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Getopts npm

Parse CLI options, better.

Getopts sorts your command-line arguments into key-value pairs for easy look-up and retrieval, and its sane out-of-the-box defaults allow you to focus on the big picture: writing CLI tools. Here's why you'll love it:

  • Up to ~6x faster than the alternatives (run the benchmarks).
  • Built upon utility syntax guidelines that have been used for decades.
  • You can use it as a drop-in replacement for yargs or minimist.
  • ~180 LOC and no dependencies.


npm i getopts

How about we start with something useful: let's write a password generator. Our program should print out a random string of characters of a given length, and to make things more interesting, we'll add a way exclude certain characters like numbers or punctuation. We'll call it pwd (pronounced "password").

A typical invocation of our program will look like this:

example/pwd --no-symbols --length=12

First, we'll use getopts to parse the process.argv array (the first two items are always node and the path to the script so we usually skip them). We'll also define aliases for each of our options, and set their default values.

#!/usr/bin/env node

const getopts = require("getopts")

const options = getopts(process.argv.slice(2), {
  alias: {
    help: "h",
    length: "l",
    digits: "d",
    symbols: "s"
  default: {
    length: 16,
    digits: true,
    symbols: true

What we get is an object mapping argument names to values. We'll use it to look up the value of an option by their name. This is what it looks like when pwd is invoked with --no-symbols --length=12:

  _: [],
  symbols: false,
  s: false,
  length: 12,
  l: 12,
  digits: true,
  d: true

And to generate the password, here's what we're going to do:

  1. Print usage if --help is in the parsed options and exit.
  2. Initialize CHARS with all the possible password characters.
  3. Initialize an array of length options.length, where each item is a random character from CHARS.
  4. Join the result into a string and print it out.
if ( {
  console.log("usage: pwd [-l|--length=N] [-d|--digits] [-s|--symbols]")

const CHARS =
  "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ" +
  (options.digits ? "0123456789" : "") +
  (options.symbols ? "!@#$%^&*()_+~`|}{[]:;?><,./-=" : "")

const getRandom = list => list.charAt(Math.floor(Math.random() * list.length))

  Array.from({ length: options.length }, () => getRandom(CHARS)).join("") + "\n"

That's it! Now you're ready to start working with Getopts on your own project. To learn more, continue to Parsing Rules. Want to dig deeper? Head over to the API docs.

Parsing Rules

Short Options

A short option consists of a dash - followed by a single alphabetic character. Multiple short options can be clustered together without spaces. Short options will be a boolean true unless followed by an operand or if adjacent to one or more non-alphabetic characters matching the regular expression /[!-@[-`{-~][\s\s]*/.

getopts(["-ab", "-c"]) //=> { _: [], a:true, b:true, c:true }
getopts(["-a", "alpha"]) //=> { _: [], a:"alpha" }
getopts(["-abc1"]) //=> { _: [], a:true, b:true, c:1 }

The last character in a cluster of options can be parsed as a string or as a number depending on the argument that follows it. Any options preceding it will be true. You can use opts.string to specify if one or more options should be parsed as strings instead.

getopts(["-abc-100"], {
  string: ["b"]
}) //=> { _: [], a:true, b:"c-100" }

The argument immediately following a short or a long option, which is not an option itself, will be parsed as the value of that option. You can use opts.boolean to specify if one or more options should be parsed as booleans, causing any adjacent argument to be parsed as an operand instead.

getopts(["-a", "alpha"], {
  boolean: ["a"]
}) //=> { _: ["alpha"], a:true }

Any character listed in the ASCII table can be used as a short option if it's the first character after the dash.

getopts(["-9", "-#10", "-%0.01"]) //=> { _:[], 9:true, #:10, %:0.01 }

Long Options

A long option consists of two dashes -- followed by one or more characters. Any character listed in the ASCII table can be used to create a long option except the = symbol, which separates an option's name and value.

getopts(["--turbo", "--warp=10"]) //=> { _: [], turbo:true, warp:10 }
getopts(["--warp=e=mc^2"]) //=> { _: [], warp:"e=mc^2" }
getopts(["----", "alpha"]) //=> { _: [], --:"alpha" }

Options can be negated if they are prefixed with the sequence --no-. Their value is always false.

getopts(["--no-turbo"]) //=> { _: [], turbo:false }


Every argument after the first double-dash sequence -- is saved to the operands array _.

getopts(["--", "--alpha", "001"]) //=> { _:["--alpha", "001"] }

Every non-option standalone argument is an operand.

getopts(["alpha", "-w9"]) //=> { _: ["alpha"], w:9 }
getopts(["--code=alpha", "beta"]) //=> { _: ["beta"], code:"alpha" }

A dash - is an operand.

getopts(["--turbo", "-"]) //=> { _:["-"], turbo:true }


Options missing from the arguments array designated as a boolean or string type will be added to the result object as false and "" respectively.

getopts([], {
  string: ["a"],
  boolean: ["b"]
}) //=> { _:[], a:"", b:false }

The string "false" is always cast to a boolean false.

getopts(["--turbo=false"]) //=> { _:[], turbo:false }

Options that appear multiple times are parsed as an array that consists of every value in the order they are found.

getopts(["-a?alpha=beta", "-aa0.1"] //=> { _:[], a:["?alpha=beta", true, 0.1] }

A value may contain newlines or other control characters.

getopts(["--text=top\n\tcenter\bottom"]) //=> { _:[], text:"top\n\tcenter\bottom" }


getopts(argv, opts)

Parse command line arguments. Expects an array of arguments, e.g., process.argv, options configuration object, and returns an object mapping argument names to their values.


An array of arguments.


An object of option aliases. An alias can be a string or an array of strings. Aliases let you declare substitute names for an option, e.g., the short (abbreviated) and long (canonical) variations.

getopts(["-t"], {
  alias: {
    turbo: ["t", "T"]
}) //=> { _:[], t:true, T:true, turbo:true }


An array to indicate boolean options. In the next example, declaring t as boolean causes the next argument to be parsed as an operand and not as a value.

getopts(["-t", "alpha"], {
  boolean: ["t"]
}) //=> { _:["alpha"], t:true }


An array to indicate string options. In the next example, by declaring t as a string, all adjacent characters are parsed as a single value and not as individual options.

getopts(["-atabc"], {
  string: ["t"]
}) //=> { _:[], a:true, t:"abc" }


An object of default values for options that are not present in the arguments array.

getopts(["--warp=10"], {
  default: {
    warp: 15,
    turbo: true
}) //=> { _:[], warp:10, turbo:true }


A function that will be invoked for every unknown option. Return false to discard the option. Unknown options are those that appear in the arguments array, but are not present in opts.string, opts.boolean, opts.default, or opts.alias.

getopts(["-abc"], {
  unknown: option => "a" === option
}) //=> { _:[], a:true }


A boolean property. If true, the operands array _ will be populated with all the arguments after the first non-option.

getopts(["-w9", "alpha", "--turbo", "beta"], {
  stopEarly: true
}) //=> { _:["alpha", "--turbo", "beta"], w:9 }

This property is useful when implementing sub-commands in a CLI.

const { install, update, uninstall } = require("./commands")

const options = getopts(process.argv.slice(2), {
  stopEarly: true

const [command, subargs] = options._

if (command === "install") {
} else if (command === "update") {
} else if (command === "uninstall") {

Run the benchmarks

npm i -C bench && node bench
getopts × 1,769,415 ops/sec
minimist × 314,240 ops/sec
yargs × 33,179 ops/sec



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