Simple argparse example wanted: 1 argument, 3 results


The documentation for the argparse python module, while excellent I’m sure, is too much for my tiny beginner brain to grasp right now. I don’t need to do math on the command line or meddle with formatting lines on the screen or change option characters. All I want to do is “If arg is A, do this, if B do that, if none of the above show help and quit”.

Asked By: matt wilkie



Here’s the way I do it with argparse (with multiple args):

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description='Description of your program')
parser.add_argument('-f','--foo', help='Description for foo argument', required=True)
parser.add_argument('-b','--bar', help='Description for bar argument', required=True)
args = vars(parser.parse_args())

args will be a dictionary containing the arguments:

if args['foo'] == 'Hello':
    # code here

if args['bar'] == 'World':
    # code here

In your case simply add only one argument.

Answered By: Diego Navarro

The argparse documentation is reasonably good but leaves out a few useful details which might not be obvious. (@Diego Navarro already mentioned some of this but I’ll try to expand on his answer slightly.) Basic usage is as follows:

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
parser.add_argument('-f', '--my-foo', default='foobar')
parser.add_argument('-b', '--bar-value', default=3.14)
args = parser.parse_args()

The object you get back from parse_args() is a ‘Namespace’ object: An object whose member variables are named after your command-line arguments. The Namespace object is how you access your arguments and the values associated with them:

args = parser.parse_args()
print (args.my_foo)
print (args.bar_value)

(Note that argparse replaces ‘-‘ in your argument names with underscores when naming the variables.)

In many situations you may wish to use arguments simply as flags which take no value. You can add those in argparse like this:

parser.add_argument('--foo', action='store_true')
parser.add_argument('--no-foo', action='store_false')

The above will create variables named ‘foo’ with value True, and ‘no_foo’ with value False, respectively:

if (
    print ("foo is true")

if (args.no_foo is False):
    print ("nofoo is false")

Note also that you can use the "required" option when adding an argument:

parser.add_argument('-o', '--output', required=True)

That way if you omit this argument at the command line argparse will tell you it’s missing and stop execution of your script.

Finally, note that it’s possible to create a dict structure of your arguments using the vars function, if that makes life easier for you.

args = parser.parse_args()
argsdict = vars(args)
print (argsdict['my_foo'])
print (argsdict['bar_value'])

As you can see, vars returns a dict with your argument names as keys and their values as, er, values.

There are lots of other options and things you can do, but this should cover the most essential, common usage scenarios.

Answered By: DMH

Matt is asking about positional parameters in argparse, and I agree that the Python documentation is lacking on this aspect. There’s not a single, complete example in the ~20 odd pages that shows both parsing and using positional parameters.

None of the other answers here show a complete example of positional parameters, either, so here’s a complete example:

# tested with python 2.7.1
import argparse

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description="An argparse example")

parser.add_argument('action', help='The action to take (e.g. install, remove, etc.)')
parser.add_argument('foo-bar', help='Hyphens are cumbersome in positional arguments')

args = parser.parse_args()

if args.action == "install":
    print("You asked for installation")
    print("You asked for something other than installation")

# The following do not work:
# print(
# print(args.foo_bar)

# But this works:
print(getattr(args, 'foo-bar'))

The thing that threw me off is that argparse will convert the named argument “–foo-bar” into “foo_bar”, but a positional parameter named “foo-bar” stays as “foo-bar”, making it less obvious how to use it in your program.

Notice the two lines near the end of my example — neither of those will work to get the value of the foo-bar positional param. The first one is obviously wrong (it’s an arithmetic expression minus bar), but the second one doesn’t work either:

AttributeError: 'Namespace' object has no attribute 'foo_bar'

If you want to use the foo-bar attribute, you must use getattr, as seen in the last line of my example. What’s crazy is that if you tried to use dest=foo_bar to change the property name to something that’s easier to access, you’d get a really bizarre error message:

ValueError: dest supplied twice for positional argument

Here’s how the example above runs:

$ python
usage: [-h] action foo-bar error: too few arguments

$ python -h
usage: [-h] action foo-bar

An argparse example

positional arguments:
  action      The action to take (e.g. install, remove, etc.)
  foo-bar     Hyphens are cumbersome in positional arguments

optional arguments:
  -h, --help  show this help message and exit

$ python install foo
You asked for installation
Answered By: Mark E. Haase

To add to what others have stated:

I usually like to use the ‘dest’ parameter to specify a variable name and then use ‘globals().update()’ to put those variables in the global namespace.


$ python -i "Hello, World!"


parser.add_argument('-i', '--input', ..., dest='inputted_variable',...)
print(inputted_variable) # Prints "Hello, World!"
Answered By: Sandy Chapman

My understanding of the original question is two-fold. First, in terms of the simplest possible argparse example, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen it here. Of course, to be dead-simple, it’s also all overhead with little power, but it might get you started.

import argparse

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
args = parser.parse_args()

if args.a == '':
    print 'You nailed it!'

But this positional argument is now required. If you leave it out when invoking this program, you’ll get an error about missing arguments. This leads me to the second part of the original question. Matt Wilkie seems to want a single optional argument without a named label (the –option labels). My suggestion would be to modify the code above as follows:

parser.add_argument("a", nargs='?', default="check_string_for_empty")
if args.a == 'check_string_for_empty':
    print 'I can tell that no argument was given and I can deal with that here.'
elif args.a == '':
    print 'You nailed it!'
    print args.a

There may well be a more elegant solution, but this works and is minimalist.

Answered By: mightypile

Note the Argparse Tutorial in Python HOWTOs. It starts from most basic examples, like this one:

import argparse
parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
parser.add_argument("square", type=int,
                    help="display a square of a given number")
args = parser.parse_args()

and progresses to less basic ones.

There is an example with predefined choice for an option, like what is asked:

import argparse
parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
parser.add_argument("square", type=int,
                    help="display a square of a given number")
parser.add_argument("-v", "--verbosity", type=int, choices=[0, 1, 2],
                    help="increase output verbosity")
args = parser.parse_args()
answer = args.square**2
if args.verbosity == 2:
    print("the square of {} equals {}".format(args.square, answer))
elif args.verbosity == 1:
    print("{}^2 == {}".format(args.square, answer))
Answered By: Alexey

Here’s what I came up with in my learning project thanks mainly to @DMH…

Demo code:

import argparse

def main():
    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
    parser.add_argument('-f', '--flag', action='store_true', default=False)  # can 'store_false' for no-xxx flags
    parser.add_argument('-r', '--reqd', required=True)
    parser.add_argument('-o', '--opt', default='fallback')
    parser.add_argument('arg', nargs='*') # use '+' for 1 or more args (instead of 0 or more)
    parsed = parser.parse_args()
    # NOTE: args with '-' have it replaced with '_'
    print('Result:',  vars(parsed))
    print('parsed.reqd:', parsed.reqd)

if __name__ == "__main__":

This may have evolved and is available online:

Script to give this code a workout:

Answered By: Peter L

You could also use plac (a wrapper around argparse).

As a bonus it generates neat help instructions – see below.

Example script:

#!/usr/bin/env python3
def main(
    arg: ('Argument with two possible values', 'positional', None, None, ['A', 'B'])
    """General help for application"""
    if arg == 'A':
        print("Argument has value A")
    elif arg == 'B':
        print("Argument has value B")

if __name__ == '__main__':
    import plac

Example output:

No arguments supplied –

usage: [-h] {A,B} error: the following arguments are required: arg

Unexpected argument supplied – C:

usage: [-h] {A,B} error: argument arg: invalid choice: 'C' (choose from 'A', 'B')

Correct argument supplied – A :

Argument has value A

Full help menu (generated automatically) – -h:

usage: [-h] {A,B}

General help for application

positional arguments:
  {A,B}       Argument with two possible values

optional arguments:
  -h, --help  show this help message and exit

Short explanation:

The name of the argument usually equals the parameter name (arg).

The tuple annotation after arg parameter has the following meaning:

  • Description (Argument with two possible values)
  • Type of argument – one of ‘flag’, ‘option’ or ‘positional’ (positional)
  • Abbreviation (None)
  • Type of argument value – eg. float, string (None)
  • Restricted set of choices (['A', 'B'])


To learn more about using plac check out its great documentation:

Plac: Parsing the Command Line the Easy Way

Answered By: quasoft

Yet another summary introduction, inspired by this post.

import argparse

# define functions, classes, etc.

# executes when your script is called from the command-line
if __name__ == "__main__":

    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
    # define each option with: parser.add_argument
    args = parser.parse_args() # automatically looks at sys.argv
    # access results with: args.argumentName

Arguments are defined with combinations of the following:

parser.add_argument( 'name', options... )              # positional argument
parser.add_argument( '-x', options... )                # single-char flag
parser.add_argument( '-x', '--long-name', options... ) # flag with long name

Common options are:

  • help: description for this arg when --help is used.
  • default: default value if the arg is omitted.
  • type: if you expect a float or int (otherwise is str).
  • dest: give a different name to a flag (e.g. '-x', '--long-name', dest='longName').
    Note: by default --long-name is accessed with args.long_name
  • action: for special handling of certain arguments
    • store_true, store_false: for boolean args
      '--foo', action='store_true' => == True
    • store_const: to be used with option const
      '--foo', action='store_const', const=42 => == 42
    • count: for repeated options, as in ./ -vv
      '-v', action='count' => args.v == 2
    • append: for repeated options, as in ./ --foo 1 --foo 2
      '--foo', action='append' => == ['1', '2']
  • required: if a flag is required, or a positional argument is not.
  • nargs: for a flag to capture N args
    ./ --foo a b => = ['a', 'b']
  • choices: to restrict possible inputs (specify as list of strings, or ints if type=int).
Answered By: Jonathan H

A really simple way to use argparse and amend the ‘-h’/ ‘–help’ switches to display your own personal code help instructions is to set the default help to False, you can also add as many additional .add_arguments as you like:

import argparse

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(add_help=False)

parser.add_argument('-h', '--help', action='help',
                help='To run this script please provide two arguments')

Run: python -h


usage: [-h]

optional arguments:
  -h, --help  To run this script please provide two arguments
Answered By: Hutch

The simplest answer!

P.S. the one who wrote the document of argparse is foolish

python code:

import argparse
parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description='')
args = parser.parse_args()
o_dct_fname = args.o_dct_fname
tp =
new_res_set = args.new_res_set

running code

python --o_dct_fname o_dct --tp father_child --new_res_set 1
Answered By: gouxute

Since you have not clarified wheather the arguments ‘A’ and ‘B’ are positional or optional, I’ll make a mix of both.

Positional arguments are required by default. If not giving one will throw ‘Few arguments given’ which is not the case for the optional arguments going by their name. This program will take a number and return its square by default, if the cube option is used it shall return its cube.

import argparse
parser = argparse.ArgumentParser('number-game')
    help="enter a number"
   "-c", "--choice",
   help="choose what you need to do with the number"

# all the results will be parsed by the parser and stored in args
args = parser.parse_args()

# if square is selected return the square, same for cube 
if args.c == 'square':
    print("{} is the result".format(args.number**2))
elif args.c == 'cube':
    print("{} is the result".format(args.number**3))
    print("{} is not changed".format(args.number))


$python3 4 -c square

Here the optional arguments are taking value, if you just wanted to use it like a flag you can too. So by using -s for square and -c for cube we change the behaviour, by adding action = "store_true". It is changed to true only when used.

    "-s", "--square",
    help="returns the square of number",
    "-c", "--cube",
    help="returns the cube of number",

so the conditional block can be changed to,

if args.s:
    print("{} is the result".format(args.number**2))
elif args.c:
    print("{} is the result".format(args.number**3))
    print("{} is not changed".format(args.number))


$python3 4 -c
Answered By: vatsa287

I went through all the examples and answers and in a way or another they didn’t address my need. So I will list her a scenario that I need more help and I hope this can explain the idea more.

Initial Problem

I need to develop a tool which is getting a file to process it and it needs some optional configuration file to be used to configure the tool.

so what I need is something like the following file.text -config config-file.json

The solution

Here is the solution code

import argparse

def main():
    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description='This example for a tool to process a file and configure the tool using a config file.')
    parser.add_argument('filename', help="Input file either text, image or video")
    # parser.add_argument('config_file', help="a JSON file to load the initial configuration ")
    # parser.add_argument('-c', '--config_file', help="a JSON file to load the initial configuration ", default='configFile.json', required=False)
    parser.add_argument('-c', '--config', default='configFile.json', dest='config_file', help="a JSON file to load the initial configuration " )
    parser.add_argument('-d', '--debug', action="store_true", help="Enable the debug mode for logging debug statements." )

    args = parser.parse_args()
    filename = args.filename
    configfile = args.config_file

    print("The file to be processed is", filename)
    print("The config file is", configfile)

    if args.debug:
        print("Debug mode enabled")
        print("Debug mode disabled")

    print("and all arguments are: ", args)

if __name__ == '__main__':

I will show the solution in multiple enhancements to show the idea

First Round: List the arguments

List all input as mandatory inputs so second argument will be

parser.add_argument('config_file', help="a JSON file to load the initial configuration ")

When we get the help command for this tool we find the following outcome

(base) > python -h
usage: [-h] filename config_file

This example for a tool to process a file and configure the tool using a config file.

positional arguments:
  filename     Input file either text, image or video
  config_file  a JSON file to load the initial configuration

optional arguments:
  -h, --help   show this help message and exit

and when I execute it as the following

(base) > python filename.txt configfile.json

the outcome will be

The file to be processed is filename.txt
The config file is configfile.json
and all arguments are:  Namespace(config_file='configfile.json', filename='filename.txt')

But the config file should be optional, I removed it from the arguments

(base) > python filename.txt

The outcome will be is:

usage: [-h] filename config_file error: the following arguments are required: c

Which means we have a problem in the tool

Second Round : Make it optimal

So to make it optional I modified the program as follows

    parser.add_argument('-c', '--config', help="a JSON file to load the initial configuration ", default='configFile.json', required=False)

The help outcome should be

usage: [-h] [-c CONFIG] filename

This example for a tool to process a file and configure the tool using a config file.

positional arguments:
  filename              Input file either text, image or video

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -c CONFIG, --config CONFIG
                        a JSON file to load the initial configuration

so when I execute the program

(base) > python filename.txt

the outcome will be

The file to be processed is filename.txt
The config file is configFile.json
and all arguments are:  Namespace(config_file='configFile.json', filename='filename.txt')

with arguments like

(base) > python filename.txt --config_file anotherConfig.json

The outcome will be

The file to be processed is filename.txt
The config file is anotherConfig.json
and all arguments are:  Namespace(config_file='anotherConfig.json', filename='filename.txt')

Round 3: Enhancements

to change the flag name from --config_file to --config while we keep the variable name as is we modify the code to include dest='config_file' as the following:

parser.add_argument('-c', '--config', help="a JSON file to load the initial configuration ", default='configFile.json', dest='config_file')

and the command will be

(base) > python filename.txt --config anotherConfig.json

To add the support for having a debug mode flag, we need to add a flag in the arguments to support a boolean debug flag. To implement it i added the following:

    parser.add_argument('-d', '--debug', action="store_true", help="Enable the debug mode for logging debug statements." )

the tool command will be:

(carnd-term1-38) > python image.jpg -c imageConfig,json --debug

the outcome will be

The file to be processed is image.jpg
The config file is imageConfig,json
Debug mode enabled
and all arguments are:  Namespace(config_file='imageConfig,json', debug=True, filename='image.jpg')
Answered By: aibrahim

code file:

Simple: common case

  • name(abbr, full), with help
    import argparse
    argParser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
    argParser.add_argument("-n", "--name", help="your name")
    args = argParser.parse_args()
    print("args=%s" % args)
    print("" %
    • call
      • python -n Crifan
      • python --name Crifan
    • output: args=Namespace(name='Crifan') and
  • type
    argParser.add_argument("-a", "--age", type=int, help="your current age")
    print("type(args.age)=%s" % type(args.age))
    • call: python --age 30
    • output: type(args.age)=<class 'int'> and args.age=30
  • required
    argParser.add_argument("-a", "--age", required=True, type=int, help="your current age")
    • call: python
    • output: error error: the following arguments are required: -a/--age
  • default
    argParser.add_argument("-a", "--age", type=int, default=20, help="your current age. Default is 20")
    • call: python
    • output: args.age=20
  • choices
    argParser.add_argument("-f", "--love-fruit", choices=['apple', 'orange', 'banana'], help="your love fruits")
    • call: python -f apple
    • output: args=Namespace(love_fruit='apple') and args.love_fruit=apple
  • multi args
    argParser.add_argument("-f", "--love-fruit", nargs=2, help="your love fruits")
    • call: python -f apple orange
    • output: args.love_fruit=['apple', 'orange']


most simple: -x

  • code:

    import argparse
    argParser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
    argParser.add_argument("-a") # most simple -> got args.a, type is `str`
    args = argParser.parse_args()
    print("args.a=%s" % args.a)
  • usage = run in command line

    python -a 30
    • or: ./ -a 30
      • makesure is executable
        • if not, add it: chmod +x
  • output

  • Note

    • default type is str
      • argParser.add_argument("-a") == argParser.add_argument("-a", type=str)
      • print("type(args.a)=%s" % type(args.a)) -> type(args.a)=<class 'str'>
    • args type is Namespace
      • print("type(args)=%s" % type(args)) -> type(args)=<class 'argparse.Namespace'>
    • args value is Namespace(a='30')
      • print("args=%s" % args) -> args=Namespace(a='30')
      • so we can call/use args.a

parameter name

full parameter name: --xxx

  • code
    argParser.add_argument("-a", "--age")
  • usage
    • python -a 30
      • or: python --age 30
  • get parsed value: args.age
    • Note: NOT args.a, and NOT exist args.a

full parameter name with multiple words: --xxx-yyy

  • code
    argParser.add_argument("-a", "--current-age")
  • get parsed value: args.current_age

add help description: help

  • code
    argParser.add_argument("-a", help="your age") # with help
  • output
    • use --help can see description
       python --help
      usage: [-h] [-a A]
      optional arguments:
      -h, --help  show this help message and exit
      -a A        your age

designate parameter type: type

  • code
    argParser.add_argument("-a", type=int) # parsed arg is `int`, not default `str`
  • output
    • print("type(args.a)=%s" % type(args.a)) -> type(args.a)=<class 'int'>
    • print("args=%s" % args) -> args=Namespace(a=30)

add default value: default

  • code
    argParser.add_argument("-a", type=int, default=20) # if not pass a, a use default value: 20
  • effect
    • usage: python
    • output: print("args.age=%s" % args.age) -> args=Namespace(a=20)
Answered By: crifan

New to this, but combining Python with Powershell and using this template, being inspired by an in-depth and great Python Command Line Arguments – Real Python

There is a lot you can do within the init_argparse() and I am covering just the most simple scenario here.

  1. import argparse
  2. use if __name__ == "__main__": main() pattern to execute from terminal
  3. parse arguments within the main() function that has no parameters as all
  4. define a init_argparse() function
    • create a parser object by calling argparse.ArgumentParser()
    • declare one or more argumnent with parser.add_argument("--<long_param_name>")
    • return parser
  5. parse args by creating an args object by calling parser.parse_args()
  6. define a function proper with param1, param2, …
  7. call function_proper with params being assigned as attributes of an args object
    • e.g. function_proper(param1=args.param1, param2=args.param2)
  8. within a shell call the module with named arguments:
    • e.g. python --param1="foo" --param2=="bar"
import argparse

def function_proper(param1, param2):

def init_argparse() -> argparse.ArgumentParser:
    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
    return parser

def main() -> None:
    parser = init_argparse()
    args = parser.parse_args()
    function_proper(param1=args.param1, param2=args.param2)

if __name__ == "__main__":
>>> python --param1="foo" --param2=="bar"
Answered By: pavol.kutaj

As an addition to existing answers, if you are lazy enough, it is possible to use code generation tool called protoargs. It generates arguments parser from the configuration. For python it uses argparse.

Configuration with optional A and B:

syntax = "proto2";
message protoargs
    optional string A     = 1; // A param description
    optional string B     = 2; // B param description

Configuration with required A and B:

syntax = "proto2";
message protoargs
    required string A     = 1; // A param description
    required string B     = 2; // B param description

Configuration with positional A and B:

syntax = "proto2";
message protoargs
    required string A     = 1; // A param description
    required string B     = 2; // B param description
message protoargs_links

Now all you should run is:

python ./ -i test.proto -o . --py

And use it (it is possible to take other examples here):

import sys
import test_pa

class ArgsParser:
    program = "test"
    description = "Simple A and B parser test."

    def parse(self, argv):
        self.config = test_pa.parse(self.program, self.description, argv)

    def usage(self):
        return test_pa.usage(self.program, self.description)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    parser = ArgsParser()

    if len(sys.argv) == 1:

        if parser.config.A:

        if parser.config.B:

If you want more – change configuration, regenerate parser, use an updated parser.config.

UPD: As mentioned in rules, I must specify that this is my own project

Answered By: Ash Lander
Categories: questions Tags: ,
Answers are sorted by their score. The answer accepted by the question owner as the best is marked with
at the top-right corner.