|  +------------+  IPC  +------------+  |
             |  |    cli     | ----- |  backend   |  |
User <-----> |  |------------|       |------------|  |
             |  |cli plugins |       | be plugins |  |
             |  +------------+       +------------+  |

The CLI uses is a central part of Clixon. CLIgen can stand on its own but is fully integrated into Clixon. This section describes the Clixon integration, for details on CLI syntax, etc, please consult the tutorial.

Once the backend is started, the easiest way to use Clixon is via the CLI. Clixon comes with a generated CLI, the auto-cli, where all configuration-related syntax is generated from YANG. You can also create a completely manually-made CLI.

Using the CLI

The following example shows an auto-cli session from the main example how to add an interface in candidate, validate and commit it to running, then look at it as xml and cli and finally delete it:

clixon_cli -f /usr/local/etc/example.xml
cli> set interfaces interface eth9 ?
  description               enabled                   ipv4
  ipv6                      link-up-down-trap-enable  type
cli> set interfaces interface eth9 type ex:eth
cli> validate
cli> commit
cli> show configuration xml
<interfaces xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:yang:ietf-interfaces">
cli> show configuration cli
set interfaces interface eth9
set interfaces interface eth9 type ex:eth
set interfaces interface eth9 enabled true
cli> delete interfaces interface eth9

CLI specs and plugins

When defining a CLI frontend, there are two kinds of CLI specification files:

  • Clispecs: CLI specification files (clispecs) written in CLIgen syntax.
  • Plugins: Dynamic loadable plugin files loaded by clixon_cli at startup. Callbacks from clispec files are resolved and need to exist as symbols either in the CLixon libs or in the plugin file.

The following example shows examples of both files taken from the main example. First, a clispec file containing two commands:

show("Show state") config("Show configuration"), cli_show_config("candidate", "text", "/");
example("Callback example") <var:int32>("any number"), mycallback("myarg");

In the CLI, these will generate CLI commands such as:

show config
example 23

The effect of typing the commands above is calling the callbacks: cli_show_config and mycallback. Both these functions must exist as C-functions. In fact, cli_show_config is a library function available in the Clixon libs, while mycallback is defined in the main example CLI plugin.

In this way, a designer writes cli command specifications which invokes C-callbacks. If there are no appropriate callbacks the designer must write a new callback function.

Cli spec variables

A CLI specification file typically starts with the following variables:

A colon-separated list of CLIgen modes. The CLI spec in the file are added to all modes specified in the list. You can also use wildcards * and ?.
A string describing the CLI prompt using a very simple format with: %H (host) , %U (user) , %T (tty), %W (working path).
The name of the object file containing callbacks in this file.

Clixon config options

The following config options are related to clispec and plugin files (clixon config options), ie they are set in the XML Clixon config file:

Directory containing frontend cli loadable plugins. Load all .so plugins in this directory as CLI object plugins.
Directory containing frontend cligen spec files. Load all .cli files in this directory as CLI specification files.
Specific frontend cligen spec file as alternative or complement to CLICON_CLISPEC_DIR. Also available as -c in clixon_cli.

CLI callbacks

CLI callback functions are “library” functions that an application may call from a clispec. A user is expected to create new application-specific callbacks.

As an example, consider the following clispec:

example("Callback example") <var:int32>("any number"), mycallback("myarg");

containing a keyword (example) and a variable (var) and mycallback is a cli callback with argument: (myarg).

In C, the callback has the following signature:

int mycallback(clicon_handle h, cvec *cvv, cvec *argv);

Suppose a user enters the following command in the CLI:

cli> example 23

The callback is called with the following parameters:

   0: example 23
   1: 23
   0: "myarg"

which means that cvv contains dynamic values set by the user, and argv contains static values set by the clispec designer.


The CLI can have different modes which is controlled by a config option and some internal clispec variables. The config option is:

Startup CLI mode. This should match a CLICON_MODE variable setting in one of the clispec files. Default is “base”.

Inside the clispec files CLICON_MODE is used to specify to which modes the syntax in a specific file defines. For example, if you have major modes configure and operation you can have a file with commands for only that mode, or files with commands in both, (or in all).

First, lets add a single command in the configure mode:

show configure;

Then add syntax to both modes:

show("Show") files("Show files");

Finally, add a command to all modes:

show("Show") all("Show all");

Note that CLI command trees are merged so that show commands in other files are shown together. Thus, for example, using the clispecs above the two modes are the three commands in total for the configure mode:

> clixon_cli -m configure
cli> show <TAB>
  all     routing      files

but only two commands in the operation mode:

> clixon_cli -m operation
cli> show <TAB>
  all      files


Clixon CLI have the following terminal related options:

Set to 0 if you want CLI to wrap to next line. Set to 1 if you want CLI to scroll sideways when approaching right margin (default).

Set to number of CLI terminal rows for pagination/scrolling. 0 means unlimited. The number is set statically UNLESS:

  • there is no terminal, such as file input, in which case nr lines is 0
  • there is a terminal sufficiently powerful to read the number of lines from ioctl calls.

In other words, this setting is used ONLY on raw terminals such as serial consoles.


Clixon CLI supports persistent command history. There are two CLI history related configuration options:

The file containing the history, default value is: ~/.clixon_cli_history
Max number of history line, default value is 300.
The design is similar to bash history but is simpler in some respects:
  • The CLI loads/saves its complete history to a file on entry and exit, respectively
  • The size (number of lines) of the file is the same as the history in memory
  • Only the latest session dumping its history will survive (bash merges multiple session history).

Further, tilde-expansion is supported and if history files are not found or lack appropriate access will not cause an exit but are logged at debug level


You use sub-trees using the tree operator @. Every mode gets assigned a tree which can be referenced as @name. This tree can be either on the top-level or as a sub-tree. For example, create a specific sub-tree that is used as sub-trees in other modes:

  a, a();
  b, b();

then access that subtree from other modes:

main @subtree;
other @subtree,c();

The configure mode will now use the same subtree in two different commands. Additionally, in the other command, the callbacks are overwritten by c. That is, if other a, or other b is called, callback function c is invoked.

Help strings

Help strings are specified using the following example syntax: ("help string"). help strings are shown at queries, eg “?”:

cli> show <?>
   all       Show all
   routing   Show routing
   files     Show files

For long or multi-line help strings the following options exists:

Set to 0 to wrap long help strings to the next line. (default) Set to 1 to truncate long help strings at the right margin
Set to 0 to have no limit on the number of help string lines per command Set to <n> to limit the the number of help string lines

Long and multi-line help strings may especially be needed in the auto-cli, see The Auto-CLI.

Running CLI scripts

The CLI can run scripts using either the -1 option for single commands:

clixon_cli -1 show version

Or using the -F <file> command-line option to redirect input from file

clixon_cli -F file

Or using “shebang”:

#!/usr/local/bin/clixon_cli -F
show version

The Auto-CLI

The auto-cli contains parts that are generated from a YANG specification.


Consider a YANG specification, such as:

container x{
  list y{
    key k;
    leaf k{
      type string;

If the clixon_cli is started with -G -o CLICON_CLI_GENMODEL=1 it prints the following cli-spec:

   y (<k:string> |
      <k:string expand_dbvar("candidate","/example:x/y=%s/k")>),
This cli-spec forms the basis of the auto-cli and contains the following:
  • Keywords for the YANG symbol (eg x and y).
  • Variable syntax for leafs (eg <k:string>)
  • Non-terminal nodes can be entered as automatic modes with prompt showing the current path
  • Completion callbacks for variables with existing datastore syntax (eg expand_dbvar()). That is, existing datastore content is shown as alternatives.
  • Output syntax as cli, xml, json, as netconf commands
  • overwrite_me is a callback template which is overwritten by an actual callback in the clispec (eg cli_set())

The auto-cli syntax can be copied and loaded separately (in another mode file), or much simpler, just use the @datamodel tree directly in the regular cli-spec:

edit @datamodel, cli_auto_edit("datamodel", "candidate");
up, cli_auto_up("datamodel", "candidate");
top, cli_auto_top("datamodel", "candidate");
set @datamodel, cli_auto_set();
merge @datamodel, cli_auto_merge();
create @datamodel, cli_auto_create();
delete("Delete a configuration item") @datamodel, cli_auto_del();
delete("Delete a configuration item") all("Delete whole candidate configuration"), delete_all("candidate");
show("Show a particular state of the system"){
  configuration("Show configuration"), cli_auto_show("datamodel", "candidate", "text", true, false);{
          xml("Show configuration as XML"), cli_auto_show("datamodel", "candidate", "xml", true, false);
          cli("Show configuration as CLI commands"), cli_auto_show("datamodel", "candidate", "cli", true, false, "set ");
  state("Show configuration and state"), cli_auto_show("datamodel", "running", "text", true, true); {
          xml("Show configuration and state as XML"), cli_auto_show("datamodel", "running", "xml", true, true);


The operations used in the autocli are based on RFC 6241: NETCONF Configuration Protocol:

  • merge: merge with configuration at the corresponding level
  • set (actually replace): replace existing configuration
  • create: added to configuration
  • delete: deleted from configuration


An example run of the above example is:

olof@alarik> clixon_cli -f /usr/local/etc/example.xml
olof@alarik /> set x
olof@alarik /> set x y 23
olof@alarik /> show configuration
<x xmlns="urn:example:clixon"><y><k>23</k></y></x>
olof@alarik /> edit x
olof@alarik /clixon-example:x> show configuration
olof@alarik /clixon-example:x> up
olof@alarik />

The example shows an automated cli generated by the YANG model, with completion as well as config to cli syntax.

Hidden commands

You can implement the “hidden command” cligen feature by using the “autocli-op” extension in clixon-lib.yang. This is done by annotating a YANG specification with that extension. In the auto-cli, that command will not active but not visible in the CLI.

Example YANG with hide extension of “val” leaf:

import clixon-lib{
   prefix cl;
container x{
   list y{
      leaf val{
         type string;
         cl:autocli-op hide;


The config options for generated config tree is:

CLICON_CLI_GENMODEL, a numeric that can have the following values:
  1. Do not generate CLISPEC syntax for the auto-cli.
  2. Generate a CLI specification for CLI completion of all loaded Yang modules. This CLI tree can be accessed in CLI-spec files using the tree reference syntax (eg @datamodel).
  3. Same including state syntax in a tree called @datamodelstate.
A string treename. CLI specs can reference the model syntax using this reference. Example: set @mydatamodel, cli_set(); Default is datamodel. Note that there are two variants of this tree: datamodelshow and datamodelstate.
Generate code for CLI completion of existing db symbols. If set to 0, the expand rules will not be generated.
CLICON_CLI_GENMODEL_TYPE, How to generate and show CLI syntax.
  • NONE No keywords on non-keys: x y <k> (example has only a key so same as VARS)
  • VARS Keywords on non-key variables: x y <k>
  • ALL Keywords on all variables: x y k <k>
  • HIDE Keywords on non-key variables and hide container around lists: y <k>
  • OC_COMPRESS Compress OpenConfig paths, see for more information
List of module names that are not generated autocli for.


The Yang bits built-in type as defined in RFC 7950 Sec 9.7 provides a set of bit names. In the CLI, the names should be given in a white-spaced delimited list, such as "fin syn rst".

The RFC defines a “canonical form”where the bits appear ordered by their position in YANG, but Clixon validation accepts them in any order.

Given them in XML and JSON follows thus, eg XML:

<flags>fin rst syn</flags>

Clixon CLI does not treat individual bits as “first-level objects”. Instead it only validates the whole string of bit names. Operations (add/remove) are made atomically on the whole string.


CLIgen supports wrapper functions that can take the output of a callback and transform it to something else.

The CLI can perform variable translation. This is useful if you want to process the input, such as hashing, encrypting or in other way translate the input.

The following example is based on the main Clixon example and is included in the regression tests. In the following CLI specification, a “translate” command sets a modifed value to the “table/parameter=translate/value”:

translate <value:string translate:cli_incstr()>, cli_set("/clixon-example:table/parameter=translate/value");

If you run this example using the cli_incstr() function which increments the characters in the input, you get this result:

cli> translate HAL
cli> show configuration
table {
   parameter {
      name translate;
      value IBM;

The example is very simple and based on strings, but can be used also for other types and more advanced functions.