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Argument Parser for Modern C++
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README.md

Argument Parser for Modern C++

Highlights

  • Header-only library
  • Requires C++17
  • MIT License

Quick Start

Simply include argparse.hpp and you're good to go.

#include <argparse.hpp>

To start parsing command-line arguments, create an ArgumentParser.

argparse::ArgumentParser program("program name");

Argparse supports a variety of argument types including positional, optional, and compound arguments.

Positional Arguments

Here's an example of a positional argument:

#include <argparse.hpp>

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
  argparse::ArgumentParser program("program name");

  program.add_argument("square")
    .help("display the square of a given integer")
    .action([](const std::string& value) { return std::stoi(value); });

  program.parse_args(argc, argv);
  
  auto input = program.get<int>("square");
  std::cout << (input * input) << std::endl;

  return 0;
}

And running the code:

$ ./main 15
225

Here's what's happening:

  • The add_argument() method is used to specify which command-line options the program is willing to accept. In this case, I’ve named it square so that it’s in line with its function.
  • Command-line arguments are strings. Inorder to square the argument and print the result, we need to convert this argument to a number. In order to do this, we use the .action method and provide a lambda function that tries to convert user input into an integer.
  • We can get the value stored by the parser for a given argument using parser.get<T>(key) method.

Optional Arguments

Now, let's look at optional arguments. Optional arguments start with - or --, e.g., --verbose or -a. Optional arguments can be placed anywhere in the input sequence.

argparse::ArgumentParser program("test");

program.add_argument("--verbose")
  .help("increase output verbosity")
  .default_value(false)
  .implicit_value(true);

program.parse_args(argc, argv);

if (program["--verbose"] == true) {
    std::cout << "Verbosity enabled" << std::endl;
}
$ ./main --verbose
Verbosity enabled

Here's what's happening:

  • The program is written so as to display something when --verbose is specified and display nothing when not.
  • Since the argument is actually optional, no error is thrown when running the program without --verbose. Note that by using .default_value(false), if the optional argument isn’t used, it's value is automatically set to false.
  • By using .implicit_value(true), the user specifies that this option is more of a flag than something that requires a value. When the user provides the --verbose option, it's value is set to true.

Combining Positional and Optional Arguments

argparse::ArgumentParser program("test");

program.add_argument("square")
  .help("display the square of a given number")
  .action([](const std::string& value) { return std::stoi(value); });

program.add_argument("--verbose")
  .default_value(false)
  .implicit_value(true);

program.parse_args(argc, argv);

int input = program.get<int>("square");

if (program["--verbose"] == true) {
  std::cout << "The square of " << input << " is " << (input * input) << std::endl;
}
else {
  std::cout << (input * input) << std::endl;
}
$ ./main 4
16

$ ./main 4 --verbose
The square of 4 is 16

$ ./main --verbose 4
The square of 4 is 16

Printing Help

ArgumentParser.print_help() print a help message, including the program usage and information about the arguments registered with the ArgumentParser. For the previous example, here's the default help message:

$ ./main --help
Usage: ./main [options] square

Positional arguments:
square         display a square of a given number

Optional arguments:
-h, --help     show this help message and exit
-v, --verbose  enable verbose logging

List of Arguments

ArgumentParser objects usually associate a single command-line argument with a single action to be taken. The .nargs associates a different number of command-line arguments with a single action. When using nargs(N), N arguments from the command line will be gathered together into a list.

argparse::ArgumentParser program("main");

program.add_argument("--input_files")
  .help("The list of input files")
  .nargs(2);

program.parse_args(argc, argv);  // Example: ./main --input_files config.yml System.xml

auto files = program.get<std::vector<std::string>>("--input_files");  // {"config.yml", "System.xml"}

ArgumentParser.get<T>() has specializations for std::vector and std::list. So, the following variant, .get<std::list>, will also work.

auto files = program.get<std::list<std::string>>("--input_files");  // {"config.yml", "System.xml"}

Using .action, one can quickly build a list of desired value types from command line arguments. Here's an example:

argparse::ArgumentParser program("main");

program.add_argument("--query_point")
  .help("3D query point")
  .nargs(3)
  .default_value(std::vector<double>{0.0, 0.0, 0.0})
  .action([](const std::string& value) { return std::stod(value); });

program.parse_args(argc, argv);  // Example: ./main --query_point 3.5 4.7 9.2

auto query_point = program.get<std::vector<double>>("--query_point");  // {3.5, 4.7, 9.2}

Compound Arguments

Compound arguments are optional arguments that are combined and provided as a single argument. Example: ps -aux

argparse::ArgumentParser program("test");

program.add_argument("-a")
  .default_value(false)
  .implicit_value(true);

program.add_argument("-b")
  .default_value(false)
  .implicit_value(true);

program.add_argument("-c")
  .nargs(2)
  .default_value(std::vector<float>{0.0f, 0.0f})
  .action([](const std::string& value) { return std::stof(value); });

program.parse_args(argc, argv);                    // Example: ./main -abc 1.95 2.47 

auto a = program.get<bool>("-a");                  // true
auto b = program.get<bool>("-b");                  // true
auto c = program.get<std::vector<float>>("-c");    // {1.95, 2.47}

/// Some code that prints parsed arguments
$ ./main -ac 3.14 2.718
a = true
b = false
c = {3.14, 2.718}

$ ./main -cb
a = false
b = true
c = {0.0, 0.0}

Here's what's happening:

  • We have three optional arguments -a, -b and -c.
  • -a and -b are toggle arguments.
  • -c requires 2 floating point numbers from the command-line.
  • argparse can handle compound arguments, e.g., -abc or -bac or -cab. This only works with short single-character argument names.
    • -a and -b become true.
    • argv is further parsed to identify the inputs mapped to -c.
    • If argparse cannot find any arguments to map to c, then c defaults to {0.0, 0.0} as defined by .default_value

Parent Parsers

Sometimes, several parsers share a common set of arguments. Rather than repeating the definitions of these arguments, a single parser with all the shared arguments can be added as a parent to another ArgumentParser instance. The .add_parents method takes a list of ArgumentParser objects, collects all the positional and optional actions from them, and adds these actions to the ArgumentParser object being constructed:

argparse::ArgumentParser parent_parser("main");
parent_parser.add_argument("--parent")
  .default_value(0)
  .action([](const std::string& value) { return std::stoi(value); });

argparse::ArgumentParser foo_parser("foo");
foo_parser.add_argument("foo");
foo_parser.add_parents(parent_parser);
foo_parser.parse_args({ "./main", "--parent", "2", "XXX" });   // parent = 2, foo = XXX

argparse::ArgumentParser bar_parser("bar");
bar_parser.add_argument("--bar");
bar_parser.parse_args({ "./main", "--bar", "YYY" });           // bar = YYY

Note You must fully initialize the parsers before passing them via .add_parents. If you change the parent parsers after the child parser, those changes will not be reflected in the child.

Further Examples

Construct a JSON object from a filename argument

argparse::ArgumentParser program("json_test");

program.add_argument("config")
  .action([](const std::string& value) {
    // read a JSON file
    std::ifstream stream(value);
    nlohmann::json config_json;
    stream >> config_json;
    return config_json;
  });

program.parse_args({"./test", "config.json"});

nlohmann::json config = program.get<nlohmann::json>("config");

Positional Arguments with Compound Toggle Arguments

argparse::ArgumentParser program("test");

program.add_argument("numbers")
  .nargs(3)
  .action([](const std::string& value) { return std::stoi(value); });

program.add_argument("-a")
  .default_value(false)
  .implicit_value(true);

program.add_argument("-b")
  .default_value(false)
  .implicit_value(true);

program.add_argument("-c")
  .nargs(2)
  .action([](const std::string& value) { return std::stof(value); });

program.add_argument("--files")
  .nargs(3);

program.parse_args(argc, argv);

auto numbers = program.get<std::vector<int>>("numbers");        // {1, 2, 3}
auto a = program.get<bool>("-a");                               // true
auto b = program.get<bool>("-b");                               // true
auto c = program.get<std::vector<float>>("-c");                 // {3.14f, 2.718f}
auto files = program.get<std::vector<std::string>>("--files");  // {"a.txt", "b.txt", "c.txt"}

/// Some code that prints parsed arguments
$ ./main 1 -abc 3.14 2.718 2 --files a.txt b.txt c.txt 3
numbers = {1, 2, 3}
a = true
b = true
c = {3.14, 2.718}
d = {"a.txt", "b.txt", "c.txt"}

Restricting the set of values for an argument

argparse::ArgumentParser program("test");

program.add_argument("input")
  .default_value("baz")
  .action([](const std::string& value) {
    static const std::vector<std::string> choices = { "foo", "bar", "baz" };
    if (std::find(choices.begin(), choices.end(), value) != choices.end()) {
      return value;
    }
    return std::string{ "baz" };
  });

program.parse_args(argc, argv);

auto input = program.get("input");
std::cout << input << std::endl;
$ ./main fex
baz

Supported Compilers

  • GCC >= 7.0.0
  • Clang >= 4.0
  • MSVC >= 2017

Contributing

Contributions are welcome, have a look at the CONTRIBUTING.md document for more information.

License

The project is available under the MIT license.

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