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Version: 2.7 (deprecated)


The commands Pants runs.

Pants commands are known as goals, such as test and lint.

To satisfy a goal, Pants will use cached data whenever possible, and perform work to compute the relevant data (and cache it) when necessary. Pants will perform work concurrently as much as possible, using all the local cores, and/or any remote build executors, it has access to.

Which goals are available?

Pants is an extensible system, so the exact goals that are available depend upon which backends are enabled.

To see the current list of goals, run:

./pants help goals

For example, if you don't yet have any backends installed, you should see:

./pants help goals


count-loc Count lines of code.

dependees List all targets that depend on any of the input files/targets.

dependencies List the dependencies of the input files/targets.

filedeps List all source and BUILD files a target depends on.

filter Filter the input targets based on various criteria.

list Lists all targets matching the file or target arguments.

package Create a distributable package.

roots List the repo's registered source roots.

validate Validate sources against regexes.

Use `./pants help $goal` to get help for a specific goal.

Running goals

Let's try running a goal:

$ ./pants test src/python/pants/util/
15:40:37.89 [INFO] Completed: test - src/python/pants/util/ succeeded.

✓ src/python/pants/util/ succeeded.

You can also run multiple goals in a single run of Pants, in which case they will run sequentially:

# Format all code, and then lint it:
$ ./pants fmt lint ::


Finally, Pants supports running goals in a --loop: in this mode, all goals specified will run sequentially, and then Pants will wait until a relevant file has changed to try running them again.

# Re-run typechecking and testing continuously as files or their dependencies change:
$ ./pants --loop typecheck test src/python/pants/util/


Use Ctrl+C to exit the --loop.

Goal arguments

Some simple goals—such as the roots goal—do not require arguments. But most goals require some arguments to work on.

For example, to run the count-loc goal, which counts lines of code in your repository, you need to provide a set of files and/or targets to run on:

$ ./pants count-loc '**'
Language Files Lines Blanks Comments Code Complexity
Python 13 155 50 22 83 5
BASH 2 261 29 22 210 10
JSON 2 25 0 0 25 0
Plain Text 2 43 1 0 42 0
TOML 2 65 14 18 33 0
Quoting file patterns

Note the single-quotes around the file pattern '**'. This is so that your shell doesn't attempt to expand the pattern, but instead passes it unaltered to Pants.

File arguments vs. target arguments

**Note: ** Typically you can just use file arguments, and not worry about targets.

Goal arguments can be of one of two types:

  • File arguments: file paths and/or globs.
  • Target arguments: addresses and/or address globs of targets.

Any goal can take either type of argument:

  • If a target argument is given, the goal acts on all the files in the matching targets.
  • If a file argument is given, Pants will map the file back to its containing target to read any necessary metadata.

So again, for the most part, you can just use file arguments and not worry about targets!

File/target globs

For file arguments, use '*' and '**', with the same semantics as the shell. Reminder: quote the argument if you want Pants to evaluate the glob, rather than your shell.

For target arguments, you can use:

  • dir::, where :: means every target in the current directory and recursively in subdirectories.
  • dir:, where : means every target in that directory, but not subdirectories.

For example, ./pants list :: will find every target in your project.

Tip: advanced target selection, such as running over changed files

See Advanced target selection for alternative techniques to specify which files/targets to run on.

Goal options

Many goals also have options to change how they behave.

To see if a goal has any options, run ./pants help $goal or ./pants help-advanced $goal. See Command Line Help for more information.

For example:

./pants help roots

`roots` goal options

List the repo's registered source roots.

Config section: [roots]

default: None
current value: None
Output the goal's stdout to this file. If unspecified, outputs to stdout.

default: \n
current value: \n
String to use to separate lines in line-oriented output.

You can then use the option by prefixing it with the goal name:

./pants --roots-sep=', ' roots
3rdparty/python, src/assets, src/python

As a shorthand, if you put the option after the goal, you can leave off the goal name in the flag:

./pants roots --sep=', '