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Command line programs for busy developers.
Tag: 0.3

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Command line programs for lazy humans.

  • Decorate a function to be your programs starting point.
  • Generate command line parser based on function signature.
  • Search system environment for option default values.

Latest PyPI version Current build status Latest PyPI version

Why begins?

I write a lot of small programs in Python. These programs often accept a small number of simple command line arguments. Having to write command line parsing code in each of these small programs both breaks my train of thought and greatly increases the volume of code I am writting.

Begins was implemented to remove the boilerplate code from these Python programs. It's not intended to replace the rich command line processing needed for larger applications.


For Python versions earlier than Python 3.3, the funcsigs package from the Python Package Index is required.

For Python version 2.6, the argparse package from the `Python Package Inex`_ is also required.

Both of these dependencies are listed in the package configurtion. If using Pip to install begins then the required dependencies will be automatically installed.


Currently begins is not available for downloading from the Python Package Index. However, if using Pip you can install directly from Github.

$ pip install git+

Please note that begins is still in an alpha state so the API and behaviour could still change.

Setting a programs starting point

The begin.start() function can be used as a function call or a decorator. If called as a function it returns True when called from the __main__ module. To do this it inspects the stack frame of the caller, checking the __name__ global.

This allows the following Python pattern:

>>> if __name__ == '__main__':
...     pass

To be replace with:

>>> import begin
>>> if begin.start():
...    pass

If used as a decorator to annotate a function the function will be called if defined in the __main__ module as determined by inspecting the current stack frame. Any definitions that follow the decorated function wont be created until after the function call is complete.

Usage of begin.start() as a decorator looks like:

>>> import begin
>>> @begin.start
... def run():
...     pass

By defering the execution of the function until after the remainder of the module has loaded ensures the main function doesn't fail if depending on something defined in later code.

Parsing command line options

If begin.start() deocrates a function accepts parameters begin.start() will process the command for options to pass as those parameters:

>>> import begin
>>> @begin.start
... def run(name='Arther', quest='Holy Grail', colour='blue', *knights):
...     "tis but a scratch!"

The decorated function above will generate the following command line help:

usage: [-h] [-n NAME] [-q QUEST] [-c COLOUR]
                  [knights [knights ...]]

tis but a scratch!

positional arguments:

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -n NAME, --name NAME  (default: Arther)
  -q QUEST, --quest QUEST
                        (default: Holy Grail)
  -c COLOUR, --colour COLOUR
                        (default: blue)

In Python3, any function annotations for a paramter become the command line option help. For example:

>>> import begin
>>> @begin.start                                         # doctest: +SKIP
... def run(name: 'What, is your name?',
...         quest: 'What, is your quest?',
...         colour: 'What, is your favourite colour?'):
...     pass

Will generate command help like:

usage: [-h] -n NAME -q QUEST -c COLOUR

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -n NAME, --name NAME  What, is your name?
  -q QUEST, --quest QUEST
                        What, is your quest?
  -c COLOUR, --colour COLOUR
                        What, is your favourite colour?

Command line parsing supports:

  • positional arguments
  • keyword arguments
  • default values
  • variable length arguments
  • annotations

Command line parsing does not support variable length keyword arguments, commonly written as **kwargs. If variable length keyword arguments are used by the decorated function an exception will be raised.

If a paramater does not have a default, failing to pass a value on the command line will cause running the program to print an error and exit.

Environment Variables

Environment variables can be used to override the default values for command line options. To use environment variables pass a prefix string to begin.start() decorator through the env_prefix paramater:

>>> import begin
>>> @begin.start(env_prefix='MP_')
... def run(name='Arther', quest='Holy Grail', colour='blue', *knights):
...     "tis but a scratch!"

In the example above, if an environment variable MP_NAME existed, it's value would be used as the default for the name option. The options value can still be set by explicitly passing a new value as a command line option.

Argument type casting

Command line arguments are always passed as strings. Sometimes thought it is more convenient to receive arguments of different types. For example, this is a possible function for starting a web application:

>>> @begin.start
... def main(host='', port='8080', debug='False'):
...    port = int(port)
...    debug = begin.utils.tobool(debug)
...    "Run web application"

Having to convert the port argument to an integer and the debug argument to a boolean is additional boilerplate code. To avoid this begins provides the begin.convert() decorator. This decorator accepts functions as keyword arguments where the argument name matches that of the decorator function. These functions are used to convert the types of arguments.

Rewritting the example above using the begin.convert() decorator:

>>> @begin.start
... @begin.convert(port=int, debug=begin.utils.tobool)
... def main(host='', port=8080, debug=False):
...    "Run web application"

The module begin.utils contains useful functions for converting argument types.


Any bug reports or freature requests can be made using GitHub' issues system.

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