This document specifies the args file format. This format is designed to provide a lightweight file format to save and manage arguments for application that can be started with additional arguments.

The interface for complex applications[1], that do more then one thing, can sometimes be hard to use and even harder to remember. It is possible to avoiding this problem by creating wrapper shell scripts (with just one line), searching in the shell history for old calls or using a shell snippets manager[2]. Some applications allow to use config files[3] that define in a file format the values that should be used by the applications.

The args file format allows to store complex application calls in a defined file format that can be read by the application.

args files are no executables and can also be used as config file. The idea is to use for the commandline and the config file the same interface.

You can use the command line tool injarg[4] if your app does not support args files.

Notation and Conventions

The extension of an args file should be .args. Basicly represents each line in a args file an argument with the following exceptions.

  • empty lines are ignored

  • lines that start with #(U+0023) are comments that will be ignored

  • lines that start with $ (U+0024 U+0020) are viewed as line with multiple values

  • lines that start with |(U+007C) will be concatenate with the last value of the prior line, the following options are available

    • | (U+007C U+0020), no seperator will be placed between the concatenated lines

    • |= (U+007C U+003D U+0020), =(U+003D) will be placed between the concatenated lines

    • |s (U+007C U+0073 U+0020), a space character (U+0020) will be placed between the concatenated lines

    • |t (U+007C U+0074 U+0020), a horizontal tabulator (U+0009) will be placed between the concatenated lines

    • |n (U+007C U+006E u+0020), a new line (U+000A) will be placed between the concatenated lines


The following example shows how you can write the arguments for an application.

$ ffmpeg -nostdin -b 250k -strict experimental -deinterlace -vcodec h264 -acodec aac example.mp4









It is useful to use the following schema for the naming of an args file:

APPNAME[.VARIANT].args --> toolXYZ.flags.args or toolXYZ.args

This naming schema allows to create and store for applications more than one args file in the same directory and the automatic detection of the args files for an application.


If you want to allow the use of args files in your application is the minimum requirement to add the commandline argument --args that takes the path to an args file and should be insert all arguments from the args file at this position.

|= abc

|s ipsum
$ toolXYZ --args toolXYZ.flags.args example.txt
resolved commandline
$ toolXYZ -no-output -force --mode=abc --text "lorem ipsum" example.txt

An advanced integration handles default arguments for an application if no --args argument is used. Default arguments are stored in the working directory and use the naming schema The application should detect the file and insert all arguments automatically as the first arguments. The automatic loading of the default arguments can be disabled with the argument --no-auto-args.

The most user-friendly integration checks, if no --args argument is used, for all args files in a working directory and allow the user to select the variant for this application that should be used. The detaction of args files should be disengageable with the commandline flag --no-args. This flag also disables the automatic loading of the default arguments.


A reference implementation in Lua is part of LuaZDF[5].