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Instant coding answers via the command line

Project description

Sherlock, your neighborhood command-line sloth sleuth


Instant coding answers via the command line

⚡ Never open your browser to look for help again ⚡

build status downloads Python versions

Introduction to howdoi

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


New to howdoi?

howdoi howdoi



usage: howdoi [-h] [-p POS] [-n NUM] [-a] [-l] [-c] [-x] [-C] [-j] [-v] [-e [ENGINE]]
[--save] [--view] [--remove] [--empty] [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)
  -n NUM, --num NUM     number of answers to return (default: 1)
  -a, --all             display the full text of the answer
  -l, --link            display only the answer link
  -c, --color           enable colorized output
  -x, --explain         explain how answer was chosen
  -C, --clear-cache     clear the cache
  -j, --json            return answers in raw json format
  -v, --version         display the current version of howdoi
  -e [ENGINE], --engine [ENGINE]
                        search engine for this query (google, bing, duckduckgo)
  --save, --stash       stash a howdoi answer
  --view                view your stash
  --remove              remove an entry in your stash
  --empty               empty your stash

environment variable examples:

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 answer 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 format date bash

You can also search other StackExchange properties for answers: howdoi make pesto

or as an alias:

alias hcook='function hcook(){ howdoi $* ; }; hcook'
hcook make pesto

Other useful aliases:

alias hless='function hdi(){ howdoi $* -c | less --raw-control-chars --quit-if-one-screen --no-init; }; hdi'


How to contribute

We welcome contributions that make howdoi better and improve the existing functionalities of the project. We have created a separate guide to contributing to howdoi that explains how to get up and running with your first pull request.


Visual Studio Code Extension Installation

Head over to the MarketPlace to install the extension.



  • Update dependency versions
  • Add support for Python 3.10


  • Fix typo


  • Fixed issue with howdoi cache where cache misses would be printed to the console


  • New documentation and mkdocs
  • Fixed issue with how howdoi chooses the proper search engine (command line flags now override environment variables)
  • Added a search engine fallback if one of the search engines fails
  • Fixed issue with howdoi cache


  • Fix GDPR issue for those using howdoi in countries outside the US
  • Better support for using HOWDOI_URL


  • Add explainability with -x or --explain options
  • Better error checking for when search engines block queries
  • Using improved DuckDuckGo endpoint
  • Answer pages now fetched in parallel for speed improvement


  • Fix a number of bugs by switching from parsing Google links to looking for URLs instead


  • More permanent fix for extracting Google links


  • Hotfix for Google link formatting


  • Hotfix for Google link formatting


  • Hotfix for new Google classnames
  • Separate requirements.txt files for prod and dev


  • Cleaner command line options that also include environment variables
  • README updates


  • Fix issue for answers that have no code in the answer but code in the comments
  • Add range checks for -n and -p flags
  • Moved from Travis to Github Actions
  • Dropped Python 2.7 support


  • Update for new Google CSS style


  • 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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