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sh is a full-fledged subprocess replacement so beautiful that makes you want to cry. It allows you to call any program as if it were a function:

from sh import ifconfig


wlan0   Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:00:00:00:00:00
        inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
        inet6 addr: ffff::ffff:ffff:ffff:fff/64 Scope:Link
        RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
        TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
        collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000
        RX bytes:0 (0 GB)  TX bytes:0 (0 GB)

Note that these aren't Python functions, these are running the binary commands on your system by dynamically resolving your $PATH, much like Bash does, and then wrapping the binary in a function. In this way, all the programs on your system are available to you from within Python.


pip install sh


Passing arguments"-l", "/tmp", color="never")

If the command gives you a syntax error (like pass), you can use bash.

sh.bash("-c", "pass")

Handling exceptions

Normal processes exit with exit code 0. You can access the program return code with RunningCommand.exit_code:

output = ls("/")
print(output.exit_code) # should be 0

If a process terminates, and the exit code is not 0, sh generates an exception dynamically. This lets you catch a specific return code, or catch all error return codes through the base class ErrorReturnCode:

except sh.ErrorReturnCode_2:
    print("folder doesn't exist!")
except sh.ErrorReturnCode:
    print("unknown error")

The exception object is an sh command object, which has, between other , the stderr and stdout bytes attributes with the errors. To show them use:

except sh.ErrorReturnCode as error:
    print(str(error.stderr, 'utf8'))

Redirecting output


Running in background

By default, each running command blocks until completion. If you have a long-running command, you can put it in the background with the _bg=True special kwarg:

# blocks
print("...3 seconds later")

# doesn't block
p = sleep(3, _bg=True)
print("prints immediately!")
print("...and 3 seconds later")

You’ll notice that you need to call RunningCommand.wait() in order to exit after your command exits.

Commands launched in the background ignore SIGHUP, meaning that when their controlling process (the session leader, if there is a controlling terminal) exits, they will not be signalled by the kernel. But because sh commands launch their processes in their own sessions by default, meaning they are their own session leaders, ignoring SIGHUP will normally have no impact. So the only time ignoring SIGHUP will do anything is if you use _new_session=False, in which case the controlling process will probably be the shell from which you launched python, and exiting that shell would normally send a SIGHUP to all child processes.

If you want to terminate the process use p.kill().

Output callbacks

In combination with _bg=True, sh can use callbacks to process output incrementally by passing a callable function to _out and/or _err. This callable will be called for each line (or chunk) of data that your command outputs:

from sh import tail

def process_output(line):

p = tail("-f", "/var/log/some_log_file.log", _out=process_output, _bg=True)

To “quit” your callback, simply return True. This tells the command not to call your callback anymore. This does not kill the process though see Interactive callbacks for how to kill a process from a callback.

The line or chunk received by the callback can either be of type str or bytes. If the output could be decoded using the provided encoding, a str will be passed to the callback, otherwise it would be raw bytes.

Interactive callbacks

Commands may communicate with the underlying process interactively through a specific callback signature. Each command launched through sh has an internal STDIN queue.Queue that can be used from callbacks:

    def interact(line, stdin):
        if line == "What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?":
            stdin.put("What do you mean? An African or European swallow?")

        elif line == "Huh? I... I don't know that....AAAAGHHHHHH":
            return True

            stdin.put("I don't know....AAGGHHHHH")
            return True

    p = sh.bridgekeeper(_out=interact, _bg=True)

You can also kill or terminate your process (or send any signal, really) from your callback by adding a third argument to receive the process object:

def process_output(line, stdin, process):
    if "ERROR" in line:
        return True

p = tail("-f", "/var/log/some_log_file.log", _out=process_output, _bg=True)

The above code will run, printing lines from some_log_file.log until the word ERROR appears in a line, at which point the tail process will be killed and the script will end.

Interacting with programs that ask input from the user


Check the interactive callbacks or this issue, as it looks like a cleaner solution.

sh allows you to interact with programs that asks for user input. The documentation is not clear on how to do it, but between the function callbacks documentation, and the example on how to enter an SSH password we can deduce how to do it.

Imagine we've got a python script that asks the user to enter a username so it can save it in a file.

File: /tmp/

answer = input("Enter username: ")

with open("/tmp/user.txt", "w+") as f:

When we run it in the terminal we get prompted and answer with lyz:

$: /tmp/
Enter username: lyz

$: cat /tmp/user.txt

To achieve the same goal automatically with sh we'll need to use the function callbacks. They are functions we pass to the sh command through the _out argument.

import sys
import re

aggregated = ""

def interact(char, stdin):
    global aggregated
    aggregated += char
    if"Enter username: ", aggregated, re.MULTILINE):


In the example above we've created an interact function that will get called on each character of the stdout of the command. It will be called on each character because we passed the argument _out_bufsize=0. Check the ssh password example to see why we need that.

As it's run on each character, and we need to input the username once the program is expecting us to enter the input and not before, we need to keep track of all the printed characters through the global aggregated variable. Once the regular expression matches what we want, sh will inject the desired value.

Remember to add the \n at the end of the string you want to inject.

If the output never matches the regular expression, you'll enter an endless loop, so you need to know before hand all the possible user input prompts.


sh can be patched in your tests the typical way, with unittest.mock.patch():

from unittest.mock import patch
import sh

def get_something():
    return sh.pwd()

@patch("sh.pwd", create=True)
def test_something(pwd):
    pwd.return_value = "/"
    assert get_something() == "/"

The important thing to note here is that create=True is set. This is required because sh is a bit magical and patch will fail to find the pwd command as an attribute on the sh module.

You may also patch the Command class:

from unittest.mock import patch
import sh

def get_something():
    pwd = sh.Command("pwd")
    return pwd()

def test_something(Command):
    Command().return_value = "/"
    assert get_something() == "/"

Notice here we do not need create=True, because Command is not an automatically generated object on the sh module (it actually exists).


Last update: 2022-08-12