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New (3.7.0+) RabbitMQ CLI Tools


RabbitMQ version 3.7 comes with brave new CLI tool to replace rabbitmqctl.

Some of the issues in the older tool suite we wanted to address:

  • Built-in into RabbitMQ server code
  • Home-grown argument parser
  • Started with erl with a lot of installation-dependent parameters
  • Too many commands in a single tool
  • All commands in resided the same module (function clauses)

All this made it hard to maintain and extend the tools.

The new CLI is different in a number of ways that address the above issues:

  • Standalone repository on GitHub.
  • Implemented in Elixir (using Elixir's standard CLI parser)
  • Each command is its own module
  • Extensible
  • Commands can support more output formats (e.g. JSON and CSV)
  • A single executable file that bundles all dependencies but the Erlang runtime
  • Command scopes associate commands with tools (e.g. rabbitmq-diagnostics reuses relevant commands from rabbitmqctl)


Each command is defined in its own module and implements an Elixir (Erlang) behaviour. (See Command behaviour)

Output is processed by a formatter and printer which formats command output and render the output (the default being the standard I/O output). (see Output formatting)

CLI core consists of several modules implementing command execution process:

  • RabbitMQCtl: entry point. Generic execution logic.
  • Parser: responsible for command line argument parsing (drives Elixir's OptionParser)
  • CommandModules: responsible for command module discovery and loading
  • Config: responsible for config unification: merges enviroment variable and command argument values
  • Output: responsible for output formatting
  • Helpers: self-explanatory

Command Execution Process

Arguments parsing

Command line arguments are parsed with OptionParser Parser returns a list of unnamed arguments and a map of options (named arguemtns) First unnamed argument is a command name. Named arguments can be global or command specific. Command specific argument names and types are apecified in the switches/0 callback. Global argument names are described in [Global arguments]

Command discovery

If arguments list is not empty, its first element is considered a command name. Command name is converted to CamelCase and a module with RabbitMQ.CLI.*.Commands.<CommandName>Command name is selected as a command module.

List of available command modules depend on current tool scope (see Command scopes)

Defaults and validation

After the command module is found, effective command arguments are calculated by merging global defaults and command specific defaults for both unnamed and named arguments.

A command specifies defaults using the merge_defaults/2 callback (see Command behaviour)

Arguments are then validated using the validate/2 callback. validate_execution_environment/2 is another (optional) validation function with the same signature as validate/2. It is meant to validate everything that is not CLI arguments, for example, whether a file exists or RabbitMQ is running or stopped on the target node.

Command Aliases

It is possible to define aliases for commands using an aliases file. The file name can be specified using RABBITMQ_CLI_ALIASES_FILE environment variable or the --aliases-file command lineargument.

Aliases can be specified using alias = command [options] format. For example:

lq = list_queues
lq_vhost1 = list_queues -p vhost1
lq_off = list_queues --offline

with such aliases config file running

RABBITMQ_CLI_ALIASES_FILE=/path/to/aliases.conf rabbitmqctl lq

will be equivalent to executing

RABBITMQ_CLI_ALIASES_FILE=/path/to/aliases.conf rabbitmqctl list_queues


RABBITMQ_CLI_ALIASES_FILE=/path/to/aliases.conf rabbitmqctl lq_off

is the same as running

RABBITMQ_CLI_ALIASES_FILE=/path/to/aliases.conf rabbitmqctl list_queues --offline

Builtin or plugin-provided commands are looked up first, if that yields no result, aliases are inspected. Therefore it's not possible to override a command by configuring an alias.

Just like command lookups, alias expansion happens in the RabbitMQ.CLI.Core.Parser module.

Command Aliases with Variables

Aliases can also contain arguments. Command name must be the first word after the =. Arguments specified in an alias will preceed those passed from the command line.

For example, if you specify the alias passwd_user1 = change_password user1, you can call it with rabbitmqctl passwd_user1 new_password.

Combined with the eval command, aliases can be a powerful tool for users who cannot or don't want to develop, distribute and deploy their own commands via plugins.

For instance, the following alias deletes all queues in a vhost:

delete_vhost_queues = eval '[rabbit_amqqueue:delete(Q, false, false, <<"rabbit-cli">>) || Q <- rabbit_amqqueue:list(_1)]'

This command will require a single positional argument for the vhost:

rabbitmqctl delete_vhost_queues vhost1

It is also possible to use a named vhost argument by specifying an underscore variable that's not an integer:

delete_vhost_queues = eval '[rabbit_amqqueue:delete(Q, false, false, <<"rabbit-cli">>) || Q <- rabbit_amqqueue:list(_vhost)]'

Then the alias can be called like this:

rabbitmqctl delete_vhost_queues -p vhost1
# or
rabbitmqctl delete_vhost_queues ---vhost vhost1

Keep in mind that eval command can accept only global arguments as named, and it's advised to use positional arguments instead.

Numbered arguments will be passed to the eval'd code as Elixir strings (or Erlang binaries). The code that relies on them should perform type conversion as necessary, e.g. by using functions from the rabbit_data_coercion module.

Command execution

Command is executed with the run/2 callback, which contains main command logic. This callback can return any value.

Output from the run/2 callback is being processed with the output/2 callback, which should format the output to a specific type. (see Output formatting)

Output callback can return an an error, with a specific exit code.

Printing and formatting

The output/2 callback return value is being processed in output.ex module by by the appropriate formatter and printer.

A formatter translates the output value to a sequence of strings or error value. Example formatters are json, csv and erlang

A printer renders formatted strings to an output device (e.g. stdout, file)


Errors during execution (e.g. validation failures, command errors) are being printed to stderr.

If command has failed to execute, a non-zero code is returned.


CLI tool is an Elixir Mix application. It is compiled into an escript executable file.

This file embeds Elixir, rabbit_common, and rabbitmqcli applications and can be executed anywhere where escript is installed (it comes as a part of erlang).

Although, some commands require rabbitmq broker code and data directory to be known. For example, commands in rabbitmq-plugins tool and those controlling clustering (e.g. forget_cluster_node, rename_cluster_node ...)

Those directories can be defined using environment options or rabbitmq environment variables.

In the broker distribution the escript file is called from a shell/cmd sctipt, which loads broker environment and exports it into the script.

Environment variables also specify the locations of the enabled plugins file and the plugins directory.

All enabled plugins will be searched for commands. Commands from enabled plugins will be shown in usage and available for execution.

Global Arguments

Commonly Used Arguments

  • node (n): atom, broker node name, defaults to rabbit@<current host>
  • quiet (q): boolean, if set to true, command banner is not shown, defaults to false
  • timeout (t): integer, timeout value in seconds (used in some commands), defaults to infinity
  • vhost (p): string, vhost to talk to, defaults to /
  • formatter: string, formatter to use to format command output. (see Output formatting)
  • printer: string, printer to render output (see Output formatting)
  • dry-run: boolean, if specified the command will not run, but print banner only

Environment Arguments

  • script-name: atom, configurable tool name (rabbitmq-plugins, rabbitmqctl) to select command scope (see Command scopes)
  • rabbitmq-home: string, broker install directory
  • mnesia-dir: string, broker mnesia data directory
  • plugins-dir: string, broker plugins directory
  • enabled-plugins-file: string, broker enabled plugins file
  • longnames (l): boolean, use longnames to communicate with broker erlang node. Should be set to true only if broker is started with longnames.
  • aliases-file: string, a file name to load aliases from
  • erlang-cookie: atom, an erlang distribution cookie

Environment argument defaults are loaded from rabbitmq environment variables (see Environment configuration).

Some named arguments have single-letter aliases (in parenthesis).

Boolean options without a value are parsed as true

For example, parsing command

rabbitmqctl list_queues --vhost my_vhost -t 10 --formatter=json name pid --quiet

Will result with unnamed arguments list ["list_queues", "name", "pid"] and named options map %{vhost: "my_vhost", timeout: 10, quiet: true}

Usage (Listing Commands in help)

Usage is shown when the CLI is called without any arguments, or if there are some problems parsing arguments.

In that cases exit code is 64.

If you want to show usage and return 0 exit code run help command

rabbitmqctl help

Each tool (rabbitmqctl, rabbitmq-plugins) shows its scope of commands (see Command scopes)

Command Behaviour

Each command is implemented as an Elixir (or Erlang) module. Command module should implement RabbitMQ.CLI.CommandBehaviour behaviour.

Behaviour summary:

Following functions MUST be implemented in a command module:

usage() :: String.t | [String.t]

Command usage string, or several strings (one per line) to print in command listing in usage. Typically looks like command_name [arg] --option=opt_value

banner(arguments :: List.t, options :: Map.t) :: String.t

Banner to print before the command execution. Ignored if argument --quiet is specified. If --dry-run argument is specified, th CLI will only print the banner.

merge_defaults(arguments :: List.t, options :: Map.t) :: {List.t, Map.t}

Merge default values for arguments and options (named arguments). Returns a tuple with effective arguments and options, that will be passed to validate/2 and run/2

validate(arguments :: List.t, options :: Map.t) :: :ok | {:validation_failure, Atom.t | {Atom.t, String.t}}

Validate effective arguments and options.

If function returns {:validation_failure, err} CLI will print usage to stderr and exit with non-zero exit code (typically 64).

run(arguments :: List.t, options :: Map.t) :: run_result :: any

Run command. This function usually calls RPC on broker.

output(run_result :: any, options :: Map.t) :: :ok | {:ok, output :: any} | {:stream, Enum.t} | {:error, ExitCodes.exit_code, [String.t]}

Cast the return value of run/2 command to a formattable value and an exit code.

  • :ok - return 0 exit code and won't print anything

  • {:ok, output} - return exit code and print output with format_output/2 callback in formatter

  • {:stream, stream} - format with format_stream/2 callback in formatter, iterating over enumerable elements. Can return non-zero code, if error occurs during stream processing (stream element for error should be {:error, Message}).

  • {:error, exit_code, strings} - print error messages to stderr and return exit_code code

There is a default implementation for this callback in DefaultOutput module

Most of the standard commands use the default implementation via use RabbitMQ.CLI.DefaultOutput

Following functions are optional:

switches() :: Keyword.t

Keyword list of switches (argument names and types) for the command.

For example: def switches(), do: [offline: :boolean, time: :integer] will parse --offline --time=100 arguments to %{offline: true, time: 100} options.

This switches are added to global switches (see Arguments parsing)

aliases() :: Keyword.t

Keyword list of argument names one-letter aliases. For example: [o: :offline, t: :timeout] (see Arguments parsing)

usage_additional() :: String.t | [String.t]

Additional usage strings to print after all commands basic usage. Used to explain additional arguments and not interfere with command listing.

formatter() :: Atom.t

Default formatter for the command. Should be a module name of a module implementing RabbitMQ.CLI.FormatterBehaviour (see Output formatting)

scopes() :: [Atom.t]

List of scopes to include command in. (see Command scopes)

More information about command development can be found in the command tutorial

Command Scopes

Commands can be organized in scopes to be used in different tools like rabbitmq-diagnostics or rabbitmq-plugins.

One command can belong to multiple scopes. Scopes for a command can be defined in the scopes/0 callback in the command module. Each scope is defined as an atom value.

By default a command scope is selected using naming convention. If command module is called RabbitMQ.CLI.MyScope.Commands.DoSomethingCommand, it will belong to my_scope scope. A scope should be defined in snake_case. Namespace for the scope will be translated to CamelCase.

When CLI is run, a scope is selected by a script name, which is the escript file name or the --script-name argument passed.

A script name is associated with a single scope in the application environment:

Script names for scopes:

  • rabbitmqctl - :ctl
  • rabbitmq-plugins - :plugins
  • rabbitmq-diagnostics - :diagnostics

This environment is extended by plugins :scopes environment variables, but cannot be overriden. Plugins scopes can override each other, so should be used with caution.

So all the commands in the RabbitMQ.CLI.Ctl.Commands namespace will be available for rabbitmqctl script. All the commands in the RabbitMQ.CLI.Plugins.Commands namespace will be available for rabbitmq-plugins script.

To add a command to rabbitmqctl, one should either name it with the RabbitMQ.CLI.Ctl.Commands prefix or add the scopes() callback, returning a list with :ctl element

Output Formatting

The CLI supports extensible output formatting. Formatting consists of two stages:

  • formatting - translating command output to a sequence of lines
  • printing - outputting the lines to some device (e.g. stdout or filesystem)

A formatter module performs formatting. Formatter is a module, implementing the RabbitMQ.CLI.FormatterBehaviour behaviour:

format_output(output :: any, options :: Map.t) :: String.t | [String.t]

Format a single value, returned. It accepts output from command and named arguments (options) and returns a list of strings, that should be printed.

format_stream(output_stream :: Enumerable.t, options :: Map.t) :: Enumerable.t

Format a stream of return values. This function uses elixir Stream [] abstraction to define processing of continuous data, so the CLI can output data in realtime.

Used in list_* commands, that emit data asynchronously.

DefaultOutput will return all enumerable data as stream, so it will be formatted with this function.

A printer module performs printing. Printer module should implement the RabbitMQ.CLI.PrinterBehaviour behaviour:

init(options :: Map.t) :: {:ok, printer_state :: any} | {:error, error :: any}

Init the internal printer state (e.g. open a file handler).

finish(printer_state :: any) :: :ok

Finalize the internal printer state.

print_output(output :: String.t | [String.t], printer_state :: any) :: :ok

Print the output lines in the printer state context. Is called for {:ok, val} command output after formatting val using formatter, and for each enumerable element of {:stream, enum} enumerable

print_ok(printer_state :: any) :: :ok

Print an output without any values. Is called for :ok command return value.

Output formatting logic is defined in output.ex module.

Following rules apply for a value, returned from output/2 callback:

  • :ok - initializes a printer, calls print_ok and finishes the printer. Exit code is 0.
  • {:ok, value} - calls format_output/2 from formatter, then passes the value to printer. Exit code is 0.
  • {:stream, enum} - calls format_stream/2 to augment the stream with formatting logic, initializes a printer, then calls print_output/2 for each successfully formatted stream element (which is not {:error, msg}). Exit code is 0 if there were no errors. In case of an error element, stream processing stops, error is printed to stderr and the CLI exits with nonzero exit code.
  • {:error, exit_code, msg} - prints msg to stderr and exits with exit_code

Environment Configuration

Some commands require information about the server environment to run correctly. Such information is:

  • rabbitmq code directory
  • rabbitmq mnesia directory
  • enabled plugins file
  • plugins directory

Enabled plugins file and plugins directory are also used to locate plugins commands.

This information can be provided using command line arguments (see Environment arguments)

By default it will be loaded from environment variables, same as used in rabbitmq broker:

Argument name Environment variable
rabbitmq-home RABBITMQ_HOME