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Version: 2.8 (deprecated)


The commands Pants runs.

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

To see the current list of goals, run:

❯ ./pants help goals

You'll see more goals activated as you activate more backends.

Running goals

For example:

❯ ./pants test project/
15:40:37.89 [INFO] Completed: test - project/ succeeded.

✓ project/ 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 check test project/

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

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.

Typically you can just use file arguments, and not worry about 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.
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 test
17:20:14.24 [INFO] Remote cache/execution options updated: reinitializing scheduler...
17:20:15.36 [INFO] Scheduler initialized.

`test` goal options

Run tests.

Config section: [test]

default: False
current value: False
Run tests sequentially in an interactive process. This is necessary, for example, when you
add breakpoints to your code.


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

./pants --test-debug test project/

You can also put the option after the file/target arguments:

./pants test project/ --test-debug

As a shorthand, if you put the option after the goal and before the file/target arguments, you can leave off the goal name in the flag:

./pants test --debug project/