an input array, the process doesn't exit.

Argp#printVersion([code]) : undefined

Prints the version message (if it was configured) and exits with the given code number or if not given, uses the code configured with exitStatus() or if not configured, exits with code 0.

If argv() is called with an input array, the process doesn't exit.

Argp#readPackage([path][, options]) : Argp

Reads a package.json file and configures the parser with the description, email and version. If no path is provided it tries to read the ./package.json path. The description, email and version labels can be ignored individually with the options parameter. For example, if you only want to ignore the email and read the description and version:

.readPackage ("path/to/package.json", { email: false })

Options are: description, version, email. By default they are true. Set them to false to ignore them.

Argp#usages(usages) : Argp

Changes the "Usage" line from the --help and --usage messages. usages is an array of strings.

Look at the custom-usages.js example for further details.

Argp#sort() : Argp

If sort() is enabled, the options are parsed before the arguments, if not, the options and arguments are parsed in the same order they come.


Body

The Body instance is returned by calling Argp#body(). All the following functions (except argv(), command() and main()) print a message in the same order they are configured, this allows you to fully customize the --help message very easily.

Look at fully-descriptive-help.js for further details.

Methods

Body#argument(name[, configuration]) : Body

Defines an argument. See Configuring arguments.

Body#argv([input]) : Object

Same as Argp#argv().

Body#columns(column1, column2) : Body

Prints a line with 2 columns. The first column shouldn't contain line breaks (\n). This functionality is used to print the options and arguments.

Body#command(name[, configuration]) : Command

Same as Argp#command().

Body#help([options]) : Body

Enables the -h, --help option. The short option can be disabled using the options parameter.

.help ({ short: false })
$ node script.js --help
...
      --help                  Display this help message and exit
...

Body#main() : Argp

Same as Argp#main().

Body#option(o) : Body

Defines an option. See Configuring options.

Body#text(str[, prefix]) : Body

Prints a text message. By default it's line-wrapped at 80 columns and supports multilines (line breaks, \n). The prefix is a string that is printed before each line. It's mainly used to indent the text with some spaces.

Body#usage() : Body

Enables the --usage option.

Body#version(str[, options]) : Body

Enables the -v, --version option. str is the text to print when the option is called. The short option can be disabled using the options parameter.

.version ("v1.2.3", { short: false })
$ node script.js --help
...
      --version               Output version information and exit
...
npm loves you