Skip to main content

A wrapper script for running TLA+ from the command line

Project description

tlacli: A CLI tool for TLA+

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official TLA+ tool and isn't a prototype for one. I'm not making any guarantees of backwards compatibility or non-breaking changes or whatever. It's just a script I find useful.

tlacli is a tool for running the TLC model checker from the command line. You can already run TLC from the command line, anyway, using tlc2.TLC, and tlacli only provides a subset of the functionality. It still has a few UX improvements, though:

  1. Nicer flag UX. Arguments follow the conventional "flag" format. You can spot-check a spec with just tlacli check specfile.tla.
  2. Saner defaults. It automatically uses Spec as your temporal formula, defaults to using a worker per CPU core, gives terse output, etc.
  3. You don't have to write a config file. You can define invariants, properties, and constants as command-line flags and tlacli will automatically build the proper config file for that run. You can also save the configuration as a template for future runs. You can also use both a config file and flags, where the config is a template and the flags are specializations.


You need Java and Python 3.7. There's no package yet; in the meantime, clone it and run pip install -e . This will be updated as I learn more about making python packages.

The requirements.txt is only needed for testing.

Translating PlusCal

tlacli translate specfile.tla

NOTE: By default this includes the -nocfg flag, which prevents the tool from overwritting your copy of specfile.cfg. Right now no other flags are supported. If you need flags, you can put them directly in the module file. See page 67 of the PlusCal manual.

Model Checking

tlacli check specfile.tla

By default, this runs specfile.tla with the specification Spec. You can change the run specification with the --spec flag. By default, this runs TLC with the -terse and -cleanup flags. The config file will be saved as temporary.cfg. You can change the filename with --cfg-out {name}.

NOTE: Running currently creates an empty states directory.

BUG: Currently you cannot pass in an absolute path for the specfile, at least on windows. You can pass in a relative path. See this tlatools issue. This is not an issue for pluscal translation.


You can specify invariants and properties from the command line. Use the --invariant {inv} flag and the --property {prop} flag, respectively. Both accept multiple operators.

NOTE: If --invariant or --property are the last flags passed in, the script will assume your specfile is an invariant! You can prevent this by adding a --.

tlacli check --invariant Inv1 Inv2 -- specfile.tla

You can also use --inv and --prop, but this may change in the future.


You can assign constants with --constant {name} {value}. Each constant must be a separate flag. You can put in sets, tuples, etc by putting {value} in quotes. Use single quotes if you want to put in strings.

tlacli check --constant Max 4 --constant Threads '{1, 2}' specfile.tla
tlacli check --constant Colors '{\"red\", \"green\"}' specfile.tla

Model Values

If you need several model values, you can specify them all in a single --model-values {m1} {m2} ... flag.

tlacli check --model_values A B C Null Server -- specfile.tla

Sets of Model Values

Use an ordinary assignment. You don't need a --model-values flag first.

# Wrong
tlacli check --model-values m1 m2 m3 --constant ModelSet "{m1, m2, m3}" specfile.tla

# Right
tlacli check --constant ModelSet "{m1, m2, m3}" specfile.tla

Symmetry sets are not yet supported.

Configuration Templates

You can specify a template configuration with --cfg template.cfg:

tlacli check --cfg foo.cfg specfile.tla

tlacli can only read things that are also expressible as flags. Currently, this means invariants, properties, specification, and (most) constants. Everything else is ignored. It's a simple text parser and may miss things formated in an unexpected way. The one guarantee: If you write a file a config with --cfg-out and later read it with --cfg, the whole config will be read properly.

A template can be used in conjunction with the other flags. Currently this adds the additional flags on top of the template. The plan is that if the flags and the template conflict, the flags take priority. This will let us specialize a template.


Eh make a PR or something


Use pytest. This is currently broken because I need to add fixtures



  • Translating PlusCal (halfway done)
  • Implement and document all the TLC options here:
    • TLC option passthrough
  • Symmetry model sets
  • More post-run cleanup
  • Maybe use fewer workers per run by default
  • Advanced config options:
    • VIEW (chaos reigns)
    • Operator Overrides / Constant Operators
  • Explanations on what you can and can't assign in a config file (anything that doesn't require EXTENDS, I think)
  • Writing on landmines and stuff
  • Actually get the package on PyPI


  • Store config if you have a lot of flags you need to pass. Would be overridden by actual flags
  • --show-cfg and --show-script for debugging purposes
  • Get rid of the horrible pkg_resources kludge for accessing the jar

Out of Scope

  • INIT-NEXT config
  • TLAPS and tla2tex
  • Toolbox-only features like profiling, running in the cloud, trace explorer, "evaluate constant expression"

Project details

Download files

Download the file for your platform. If you're not sure which to choose, learn more about installing packages.

Source Distribution

tlacli-0.0.1.tar.gz (2.2 MB view hashes)

Uploaded source

Built Distribution

tlacli-0.0.1-py3-none-any.whl (2.2 MB view hashes)

Uploaded py3

Supported by

AWS AWS Cloud computing and Security Sponsor Datadog Datadog Monitoring Fastly Fastly CDN Google Google Download Analytics Microsoft Microsoft PSF Sponsor Pingdom Pingdom Monitoring Sentry Sentry Error logging StatusPage StatusPage Status page