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Pythonic subprocess library

Project description


Pythonic subprocess library


aush is a Python library to make calling other programs and getting their output as easy as possible. It's intended to be the best possible melding of shell scripting and Python. It's aushome.


Command line programs are basically “functions” available to call from any other language, whose signature looks like: list[str] -> (code: smallint, stdout: stream, stedrr: stream). That's what calls like execve are doing underneath.

The goal of this library is to make calling those functions as natural as possible within Python.


So often I've found myself writing a small Bash/shell script that just calls some programs and maybe does some conditionals. Naturally, it has to start with

#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -Eeuxo pipefail

for a "strict mode" that has some of the same failure properties you expect a program to have, such as that your program doesn't just keep running when a command fails, it won't silently proceed if you use undeclared variables, and so on.

Then it frequently occurs to want to do something "hard" in shell, like string processing or data structures or even command-line argument parsing. Python has argparse in the stdlib, I don't want to mess with getopt. I want to be able to bust out some Pandas DataFrames or Requests requests, read json or whatever.

So often when I start with Bash, I wind up transitioning the script to Python, and that often feels terrible. Pipes become an unnatural operation. I can't just "redirect to a file" I need to know how to call to capture stdout (there are a few different ways), open and close the file, and so on. Instead, aush makes the transition from shell to Python feel better.

Here's the origin thread on


pip install aush


I recently make a create-python program that will initialize a Python project the same way every time, as a Poetry project with the same set of default dependencies, linters, and so on.

At first I created a shell script. Here's a portion:

poetry init \
  --no-interaction \
  --name="$1" \
  --author="$(git config --get" \
  --dev-dependency=pytest \
  --dev-dependency=ipython \
  --dev-dependency=pylint \
  --dev-dependency=mypy \
  --dev-dependency=black \

poetry install

Here's how that converts to Python:

cmd = ['git', 'config', '--get', '--global', '']
username = run(cmd, check=True, capture_output=True, text=True).stdout.strip()

cmd = [
  'poetry', 'init',
  '--name', sys.argv[1],
  '--author', username,
run(cmd, check=True)
run(['poetry', 'install'], check=True)

Here's how that looks now using aush:

    no_interaction = True,
    name =,
    author = git.config(get=''),
    dev_dependency = ['pytest', 'ipython', 'pylint', 'mypy', 'black', 'pudb'],

I think that finally feels better than either shell or Python alone. Feel free to look at create-python's history where I convert it from shell to Python and try various libraries along the way.


aush has Commands and Results. You make a base command like:

from aush import echo, git, python3

Then, any new command is immutably created from another command by either dot or indexing notation:

echo("*.sqlite3") > '.gitignore'
git.commit(m="Initial commit")

Here's an example of explicitly creating a command from another using index notation:

django_manage = python3[""]
    noinput = True,
    username = "admin",
    email = git.config(get=''),
    _env = dict(DJANGO_SUPERUSER_PASSWORD='password'),

Here's how that call to createsuperuser looks in equivalent shell:

DJANGO_SUPERUSER_PASSWORD='password' python3 createsuperuser \
  --noinput \
  --username admin \
  --email "$(git config"

Note that, like shell, in aush you don't have to manually merge in os.environ if you want to add new things to the environment.

A program gets executed when a function call () is made on a Command. That returns a Result. The result has .code, .stdout, and .stderr members to get the results of running the command. Using the Result you can also redirect stdout to a file with result > 'filename', bool(result) indicates success or failure of the command, and more.

aush calls follow the following conventions:

  • positional arguments are passed verbatim
  • single-letter keyword arguments are converted to single-dash arguments
  • longer keyword arguments are converted to double-dash arguments
  • underscores in keywords and program names are converted to dashes
  • if the value of a keyword argument is an iterable (not str), it is repeated

If the conventions don't do what you want, you can always fall back to passing exactly the strings you want, positionally, in the list way of creating commands.

aush Design Goals:

aush should provide the most convenient way to write "shell scripts"

  • make it easy to call subprocesses and get their outputs
  • make subprocesses calls look like idiomatic Python
  • favor convenience over performance/control (there are lower level APIs available to use)
  • but still enable shell performance patterns, such as:
    • piping and redirecting shouldn't have to wait for one process to complete in order to start
    • aush can (optionally) log stdout/stderr "as they happen" same as you would for a shell script
  • Safer subprocess management
    • be "safer" than shell scripts or Python
    • fewer opportunities for string substitution or incorrect input handling leading to deadlocks
    • throws exceptions on non-zero return codes (like set -e by default) to make it harder to miss error cases

Secondary design goals

  • it should make good use of asyncio, and eventually help script applications like expect
  • it should allow you to build tools around cli tools, like timestamping each line of output (something I miss from iTerm2)
  • just like you'd use Pandas to deal with tabular data (I'll often use it just to massage csvs) I hope aush can be useful for calling subprocesses in your programs, and help write safer programs that interact with subprocesses, and bigger "shell scripts" than you would otherwise
  • Allow aush to be a command-line program itself that does something? Maybe when called as a module it can provide testing utilities like my argv or randomtextgenerator. Maybe an "aush script" could find a way to automatically import anything not found in python space and try to run it? That way you can avoid the 'from aush import a million things' and turn logging on, etc.


  • aush is not a new language or an interactive shell; it's just a Python library


Q. Pronunciation?

A. It's pronounced "awwsh" ("au" as in "audible").

Q. Where does the name come from?

A. Originally I named it "autoshell", but when I went to put it on PyPI I found "autoshell" was taken, while the shorter present name wasn't.

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