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Instant coding answers via the command line

Project description


instant coding answers via the command line

Sherlock, your neighborhood sloth sleuth

Sherlock, your neighborhood sloth sleuth.

Are you a hack programmer? Do you find yourself constantly Googling for how to do basic programming tasks?

Suppose you want to know how to format a date in bash. Why open your browser and read through blogs (risking major distraction) when you can simply stay in the console and ask howdoi:

$ howdoi format date bash
> DATE=`date +%Y-%m-%d`

howdoi will answer all sorts of queries:

$ howdoi print stack trace python
> import traceback
> try:
>     1/0
> except:
>     print '>>> traceback <<<'
>     traceback.print_exc()
>     print '>>> end of traceback <<<'
> traceback.print_exc()

$ howdoi convert mp4 to animated gif
> video=/path/to/video.avi
> outdir=/path/to/output.gif
> mplayer "$video" \
>         -ao null \
>         -ss "00:01:00" \  # starting point
>         -endpos 10 \ # duration in second
>         -vo gif89a:fps=13:output=$outdir \
>         -vf scale=240:180

$ howdoi create tar archive
> tar -cf backup.tar --exclude "www/subf3" www


pip install howdoi


pip install git+


python install

New to howdoi?

howdoi howdoi


usage: [-h] [-p POS] [-a] [-l] [-c] [-j] [-n NUM_ANSWERS] [-C] [-v] [-e ENGINE] [--save] [--view] [--remove] [--empty] QUERY [QUERY ...]

instant coding answers via the command line

positional arguments:
  QUERY                 the question to answer

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -p POS, --pos POS     select answer in specified position (default: 1)
  -a, --all             display the full text of the answer
  -l, --link            display only the answer link
  -c, --color           enable colorized output
  -j, --json-output     return answers in raw json format, to pretty print try 'howdoi pretty print json command line'
  -n NUM_ANSWERS, --num-answers NUM_ANSWERS
                        number of answers to return
  -C, --clear-cache     clear the cache
  -v, --version         displays the current version of howdoi
  -e ENGINE, --engine ENGINE  change search engine for this query only. Currently supported engines: google (default), bing, duckduckgo.
  --save                stash a howdoi answer
  --view                view your stash
  --remove              remove an entry in your stash
  --empty               empty your stash

Using the howdoi stashing feature (for more advanced features view the keep documentation).

stashing: howdoi --save QUERY
viewing: howdoi --view
removing: howdoi --remove (will be prompted which one to delete)
emptying: howdoi --empty (empties entire stash, will be prompted to confirm)

As a shortcut, if you commonly use the same parameters each time and don’t want to type them, add something similar to your .bash_profile (or otherwise). This example gives you 5 colored results each time.

alias h='function hdi(){ howdoi $* -c -n 5; }; hdi'

And then to run it from the command line simply type:

$h this is my query for howdoi



  • Works with Python2 and Python3
  • There is a GUI that wraps howdoi.
  • There is a Flask webapp that wraps howdoi.
  • An Alfred Workflow for howdoi can be found at
  • Slack integration available through slack-howdoi.
  • Howdoi uses a cache for faster access to previous questions. Caching functionality can be disabled by setting the HOWDOI_DISABLE_CACHE environment variable. The cache is stored in ~/.cache/howdoi.
  • You can set the HOWDOI_URL environment variable to change the source url for answers (default:, also supported:,, full list).
  • You can set the HOWDOI_SEARCH_ENGINE environment variable to change the underlying search engine for StackOverflow links (default: google, also supported: bing, duckduckgo). The -e flag will switch the underlying engine for a single query.
  • Setting the HOWDOI_COLORIZE environment variable will colorize the output by default.
  • Special thanks to Rich Jones (@miserlou) for the idea.
  • More thanks to Ben Bronstein for the logo.


  • Checkout the repo
  • Run python -m howdoi.howdoi QUERY (if you try running python howdoi/ you might get ValueError: Attempted relative import in non-package).

If you would like to use howdoi from within a python script, just pass your query to howdoi.howdoi():

from howdoi import howdoi

query = "for loop python"
output = howdoi.howdoi(query)

Or parse it yourself (either work):

from howdoi import howdoi

query = "for loop python"
parser = howdoi.get_parser()
args = vars(parser.parse_args(query.split(' ')))

output = howdoi.howdoi(args)

Extension Development

To simplify the process of integrating howdoi as a code editor extension, edit the files within the extension/code-editor-integration folder.

To improve upon the Visual Studio Code howdoi extension, edit the files within the extension/vscode-ext folder and republish the extension.

Code Editor Integration

Head over to the for an in depth explanation on beginning development for the howdoi code editor integration plug-in.

Visual Studio Code Extension

To begin development for the Visual Studio Code extension, install all necessary packages:

npm install

Then, precompile the extension:

npm run precompile

To run and test the extension, utilize Visual Studio Code’s debugging tools.

Visual Studio Code Extension Installation

howdoi can now be installed as an extension on Visual Studio Code! There are two ways to install it:

  1. On the Visual Studio Code MarketPlace:
  • Head over to the MarketPlace to install the extension.
  1. Directly from the packaged extension:
  • Head over here to locally install the howdoi Visual Studio Code package.


I’m happy to accept pull requests that make howdoi better. If you’re thinking of contributing and want a little feedback before you jump into the codebase, post an issue on Github.

Before PRs are accepted they must pass all Travis tests and not have any flake8 or pylint warnings or errors. This projects uses vanilla configuration files for both linters (.flake8rc and .pylintrc in the root directory), but with a max line length of 119.


You might get the following error when installing with Homebrew:

==> python install

Please make the appropriate changes for your system and try again.

Fix the error by executing the following command:

sudo chmod -R go+w /Library/Python/2.7/site-packages/

An official lxml for python 3.3+ for windows has not yet been released. You may get an error while installing. Try and install an unofficial binary for lxml from



  • Fix issue where -a would not return a proper response due to updated CSS on StackOverflow.


  • New logo and colors!


  • Cachelib rollback to support Python 2.7
  • Better error message when Google is being blocked (for example in China)


  • Bring back Python 2.7 support (for now)


  • Fixed keep support for stashing and viewing answers


  • Added JSON output with the -j flag (great for consuming howdoi results for use in other apps)
  • Added stashing ability for saving useful answer for later (based on
  • Added caching for tests to prevent being rate limited by Google while developing
  • Added easier method for calling howdoi when imported (howdoi.howdoi)


  • Fix dependency issue


  • Massive speed improvements of startup, answer fetching, and caching
  • Command line flags for alternate search engines
  • Remove duplicate answers


  • Links displayed with markdown syntax
  • Improved performance and caching (again)


  • Improved performance and caching
  • More friendly answer display
  • Added support for Python 3.6
  • Removed support for Python 2.6


  • Add additional search engine support


  • Fix issue with UTF-8 encoding


  • Include the link in output when asking for >1 answer
  • Compatibility with linuxbrew


  • Fix issue with upload to PyPI


  • Fix colorization when HOWDOI_COLORIZE env variable is enabled
  • Fix certificate validation when SSL disabled


  • Add Localization support with HOWDOI_LOCALIZATION env variable (Currently only pt-br and en)


  • Updates for Python3
  • Updates for caching


  • Updates for Python3
  • Fix issues with cache
  • Allow disabling SSL when accessing Google


  • Added caching


  • Added fix to handle change in Google search page HTML
  • Updated Travis CI tests


  • Compatibility fixes for Python3.2
  • Travis CI tests now being run for Python 2.6, 2.7, 3.2, and 3.3


  • Added message when question has no answer


  • Added multiple answers with -n/–num-answers flag
  • Added colorized output with -c/–color flag
  • Added answer link to the bottom of questions with -a/–all flag
  • Unit tests now managed through Travis CI


  • Added support for Python3
  • Switched to the requests library instead of urllib2
  • Project status changed to Production/Stable
  • Added troubleshooting steps to the README


  • Added sane flags
  • Now using /usr/bin/env python instead of /usr/bin/python
  • Updated README for brew installation instructions


  • Added Windows executable
  • Updated README for pip installation instructions


  • Added to PyPI


  • We’re doing it live!

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