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CLIgen is a Command-Line Interface generator.

Well, actually it is not really a generator, since it does not generate code for CLI:s. Instead, it builds and interprets datastructures (a parse-tree) which a library (libcligen) interprets in runtime. It is fast and efficient and helps you develop CLI:s easier. You enter a CLI syntax in a text file, and write callback functions in C. The callback functions add the semantics, that is, what the commands in the CLI are supposed to do.

The main documentation is the cligen tutorial which is usually kept up-to-date and is probably the best way to understand CLIgen.

Some background material can be found on the CLIgen project page.

CLIgen is not a system in itself, you need to build your own 'backend'. There is another co-project: 'clixon' which is a whole system where you load dynamic frontend and backend modules. See CLIXON project page and CLIXON github. Clixon provides a system with embedded database, commit semantics, YANG and NETCONF interface, etc. CLIgen is a part of clixon but can be used by itself.

The source code here is built and installed using:

  sudo make install.

The source builds a single library. If you build applications, you should include cligen.h and link with the library.

There are several example applications:

  • cligen_hello Simplest possible. Just builds a 'hello world' greeting by in-line C
  • cligen_file Read a syntax specification from file. You must supply the file.
  • cligen_tutorial Samples of techniques used in cligen_tutorial.pdf

See also Changelog.

For building the C reference documentation using doxygen, do: make doc and place your browser at doc/index.html.

CLIgen is dual license. Either Apache License, Version 2.0 or GNU General Public License Version 2. You choose.

I can be found at


CLIgen uses getline with the following copyright:

Copyright (C) 1991, 1992, 1993 by Chris Thewalt (

Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software for any purpose and without fee is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notices appear in all copies and that both the copyright notice and this permission notice appear in supporting documentation. This software is provided "as is" without express or implied warranty.