Options

A deep dive into how options may be configured.

Option scopes

Options are partitioned into named scopes.

Some systemwide options belong in the global scope. For example, the --level option, which controls the logging level, is in the global scope.

Other options belong to a subsystem scope. A subsystem is simply a collection of related options, in a scope. For example, the pytest subsystem contains options related to Python's test framework pytest.

Setting options

Every option can be set in the following ways, in order of precedence:

  1. Via a command line flag.
  2. In an environment variable.
  3. In a config file (pants.toml).

If an option isn't set in one of these ways, it will take on a default value.

You can inspect both the current value and the default value by using ./pants help $scope or ./pants help-advanced $scope, e.g. ./pants help global.

Command-line flags

Global options are set using an unqualified flag:

./pants --level=debug ...

Subsystem options are set by providing the flag, with the name prefixed with the lower-case scope name and a dash. So for the option --root-patterns in the scope source:

./pants --source-root-patterns="['^ext']"

Environment variables

Global options are set using the environment variable PANTS_{OPTION_NAME}:

PANTS_LEVEL=debug ./pants ...

Subsystem options are set using the environment variable
PANTS_{SCOPE}_{OPTION_NAME}:

PANTS_SOURCE_ROOT_PATTERNS="['^ext']" ./pants ...

Note that the scope and option name are upper-cased, and any dashes in the option flag name are converted to underscores: --multiword-name becomes MULTIWORD_NAME.

Config file entries

Global options are set in the GLOBAL section of the config file:

[GLOBAL]
level = "debug"

Subsystem options are set in the section named for their scope:

[source]
root_patterns = ["/src/python"]

Note that any dashes in the option flag name are converted to underscores: --multiword-name becomes multiword_name.

Config file interpolation

Environment variables can be interpolated by using the syntax %(env.ENV_VAR)s, e.g.:

[python-repos]
# This will substitute `%(env.PY_REPO)s` with the value of the environment
# variable PY_REPO
indexes.add = ["http://%(env.PY_REPO)[email protected]/index

Additionally, a few special values are pre-populated with the %(var)s syntax:

  • %(buildroot)s: absolute path to the root of your repository
  • %(homedir)s: equivalent to $HOME or ~
  • %(user)s: equivalent to $USER
  • %(pants_distdir)s: absolute path of the global option --pants-distdir, which defaults
    to {buildroot}/dist/

Option types

Every option has a type, and any values you set must be of that type.

The option types are:

  • string
  • integer
  • bool
  • list
  • dict

A list-valued option may also declare a specific type for its members (e.g., a list of strings, or a list of integers).

String and integer values

Standalone string and integer values are written without quotes. Any quotes will be considered part of the value, after shell escaping.

Command-line flags:

./pants --scope-intopt=42
./pants --scope-stropt=qux

Environment variables:

PANTS_SCOPE_INTOPT=42
PANTS_SCOPE_STROPT=qux

Config file entries:

[scope]
intopt = 42
stropt = "qux"

Boolean values

Boolean values can be specified using the special strings true and false. When specifying them via command-line flags you can also use the --boolopt/--no-boolopt syntax.

Command-line flags:

./pants --scope-boolopt=true
./pants --scope-boolopt
./pants --no-scope-boolopt

Environment variables:

PANTS_SCOPE_BOOLOPT=true

Config file entries:

[scope]
boolopt = true

List values

List values are parsed as Python list literals, so you must quote string values, and you may need to apply shell-level quoting and/or escaping, as required.

Command-line flags:

./pants --scope-listopt="['foo','bar']"

You can also leave off the [] to append elements. So we can rewrite the above to:

./pants --scope-listopt=foo --scope-listopt=bar

Environment variables:

PANTS_SCOPE_LISTOPT="['foo','bar']"

Like with command-line flags, you can leave off the [] to append elements:

PANTS_SCOPE_LISTOPT=foo

Config file entries:

[scope]
listopt = [
  'foo', 
  'bar'
]

Add/remove semantics

List values have some extra semantics:

  • A value can be preceded by +, which will append the elements to the value obtained from lower-precedence sources.
  • A value can be preceded by -, which will remove the elements from the value obtained from lower-precedence sources.
  • Multiple + and - values can be provided, separated by commas.
  • Otherwise, the value replaces the one obtained from lower-precedence sources.

For example, if the value of --listopt in scope is set to [1, 2] in a config file, then

./pants --scope-listopt="+[3,4]"

will set the value to [1, 2, 3, 4].

./pants --scope-listopt="-[1],+[3,4]"

will set the value to [2, 3, 4], and

./pants --scope-listopt="[3,4]"

will set the value to [3, 4].

📘

Add/remove syntax in .toml files

The +/- syntax works in .toml files, but the entire value must be quoted:

[scope]
listopt = "+[1,2],-[3,4]"

This means that TOML treats the value as a string, instead of a TOML list.

Alternatively, you can use this syntactic sugar, which allows the values to be regular TOML lists:

[scope]
listopt.add = [1, 2]
listopt.remove = [3, 4]

But note that this only works in Pants's .toml config files, not in environment variables or command-line flags.

Dict values

Dict values are parsed as Python dict literals on the command-line and environment variables, so you must quote string keys and values, and you may need to apply shell-level quoting and/or escaping, as required.

Command-line flags:

./pants --scope-dictopt="{'foo':1,'bar':2}"

Environment variables:

PANTS_SCOPE_DICTOPT="{'foo':1,'bar':2}"

Config file entries:

You can use TOML's nested table features. These are equivalent:

[scope]
dictopt = { foo = 1, bar = 2}
[scope.dictopt]
foo = 1
bar = 2

You can also use a string literal. Note the quotes:

[scope]
dictopt = """{
 'foo': 1,
 'bar': 2,
}"""

Add/replace semantics

  • A value can be preceded by +, which will update the value obtained from lower-precedence sources with the entries.
  • Otherwise, the value replaces the one obtained from lower-precendence sources.

For example, if the value of --dictopt in scope is set to {'foo', 1, 'bar': 2} in a config file, then

./pants --scope-dictopt="+{'foo':42,'baz':3}"

will set the value to {'foo': 42, 'bar': 2, 'baz': 3}, and

./pants --scope-dictopt="{'foo':42,'baz':3}"

will set the value to {'foo': 42, 'baz': 3}.

Reading individual option values from files

If an option value is too large or elaborate to use directly, or if you don't want to hard-code
values directly in pants.toml, you can set the value of any option to the string
@relative/path/from/repo/root/to/file (note the leading @), and the value will be read
from that file.

If the file name ends with .json or .yaml then the file will be parsed as the relevant
format, which is useful for list- and dict-valued options.

Otherwise, the file is parsed as a literal as described above for each option type.

Note that you can use this feature on the command-line, in an env var, or in a config file:

[scope]
opt = "@path/to/file.json"
[email protected]/to/file.json
./pants --scope-option="@path/to/file.json"

🚧

Gotcha: If you modify the value file, you must manually restart pantsd

Until we resolve this issue, changing
the value in a file used with the @ syntax as described above will not invalidate the build.
For now, if such a file changes you will have to restart the Pants daemon manually. You can
do so by killing it (after using ps -ef | grep pantsd to find its pid), or by running
Pants once with --no-pantsd.

.pants.rc file

You can set up personal Pants config files, using the same TOML syntax as pants.toml. By default, Pants looks for the paths /etc/pantsrc, ~/.pants.rc, and .pants.rc in the repository root.

For example:

[python]
# Even though our repository uses 3.8+, because I have an M1, 
# I must use Python 3.9+.
interpreter_constraints = ["==3.9.*"]

If you want to ban this feature, set [GLOBAL].pantsrc = false in pants.toml.


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