Python: How to access command-line arguments (3 approaches)

Updated: February 23, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


In the realm of Python programming, command-line arguments provide a dynamic data input mechanism for scripts executed from the terminal or command prompt. Understanding how to effectively harness these inputs can greatly enhance the flexibility and usability of your Python applications. This tutorial will guide you through accessing command-line arguments using Python in multiple ways, illustrated through 3 practical examples.

Understanding Command-Line Arguments

Command-line arguments are parameters that are passed to a program when it is invoked through a command-line interface (CLI). These arguments are typically used to specify options or provide input data to a program. In Python, command-line arguments are accessible via the sys module, which provides access to some variables used or maintained by the Python interpreter and functions that interact strongly with the interpreter.

Approach #1: Basic Argument Retrieval with Python’s Built-in Feature

The simplest form of accessing command-line arguments in Python is by using the sys.argv attribute. This section of the sys module provides a list of command-line arguments, including the script name. Let’s look at a basic example:

import sys

# Print the name of the script
print("Script name: ", sys.argv[0])

# Print all arguments including the script name
print("All arguments including script name: ", sys.argv)

# Print all arguments excluding the script name
print("Arguments excluding script name: ", sys.argv[1:])

This script illuminates how sys.argv functions, displaying the script name, all arguments, and all arguments excluding the script name upon execution.

Approach #2: Parsing Command-Line Arguments with argparse

For more advanced usage, including the ability to define mandatory arguments, set default values, and generate helpful usage messages, the argparse module comes into play. Let’s explore an example that processes an input file and an optional verbosity level.

import argparse

# Create the parser
define_parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description='Process some integers.')

# Add arguments
define_parser.add_argument('input_file', type=str, help='Input file path')
define_parser.add_argument('--verbosity', type=int, choices=[0, 1, 2], help='Increase output verbosity')

# Parse the arguments
args = define_parser.parse_args()

# Access arguments
print(f'Input file: {args.input_file}')
if args.verbosity is not None:
    print(f'Verbosity level: {args.verbosity}')

This instance facilitates a clearer understanding of how argparse allows for more complex argument parsing and assistance in generating usage messages for end-users.

Approach #3: Leveraging Click for Command-Line Applications

A third approach, ideal for building command-line interfaces (CLI), involves using the Click library. Unlike sys and argparse, Click offers decorators to define commands and options, making code more readable and concise. The installation of Click is required and can be done via pip:

pip install click

Here’s a basic example:

import click

@click.option('--name', prompt='Your name', help='Enter your name')
def greeting(name):
    click.echo(f'Hello {name}!')

if __name__ == '__main__':

This snippet demonstrates creating a simple command-line application that prompts the user for their name and greets them, showcasing Click’s simplicity and effectiveness for building user-friendly CLIs.


Understanding and utilizing command-line arguments in Python empowers developers to build versatile and interactive applications. Whether through direct access with sys.argv, advanced parsing with argparse, or developing full-fledged CLI applications with Click, Python offers robust solutions. Experimentation with these examples will strengthen your command over Python’s capabilities for processing command-line arguments, enhancing the flexibility and interaction of your programs.