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Usage Guide

This article explores mssql-cli features. Click a link below to jump to a specific section:


Type mssql-cli --help to list supported arguments:

$ mssql-cli --help
Usage: [OPTIONS]

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -U , --username       Username to connect to the database
  -P , --password       If not supplied, defaults to value in environment
                        variable MSSQL_CLI_PASSWORD.
  -d , --database       database name to connect to.
  -S , --server         SQL Server instance name or address.
  -E, --integrated      Use integrated authentication on windows.
  -v, --version         Version of mssql-cli.
  --mssqlclirc          Location of mssqlclirc config file.
  --row-limit           Set threshold for row limit prompt. Use 0 to disable
  --less-chatty         Skip intro on startup and goodbye on exit.
                        Automatically switch to vertical output mode if the
                        result is wider than the terminal width.
  -N, --encrypt         SQL Server uses SSL encryption for all data if the
                        server has a certificate installed.
  -C, --trust-server-certificate
                        The channel will be encrypted while bypassing walking
                        the certificate chain to validate trust.
  -l , --connect-timeout 
                        Time in seconds to wait for a connection to the server
                        before terminating request.
  -K , --application-intent 
                        Declares the application workload type when connecting
                        to a database in a SQL Server Availability Group.
  -M, --multi-subnet-failover
                        If application is connecting to AlwaysOn AG on
                        different subnets, setting this provides faster
                        detection and connection to currently active server.
  -a , --packet-size    Size in bytes of the network packets used to
                        communicate with SQL Server.
  -A, --dac-connection  Connect to SQL Server using the dedicated
                        administrator connection.
  -Q , --query          Executes a query outputting the results to stdout and
  -i , --input_file     Specifies the file that contains a batch of SQL
                        statements for processing.
  -o , --output_file    Specifies the file that receives output from a query.
                        Enables diagnostic logging for the SqlToolsService.
  --prompt              Prompt format (Default: \d>


Below are example commands that run against the AdventureWorks database in a localhost server instance. Here is a list of examples:

Connect to a Server

Connect to a server, a specific database, and with a username. -S -d and -U are optional. You can set environment variables to set default settings.

mssql-cli -S localhost -d AdventureWorks -U sa

Exit mssql-cli

Press Ctrl+D or type quit.

Navigate Multiple Pages of Query Result

If you select a table that has many rows, it may display the results in multiple pages.

  • Press Enter key to see one row at a time.
  • Press Space to see one page at a time.
  • Press q to escape from the result view.

Quit a Query

If you are in the middle of writing a query and would like to cancel it, press Ctrl+C

Clear Screen

If you want to clear the Terminal view, press Ctrl+K

If you want to clear in Command Prompt, press Ctrl+L

Toggle Multi-Line Mode

To enable multi-line mode, press F3 key. You can see at bottom of screen if Multiline is on or off.

To use multi-line mode, follow these instruction:

  1. Type the beginning of your query.
  1. Press Enter key and finish our query. You can keep adding lines pressing Enter key.
......FROM "HumanResources"."Department" as hr
  1. To go back and make changes to your query, navigate with the arrow keys, including up or down.
SELECT "Name", "DepartmentID"
......FROM "HumanResources"."Department" as hr
  1. To execute your multi-line query, add GO on a new-line, then press Enter key
SELECT "Name", "DepartmentID"
......FROM "HumanResources"."Department" as hr

Environment Variables

Below are a list of environment variables that can be set.

Important: If you are using macOS or Linux, use 'export' instead of 'set'. 'set' is Windows-only.

Set Default Server

Set environment variable MSSQL_CLI_SERVER to set a default SQL Server instance name or address

set MSSQL_CLI_SERVER=localhost

Set Default Database

Set environment variable MSSQL_CLI_DATABASE to set a default database.

set MSSQL_CLI_DATABASE=AdventureWorks
mssql-cli -S localhost -U sa

Set Default User

Set environment variable MSSQL_CLI_USER to set a default user.

mssql-cli -S localhost -d AdventureWorks

Set Default Password

Set environment variable MSSQL_CLI_PASSWORD to set a default password.

mssql-cli -S localhost -d AdventureWorks -U sa

Set Default Row Limit

Set environment variable MSSQL_CLI_ROW_LIMIT to set threshold for row limit prompt. Use 0 to disable prompt.

mssql-cli -S localhost -U sa

Special Commands

Special commands are meant to make your life easier. They are shortcuts to a lot of commonly performed tasks and queries. Moreover you can save your own commonly used queries as shortcuts.

All special commands start with a backslash ('\') and doing so will bring up an autocomplete with all special commands and their descriptions.

For more help simply type '\?' inside the mssql-cli prompt to list all the special commands, their usage and description.


Here are a few examples:

Example 1: List Tables

Show all tables which contain foo in their names:

mssql-cli>\lt foo

For verbose output:

mssql-cli>\lt+ foo

Example 2: Named Queries

Save 'select * from HumanResources.Department' as a named query called 'dept':

mssql-cli>\sn dept select * from "HumanResources"."Department"

Run the named query:

mssql-cli>\n dept

You can even add parameters to your saved query:

mssql-cli>\sn dept select * from "HumanResources"."Department" where "Name" like '%$1%'

Run the named query 'dept' with a parameter:

mssql-cli>\n dept Human

Full list of Special Commands

Below table summarizes the special commands supported

Command Usage Description
\d \d OBJECT List or describe database objects. Calls sp_help.
\dn \dn [name] Delete a named query.
\e \e [file] Edit the query with external editor.
\ld \ld[+] [pattern] List databases.
\lf \lf[+] [pattern] List functions.
\li \li[+] [pattern] List indexes.
\ll \ll[+] [pattern] List logins and associated roles.
\ls \ls[+] [pattern] List schemas.
\lt \lt[+] [pattern] List tables.
\lv \lv[+] [pattern] List views.
\n \n[+] [name] [param1 param2 ...] List or execute named queries.
\sf \sf FUNCNAME Show a function's definition.
\sn \sn name query Save a named query.
help ? Show this help.

Non-Interactive Options

Non-interactive mode is a great way to query SQL Server using mssql-cli without needing to jump into an interactive command-line interface.

Executing a Query in Non-Interactive Mode

mssql-cli supports the following options for query exection in non-interactive mode:

Note: Ensure a connection to your server is established using the -S, -U, -P, and -d arguments, or by specifying your environment variables.

-Q, --query

To make a query in non-interactive mode, use the -Q (or --query) argument, followed by a T-SQL statement surrounded in double or single quotes. sqlcmd syntax is also supported.

-i, --input-file

An input file using T-SQL or sqlcmd syntax may be specified as an alternative to using -Q.

Outputting a Query Execution in Non-Interactive Mode

If no argument is specified, the output of a query execution in non-interactive mode prints to standard output. Results may also be printed to a file using the non-interactive output file argument.

-o, --output_file

To print the results of your non-interactive query to a file, add the -o (or --output_file) argument followed by a file path surrounded by double or single quotes. mssql-cli will create a file if the specified value does not exist. Using -o will overwrite any existing file.

Note: -Q/--query or -i/--input-file is required.


Customization and persistence of settings can be achieved with a config file, whose path can be passed as the --mssqlclirc <file> command line argument. Otherwise it is read from the default path ~/.config/mssqlcli/config on macOS and Linux, and %LOCALAPPDATA%\dbcli\mssqlcli\config on Windows. See the config file itself for a description of all available options.

Horizontal Paging Options on Windows

mssql-cli on Windows will default to a vertical layout when table results would otherwise exceed the window width. Horizontal paging may present an improved experience, however is not supported out-of-the-box for mssql-cli on Windows.

A workaround for horizontal paging support on Windows is provided with installation of pypager:

Disclaimer: pypager will enter paging mode for every query.

python -m pip install pypager

After installation of pypager, update the pager value in the config file with:



If you encounter any issues, see the troubleshooting section for known issues and workarounds.