Command Line Interpreter

The command line interpreter or command parser presented by the OVMS async serial console is constructed as a tree of command word tokens. Enter a single question mark followed by RETURN to get the root command list, like this:

.                    Run a script
bms                  BMS framework
boot                 BOOT framework
can                  CAN framework

A root command may be followed by one of a list of additional tokens called subcommands which in turn may be followed by further subcommands down multiple levels, forming a tree. The command and subcommand tokens may be followed by parameters. Use question mark at any level in the command sequence to get the list of subcommands applicable at that point. If the next item to be entered is a parameter rather than a subcommand, then a usage message will be displayed to indicate the required or optional parameters. The usage message will also be shown if the command as entered is not valid. The usage message is described in further detail below.

Command tokens can be abbreviated so long as enough characters are entered to uniquely identify the command. Optionally pressing TAB at that point will auto-complete the token. If the abbreviated form is not sufficient to be unique (in particular if no characters have been entered yet) then TAB will show a concise list of the possible subcommands and retype the portion of the command line already entered so it can be completed. Pressing TAB is legal at any point in the command; if there is nothing more that can be completed automatically then there will just be no response to the TAB.

OvmsCommand API

Each command word token in the tree is represented by an OvmsCommand object. The OvmsCommand::RegisterCommand() function is used to create and add a command or subcommand token object into the tree, returning an OvmsCommand* pointer to the new object. New commands are added to the root of the tree using the global MyCommandApp.RegisterCommand(). Subcommands are added as children of a command by calling RegisterCommand() using the OvmsCommand* pointer to the parent object, thus building the tree. For example:

OvmsCommand* cmd_wifi = MyCommandApp.RegisterCommand("wifi","WIFI framework", wifi_status);
cmd_wifi->RegisterCommand("status","Show wifi status",wifi_status);
cmd_wifi->RegisterCommand("reconnect","Reconnect wifi client",wifi_reconnect);

The RegisterCommand() function takes the following arguments:

  • const char* name – the command token
  • const char* title – one-line description for the command list
  • void (*execute)(...) – does the work of the command
  • const char *usage – parameter description for “Usage:” message
  • int min – minimum number of parameters allowed
  • int max – maximum number of parameters allowed
  • bool secure – true for commands permitted only after enable
  • int (*validate)(...) – validates parameters as explained later

The RegisterCommand() function tolerates duplicate registrations of the same name at the same node of the tree by assuming that the other arguments are also the same and returning the existing object. This allows mulitple modules that can be configured independently to share the same top-level command. For example, the obdii command is shared by the vehicle and obd2ecu modules.

Modules that can be dynamically loaded and unloaded must remove their commands from the tree using UnregisterCommand(const char* name) before unloading.

It’s important to note that many of the arguments to RegisterCommand() can and should be defaulted. The default values are as follows:

execute = NULL
usage = ""
min = 0
max = 0
secure = true
validate = NULL

For example, for secure, non-terminal commands (those with child subcommands), such as the top-level framework commands like bms in the list of root commands shown earlier, the model should simply be:

RegisterCommand("name", "Title");

For secure, terminal subcommands (those with no children) that don’t require any additional parameters, the model should be:

RegisterCommand("name", "Title", execute);

This model also applies if the command has children but the command itself wants to execute a default operation if no subcommand is specified. It is incorrect to specify min = 0, max = 1 to indicate an optional subcommand; that is indicated by the presence of the execute function along with a non-empty array of child subcommands.

Any command with required or optional parameters should provide a “usage” string hinting about the parameters in addition to specifying the minimum and maximum number of parameters allowed:

RegisterCommand("name", "Title", execute, "usage", min, max);

The usage argument only needs to describe the parameters that follow this (sub)command because the full usage message is dynamically generated. The message begins with the text “Usage: ” followed by the names of the ancestors of this subcommand back to the root of the tree plus the name of this subcommand itself. That is, the message starts with all the tokens entered to this point. The message continues with a description of subcommands and/or parameters that may be entered next, as specified by the usage string.


The usage message is not resricted to a single line; the usage string can include additional lines of explanatory text, separated by \n (newline) characters, to help convey the meaning of the paramters and the purpose of the command.

The usage string syntax conventions for specifying alternative and optional parameters are similar to those of usage messages in Unix-like systems. The string can also include special codes to direct the dynamic generation of the message:

  • $C expands to the list of children commands as child1|child2|child3.

  • [$C] expands to list optional children as [child1|child2|child3].

  • $G$ expands to the usage string of the first child; this would typically used after $C so the usage message shows the list of children and then the parameters or next-level subcommands that can follow the children. This is useful when the usage string is the same for all or most of the children as in this example:

    Usage: power adc|can1|can2|can3|egpio|esp32|sdcard|simcom|spi|wifi deepsleep|devel|off|on|sleep|status
  • $Gfoo$ expands to the usage of the child named “foo”; this variant would be used when not all the children have the same usage but it would still be helpful to show the usage of one that’s not first.

  • $L lists a full usage message for each of the children on separate lines. This provides more help than just showing the list of children but at the expense of longer output.

For subcommands that take parameters, the usage string contains explicit text to list the parameters:

  • Parameter names or descriptions are enclosed in angle brackets to distinguish the them from command tokens, for example <metric> <value>. Since the angle brackets demarcate each parameter, spaces may be included in the description.

  • Parameters that are optional are further enclosed in square brackets, like <id> <name> [<value>].

  • When there are alternative forms or meanings for a parameter, the alternatives are separated by vertical bar as in <task names or ids>|*|= which indicates that the parameter can be either of the characters * or = instead of a list of task names or ids. A variant form encloses the alternatives in curly braces as in <param> {<instance> | *}.

  • One or more additional lines of explanatory text can be included like this:

    "<id>\nUse ID from connection list / 0 to close all"

For non-terminal commands (those with children subcommands) the usage argument can be omitted because the default value of "" is interpreted as $C. For commands that have children subcommands that are optional (because an execute function is included) the default usage argument is interpreted as [$C].

Execute Function

The execute function performs whatever work is required for the command. Its signature is as follows:

void (*execute)(int verbosity, OvmsWriter* writer, OvmsCommand* cmd, int argc, const char* const* argv)
  • int verbosity – tells how much output is appropriate (e.g., shell vs. SMS)
  • OvmsWriter* writer – object to which output is delivered, e.g. console
  • OvmsCommand* cmd – the command that held the execute function pointer
  • int argc – how many parameters are being supplied to the function
  • const char* const* argv – the parameter list

Any output appropriate for the command is accomplished through puts() or printf() calls on the writer object. The cmd pointer may allow sharing one execute function among multiple related command objects and provides access to members of the command object such as GetName().

The argc count will be constrained to the min and max values specified for the cmd object, so if the minimum and maximum are the same then the execute function does not need to check. However, if parameters are expected then their values must be validated.

Validate Function

Most commands do not need to specify a validate function. It supports extensions of the original command parser design for two use cases:

  1. For commands that store the possible values of a parameter in a NameMap<T> or CNameMap<T>, the validate function enables TAB auto-completion when entering that parameter.
  2. The original design only allowed parameters to be collected by the terminal subcommand. That forced an unnatural word order for some commands. The validate function enables non-terminal subcommands to take one or more parameters followed by multiple levels of children subcommands. The parameters may be strings looked up in a NameMap<T> or CNameMap<T> or they could be something else like a number that can be validated by value. The validate function must indicate success for parsing to continue to the children subcommands. The return value is the number of parameters validated if successful or -1 if not.

The signature of the validate function is as follows:

int (*validate)(OvmsWriter* writer, OvmsCommand* cmd, int argc, const char* const* argv, bool complete)
  • OvmsWriter* writer – object to which output is delivered, e.g. console
  • OvmsCommand* cmd – the command that held the validate function pointer
  • int argc – how many parameters are being supplied to the function
  • const char* const* argv – the parameter list
  • bool complete – true for TAB completion of the last parameter (case 1), false when validating intermediate parameters before calling execute on the terminal descendant command (case 2)

The writer and cmd arguments are the same as for the execute function. The argc count is never more than max and, if complete is false, never less than min. However, when complete is true to request TAB auto-completion and max is greater than 1, argc will be at least 1 but may be less than min because it indicates how many parameters have been entered so far. The TAB auto-completion is performed on the last parameter entered after validating any preceding parameters. If min and max are both 1 then it is not necessary to check argc.

If the acceptable values of a parameter are stored in a NameMap<T> or CNameMap<T>, those maps implement a Validate() function that will perform the validation needed for the validate function covering both the true and false cases of complete. Those maps also implement a FindUniquePrefix() function that may be used to validate preceding parameters for commands that take multiple parameters.

The config_validate() function for the config command in main/ovms_config.cpp is an example implementation of use case 1 for a command taking three parameters with TAB auto-completion on the first two:

int config_validate(OvmsWriter* writer, OvmsCommand* cmd, int argc, const char* const* argv, bool complete)
  if (!MyConfig.ismounted())
    return -1;
  // argv[0] is the <param>
  if (argc == 1)
    return MyConfig.m_map.Validate(writer, argc, argv[0], complete);
  // argv[1] is the <instance>
  if (argc == 2)
    OvmsConfigParam* const* p = MyConfig.m_map.FindUniquePrefix(argv[0]);
    if (!p)    // <param> was not valid, so can't check <instance>
      return -1;
    return (*p)->m_map.Validate(writer, argc, argv[1], complete);
  // argv[2] is the value, which we can't validate
  return -1;

The location command in components/ovms_location/src/ovms_location.cpp is an example of use case 2 as it includes an intermediate parameter and also utilizes the $L form of the usage string:

OVMS# location action enter ?
Usage: location action enter <location> acc <profile>
Usage: location action enter <location> homelink 1|2|3
Usage: location action enter <location> notify <text>

The following excerpt shows the implementation of the location_validate() function and a subset of the RegisterCommand() calls to build the command subtree. This example shows how simple the validation code can be – sometimes just one line to call Validate(). In this case the code does need to check argc because the function is shared by multiple subcommand objects taking 1 or 2 parameters.

int location_validate(OvmsWriter* writer, OvmsCommand* cmd, int argc, const char* const* argv, bool complete)
  if (argc == 1)
    return MyLocations.m_locations.Validate(writer, argc, argv[0], complete);
  return -1;

  OvmsCommand* cmd_location = MyCommandApp.RegisterCommand("location","LOCATION framework");
  OvmsCommand* cmd_action = cmd_location->RegisterCommand("action","Set an action for a location");
  OvmsCommand* cmd_enter = cmd_action->RegisterCommand("enter","Set an action upon entering a location", NULL, "<location> $L", 1, 1, true, location_validate);
  OvmsCommand* enter_homelink = cmd_enter->RegisterCommand("homelink","Transmit Homelink signal");
  enter_homelink->RegisterCommand("1","Homelink 1 signal",location_homelink,"", 0, 0, true);
  enter_homelink->RegisterCommand("2","Homelink 2 signal",location_homelink,"", 0, 0, true);
  enter_homelink->RegisterCommand("3","Homelink 3 signal",location_homelink,"", 0, 0, true);
  cmd_enter->RegisterCommand("acc","ACC profile",location_acc,"<profile>", 1, 1, true);
  cmd_enter->RegisterCommand("notify","Text notification",location_notify,"<text>", 1, INT_MAX, true);