Why use argparse rather than optparse?

0 votes
asked Jul 10, 2010 by fmark

I noticed that the Python 2.7 documentation includes yet another command-line parsing module. In addition to getopt and optparse we now have argparse.

Why has yet another command-line parsing module been created? Why should I use it instead of optparse? Are there new features that I should know about?

7 Answers

0 votes
answered Jul 10, 2010 by ned-batchelder

The best source for rationale for a Python addition would be its PEP: PEP 389: argparse - New Command Line Parsing Module, in particular, the section entitled, Why aren't getopt and optparse enough?

0 votes
answered Jul 10, 2010 by nicholas-knight

As of python 2.7, optparse is deprecated, and will hopefully go away in the future.

argparse is better for all the reasons listed on its original page (https://code.google.com/archive/p/argparse/):

  • handling positional arguments
  • supporting sub-commands
  • allowing alternative option prefixes like + and /
  • handling zero-or-more and one-or-more style arguments
  • producing more informative usage messages
  • providing a much simpler interface for custom types and actions

More information is also in PEP 389, which is the vehicle by which argparse made it into the standard library.

0 votes
answered Jul 10, 2010 by alex-martelli

Why should I use it instead of optparse? Are their new features I should know about?

@Nicholas's answer covers this well, I think, but not the more "meta" question you start with:

Why has yet another command-line parsing module been created?

That's the dilemma number one when any useful module is added to the standard library: what do you do when a substantially better, but backwards-incompatible, way to provide the same kind of functionality emerges?

Either you stick with the old and admittedly surpassed way (typically when we're talking about complicated packages: asyncore vs twisted, tkinter vs wx or Qt, ...) or you end up with multiple incompatible ways to do the same thing (XML parsers, IMHO, are an even better example of this than command-line parsers -- but the email package vs the myriad old ways to deal with similar issues isn't too far away either;-).

You may make threatening grumbles in the docs about the old ways being "deprecated", but (as long as you need to keep backwards compatibility) you can't really take them away without stopping large, important applications from moving to newer Python releases.

(Dilemma number two, not directly related to your question, is summarized in the old saying "the standard library is where good packages go to die"... with releases every year and a half or so, packages that aren't very, very stable, not needing releases any more often than that, can actually suffer substantially by being "frozen" in the standard library... but, that's really a different issue).

0 votes
answered Jul 6, 2013 by rayluo

At first I was as reluctant as @fmark to switch from optparse to argparse, because:

  1. I thought the difference was not that huge.
  2. Quite some VPS still provides Python 2.6 by default.

Then I saw this doc, argparse outperforms optparse, especially when talking about generating meaningful help message: http://argparse.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/doc/argparse-vs-optparse.html

And then I saw "argparse vs. optparse" by @Nicholas, saying we can have argparse available in python <2.7 (Yep, I didn't know that before.)

Now my two concerns are well addressed. I wrote this hoping it will help others with a similar mindset.

0 votes
answered Jul 15, 2015 by hanuma-tej

I personally prefer optparse rather than argparse because

  1. argparse is that it has some problematic behaviors that make handling arbitrary command line interfaces.

  2. argparse has built-in magic behavior to guess if something is an argument or an option. This becomes a problem when dealing with incomplete command lines as it’s not possible to know without having a full understanding of the command line how the parser is going to behave.

  3. argparse currently does not support disabling of interspersed arguments.

Both work fine for basic command line applications.

0 votes
answered Jul 9, 2016 by lony

There are also new kids on the block! Read this and you may use docopt or click

0 votes
answered Jul 20, 2016 by allyourcode
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